Holy Week reflection: The civic imperative

Whether in A complex achievement, in Elections are like water, and Circle to circle or most recently, in The perpetual avoidance of opportunity,a great concern of mine has been not only to come to grips with the present crisis, but by discovering its origins, to propose a framework that will enable concerned citizens to arrive at a consensus for solutions.

My column yesterday was The civic imperative: a reflection. For some time now, I’ve been returning, again and again, to Titus Livy‘s summation of the exhaustion of Rome:


Here are the questions to which I should like every reader to give his close attention: what life and morals were like; through what men and what policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged. Then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to our present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.

Of course there are morals and there are morals; there is sectarian morality and what should be preferable, a civic sense.

For over a year now, one of the many projects that are simmering away on the backburner because of so many reasons, is a compilation of reflections on the various civic-consciousness raising projects of the past. As it stands, roughly, the book would look like this: the text of a civic code, and a reflection on it. So, Rizal’s Constitution of La Liga Filipina, with an essay by Dean Jorge Bocobo; the Kartilya of the Katipunan, with an essay by Conrado de Quiros; Mabini’s True Decalogue, with an essay by Randy David; Quezon’s Code of Citizenship and Ethics (thinking of an essay by F. Sionil Jose, but haven’t asked); Laurel’s Citizen’s Code of Rights and Obligations (no idea yet, who to ask); the Magsaysay Credo, with an essay by Eggie Apostol; and Alex Lacson’s Twelve Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country, with an essay by Willy Prilles.

The genesis of the project was an experiment I conducted with college students from different Catholic schools to whom I presented copies of these codes, and who I then asked to reflect on them. First of all, they were unfamiliar with all of them; second, the concepts of citizen’s rights and obligations incorporated in most of the codes was an alien concept to them; as were the pretty basic principles of good citizenship and so on that the codes espoused. We then had a vigorous discussion on the relevance of the codes, and from time to time, I’ve tried repeating the experiment with other student groups I’ve encountered.

This was further underscored when, during the campaign against the Palace-proposed constitutional amendments, I found myself having to conduct a 3-hour discussion on the basics of our constitutional set-up instead of doing what I was supposed to do, which was pitch the case for One Voice. And afterwards, I overheard one priest tell another, “you know, maybe we should teach the students about the constitution.”

You think!? I wanted to scream at him. But I didn’t but instead, encouraged him to take it up with his faculty. The point being, never has the citizenry been so ignorant not only of its obligations, but its rights; and never has the workings of government, even in the ideal sense, been so obscure and mysterious to the public.

And all the more the need to inform, when, it (change, improvement, discussion, debate, consensus, whatever) always begins with a few but the few blaze a trail for the many: see Letter From Vietnam.

For, as Mon Casiple says, the country faces hard choices:

What we see is a presidency in the midst of fighting for its very survival. The pressure won’t let up–the awakening of the middle class will not permit it. The timidity and the self-interest of power institutions may prolong its life but certainly things will not go back to normal governance anymore. The next two years of the GMA presidency–if it reached that far–will be a constant crisis presidency.
The lines have been drawn on the streets of Makati and elsewhere. This situation leads inexorably to a political polarization. Either GMA gives way or she has to assert the power. Every democratic institution will become a battleground or will have to give way. At the end, she is confronted with the constitutional end to her term.
Will she abide by it? There is a great doubt about it. Since holding on to the power has become the sine qua non of her survival, the logical path for her is to continue beyond 2010.
Only a constitutional change process can give even a modicum of legitimacy to this decision. Thus, even if the obstacles are almost insurmountable, she may opt for it in desperation. From this perspective, the 2006 failed charter change initiatives are lessons towards another try, not lessons to stop.
Of course, this time she had more obstacles–an awakened and hostile citizenry and the political forces gearing up for the 2010 elections. Only a martial law regime–as in the case of Marcos–will have the remote chance of carrying it off.
GMA may still opt to negotiate her way out of the crisis. Those who want to manage the transition from her regime are avidly waiting and working for it. For them, the popular movement is useful as an instrument of pressure but not as the decisive instrument for her ouster. She will, of course, as a minimum condition ask for immunity or protection from the suits that are certain to be filed against her once she is out of power.
The presidentiables are also a target in this negotiation scenario. However, they run the risk of being identified with an unpopular president and thus the probability of losing in the presidential race. On the other hand, it is no secret that the presidential access to government resources and the prospect of a ready-made campaign machinery in the ruling coalition are tempting to these presidentiables.
The option to resign is now basically only a function of the popular pressure to oust her. It has been a logical–if unspoken–end to the search for truth being pursued by many in the church sector and others in the middle class. However, the actuations of Malacañang do not support the scenario of a voluntary resignation.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

