Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's time for a shift to direct democracy, Part 4

“… the manipulation of bodies in space suggests that it is not the space that creates content, but those within it. But, as [artist Joseph] Beuys suggests, such spaces might contribute to the creation of direct democracy. Perhaps this is what [Kazimir] Malevich was thinking about when he started painting black and white squares. Maybe that's what protesters have been thinking about more recently, with the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements. Space is an important thing. It can be a very political thing. And as Occupy London has been officially evicted from St. Paul's, physical space is becoming such a rarity, one might wonder where such bodies might interact….”
“… space as a place for interaction, debate and discussion.”
– both quotations from

What’s the worry about it?

WE’VE READ the three parts of this essay, wherein each Part would have passages that repeat (as probably necessary) statements already made in the other Parts. And now, here, let us paraphrase the eight most common worries about installing a strong direct democracy in the Philippines.
     First, as we mentioned in the closing paragraphs of Part 3 of this multi-Part essay, there is that worry or fear with direct democracy, namely, that in a culture as uneducated as the Philippines’ (or as poorly educated as the US’) there is in it the ever-present danger of being ruled by public relations budgets. We might not fear the mob, but save us from the trained consumers!
     This fear is understandable. However, we must bear in mind that direct democracy wakes and increases citizens’ political awareness simply by being a system focused on issues of society and the polity. Thus, it isn’t surprising to know that the uneducated class in the US states with DD (direct democracy) might seem to be more knowledgeable about political and other social matters of concern in their respective states than their uneducated peers in the US states with mere RD (representative democracy). And that’s because citizens in a DD are directly engaged in the issues around propositions and initiatives up for a vote that necessarily go through a process of being debated on in the public arena. Taxi drivers will inevitably talk about things that directly affect their profession/industry, but so will they talk about other social matters brought up to a vote in any oncoming ballot. Let’s zoom in on an example:
     When au pairs watch a documentary about poverty blues on GMA News TV, they become engaged. When the channel is turned to an ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) debate on an issue, naturally in educated-class English as per that channel’s format, they consequently acquiesce to the speakers’ supposed high IQ. The latter is your example of apathy and “stupidity” in society produced not in a direct democracy but by a system of elitism and elite-leaning privilege and conscious or unconscious marginalization.
     So, what’s the difference between the current influence of public relations budgets made to sway media perception and protestation within our RD and public relations budgets that will be spent in any future DD? You know the answer to that one. But additionally, DD has measures to immediately correct laws passed by the people, and even laws passed by Congress, whereas in an RD it would take decades before somebody in the political elite class even starts to listen to what the sometimes-progressivist-sounding media would complain about, especially if the law that needs to be reversed is proving to be beneficial to the ruling classes. And, again, whereas we would have to wait for a politician’s term to end to expect some changes (with fingers crossed), Swiss and US DD can vote out (recall) via a motion of no confidence a national or state or local official or representative of their National Council or State House of Representatives anytime the people want to. . . .

NOW THERE’S another worry, corollary to that one above. Here’s Worry #2:
     The frequency of special interest-backed propositions. Moneyed elites, so the worry goes, can keep putting an issue on ballot after ballot, changing the wording each time (so that a Proposition that once required a “No” vote may now require a “Yes” vote). True, it can be quite amazing to see what corporate legal departments can afford to do with words. And so, in the 21st century world of PR and consumerism, the referendum or initiative could be the simple way to buy the laws a special interest group wants.
     But again, why is it better to have a special interest group-funded referendum in a direct democracy? Well, because it has to pass the people’s vote. In a purely representative democracy, all the special-interest group has to do is lobby some representatives, and that’s to make a law that would pass---as often happens---unbeknownst to the people.
     It’s true that PR is powerful and can rehash itself into many shapes and continuously hound the majority vote with persuasive talk, but let us not lose our faith in the people and their intelligence and the presence of guardians against special interests who can counter the corporate-backed PRs this early. Our media alone abound in such guardian-individuals, however corrupt some of them may be. Direct democracy is not one of the worst things that happened to California. In fact, I doubt that it is one of the things that the state’s people would want to give up.
     Let me re-state what I said in Part 1 of this essay: “… it’s quite understandable to me why the US Constitution framers avoided the temptations of direct democracy at the federal level (as against Switzerland, for instance, which embraced it); and that understanding may come from my being an Americanized Filipino, quite familiar with the American experience with oppressive majorities lording it over minorities…. (But) I would argue with America’s declarers of independence and say that I’d much rather struggle as a minority within the direct democracy lorded by a majority that may nonetheless be persuadable than struggle within the elite-handled machinery of representative democracy where the entrenched elite always wins.”
     So, how do we make this thing happen? That is precisely what the Forum for Direct Democracy Philippines Facebook group (which I created) is for. If we like the idea as a solution to our decades-old problems, let’s come up with a plan.

