replaces “..build a just and humane society” of the 1987 Constitution in a draft for a Federal Philippine Constitution (link). More perfect society sounds like Thomas More’s Utopia. There is an article from 2016 by Professor Tony La Vina already makes an uncanny comparison (link):
Superficially speaking, Duterte’s Philippines, at least in its treatment of human rights and the role of law, is not very far from Thomas More’s Utopia. In More’s world, lawyers are actually prohibited and citizens are assumed to know exactly what the law is, what right and wrong is, and are expected to comply with all the rules laid down by the state. In More’s Utopia, punishment is a certainty for those who transgress the law. In More’s imaginary world, the justice system is always fair and so human rights is not an issue. Its respect is assumed. Unfortunately, both the assumptions of an educated citizenry and an excellent justice system do not hold for our country..
How do we respond to Duterte’s Philippines? Unfortunately, the book Utopia does not give us good answers to this question. Sadly, utopian literature frequently justifies human rights violations in the name of achieving a better, more perfect society. Therein lies the danger and the tragedy that is unfolding in Duterte’s Philippines. It is not a perfect world; government makes mistakes, including terrible ones. ..
The rest of the constitutional draft remains similar to 1987, with too many words at the end of the preamble (link): “a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace” – which can mean anything, as we know since Orwell’s 1984, or Imelda Marcos’ interpretations of truth and beauty.
Or Grace Poe’s swearing allegiance to the United States. Among many Filipinos, including public officials, there is a lot of fake oath-taking. In Bavarian folk tradition, you had to at least keep your fingers crossed behind your back while swearing an oath you had to take, but did not mean to keep.
What nations want
The 1935 Constitution had three main goals that are clear: independence, to preserve patrimony, and general welfare (link) with a “regime of justice, liberty and democracy” to achieve them:
The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence, in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
I think the Americans of before knew what they wanted in the Preamble of their Constitution (link) – clearly unity, justice, tranquility, defence, welfare and liberty for themselves and their posterity. It defines clearly how Americans wanted to live then and in the future:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Swiss Federal Charter of 1291 went straight to the point with a one-sentence intro (link) – but one can distill similar ideas out of it – common good, peace, defence:
For the common good and proper establishment of peace, the following rules are agreed :
- In view of the troubled circumstances of this time, the people and communities of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden promise to assist each other by every means possible against one and all who may inflict on them violence or injustice within their valleys and without.
- Each community shall help the other with every counsel and favour and at its own expense in the event of any assault on persons or goods within and without the valleys and to this end have sworn a solemn oath to uphold this agreement in confirmation and renewal of a more ancient accord..
The 1987 Constitution and even the Federal draft both still say in their preambles: “promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure.. independence and democracy under the rule of law” – now do these things still matter for Filipinos today? Or their leaders?
The Philippines Today
Common good. Stickers for drug-free homes, drug tests for aspiring students. The citizen as a suspect, as a potential danger to a more perfect society? What perfection is aspired to, is it the paternalistic Heavenly Peace of Chinese thought that gives its name to Tiananmen Square?
Some of its islands, its fishing grounds – its patrimony. Seems they have been sold for trains and loans with not so low interests. Mining – is it properly regulated and taxed so the country as a whole benefits? And general welfare. Are Lumads, Moros, poor people still harassed for being in the way?
Federalism and putting barangays on a leash may in fact lead to a Philippines similar to the colony under the encomienda system of before (link) only with regional political families in a role similar to encomenderos and local families being like the principalia or datus subservient to them.
Killings of families like the Espinosas and Parojinogs, bad as they may or may not have been, even warnings by the police chief involved in both to others (link), do not bode well for those leaders who do not toe the line. Like for datus that refused to serve King Philipp II or his successors.
Attempts to ignore the will of the people are now showing themselves towards Vice-President Leni Robredo. Would the powers-that-be let her lead a Bikol state in case the people there want her to? Real Federalism is about self-determined communities working together for mutual assistance (original Swiss Confederation) or towards a “more perfect union” (USA) – not society or possibly even “New Society”. And especially not fiefdoms assigned to the entitled by.. whom? Who are they? Do they really embody the will of the people? Do Filipinos indeed prefer to be led? We shall see.
Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 August 2017