Democracy Filipino Style

Manila Bulletin, October 30, 2005 | Go to article overview

Democracy Filipino Style


Byline: Fr. Rolando V Dela Rosa

IT is our custom nowadays to sneer at martial law and exaggerate its defects. In contrast, we extol democracy and belittle its dangers. It is about time that we reviewed such judgments. It is simplistic to say that the Marcos regime had created all our present problems. We are resurrecting repeatedly this chapter in our history as a convenient scapegoat for present failures.

Most of our problems today are not vestiges of the martial rule but the inevitable offshoot of our brand of democracy. Priding ourselves as the first democratic country in Asia, we presume wrongly that democracy is practiced in the Philippines in the same way as in other countries. Democracy is understood and exercised not only in terms of its universally known characteristics but also in terms of cultural parameters. We exercise democracy quite differently than Americans or Europeans do because our country's democratic processes and institutions have undergone a unique historico-cultural development.

It takes time to develop the right conditions for democracy. Many of us overlook this. We tend to talk about politics and social issues in absolute terms, when we are, in fact, dealing with developmental processes that take time to evolve. Alexis De Tocqueville once wrote that it took centuries to build and construct American democracy and the institutions and behavior that would support it. People are not born with attitudes and skills needed for democracy.

To his credit, former President Marcos was prudent enough to recognize this. He saw that we are not culturally prepared for democracy. I would like to believe that he wanted to be a sort of a benevolent dictator creating the necessary structures that would usher in a democratic form of governance, and then relinquishing power afterwards. …

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