IDEAS RELATED TO DEMOCRACY AS A SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
What words, ideas come to mind when you say democratic government? Have each participant say something about his thoughts. Ask them to think about their discussion as you take up the second session.
There is no monarch, no king or queen. The republic is a State –or Nation—in which the supreme power rests in all citizens entitled to vote (the electorate) and is exercised by representatives elected (directly or indirectly by ballot) who are responsible to the people. There is no king or queen who has sole power.
FREEDOM or LIBERTY
Citizens or members of society enjoy the state of being free: the absence of restrictions on the exercise of one’s rights and powers; which includes freedom of speech, of conscience, of religion, freedom of movement. These constitute a Bill of Rights usually enshrined in the nation’s fundamental law or charter, constitution
Freedom requires capacity and responsibility; the capability to stand alone; Independence and Autonomy
The statement of fundamental law of the land to which all citizens, including public officials, including national leaders, are subject. The Constitution is also the test of every law that is passed by lawmakers. Is the law faithful to the bill of rights and other principles, such as the separation of equal powers.
Citizenship in a democracy means:
1. Having the same rights, privileges, opportunities as everyone else
2. Having the same treatment in law
3. A whole system of justice (executive agencies and courts) has to uphold and guarantee that citizens in a democracy enjoy this equal treatment in law. This means that the government upholds the rule of law.
A wise and benevolent king or emperor could provide for these. But the equal exercise of these rights would be dependent on the individual ruler, and not on the system.
Texts on the subject may not always include the idea of public interest, but it really is one of the most important notions that citizens in a democracy must understand.
Public interest refers to the “the welfare or well-being of the general public” and society. It is an idea that breaks out of the notion of self-interest, the idea that focuses on what I want.
What is good for all involves some losses for some of the members of society. But the greater good is for the long term, fulfilling more needs beyond those for one’s self or one’s family, company or tribe.
This idea involves an individual citizen in a democracy to identify more with the shared interests, the connection one has with the larger community, the broader society – beyond him or herself, the family or clan.
Start with what is good for the neighborhood, the barangay. Then think of the provinces and other regions in the country. Think the entire nation and all Filipinos, even those you do not know.
The sense of public interest is essential to nation-building.
This idea of less for self and more for the greater good is something that more citizens should appreciate as part of how democracy works. Otherwise, democracy will result in the competition of self-interests and in deciding on issues, citizens may no longer feel connected to the needs of others.
Example: Paying more taxes may not be a welcome idea for most people. But the payment of these taxes supports public services for the people. Everyone pays taxes as we pay value-added tax (VAT) when you buy something. Others have to pay more because they earn more. In some countries, taxes lessen the wealth of the very rich, meaning preventing great inequalities which is never good in any society. Taxes fund more streetlights, more beds in hospitals, more roads, better transportation, more services for those who cannot afford. In the end, the loss of one is the collective gain of more citizens.