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The May elections, democracy, and the biggest losers

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Jemy Gatdula

Being Right

It’s really difficult to provide a brief coherent set of reflections on the essence of what happened in the recent elections. There’s an intuition that what just took place constitutes a watershed in Philippine history.

Time will tell. But the feeling that something profound occurred is palpable.

It’s just too short a time for now to put a pulse on what it is.

A thought that comes to mind is that it made us as a people conscious of what democracy really means.

“People” here being meant all people, not just the rich, the ilustrados, the mestizo de buena familias that used to dictate where the country goes.

Perhaps accidentally with Estrada’s election but deliberately with Duterte and now confirmed last week, the People are putting a stamp on who they want.




Hopefully, and this more significantly, the People could also start knowing what they want.

The thing is, for so long, the pretentious and the presumptuous laid the frameworks for how politics and democracy are to be. But the political or academic frameworks are just constructs. And, in this case, not reflective of reality.

Take for example the numbers that depict the voting demographics: Classes AB and C are supposed to constitute 6% of the voting population, with D and E 94%.

What media, the elite, academics then conclude is that our democracy is dysfunctional because of the disproportionate dominance of the “lower” classes.

But those part of D and E were only identified also by way of a construct, mostly based on income. It does not reflect the fact that around 70% of the population has a grade school education or that around 40% finished high school, and that the country has a nearly perfect literacy rate (and around 85% functional literacy rate).

The point is, rather than asking how can AB and C dominate D and E, perhaps the better question is why are AB and C so disconnected to D and E? Because in reality (and constitutionally), voters really should have no distinctions as to income or class.

This is important: we are all equal. We know this because the constitutional system from which we borrowed ours places great import on this equality.

The Gettysburg Address, which most scholars consider as one of four (the others being the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution) “foundational” US documents begins with this assertion: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

If one does the math of “four score and seven years ago”, then Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address refers to the 1776 Declaration of Independence, which in turn declares: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Aside from acknowledging our natural law tradition, the foregoing is stirring stuff, coming as it does amidst a time when monarchies and aristocrats and differing social classes ruled.

Liberal progressives would quibble about women suffrage and slavery. Historians would have better answers. What is undeniable is that the principles were there and those same principles we adopted. The problem is we seem to keep wanting to set it aside.

It does the country no good when people denigrate the intelligence and integrity of other voters just because their candidates lost.

Or when inconsistency is touted as the norm: screaming that a mediocre non-achiever be president in 2010 but then demanding in 2019 that senators have great CV’s on top of a law degree (both incidentally not required under the Constitution).

And certainly the country is lessened whenever those who lost try to subvert the election results, disrespect the People’s will, and refuse to cooperate with everyone in making this a better country.

Doubtless, there will be more to say of the recent elections and its impact on our society.

For now, just one more thing: the election’s biggest loser, apart from the opposition Ocho Derecho slate, seems to be the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

Tragically, due to a few rogue moonlighting clergy, the Church got widely perceived during these elections as ditching its teachings on same-sex marriage, SOGI, divorce, and contraception just to support anti-Duterte candidates.

Well, practically all the candidates of the so-called “Catholic Vote” were beaten.

Which leads to this bitter irony: because the candidates which the Catholic Church was perceived as opposing all won, the Senate’s numbers now seem to be comfortably against same-sex marriage, SOGI, divorce, and contraception.

So, the Catholic Church is now in the unfortunate situation of having a more receptive Senate but with its credibility damaged considerably.

Goes to show that one should not move away from one’s competency and (more importantly) of practicing what you preach.

 

Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

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