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New charter: as old as tyranny itself

We believe that any unnecessary interference with the public will is not merely a tyranny but a folly […] Undue legal interference goes even further with its folly than this, since, by denying to a free people so large an amount of their freedom, it belittles human dignity and insults the essential nature of man. ~ Author Sean O’Faolain

Any government built on tyrannical ambitions displays one crucial attitude towards the governed: interference.

These governments interfere in people’s lives on the subtext that the public is basically corrupt and unruly, thus generally harder to control. We’ve heard it often said that the Filipino public needs “discipline,” a twisted government propaganda spiel that has nothing at all to do with the truth, let alone any study to prove such a conclusion.

With this frame of mind, government then fashions “remedies” to put some order where social order leaves much to be desired. These remedies take the form of social and legal antidotes which government feels is necessary for reestablishing order.

A serious problem thereafter occurs: the legal and bureaucratic machinery become bloated, which in turn becomes susceptible to abuse and corruption from within its ranks. The more this machinery gets bigger, the more impossible it is to control.

As a quick-fix, government then relinquishes some of its hold and control over the larger bureaucratic machinery in the hands of those who would corrupt it, if only to lay hold of, and preserve, these officials’ loyalty to the State.

And by putting more importance to their loyalty than the task of serving the public, they are given a free hand to bloat the system even more, by crafting more and more laws which strain the people’s freedom to inquire as a cover for their incompetence.

This aftermath coincides directly with the statement of the philosopher Tacitus, when he said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”

This is also the point where the words of Irish political and social critic Sean O’Faolain come in: “Undue legal interference goes even further with its folly than this, since, by denying to a free people so large an amount of their freedom, it belittles human dignity and insults the essential nature of man.”

Now, in order for this tyrannical government to convince a largely apathetic and ignorant public of its good will (“good will,” meaning, its move to impose social order in exchange for our fundamental freedoms), it must satisfy the public’s need for security.

To win them over, government talks them into accepting two of the biggest lies: one, that anyone who is not with us is against us, thus promoting a cult mentality (this kind of unity totally disregards the concept of individual freedom and diversity); and two, that our fundamental human rights and freedoms are benefits from a benevolent State, not its duty to preserve and defend, thus shaping a mendicant mentality.

One of the most ingenious ways to accomplish this is to indulge in a kind of literary sleight of hand in the crafting of our laws, particularly the nation’s Charter.

In comparing the 1987 Constitution with the draft recently approved by the Consultative Committee (ConCom), we can see this sleight of hand so clearly, it’s almost a crime to say it isn’t there.

In Article II: Declaration of Principles and State Policies, the ConCom’s draft Charter is too far removed from the 1987 Constitution.

Article II, Section 4 (1987 Constitution): The prime duty [emphasis, mine] of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.

Article II: Section 4 (ConCom’s New Charter): The recognition of fundamental freedoms, the observance of the rule of law, and the promotion of sustainable human development are essential for the enjoyment by the people of the BENEFITS [emphasis, mine] of a democratic republican federal government.

The change tells us that the current administration is relinquishing its PRIME DUTY to serve and protect the people by making us believe that our fundamental freedoms are BENEFITS to be gained under a “benevolent” regime. One which will recognize our freedoms but will never lift a finger to defend it as an act of duty.

“Benefit/s,” by definition, is payment or an act of charity where the recipient is granted a gift or assistance out of the benevolence of the giver. Should by any chance such a gift has been earned, still the choice either to give or not give rests in the hands of the government.

A “duty,” by comparison, is an obligation or a task, a charge or mission to fulfill its mandate and responsibility whatever the cost.

This means that government, in the 1987 Constitution, is bound by the rule of law and the weight of a duly prescribed Constitution to accomplish its PRIME DUTY TO SERVE AND PROTECT THE PEOPLE. That is NOT a suggestion, folks, but a charge.

As for the ConCom’s version, we should be thanking them for whatever form or shape of liberty they wish for us to enjoy.

Keep in mind that our fundamental freedoms in the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights are not gifts to be handed over “benevolently” and “generously” to whomever the government chooses. If so, then that’s mendicant mentality, an “insult to the essential nature of man”.

These freedoms do not emanate from government. Rather, they are intrinsic to human beings and must be recognized, promoted, and defended by government as its prime duty and mission.

The ConCom’s version of the Preamble itself, the opening statement outlining the purpose, justification and goal of the nation’s Charter, takes a gigantic leap from the 1987 version.

1987 Constitution: We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

ConCom’s New Preamble: We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, to build a permanent and indissoluble nation and establish a just, humane, united, and progressive society under a government that shall embody our shared ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

If you will read closer, the terms “permanent” and “indissoluble nation” take precedence over “just and humane society,” adding “united,” “progressive,” and “shared ideals” to the line.

Reading the Preamble in full, it gives the sense that diversity in political and social thought, as well as the exercise of individual freedoms, are anathema and should be treated accordingly.

Anyone who’d dare go against the shared ideals between the state and a largely ignorant public will not receive the blessings of independence and democracy, promoting the axiom “he who is not with us is against us.”

The ConCom’s Preamble, by its own words, proves that it’s prejudicial to the concepts of individual freedoms, diversity in unity, and political and cultural differences by advancing cultic mentality.

The 1987 Preamble, on the other hand, highlights the creation of a just and humane society as government’s primary and indestructible duty to the public, while allowing for individual and collective freedoms to be exercised.

On the part of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte receiving emergency powers, I couldn’t have said it better than Rep. Neri Colmenares. In his press statement titled “New Federal Constitution grants Duterte massive martial law powers,” Colmenares said:

“The proposed Constitution devoted a whole new article on “National Security and Public Order” under Article XX. It has granted Pres. Duterte new powers to situations which he deems as emergency namely, (1) the power to intervene in case “a region fails to comply with its obligation under the Constitution as to threaten “the economy” provided under Article XX Section 15; (2) the power to take the vaguely defined “necessary measures” in case of cyber attacks Article XX Section 10 (b); (3) the grant of a vaguely defined “necessary powers” in times of national emergency in the event Congress is unable to convene under Article VII Section 23 (b).”

He added, “The problem with the granting of these powers is that Pres. Duterte can invent emergency situations to justify his exercise of these powers against legitimate dissent. A total of eight (8) martial law or emergency rule powers are now reposed on Pres. Duterte under the Federal Constitution including his (4) powers to declare martial law, (5) suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus under Article VII Section 18, (6) his power to carry out “a national policy” under Article VI Section 23 (c) (7) his power to take over the operations of any private business in times of emergency under Article VII and (8) his power to call out the armed forces in cases of lawless violence, rebellion or invasion.”

Anyone with even the slightest experience in dealing with concepts like despotism and totalitarianism will know that authoritarian and totalitarian governments thrive on violence, extreme prejudice, and the idea that they are the nation’s saviors.

Their concept of national unity is cultic in nature, whereby the exercise of individual freedoms is deemed unacceptable, and worse, worthy of legal punishment.

Likewise, we are being fooled into believing that our fundamental freedoms are gifts to be handed down by a benevolent dictator, to whom we must owe our gratitude. If this is not mendicancy, one that belittles human dignity, I don’t know what is.

Should this administration push through with its grossly rewritten Charter, Filipinos will find themselves in a Titanic of their own making: huge, stately, but easy to sink. Think about it: if in a unicameral government it is nearly impossible to track down corruption and abuse of power, how much more if the same processes are spread apart?

To insist on the values that pave the way for a just and humane society, and not the “shared ideals” embodied by this murderous regime: this is the Filipino’s singular hope.

What we are being given is not a new Charter. In fact, it is as old as tyranny itself. G



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