WORRY #3: this one says we’d be copying a foreign model. We’re afraid that model might not be applicable in our country.
     First of all, our present representative democracy is also copied from a foreign model, derivative of the US federal Constitution. In fact, this system was only imposed upon us during the American Commonwealth era, we didn’t exactly pick it from a roster of choices.
     As for copying foreign models, I always cite the example of the popular rock band Yano. In the 1990s, Yano---among other bands---got enamored with British punk rock and thought of bringing that type of music to the Philippine airwaves and Manila club scene. But while other bands copied the music (and lyrics content or allusions to the British or American psyche) and brought in the fashion, Yano emulated the philosophy alone. So, in the case of their punk fashion statement, instead of wearing Doc Martens shoes (cheap old ladies’ shoes in London at the time which were now already being sold as high-end items to the Philippine youth market), Yano wore cheap tsinelas (flip-flops) onstage, the equivalent of Doc Martens shoes according to punk fashion philosophy then. In the case of their songwriting, Yano sang punk lyrics in Tagalog, referencing Philippine political (instead of London political) realities.
     When are foreign systems/models better for our environs? Well, those would be times as when I advice my neighbors to buy imported peanut butter if only because Philippine peanut butter doesn’t seem to have aflatoxin-level standards to follow, and our government offices don’t have enough people to widely examine the local stuff for salmonella. . . .
     So, back to DD. How is direct democracy possible in the Philippines? Well, in fact, there is already a bit of it in our roster of laws. As I mentioned in Part 2 of this essay, the closest we have come to it is with Republic Act 6735 (The Initiative and Referendum Act). But is this law usable at all? That is, is the initial requirement too steep for it to be considered useful in the national level? How can a movement for direct democracy in the Philippines use this law presently? If there’s a need to amend it before it can be used, are there senators and congressmen who can help us in amending it? Would they fight for the amendment to the finish? And what else do we need to put in?
     And if we need to do more, as in, say, radically install the Switzerland DD model, for instance, then how do we achieve that? How many political figures do we need to create a movement? Would a former military figure (the patriotic and reformist type, if there is such an animal) be welcome in our ranks? How many people do we need to come with us? And how do we do it? Do we start with die-ins and other Occupy movement-style moves? Would our desires fall for a Constitutional Convention that may promise to work on a DD constitution?
     Perhaps we could start with the details. Let us look at the Swiss model, for instance. Or the California model. What are in them that’s applicable to Philippine culture, what are not? If not, why? Are there contending arguments that would negate the negativity or pessimism (or conservatism)?
     These are the questions we wish to tackle at the Forum, the reason why it has to be called a forum before it can be called a movement. If, at the end of the day, this forum arrives at the conclusion that DD is just going to be another hot air, then let’s fold up and get back to complaining about “political dynasties” and unqualified candidates/officials and anti-epal (anti-earmarking or anti-projects claiming) bills that took decades before someone upstairs bothered to pick it up, and maybe somewhere along the way of our eternal complaining we’d find another solution. But in the meantime, DD is the only comprehensive solution to our constantly-aired problems that I can think of, a comprehensive solution to these problems that have all-too-often been waylaid by “more pressing problems.” So I hope we can find lights to lead us in this road.
     So, reader, let me invite you too. I’ll give myself the honor of adding you to this new group should you be interested in such a forum as this on the subject of direct democracy, especially as you may also happen to believe that such a form of government may be applied to the Philippines. But I would understand if you opt to leave the group sooner or later.
     Partisans and non-partisans are welcome. The only requirement is for you to be interested in wresting away our country’s pure representative democracy from the total control of the political elite.
     We want everyone here, leftists, rightists, centrists, devout Catholics, atheists, everyone! Everyone who feels we’ve had enough of the experiment of pure representative democracy where a member of the political elite manipulates the media (with the help of campaign gurus) to have himself seated as a representative of millions without the benefit of causes and solutions driving him/her as a champion of. It’s about time the people get access to also represent themselves.

WORRY #4: The situation is dire. It’ll never be achieved.
     Dire. In Waray, “dire” means no.
     But one thing to bear in mind in this fight: direct democracy is true democracy, pure representative democracy is an insult to the demos (people) as well as the kratos (power) Greek roots of the word. Why would you not want to fight for true freedom, then? And what might be the reason why the elite class is averse to it? Well, the elite is averse to it because the majority in the elite is averse to true democracy. The elite would want to perpetuate the status quo where they, of the elite, can forever misrepresent the millions in their (not the millions’) democracy.
     And how can it not be achievable when everyone is welcome? Even the progressivists are welcome to join. Except maybe the communists, for I doubt they would find our direction to their liking, though I can’t say for sure.
     My social-liberal Facebook friend Dave T- (who’s suspicious of progressivists as being closet communists) asks, “Would this be a platform whereby the broad democratic Left could reach out more effectively to the masses?”
     Well, it might be a contradiction in terms to want to seek a debate with contending parties in a direct democracy when you’re holding a microphone with your right hand and a gun with your left. And, during a fora (physical or virtual), there might already be confusion about the definition of the word “democracy,” considering that communism has had a hold on that word quite an ocean away from the mainstream Karl Popperian grasp of it.
     Still, could there be a common ground? I don’t know. I can’t say for now.
     My friend the painter Marcel Antonio jokes: “I doubt if a Marxist [he means a communist] would even want to seek a common ground, because there is no common ground. A Marxist seeks direction that oscillates between two extremes. She would rather have her desires unrequited than fulfilled from the attainment of its goals, consequently burning itself out. :)”
     A succinct articulation of a century-old reality, my friend.
     “Not really,” he says, “it's Alain de Botton reading Roland Barthes reading Marx. :D”
     Then, here, my friend the Pentecostal preacher Mac McCarty offers the following note: “I agree, Marcel, as far as traditional Marxism goes---no middle ground---, but folks like Étienne Balibar call those guys theological fundamentalist Marxists who read the book of Marx as truth, literal and eternal. He subscribes to a ‘symbolic’ theology of Marxism and considers himself a reformer (not always a nice word among Marxists). He also has interesting things to say about change. (More perhaps in other threads.)
     “The point is that not all Marxists are protracted-struggle, blood-in-the-streets revolutionaries visualizing a kind of sociopolitical rapture in a ‘That Day’, a That Day after which the evil, greedy, psychopathic people and forces will be swallowed up by the earth and all will be hunky and dorey in worker’s paradise, but I’m getting carried away. I say ‘Yeah, bring on any Marxist who has “middle ground” ideas of any kind … we can only benefit.’”

