Need Safeguards for Free Election; (Speech Delivered at the Joint General Membership Meeting of the Makati Business Club, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Management Association of the Philippines on March 8, 2007, at the Dusit Nikko Hotel, Makati City.)
Byline: CHRISTIAN S. MONSOD Chairman, One Voice
YOU asked me to address four questions:
(1) What is the importance of the 2007 elections?
(2) Is there hope for the elections to be credible?
(3) What is the status of the citizen effort?
(4) How can each of us contribute to that effort?
The elections are important because for the first time since our democracy was restored in 1986, we are faced with the problem of damaged or weakened democratic institutions, of processes, i.e. electoral and justice system, or of offices or agencies such as the Senate and the House, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Elections, or even of the Constitution itself.
Most businessmen appear to be happy with the developments in the economy, but you are clearly concerned about the credibility of the 2007 elections. You are here because your concern goes beyond the successful delivery of credible elections. You care enough to know that we must also address the broader crisis of the people's trust in the political system, and in democracy itself, as a means to a better life. The repeated attempts to test the constitutional limits of executive powers, the attempt to change the Constitution for political gain, and the politicsas-usual environment of the election campaign, must concern you. All of us know the far-reaching consequences of a growing alienation and disengagement of people from democratic processes, especially the youth and the poor.
If democracy has not changed the social, economic, and political landscape of the country, it should occur to us that maybe the problem is not that democracy is not suitable for developing countries, but that we have not nurtured it or are not practicing it, neither the administration nor the opposition, but more importantly, not by civil society itself.
It is the privilege of age to recall images that make sense of his surroundings. Mine is the image of businessmen and the most ordinary citizens guarding ballot boxes together, with utter disregard for their safety, with no thought of reward or benefit, protecting the ballot as if it was the most sacred blessing of their lives. Whether locking arms together or raising fists defiantly in the air, or singing the impassioned cry of the imprisoned, there was an army that was invincible for the whole world to see.
But the fact is that after we brought our nation to glory in EDSA and accomplished the first peaceful transfer of power in 27 years in 1992, we folded up our banners, we put away the T-shirts with the imaginative slogans that brought humor to the seriousness of the time, and we went back to wearing our business suits and to monitoring the stock prices of our companies or focusing on our narrow sectoral advocacies. And as we went our separate ways with our separate causes, we lost something of the dream of a nation and the significance of our interconnected lives.
Perhaps it is time to go back to our beginnings for the 2007 elections.
Every election is critical for its own reasons. If the 1986 elections, as once noted by a writer, were a test of our courage, and the 1992 and subsequent elections tests of our maturity, then the 2007 elections are surely a test of our vision for democracy.
That vision cannot include the weakening of democratic institutions that would justify what is sometimes euphemistically called a strong republic to fill the void, in which the ubiquitous presence and increasing power of the military and police in government affairs is a troubling trend. The military gambit is not new to our politics, but we thought we had addressed it permanently by the overwhelming aversion of our people to any kind of military dominance in our national life. Surely the business community remembers how the Marcos regime, propped up by the military, set back our economy by 10 years, a gap we still have not closed after 20 years. …