120 thoughts on “Holy Week reflection: The civic imperative

  1. Let us not are over-estimate the capabilities of present Malacanang denizens. At the same time, let us not undermine the aspirations of the Filipino people and the capacities of our institutions.

    Again, what is this? One very smart (or lucky) one and ninety million stupid others?

    As Thomas Jefferson stated: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

  2. “People want a clean a government instead of a corrupt one,”

    sounds familiar.

  3. may the message of easter bring peace to our souls and charity into our hearts. may we be more discerning, and less judgmental on things we have no clear understanding, that we may avoid repeating the tragedy of the crucifixion again and again due to arrogance and ignorance.

    we are a Christian nation. let the examples and teachings of Christ live in us – in everything that we say and do.

    happy easter to one and all, my fellow countrymen in this blog and elsewhere. special greetings to you, manolo, for giving us this forum, and for stimulating our thoughts concerning our country’s journey towards the best that we can attain as a nation.

  4. ok. all your opinions are very enlightening and I must say, the Philippines is indeed a country of smart people who speak their minds.

    then again – what do you propose?
    I agree with frombelow – we should make up are minds.
    but, what do we really want? im all for a new leadership since this leadership (or can even call it as such?) is clearly and totally far from what our country needs – but, WHO DO YOU WANT IN HER PLACE???

    Ewan ko sa inyo, pero sa akin, unless tanggalin nating lahat yang mga nasa pwesto at maglagay tayo ng mga bagong dugo sa pulitika – wala talagang pagbabago na mangyayari. Nakakapagod na mag-EDSA ulit… sigaw ka ng sigaw pagkatapos ilang linggo lang makalipas, babalik ka na naman ulit? Yung mga taong sinasabi nila na dapat maging sunod na lider, yung mga “kabataang” nasa kongreso daw – dyuskuday, hindi niyo ba naisip na pati sila ay nakain na rin ng sistema? Kung hindi, malamang, hindi sila mga kongresista ngayon.

    Malungkot isipin na sa gobyerno sa pilipinas, kahit isa ka sa mga regular na empleyado lang – kelangan ng tapang ng sikmura, kung gusto mo manatili sa trabaho. At, obviously, kapag tumagal ka dyan ng “matagal-tagal” mejo nakisawsaw ka na rin sa korupsyon… late na pumapasok… libreng pa-cellphone sa mga empleyado… libreng pang-lunch kasama ang boss… mamahaling mga hotel pag may mga meeting sa probinsiya… paggamit ng sasakyan ng gobyerno para sa personal na mga lakad… lahat ng yan, gaano man kaliit dyan nag sisimula ang baluktot na mga katwiran.

    Alam ko na lahat kayo na nagsusulat sa blog na ito ay siguradong mas matalino kesa sa akin. You are using bigger words and voicing your opinions in a logical manner… isa lamang akong simpleng Assumptionista na humihingi ng kasagutan – sa gitna ng lahat ng ito – ano nga ba ang magagawa pa natin? Sino nga ba ang dapat nating ilagay sa posisyon?

