one is tempted to ask in the recent discussions on Solicitor-General Calida’s call to “Defend the Republic” and the responses to it (link) – not only because the Republic does not coincide with the President or his supporters. Any republic, but especially the Philippines, will in fact I think consist of three Republics and their respective intersections:
- The Political Republic – the groups in power and how they interact.
- The Street Republic – the people on the street and their day-to-day issues.
- The Idealistic Republic – those who want to make the country a better place.
Populists are at the intersection of the Political and the Street Republic. Socially conscious people cross between the Idealistic Republic and the Street Republic regularly – Vice-President Leni Robredo has done this for many years. And there are those who keep the Political Republic from harming the Idealistic Republic – an ever-present danger given the nature of power.
The latter group can include – depending on one’s point of view – Supreme Court Judges in the United States, military officers in Turkey, the deceased King Bhumibol of Thailand, French public intellectuals, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom and more. There is no really strong institution of that sort in the Philippines, not even the Catholic Church. Just some occasional persons.
There are of course those who make sure that inspite of all idealism, the needs of the man on the street are met. In Germany I think of the efficient police and justice system to deter crime, as well as the encompassing system of social security to prevent massive poverty and the resulting crime and unrest. Memories of the Weimar Republic have faded, but have fortunately not died.
In addition to that, the man on the street has to KNOW that his needs are taken care of. Or others will offer to take care of those needs, and misinform him that these needs are taken care of. Hopefully the public education system of most European states has remained able to maintain a level of mass education that will keep the populists out of power – the coming times will show it.
The Philippines today paints a picture of the strong usually just ruthless, the good often timid and not rooted enough, and the man on the street barely able to make ends meet, much less understand what is really going on. Political, Street and Idealistic Republics seem too far from a central point to form a sufficiently large intersection. A real res publica, meaning “public matter” in Latin.
Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17. March 2017