"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Of what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?"

These words were actually from the ousted dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, as he tried to paint the "New Society" as a "revolution from the center", or a "democraization of wealth", a revolution by the poor. Yet, Marcos' regime received global condemnation on human rights abuses, a great contradiction. The Inquirer just published a piece stating that Marcos was in fact the first to establish a commission on human rights in the Philippines.

Above copied from the Inquirer

Although it was obvious why Marcos created such a commission (to make his administration look good), it was still important that the creation of such a commission carried some credibility. After all, it had to be a good show. According to the Inquirer, this was how the Commission should be established:
Attached to the Office of the President, the commission was supposed to be a multisectoral group composed of representatives from government and the private sector, with the Vice President and the Prime Minister as chair and vice chair, respectively.
Its members would include the presidents of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Civil Liberties Union of the Philippines, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, the Federation of Free Farmers, the Civic Assembly of Women of the Philippines, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the Ulama Association of the Philippines and the Association of Christian Churches of the Philippines.
When Marcos issued this decree, the Vice President would have been Arturo Tolentino and the Prime Minister was Cesar Virata. 

Corazon Aquino, who headed the revolutionary government that ousted Marcos also created a Commission on Human Rights, this time, supposedly with the blessing of a newly ratified Constitution. Aquino already had a presidential commission but its chairman, Jose Diokno, resigned in protest of a massacre that happened during the early months of Aquino's administration. Aquino then hurriedly established the Commission on Human Rights with an Executive Order. The order was even amended quickly with the following change:
“The Chairman and Members of the Commission on Human Rights shall be appointed by the President. Their tenure in office shall be at the pleasure of the President.”
The Supreme Court would later describe the above as unconstitutional.

The current Constituion of the Philippines is younger than I am, yet its interpretation has already become murky even with some of its major framers still alive. I think this only points to one major obstacle in civics education in the Philippines. There is so much emphasis on personalities and not on ideas. Since Marcos is often viewed as a villain, his ideas must be all evil. On the other hand, Aquino regarded as a savior means her ideas are infallible. It is true that context is important but it is likewise necessary to see ideas as they are.

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