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Arrogating the citizens’ sovereignty

Manny Valdehuesa .

SOVEREIGNTY, or People Power, is the basis of political power, the wellspring of government authority.

It is the people, exercising their inherent sovereignty, that confers the authority to govern by electing officials for the community and the nation.

This authority is society’s instrument for ordering its affairs. It is important to raise this issue of citizen sovereignty, for it is the platform on which political power is anchored.

Whoever sits or stands on this platform is duty-bound to exercise the power delegated to him in accordance with the people’s values and in fulfillment of what mission or mandates are conferred upon him.

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To be an autocrat, imposing one’s will upon society (without the mandate of the people) is to be untrue to one’s mission as a leader. And to insist on doing so is to break the bonds that bind citizen sovereignty and government authority.

Thus, one must be wary about leaders with a dictatorial bent or the penchant for acting without the people’s mandate or consent. They are betrayers of the public trust.

People Power or consent-of-the-governed is the indispensable requirement for the exercise of government authority.

One must be mindful of the indispensability of People Power or citizen sovereignty in all government undertakings.

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To be cavalier about the all-important role of the people is to belittle democracy and to sully the legitimacy of government acts or initiatives. And one should be ever aware about the locus and processes of democracy, from whence government is created or established.

The locus or venue for the workings of democracy is one’s own community or barangay, where every sovereign citizen dwells. Democracy’s processes take place in barangay neighborhoods—from consensus-building to elections—not at the top of the political pyramid, in Malacanang or Congress.

In all matters of state or of society, therefore, one must consider the essential role of the barangay and the sovereign people in them. The venue or physical location where sovereignty is exercised and made manifest—through elections—is the barangay. The actors that make democracy happen are the sovereign people.

The barangay’s centrality in the affairs of Philippine society and government must be an essential consideration, to be acknowledged and affirmed.

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Republic Act 7160 (the 1991 Local Government Code) defines the barangay’s role as “the basic political unit…the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.”

First, it is the “primary planning and implementing unit” of our society and government. Then it is supposed to provide “the forum for issues” that affect the citizenry so that their views may be elicited and ascertained. And not least, it is in the barangay where “disputes may be amicably settled.”

These are vital tasks for every community and for nation-building. Major problems arise if they are not performed.

Moreover, they cannot be performed at macro-levels. To insist on addressing them in the aggregate, from the top, compounds the issues and multiplies the problems.

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Comes now the so-called Consultative Committee the president created for the purpose of changing our form of government by federalizing it.

Twenty-one individuals drawn on the basis of one man’s desire are consulting among themselves and prescribing, nay, imposing their ideas on the entire society of sovereign citizens.

Not even one barangay has been consulted or asked to hold consultations on this issue. And now they are about to foist the results of their dubious enterprise on the Filipino people.

To facilitate their enterprise, the Lower House of Congress is thinking of unilaterally acting on the proposed federal constitution (even without the Senate’s participation!), then railroading it by converting itself into a constituent assembly in order to enact it.

Is it right and proper that citizen sovereignty is coopted by one man and his chosen disciples? And is it right for mere representatives of the people to coopt the people’s sovereign power in order to foist upon them a proposed Constitution, one which they are not even given a glimpse of. No copies have been handed out!

 

(Manny Valdehuesa Jr. is a former Unesco regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN;  vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, government peace panel during the administration of Corazon Aquino; awardee, PPI-Unicef outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc.. E-mail: valdehuesa@gmail.com)

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