WORRY #5 in case direct democracy is installed, best articulated perhaps by that page again in titled “Pros and Cons”---“Ordinary citizens are not interested enough in politics. They are uninformed, uneducated, irrational, emotional, egoistic and short-sighted. Citizens are politically incompetent and the issues are too complex for them to understand. Therefore political decisions on policy issues should be made by professional politicians who have the necessary skills and understanding.”
     And I can only quote the last paragraph of that site’s answer, which somewhat echoes my answer to Worry #2 and goes thus: “Political incompetence is no cause for excluding citizens from political decision-making on issues. In reality it is the other way round: political incompetence is an effect of the exclusion of citizens from political decision-making.”
     So let’s talk about it now; its advantages, disadvantages, its problems, the solutions it brings to the table, and how we can make Philippine direct democracy unique, if it needs to be.

WORRY #6: Is direct-democracy majoritarianism okay? Agree that representative majoritarianism should go, but under a direct democracy majoritarian régime, what protection do minorities have?
     Well, I believe the accusation on DD majoritarianism as potentially a return to mob rule compared to the RD majoritiarianism’s supposed educated sympathy for minorities is a myth. The developments in many a government as regards the protection of minorities has not been due to the educated empathy of the elite but due to the progress of a national or regional cultural experience. In fact, it’s the other way around. All campaigns for DD start as reactions to what are perceived to be regimes of elite democracy that have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the decades-old complaints of society, becoming unsympathetic, self-centered, uninterested in the welfare of both majorities and minorities (except their own minority class’ welfare). Furthermore, sympathy for the minority is decidedly more expressed in the masses than in the profit-motivated hypocrisy of elite-backed regimes.

WORRY #7, which would also be a corollary to Worry #s 1 and 2:
     A classmate of mine in high school who’s also a member of our Forum posed this exploratory question: “Would direct democracy’s ‘direct’-ness be a myth with media’s and government’s attempts at influencing the decisions of the people, the masses? It is sad to say that with the almost 27% poverty level in ‘Pinas, madaling ma-compromise ang popular opinion kapag kumukulo ang tiyan ni Juan.”
     My answer: Right you are, buddy. But that influence, which can be both positive and negative, is being projected on direct democracy by its opponents as though it is exclusive to it. But that influence is already here, happening right now, in our representative democracy.
     Certainly, in a pure representative democracy, some members of the media---about the only ordinary citizens 100% engaged in political issues as direct participants in this pure system---as well as of opposition parties do come up with contentions to the lies and truths moving within their own circles of privilege, but that’s precisely the point: in a representative democracy, the debate in the media is often left to the elite class to act on, with the lower and lower-middle classes put in the sidelines as mere TV audiences, perpetuating thus widespread ignorance by this exclusion. The privileged take it upon themselves to “influence” the rest of the nation with what they deem to be the good policies and attitudes for that nation. And we know better than to continue to believe in these lies.
     In direct democracies, in contrast, even well-financed campaigns by special-interest groups consider the fact that the people (inclusive of the cynical and even the uneducated) are already directly engaged as their equals over the issues, and that the people have been made aware that they are responsible (because they now have the power to be responsible) for their own welfare. In direct democracies, the people do not merely lean on the expertise of Yale- or Harvard-educated technocrats of the often self-serving elite. They listen to these technocrats as well as opposing ideas and then use their intelligence and experience for a positive or negative vote. This is what happens when debates in society are not left to “experts” and “representatives” to decide on alone, when society itself is empowered---beyond merely having the right to complain---to decide for themselves and enact or repeal laws themselves.
     And if their “tiyans” are “kumakalam” within this society with strong and simple direct democracy instruments, then the more they will want to get involved in the DD reality of involvement (via propositions and initiatives and referenda and recall elections that concern them) as against being merely virtually involved via RD elections involving faces and names that the masses cannot directly link to the search for solutions to their poverty and hunger except by way of faith in those faces.