    2010… masarap mangarap. sabi niyo nga, baka delusyon nalang yun. ewan ko nga ba – basta ako, ayoko nyan mga nasa senado at kongreso – kung sila yung natatanging opsyon, ngayon palang, maglagay na tayo ng sunblock – kasi for sure, nasa kalye na ulit tayo ilang linggo matapos ang eleksyon.

  5. “People want a clean a government instead of a corrupt one,”

    some people in the Philippines wants to move on and forget the corrupt one.

  6. “People want a clean a government instead of a corrupt one,”

    some people in the Philippines wants to move on and forget the corrupt one.

    — so, we dont forget. let us then brace ourselves for years of more political bickering. nauubos na yung oras natin sa kaka-litis ng mga tiwaling opisyal. so lahat sila abala sa mga kaso, sino yung nagpapatakbo ng gobyerno?

  7. pagkatapos ni Erap, wala na ginawa mga tao kundi magcomplain about Gloria. Yung iba naman, abala sa kakalitis kay Erap. yung iba, kagaya ko, busy sa kaka-blog.

    Ano ba! wala nalang katapusan. paulit-ulit nalang. pag bumagsak ang peso, kasalanan ng presidente, pag tumaas ang peso – hindi nararamdaman ng marami… demonyo na si Gloria kung demonyo, pero hindi lang naman sya yun nagpapa-andar ng buong gobyerno e. Kung matino ba naman yun mga nasa baba, kakayanin ba ng isang tao yun??? Hindi!!! Pero shempre, lahat sila, nakikitikim sa korupsyon. Puro tatanga-tanga.

  8. Is it possible for a corrupt leadership, in any part of the world, to survive and lead its country to prosperity? If the answer is no, and assuming that GMA leadership is corrupt, then her leadership is destined to fall.So a supposedly corrupt government is eliminated=.BENEFICIAL TO THE COUNTRY. But if the answer is yes, and assuming that GMA leadership is corrupt, then her government can survive and make this country prosperous.=BENEFICIAL TO THE COUNTRY. But if the asumption is that GMA goverment is not corrupt, then it will make the question irrelevant. My point is that her government will always have its reckoning sooner or later. But this country will remain standing, no matter what. So enjoy na lang tayo. Ayaw namang gumalaw ga tao. Let Newton’s law take care of this government.

  9. “People want a clean a government instead of a corrupt one,”

    some people in the Philippines wants to move on and forget the corrupt one.

    the taiwanese people know how to get rid of corruption the right way.


    DAY 23

  10. we say teach the constitution… aren’t we learning about the constitution in college? But who takes it seriously when it is obvious that it is only good on paper?

  11. “the taiwanese people know how to get rid of corruption the right way.”—–

    is their electoral system as corrupt as ours? only then the real voice of the people in the philippines can be truly heard and genuine reforms can be truly had.

  12. rising from the dead is a very common occurence in the philippines. how my times have you heard or known a dead person vote during election times? philippines is truly a land of the risen dead.

  13. Istambay_sakalye: Taiwan COMELEC counts fast!!!

    The election for the 12th-term President and Vice-President was held in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Saturday, March 22, 2008. Kuomintang (KMT) nominee Ma Ying-jeou won, with 58% of the vote, ending 8 years of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rule.

    This was the fourth direct election for the President of the Republic of China.

  14. reynatala,

    college is too late. This is the CONSTITUTION. Try elementary and high school. Pakana ito nang ruling class na hindi ituro ang karapatan para alipin pa rin tayo.

  15. BrianB: Saan makakakuha ng kopya ng Constitution sa Waray? Ilokano? Hiligaynon? Chabacano?

    1987 Constitution:

    Article XIV — SEC.8. This Constitution shall be promulgated in Filipino and English and shall be translated into major regional languages, Arabic and Spanish.

  16. Guys, go over to brian gorrell’s blog. The comments are getting ridiculous.
    Socialites my foot!

    These guys are plain and simple wannabees.

