Democracy Downgrade

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   Exactly seven years ago, when the Senate voted to not open the “second envelope” and effectively stopped the Estrada impeachment dead on its tracks, a crowd of people trooped to the EDSA Shrine and voiced out their discontent and dismay.  This was EDSA Dos.

   Today’s Philippine Star headline reads: “RP dropped from list of world democracies.”  According to the article, we are no longer “totally free,” but “partly free.”  Our “totally free” democracy has been downgraded because of political killings, specifically targeting left-wing activists.

   I have had around 24 units of Political Science courses, and to be honest, I still don’t have an idea of how you could measure democracy and/or freedom.  If a “totally free” country grants 100% of all necessary freedoms, does the Philippines grant, say, just 60% of civil rights and liberties?  If we graph it, should the line of x freedoms be directly proportional to y degree of democracy?  At what quadrant of the two-dimensional coordinate system should the point of intersection be found for the political system in question to be considered “totally free?”

   As much as I’d like to rant about how to graph freedom and democracy, we should be more concerned about the implications than the methodology.  To invoke V in V for Vendetta, “democracy” and “freedom” are not just words: they are perspectives.  It’s not that we are descending into totalitarianism, but our perspectives are being challenged by different notions of what “democracy” is, and what exactly are our “freedoms.”

   I think that one of the reasons why we Filipinos value democracy so much is because it gives us a sense of involvement in the affairs of the state.  In the Philippines, the people are effectively the state: not only do we overthrow Presidents every now and then, but the power of the people transcend national borders and territories.  Add to that a free press, the popular vote, and a history of oppression and subjugation, and you’ll understand why democracy is so important to the Filipino people.

   Or is it?  No, not really: nowadays, we see democracy from a different perspective.  Democracy is not a one-shot deal that comes with a regular election season and an EDSA every once in a while.  Like the mandate of the President, we need to constantly re-affirm how democratic we are, and how much we value our democracy.  You don’t wait for the proverbial salop to be filled before you take a stand.  Democracy is a perspective: it frames your view of the world and how you should live your life.  Rights, freedoms, responsibilities and liberties all paint the picture of your existence.  It’s not a party platform: it’s a political choice.

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