WORRY #8 is almost an extension of Worry #7: Another former classmate of mine asked, is it applicable in a poor country such as ours?
     My answer: It ought to be applied especially to poor countries where the lower classes and the lower-middle-class have been game to the exploitative bent of their elite and lumpenbourgeoisie. If a relatively well-off people like Switzerland’s or California’s or Massachussetts’ would not allow their elite to manipulate policy through the representation of a few, how much more a poor country! For to say “no, it can’t be done here” would be to say only well-to-do people can demand to represent themselves, poor people must only acquiesce to their ilustrado elite’s expert, Harvard-seminar’d wishes. We have been doing that for more than a century now, and yet we have to wait for decades before someone upstairs acts on something as simple as an anti-epal law!
     We are all learning here, of course, and that’s why we need the inputs of those among us with more academicized exposure to this subject---Professor Ramon Casiple, for instance, whose essay (which I mentioned in Part 1, click here to read it) was partly inspirational. I’m just being the online activist for this cause since I’m the one with more free time. As of the moment, the group would like to get the eager membership of some election experts, former Comelec people or not, who can advice us on ways by which cost-efficiency can be administered into DD processes such as referenda. It would also be great to get advice from the states in the US where they have DD, advice such as on how they operate it at minimal cost. Are there adaptations to cost that we can design into the system? Questions like those need to be discussed and resolved by the group before we even accept an invitation to be present at a TV talk show. :) As of the moment, my view is that we must not allow the political elite to hoodwink us into the “malabo yan, magastos yan” (“that’s a costly enterprise, that won’t fly”) bias, especially since this is the same elite who have been appropriating lump-sum billions into government programs that are sometimes (oftentimes!) meaningless to the majority.

SO WHAT about this Facebook group called Forum for Direct Democracy Philippines? Well, this non-partisan group serves as an outlet for exchanges regarding the possibility of pushing for the application of direct democracy to Philippine society. Direct democracy could just be the cure for all the ills of our century-old representative democracy that has turned government into a milking cow for many if not most in the political elite.
     Party-list group leaders, if they’re as serious as they claim to be about proportional representation in governance, should join this forum … which, God knows, might just turn into a, say, die-in movement for real change.
     Let us study the direct democracy of Switzerland, and the US states that have it, where there is no more need for party-list proportional representation, as all parties, big and small, are given equal treatment! No, not given equal treatment by the Comelec but by the system itself! [END OF PART 4; TO BE CONTINUED]

In October of 2013, enterprising political activist Manny SD Lopez enjoined me and other direct-democracy advocates (Rey Callope Sabio, Dexter Briñas Amoroso, among others) to form ePIRMA (the Empowered People’s Initiative and Reform Movement Alliance) which would spearhead a people’s initiative (using Republic Act 6735) against pork barrel spending. The new group sought the help of Atty. Jose M. Roy III, another direct democracy enthusiast, among other lawyers, and the inspiration of former Supreme Court Justice Reynato Puno, a direct democracy advocate in his own right, who had then been coming out in the media at the height of the PDAF scam to inform the public of the available people’s initiative option. The ePIRMA alliance grew and attracted all sorts of individuals and groups: social liberals friendly and not friendly to the Aquino government, opposition groups, leftists, advocates of other special causes, even Marcos loyalists. Albeit the Facebook community page of the group allowed various subjects and viewpoints to be posted by its members, the alliance’s central committee managed to focus the group on the pork barrel system as its main target, followed only by concerns as various as total public finance management reform, Porto Alegre-modeled participatory budgeting, the abolition of ‘political dynasties’, and so on.
     By July of 2014, the group had joined in a coalition with the Cebu Coalition, the Makabayan group, PICAD, and Scrap Pork Network, for a final framing of an anti-pork barrel initiative that, after the decisions by the Supreme Court rendering both the pork funds PDAF and Aquino-administration DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) unconstitutional, would criminalize any similar fund-making along with their use. The initiative is slated to be launched on August 23, 2014 in Cebu City.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


“Some men, under the notion of weeding out prejudice, eradicate virtue, honesty and religion.” 
― Jonathan Swift

UNA sa lahat, ganito.

     Joke: "Ang hirap nga kung si Jessica Soho magbobold. Kailangan gang rape lagi."

     Apologia about joke: "Hindi ko po kailanman gugustuhing kutyain ang sinumang rape victim. Wala po akong intensyong masama, na gustuhing pagtawanan ang mga rape victims, alam ko pong seryoso ang rape. Kaya hindi ko po ginawang seryoso na pagtawanan ang rape victims. Wala po akong intensyong masama. . . . pinalaki nang pinalaki nang pinalaki na ginawang isang national issue na nagsimula sa isang simpleng biro. . . . Kung hindi po ako nauunawaan, paumanhin po ako sa inyo. Sa mga nakaunawa nang mahusay sa mga biro ko, maraming-maraming salamat. . . . Hindi lahat ng jokes ay nakakatawa; depende yan sa kung paano mo tatanggapin."

HAYAAN niyo akong palakihin pa ng kaunti ang isyu. Tulad ng iba riyan, mahilig din akong magpalaki ng isyu, dahil pinalaki ako ng mga nag-alaga sa akin na ituring na malaki -- at maaaring palakihin pa -- ang lahat ng bagay, ang lahat ng detalye, ang lahat ng isyu sa mundo, kung kaya't kahit ang pulitika sa likod ng simpleng imported na arina na ginagamit sa ating inosenteng pambansang almusal ay pinakikialaman ko.
     Totoong maraming biro ang hindi sinasadya. Maraming biro ang may tanging hangarin na magpatawa lamang. Simpleng biro kung tawagin.
     Subalit ito ang itatanong ko. Gagawa ka ba ng jokes tungkol sa mga Palestino sa harap ng mga Palestino, o jokes tungkol sa korapsyon sa Vatican sa harap ng mga Obispo? Tunay na matatawa ang mga Nazis sa mga jokes mo tungkol sa mga Hudyo. Totoong matatawa ang mga macho sa mga jokes mo tungkol sa mga bakla. Tulad nitong joke ni Tado kamakailan lang tungkol sa mga bakla na ikinagalit ni Vice Ganda.