    Socialites dress in European Style, humble, classy, with high demeanor.

    The photos show ordinary citizen, drunkards if I may add, tasteless in my analysis definition.

    Yikes Brian, you got involved in a wrong company and all they sold you were ILLUSIONS of GRANDEUR.</blockquote

    The comments go on and on like this.

  17. Istambay_sakalye: Taiwan COMELEC counts fast!!!

    philippine comelec way faster than taiwanese, results were
    known before voting took place. lol. 😉

  18. i mean, nowadays, we teach the national language since preschool pero is there any increase in the appreciation OR usage of the language? Pati mga magulang kelangan pukpukin yung ulo para maturuan rin ng maayos yung mga anak e. The system of education should give more focus on things that would develop nationalism among the youth… constitution, national language, literature, etc. Nakakalungkot lang isipin na pati mga guro ay hindi na yata alam paano ituro ng wasto yung Filipino… paano mo pa aasahang maituro ang konstitusyon?

  19. “the taiwanese people know how to get rid of corruption the right way.”

    the Filipino people know how to get rid of corruption the right way but overpowered by the corrupt one.

  20. Tama ka sa sinasabi mo reynatala (2:12 ng hapon). Sobrang katetext ng Pinoy, hind na mawasto ang pagsulat ng mga komposisyon, sa wika mang Pilipino o English. Nagturo ako sa kolehiyo kaya nakita ko ang kahinaan ng mga kabataan ngayon. Mabuti itong mag-komento sa blog at may oras ang isang tao na isulat ng matuwid ang kanyang kaisipan.

    Mahirap imulat ang mga kabataan na magkaroon ng pride o nationalism sa Pilipinas sa nakikita nila.

    They see their countrymen, some their parents, leaving for employment abroad. They see corruption everywhere, from the policeman in the streets, to their churches, to the highest corridors of power.

  21. … is their electoral system as corrupt as ours? only then the real voice of the people in the philippines can be truly heard and genuine reforms can be truly had.

    what I know is, the last time we had an election, the opposition won (7-3-2). even trillanes won. so, is our electoral system really that bad?

    maybe we just have to continue with our vigilance (there’s Namfrel run by MBC) in protecting our votes to make sure that the real voice of the people is truly heard. we need to strengthen further our electoral system and one way is the fast tracking of the long delayed automation system (what is being done about it?). and maybe instead of yakking, we can actually do more in helping educate the voting public on how to use their votes wisely in choosing the right candidates not just on the national but also on the local level . i think these steps are easier to accomplish rather than calling for a revolution everytime we encounter problems with our political leaders.

  22. Since Vice President Noli De Castro does not seem to have appeal among the intelligent voters, who would you like to see follow you in office in 2010?—EQ

    Gloria (GP):

    EQ, I’m glad you asked that.

    I know a lot of you think I’m going to support my husband ,Jose Pidal , for the job. Frankly, I don’t believe nepotism has any place in Philippine politics. Jose Pidal has better things to do when we retire in 2010.For example, we plan to put up the Jose Pidal Foundation to send deserving students to China for internship in big Chinese companies like ZTE.

    What I’d like to see is someone who shares my firm beliefs, my vision for our country free of Constitutional restraints, someone who is flexible, a person who understands there’s a time and place for the proper sound bites and forced smiles for photo ops.

    I’d also like to see a woman again as president, a compassionate conservative like myself. Remember , Tita Cory and I have been better presidents than our male counterparts!

    For these reasons, I see no reason why the next Administration nominee for president should not be Senator Loren Legarda

  23. @maginoo

    “Sobrang katetext ng Pinoy, hind na mawasto ang pagsulat ng mga komposisyon, sa wika mang Pilipino o English. Nagturo ako sa kolehiyo kaya nakita ko ang kahinaan ng mga kabataan ngayon”

    Nagturo rin po ako sa kolehiyo (undergrad and grad students), siguro naman may pagkukulang rin ang mga guro.