     Malaki rin ang tsansang matawa ang mga bobo sa mga jokes mo tungkol sa pamilya ni Aling Nena: pilay ang panganay, mataba ang bunso, payat ang asawang may tuberculosis.
     Hindi mo kailangan mag-isip para magpatawa. Sabi nga ng satirist na si Jonathan Swift, kailangan mo lang ang iyong prejudice kung saan naroon ang iyong honesty at relihiyon. Ang career ni Swift ay madalas na umikot sa virtue at kasalanan ng prejudice na tila kasama na ng human-ness.
     Maraming mga biro ng prejudice ang naririnig natin araw-araw galing sa mga tambay, o di kaya galing sa ating mga propesor: mga simpleng biro tungkol sa mga Bisaya, sa mga Kapampangan, sa mga Intsik, sa mga Bombay, sa mga pilay, sa mga bakla (tulad ng joke ni Tado), sa mga relihiyoso, sa mga walang trabaho, sa mga Pilipino, atbp.
     Maraming biro ang maririnig galing sa mga matatanda, mga kabataan, galing sa mga relihiyoso, galing sa mga gago, galing sa mga matuwid, galing sa mga bakla sa salon, galing sa mga barako sa beerhouse, galing sa mga kriminal, at galing sa mga santo, at ang lahat ng mga simpleng birong ito ay ayon sa kanilang prejudices.
     Uulitin ko lang po ang Swiftian axiom: ang nakakatawa at tawanan ay produkto ng ating prejudice bilang ating relihiyon at manipestasyon ng katotohanan ayon sa atin.
     At dahil ang bawat komedya ay galing sa isang prejudice, malamang na isang araw ay may aalma sa mga biro mo kung ito'y narinig ng target ng iyong prejudice (tulad nang marinig ni Vice Ganda ang biro ni Tado tungkol sa mga bakla).

HINDI ko minumungkahi na maging mas "malawak" o "sensitibo" pa ang ating mga komedyante, dahil hindi ko rin lubos maisip kung paano mangyayari iyon o paano gagawin ito. Inaalok ko lamang na sila'y maging mas mapagmatyag sa kanilang manonood. Ito ang sasabihin ko sa kanila:
     Huwag gagawa ng biro tungkol sa mga Hudyo kung ika'y nasa Tel Aviv. Huwag magbibiro tungkol sa mga Bisaya kung ika'y nasa Cebu. Huwag magbiro tungkol sa mga walang edukasyon kung ika'y nasa basketball court ng squatter area sa Tondo. Huwag magbiro tungkol sa gang rape kung ika'y nasa ospital na may mga biktima ng gang rape. Huwag magbiro tungkol sa obesity sa Christimas Party ng . . . may obesity problems.
     Kung nasa Araneta Center ka naman, maging mas mapagmatyag! Dahil hindi ka nasa Christmas Party ng mga German neo-Nazis na okey ang mga jokes mo laban sa mga imigrante sa Germany, hindi ka nasa Christmas Party ng mga Obispo na okey ang mga jokes mo laban kay Risa Hontiveros. Nasa party ka na kung saan maraming uri ng tao ang nanonood!
     Inaalok ko ito hindi dahil malambot ang puso ko sa lahat ng uri ng tao. Tulad ng lahat ng komedyante, may mga prejudices din ako.
     Inaalok ko ito dahil malambot ang puso ko mismo sa mga komedyante, dahil komedyante rin po ako -- mahilig akong magpatawa at gumawa ng jokes laban sa mga kinabubuwisetan kong tao at hayop.
     Ang mga may prejudice laban sa mga kinaiinisan ko ang tanging nakakaintindi sa jokes ko. Ang mga kinaiinisan ko, o yung mga nag-aakalang naiinis ako sa kanila dahil sa jokes ko, ay natural na di "nakakaintindi." Tulad ng di pagkaintindi ni Vice Ganda sa joke lang naman ni Tado tungkol sa mga bakla.
     Naiintindihan ko ang trabaho ng mga nagpapatawa. Ang magpasaya.
     Marami nga naman tayong kinaiinisan sa mundo, madalas nga ay hindi natin alam na kinaiinisan natin sila. Lumalabas na lang iyan sa mga jokes at pasaring natin. Ang hangad lamang natin ay mapasaya ang mga Komunista sa kanilang mga kampo, halimbawa, o ang mga Protestante sa kanilang mga simbahan, o ang mga Ilokano sa kanilang rehiyon, o ang mga robber-rapists sa kanilang mga hideouts. Depende na lang yan sa kung sino ang kliyente natin sa ating propesyong pagpapatawa na tatanggap sa mga jokes natin.
     Ngunit naiintindihan ko rin ang trabaho ng mga galit. Ang magalit.
     Kaya ito lang, bilang panghuli. Inaalok kong huwag na huwag nating pagtatawanan ang mga galit na. Sinasabi ko ito hindi para takutin ang mga sarili natin sa sindak ng kanilang galit, kundi sa takot lamang na baka, sa bandang huli, hindi maging sa atin pa rin kundi sa kanila na ang huling halakhak. ###

“The latter part of a wise person's life is occupied with curing the follies, prejudices and false opinions they contracted earlier.”
― Jonathan Swift



May 31, 2013. Tinawag ang pansin natin sa isang segment ng sitcom na
Bubble Gang, na ipinalabas noong taong 2010. Heto iyon: CLICK DITO.

June 6, 2013. Nagpahayag ng kanilang galit o pagkadismaya ang ilang mga taga-St. Scholastica's College dahil sa isang Pugad Baboy comic strip na may slur laban sa lesbians sa all-girls Catholic schools: CLICK DITO.

August 19, 2014. Idineklarang persona non grata si komedyanteng Ramon Bautista sa Davao City matapos mabastos ang city government officials sa isang patawa nitoCLICK DITO.

It's time for a shift to direct democracy, Part 3

Who’s afraid of it?

WHY SHOULD congressmen and senators be afraid of losing their jobs under a direct democracy? On Facebook group Direct Democracy's wall, member Occupier Michael Hudson pointed out this passage from a cited source titled “Pros and Cons” on (a source first posted at the Forum for Direct Democracy Philippines’ Facebook wall by another friend, gallery-owner Simkin de Pio):

photo of the Philippine House of Representatives in session borrowed from

     Representative and direct democracy are compatible; well-designed direct democracy strengthens and invigorates representative democracy. Initiatives and referendums represent dynamic elements, which prevent the political system from ossification. Both citizen lawmaking and parliamentary legislation are expressions of the same principle of popular sovereignty.
      Direct democracy does not replace but complement parliamentary democracy. Only the most important decisions are made by popular votes. Most of the decisions remain to be decided by parliament, government and administration. The independence of the judiciary is not questioned by direct democracy.
     There you go. But the anatomy of this fear of direct democracy may be gleaned from examining what the political elite did with the party-list proportional representation system.
     New Forum for Direct Democracy Philippines member Emil wrote: “In a realm where the moneyed class holds sway, they will use all instruments at their disposal to get themselves into power, even if that means violating the original intent of party lists. I'm sorry to say this, but the party-list system, for all its good intentions, has been co-opted by the
trapos [Filipino slang for 'traditional politicians' and Tagalog word meaning cleaning rag]. (The system is) following the footsteps of the traditional political parties that basically represent the interests of the ruling classes -- as expected. You can't win as a party-lister unless you have money or established political bailiwicks, like Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Akbayan, but these parties too took time to organize, to put up, and required lots of resources before they could be established.”
     Still, the true small parties would have a lot to gain in terms of chances in a direct democracy. So why would they allow themselves to remain as well-paid slaves to masters? Ah, yes, did I say “well-paid”?
     “I dare say again,” says Emil, “if we really want a truly representative democracy, then the poor must be enabled by legislation to be elected into office as well, not just the less than five percent of the families who control economics and politics right now. And I think the only way to set this up is to change the rules of engagement.”
     And that is precisely what the global movements for direct democracy are all about; that’s what our movement is about. The multi-party direct democracy of Switzerland is evidence enough that it can work.

MY FRIENDS Mac McCarty and Lila S. posted on their walls a post-election essay on Business World written by the historian Vince Rafael. Mac says the article takes a look “at the historical dynamic of Philippine democracy and opens some interesting questions to ponder pre-2016.” In the essay, titled “Election Notes,” Rafa wrote:
     In world historical terms, elections were most effective and meaningful when they were introduced in the wake of social upheavals and movements to democratize society (see for example, the French and American Revolutions; the US Civil Rights Movement). Such elections did not inaugurate change, they simply followed and extended change that was already under way.
     The promise of electoral change coming in the wake of (rather than before) these social revolutions could only be realized, ironically, through the medium of a strong state and established bureaucracies left behind by the old order. Refurbished by the new regime, these were the only vehicles capable of carrying out legislative changes on a truly national scale.
     In the Philippine case, national elections have American colonial origins (whereas local elections date back from the Spanish era). They were first introduced by the Americans in 1907 as part of a series of counter-insurgency measures to quell the Filipino-American war. Hence these elections, like the municipal elections that preceded them in 1903, were not meant to further social revolution but precisely to put an end to its populist energy, re-channeling its demands into a conservative, elite-dominated, counter-revolutionary institution called the Philippine Assembly, the acknowledged grand daddy of the Philippine legislature today. . . .
     Rafa closed his essay with the following questions to ponderIs it possible to have a strong state given the geographical divisions and strong local allegiances of voters, and given the sway of money and personalities over political parties and issues? Can we ever overcome the colonial legacy of a decentralized, 'weak' state without returning to authoritarian rule? Can the national ever dominate the local, which even under Marcos proved unfeasible? Or does democratization in the Philippines also mean increasing decentralization and localization of power which are anathema to the building of a strong state capable of reshaping all levels of social life?
     I think the Philippine geography has nothing to do with it. It is not because Switzerland is landlocked that it would be a study in contrast against the Philippines case. The main difference, landlocked Switzerland and its cantons practice direct democracy. In contrast, the Philippine islands still curiously kneel down to their sanctified idol, representative (or elite) democracy. Theres the rub!
     Let's keep our representative democracy and well never be rid of our trapos. And quite obviously, trapos gain much from the system of pure representative democracy.
     One of these gains is the facility of maintaining what has been termed in our country “political dynasties,” which involves wealthy families who seek further advantage by being in government instead of being merely in business (especially if one family achieved its wealth within government [or revolutionary government] in the first place and found it hard to get rid of the habit, thereby finding the entrenchment of its little dynasty quite a happy situation).
     When the young sons and daughters of these “dynasties” win elections as either mayors, congressmen, governors or senators, what do they do? They take a crash course in legislation after the win. “Why not?” says my friend painter Dulz Cuna, “Imee Marcos done it.” One would wish they also take up a course titled . . . something like Putting the People above Special Interests 101.