    Mahirap mag-motivate ng mga estudyante. Not everyone is cut out to teach.

    Kaya wala na ako balak magturo dahil it needs someone of great patience.

    I have great admiration for teachers.

    On a side note, we should not be teaching ‘nationalism’. “Nation” is a nebulous concept. Love for country? Ano iyon? Pwede namang lahatin at gawing all inclusive at gawing “Love for humankind” and “Be the most productive human”…

  24. Mar Roxas for President???

    Danding Cojuangco for President??

    Jamby Madrigal ?? JdeV?

  25. @BrianB

    Ang pagigingsocialite pala ay nakukuha sa ‘pananamit’ at ano kaya ang ibig sabihin ng ‘european style’? Baket, nag-Lederhosen by si Tiny Tim Yap?


  26. @Equalizer

    VP Noli de Castro could after all be the chosen one and be given ‘do-or-die’ support by the administration. He is extremely popular, and I don’t think the ‘kiss of death’ annointment will stick. In a field of four to five candidates, the opposition will be hard pressed getting all the anti-GMA votes. I’m pretty sure spoiler or nuisance candidates will be fielded to divide the votes.

    And with Mayor Vilma Santos as the running mate, ayos na!

  27. Ano ang maging kaibahan kong sin-o man ang maging “Presedentiable” kuno pagkatapos nang termino ni GMA kong ganon pa rin ang systema? di ba si Erap binoto rin nang Majority nang Botantes? ano ang nangyari? Si Gloria Arroyo, nakapasok sa palusot, constitutional man o hindi, ano ang nangyari?

    Mayro-on nga tayong tinatawag na Impeachment, madali naman malusotan. Ang manga authoridad na dapat mag-imbistigar nang katawalian nang Officiales nang Gobyerno, kong hindi kasabwat, maging kasabwat,dahil kikita rin.

    Kahit sin-o pang tanpulano ang Ilagay dyan a malacanang, dahil ang temptation as hindi lang milyon milyon na pesos, Bilyon na ang pinag-usapan dito, hanggang Ipektibo ang tinatawag na Check ang Balance at mache check na yan, ala talagang mangyari, Mark my words, sa bandang 20ll balik na nanam tayo sa Impeachment, People Power, Marches, Protests, Prayer Powers, at kung ano-ano pa kasama pa dyan ang walang katapusan na Senate Investigations…

  28. nash, the “socialites my foot!” sentence ws supposed to be part of the quote and the last sentence was mine. I think a lot of envious, resentful people are ruining the comments section of that blog. For God’s sakes they want to fight socialites by out-socialiting them. He he.

  29. “Does a change in presidency change all of this? ”

    no, but 99.9% of anti-gloria people still sincerely believe that!

  30. to the equalizer,

    maybe you’d like to take a break. you are letting gloria get the better of you, like whats happening to conrado de quiros. take it easy.

    besides, di na bababa yan till 2010

  31. “Does a change in presidency change all of this? ”

    “no, but 99.9% of anti-gloria people still sincerely believe that!–anthony s.

    This mode of defense by anti-anti-gloria people to perpetuate gloria in the throne by reasoning that evil must go on because a change in presidency will not provide a better regime anyway defy logic. True, most politicians today are just as evil, if evil it is that we are riling about, for truly corruption, killings, and cheating are evil indeed, but, how can we, the voter, tell what the future has in store when all we have is gut feel instead of clairvoyance in the casting of our vote during election.

    Gloria herself was clean before we vote for her. And so we voted for her in the election with high hopes, unknowing what she could turned out to be while sitting in that high throne. What is it in that gilded chair that transformed clean people into dirt? Or evil if you will.

    What is it in this world that transformed perfectly logical people into illogicals?