photo of senators-elect Nancy Binay and Bam Aquino borrowed from

     Platform-less, special-interest trapos are simply a product of representative democracy (elite democracy), not of anything else. They wont disappear in a near-future Philippine direct democracy, but this latter system will at least force them to talk more about specific issues, if only because the people would have achieved a new culture of involvement in issues (a total involvement that could either be immediate or gradual). The trapos will then have to refine their lying and, alas, direct democracy gives the people the power to vote them out via a motion of no confidence (out of their seats) when they fail to deliver.
     “Citizens recall!” says Dulz.
     Exactly. They have that in Switzerland as well as in California. In fact, there are even representative democracies in the world that allow for recall elections. They have it in British Columbia (Canada), among other places I cant recall as of the moment (no pun intended).
     DD (direct democracy) might therefore frighten the currently-privileged elite which have long been privileged by a system that marginalizes the majority from knowing the issues and the details of the issues, one of the tools of which system of marginalization has been the English language. The English of the educated class has been flaunted as a symbol of wide knowledge, in fact has largely been placed within a system that sells education at a high cost. This is why the currently-privileged elite might be afraid of direct democracy. Because, largely, direct democracy is an attitude as well as a discipline of principles. It doesn’t matter that direct democracy would not ban them from seeking office, or that it does not do away with a Congress (a direct democracy in recent centuries being always a combination of direct and representative democracy), but its attitude will take away a lot of the plates of privilege that the elite have for decades been eating from.
     The attitude says this: we wont anymore allow the representation of our districts needs to be the exclusive privilege of the sons and daughters of wealth; we would like to represent ourselves on major questions, us, the hundreds of thousands of us that have been so used to being represented merely by members of the political elite. No more of that exclusivist experiment.
     And the discipline that comes with that desire comes with the knowledge of the issues and the principles behind the issues. In RD (representative democracy) we are constantly either made ignorant or subtly told we are ignorant by the experts class; in DD we are expected to decide for ourselves. In DD we complain to ourselves, not to the landlords. That ought to be our collective attitude; and that ought to be frightening to an elite culture that has secretly triumphed over the majority’s engineered ignorance for so long.

     The attitude says, enough of relying on elite representatives to solve our poverty problems, for instance, or of relying on them to achieve our socialized education objectives. For how else can we resolve those? Who will even bother to start to achieve the latter, since private schools and semi-private public schools are making quite a profit for the elite?
     The engineering of our consent has gone on for more than a century now, so much so that many of us have been conditioned to subconsciously think thusly: lets just wait for our heroes, maybe the next set of senators will solve our education problems for us. Let us forever cross our fingers? . . . Oh, and yes, our system can never be changed is the problem, and our beloved senators would even sigh with us, but would then promptly follow it up with a lightbulb gesture of having come up with a solution. Or we keep forgetting that our culture is to forever wait for heroes, and so we join with our leaders in damning those who are ambitious, those “trying hard” people, the so-called weird social climbers who think they can change the world, who think they are the messiahs, subtly telling us that our messiahs wont be coming soon.
     Well, enough of that attitude. Weve got a new attitude. The Swiss attitude, or the state-level DD attitude of almost half of the states in the US, which is the same attitude driving the OurNZ Party of New Zealand, the Direct Democracy Now! party of Greece, Direct Democracy Ireland, the Online Party of Canada, and many more! . . .

BUT HERE’S the catch. The Philippine government ought to be the government of the people and by the people (the people who should also say, enough of the custom of buying us, the people). DD shall therefore be achieved via the concerted effort of the majority of our people, not just via the idealistic few, for otherwise its likely to fail.
     The attainment therefore of DD shall be a long and tedious process, for its approval needs to emanate from the people, as that is precisely why its called direct or true democracy. If its approval is to emanate from only a minority of the people, it cannot be validated as a truly-made direct democracy and may likely reverse everything. Direct democracy must therefore not be imposed by a bunch of ideologues who didnt attain the peoples backing. Let me repeat, the campaign for direct democracy is going to be quite a tedious and long process, the end part of which needs to be a ratification of new DD constitutional amendments. Paradoxically, the people have to decide whether they want to decide.

     Well, actually that need not necessarily be so. For since representative democracy was imposed on the nation by the few, so direct democracy can also be imposed by a few who may succeed at forcing the shift. It doesnt matter if the people doesnt make use of its new power and privilege and freedom. The important thing is that it is there. Should they choose not to take advantage (avail) of their new right, there is still representative democracy in the background which can continue to happily work on the peoples behalf as before. The advantage of that situation is that it does not give the people a reason to complain. The kitchen is there for them to use, all they have to do is use it. (Just as RA 6735, long hidden from our awareness, has been there waiting for us to use it.) If they, the people, complain about not seeing a recipe they wish someone had cooked already, then Id believe those people to be really stupid and lazy. But until that kitchen is made more available to their awareness, I will not believe any elite architects pronouncement that my neighbors cant cook a level-headed new Act. . . .