  32. maginoo…
    iba na nga ang mga kabataan ngayon. Siguro nga dahil na rin sa hirap ng buhay, hindi na madaling isaksak sa isipan nila yung mga kaalamang kagaya ng konstitusyon. Sa ngayon, ang pangarap ng karamihan ay maging nurse upang makaalis kaagad ng Pilipinas. Iilan nalang yata yung may gustong maging “iba” at yung iilang yun ay naiimpluwensyahan pa ng kanilang mga magulang. We are moving forward in time, but I guess our INDIVIDUALITY is moving backwards.

    (On a side note, we should not be teaching ‘nationalism’. “Nation” is a nebulous concept. Love for country? Ano iyon? Pwede namang lahatin at gawing all inclusive at gawing “Love for humankind” and “Be the most productive human”…)

    Oo nga tama ka. Kung magtuturo tayo, it should encompass humanity and not just “people” within our own country but I believe that everything should start somewhere. It is like learning to accept one’s self first before we can understand other people. Paano natin maipapahatid sa mga kabataan ang kahalagahan ng MUNDO at ng sangkatauhan kapag ni hindi nila makuha yung ideyang pagmamahal sa bayan?

    “A person is part of a clan, a race.
    And knowing this, you wonder where you came from and who preceded you;
    you wonder if you are strong, as you know those who lived before you were strong…
    and then you realize that there is a durable thread which ties you
    to a past you did not create but which created you.
    Then you know that you have to be sure about who you are
    and if you are not sure or if you do not know,
    you have to go back, trace those who hold the secret to your past.”

    ~ f. sionil jose, “the pretenders”

  33. migz zubiri- testament to bedol’s legacy. anybody who doubted he benefitted from plain and simple cheating was born yesterday or is in denial of reality. where is bedol now a days? another mockery to our so called rule of law!

  34. James Hagee a recent endorser of McCain and a well known Ayatollah of the Christian Protestant Right has described the Catholic Church as the ‘great whore’ of Christian revelation.

    The Philippine Islands had long been ruled by the great whores of the Spanish Catholic Church. Unfortunately that culture has been transplanted to the present predominant heirarchy.

    The entitlement society created by the Spanish royals and the Church still define the reality of Philippine political economy.

    Hence the majority of people who should know better still insist on refering to the Philippines as a Christian nation instead of country predominantly of Christians.

    The culture of Constituional Republicanism still an alien concept where popular and participatory democracy has been prostituted unfortunately by the great whores that have lead the country epitomized by the present royal ho’s.

  35. So, now what???
    Where do we go? Who do we choose?

    If everyone in our present government are all ‘demonyo’ and if the big-wigs in our educational system would not improve how our children are being ‘educated’ – my bet is, we will forever be living in a cycle of election, impeachment, protests, and more protests… we will never get out of the streets.

    Para sa akin, kahit meron lang iilan na matitino ang utak, lalo na sa DepEd, siguro naman magkakaroon pa ng pag-asa yung bayan natin. Hindi nga lang madalian ito na solusyon. Pero, wala na akong maisip na iba e. Wala na akong tiwala sa lahat ng mga nakaupo, magmula sa pinakasimpleng konsehal hanggang sa mga mayor – sobrang nademonyo na ng sistema. Pag nag simula sila, akala mo ang titino ng utak pero makailang taon lang, hindi na bayan ang pinagsisilbihan kungdi sarili nilang bulsa.


  36. reynatala: (1) Taasan ang suweldo ng mga huwes. (2) Taasan ang mga suweldo ng mga prinsipal sa eskuwelahan.
    (3) Taasan ang suweldo ng mga pulis.

  37. reynatala: gawing halimbawa sina Gloria at Mike Arroyo at sinumang susunod sa kanilang yapak para huwag tularan. sa South Korea, ultimo si Park Chung Hee na arkitekto ng kanilang ‘economic miracle’ ay binaril. tapos hinusgahan at hinatulan ng kamatayan ang dalawang pangulong sumunod sa kaniya.

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