IT WILL be a tedious process. In fact, when we achieve a new culture of direct democracy, some or many of us may not even be around anymore. But the important thing is for the campaign to start now. Not tomorrow, not next month or next year, not next decade, but now.
     A program of work, then, as Emil reminds us. Yes! A program of work, which is what the Forum for Direct Democracy Philippines was built for. So far, its 149 members have yet to come up with a program of work.
     We’ll do this, then, as a labor of love. And, remember, every political model has its favor for a kind of love, facilitating the promotion of its idealized love. Elite democracy facilitates, nay proposes, the primacy of love for elite selves lording it over beneficiary masses waiting for their benefactor lords charity. We’ll labor for a contending broader embrace of a love concept, one not derived from generous lords but from all our selves for as many of our selves.
     Our friend from Wall Street Peter Casimiro reminds us also via John Adams to remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. And, indeed, direct democracy is not the end-all and be-all of the democratic struggle for democracy. I say, democracy is a constant, never-ending struggle, precisely because autocracy never stops at its own. And in our case, I would be referring to the autocracy of elite democracy, better known as plutocracy or oligarchy, which would continue to fight to regain the privileges of representative democracy against the true populism in our new direct democracy.
     Another new friend, painter Arturo Cruz, squeezed out a paraphrase of Noam Chomsky’s “Consent Without Consent” which went thus: “according to consensus of Madisonian scholars, the primary responsibility of government is ‘to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority’. That has been the guiding principle of the democratic system from its origin until today.”
     I would say, “Until today, Arturo, until today,” for while that principle seems to be operative until today, it must prevail only until today. For today we have found an option.

THIS OPTION is really this simple: there are two basic forms of democracy, representative and direct.
     Representative democracy says all the people have to do is elect representatives (mis-representatives?) of the millions of the republics citizens. These representatives can take care of the nitty-gritty of the major decisions of governance for us, having been entrusted with the responsibility. We can all relax afterwards and watch our soap operas as they do their jobs on our behalf.
     Direct democracy, on the other hand, while also employing representatives of the majority with its necessary retention of a Congress, simply gives the people ample rights to participate directly in governance/legislation as well as the power to amend or repeal laws (even the republic
s Constitution) and recall elected officials.
     Now, almost all of the complaints we hear on the radio and on TV every day can be traced to the failure and shortcomings, and the abuse, of representative democracy as well as the failure of the people to defeat the powers and privileges they have allowed to be allotted to this system. So, now, having been made aware of this, why prolong the experiment? How can we keep complaining to our leaders while also indulging them the privilege of representative-democracy representation powers, which definitely includes the power to ignore our complaints? How can you complain to your abusers while allowing them to continue to operate within a democratic form that facilitates abuse?
     On the wall of the Facebook group Direct Democracy, our friend Occupier Michael Hudson had another attractive posting, this time the video of a lecture by the progressive-cum-liberal political commentator Cenk Uygur. Here is that video:

Cenk Uygur’s speech at The Conference to Restore the Republic

     Not to contradict anything in the video except for one tiny thing, our Occupier friend quips that, sure, a Constitutional Convention [amendment] is a great idea, but for what cause? Lets try direct democracy. Direct democracy allows the people to petition to place laws on the ballot and then, if enough people sign the petition, we can vote for or against it. Switzerland uses this system, as does over a dozen U.S. states. At least direct democracy gives the people the ability to pass legislation that 90% of us like. And thus direct democracy gives the people a mechanism with which to effect real change.
     And he’s right. And instead of a Constitutional Convention we can already make it possible, simply by demanding for direct democracy even initially at the provincial or the city or municipal level (especially in the case of provinces and/or cities where the leaders are the type who would be more receptive to the idea-cum-demand). From the municipal to the provincial to the national level, then. Maybe that’s the way to quickly shut up all the naysayers who claim that direct democracy won’t work in an archipelagic system like the Philippines (incidentally, wasn’t that the same argument the naysayers used against election automation not so long ago?).
     But who could mobilize such a campaign in the provinces? Well, there are the party-list groups’ provincial chapters, for one. And, again, with any party-list group that claims to be on a mission to empower the people, I would like to know why it wouldnt want to join a multi-party movement for direct democracy.
     And there, in the provinces, we could try the beauty of a referendum or initiative.

THE INITIATIVE. A main artery at the heart of direct democracy. Now, here is where fear lurks.
     And the fear is not exclusive to special interest groups who would find it quite easy to convince a bunch of congressmen and senators in their lobbies but think it hard or more expensive to convince whole communities in their plazas as well as entire media staffs in
their conference rooms. Other concerned citizens also fear that moneyed special interests who can afford to put their prized laws (and loopholes) to vote in election after election may, at the end of the day, be the ones to own those initiatives or referenda. This is an understandable worry, which derives from the dictum that well-financed campaigns and adverts usually win the day. But this is precisely what happens upon a people not used to listening to themselves but only to TV wise asses and their expert messages talking down to our low-financed voices. Direct democracy gets rid of that just-listeners and just-consumers culture; people get used to debates everywhere, not just in barbershops while watching GMA News TV documentaries. In a direct democracy, the people can actually own the philosophy that sees highly-financed campaigns as suspect.
     We’ll talk more about this in the next part of our series. [END OF PART 3]