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The Constitutional Mandate to Build A Just and Humane Society and An Ideal Democracy

By Dr. Jose V. Abueva Kalayaan College and the University of the Philippines


The Preamble of our 1987 Constitution says: We, the Sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God. ordain and promulgate this Constitution in order to achieve two broad, continuing goals in our National Vision: I. to build a just and humane society; and II. to establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace. YES, WE HAVE A VISION FOR OUR COUNTRY !



I.A. Transforming Filipino Society into A Just and Humane Society.
Changing our existing society to one that is just and humane (Preamble) or a just and dynamic social order (Art. II.9). This Good Society shall protect and/or promote:
[1] the sanctity of family life (Art. II.12), [2] the fundamental equality of women and men (Art.II.14), social progress and total human liberation and development (Art.II.17), [3] social justice in all phases of national development (Art.II.10). [4] the peoples right to health (Art. II.15), [5] to a balanced and healthful ecology (Art. II.16), [6] to information on matters of public concern, and [7] to quality education at all levels (Art. XIV.1).


[1] To ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all (Art.II.9). [2] In regard to the family, the State shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its development (Art.XV.1).

The Good Society (Economy-1)

I.B. Transforming the Filipino Economy

Economically, the goal of the State is to develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos (Art. II.19). This goal implicitly recognizes the historic and continuing dependency of the Philippine economy on foreign capital, investments, technology and assistance, and the influence and control over our economy by certain foreign governments, multinational corporations, and international financial institutions. The Constitution favors and encourages private enterprise subject to governmental intervention for the common good and to promote distributive justice (II.20; XII.6).

Because the use of property bears a social function all economic agents shall contribute to the common good (XII.6). The Philippine economy is in fact integrated into the world capitalist system and global division of labor.

The Good Society (Economy-2)

Thus the constitutional goals of the national economy and patrimony are:
[1] a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth;
[2] a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people;

[3] and an expanding productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged(Art. XII.1).
[4] promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform. [5] protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices. (Art. XII.2 )

The Good Society (Culture-1)

I.C. Transforming Filipino Culture

To transform our culture the State is mandated to:

[1] foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression (Art. XIV.14).
[2] protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all (Art. XIV.1). [3] ensure that all educational institutions shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency. (Art. XIV.3(2)). 7

The Good Society (Culture-2)

And how are we to transform and enrich Filipino culture on the Principle of Unity in Diversity?
[1] We are to take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino (the national language of the Philippines) as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system (Art. XIV.6). As well, we are to learn, use, and promote as well our various languages as a multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation.

[2] recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions (Art. XIV.17). (This would include their own languages.)
[3] give priority to research and development, invention, innovation, and their utilization; and to science, and technology, education, training and services (Art. XIV.10). [4] ensure that academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning (Art. XIV.5(2)).


Transforming the Filipino Political System into what we might call our Ideal Democracy.
[1] Politically, the Philippines is defined as a democratic and republican State in which Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them (Art. II.1).

[2] Further to the States role in promoting social justice and human rights, Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. (Art. XIII.1)
[3] It is the prime duty of the Government to serve and protect the people (Art. II.4).

[4] Inasmuch as civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military the military is the protector of the people and the State (Art. II.3).
[5] Recognizing the importance of people power and citizen participation in the democratic process, various provisions protect and encourage individual and organized activities by citizens. [6] Thus the State shall: afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all (Art. XIII.3). [7] guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law (Art. XIII.3).

[8] recognize the right of farmers, farm-workers, and land owners, as well as cooperatives, and other independent farmers organizations, to participate in the planning, organization, and management of the (agrarian reform) program (Art. XIII.5).
[9] protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. (Art. XIII.7).

[10] respect the role of independent peoples organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means (Art. XIII.15).
[11] not abridge the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making (Art. XIII.16).

[12]encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation (Art. II.23). [13] guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law (Art. II.26).
[14] through Congress provide for a system of initiative and referendum whereby the people can directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by the Congress or local legislative body. (Art. XVI.32). [15] encourage the involvement (of the youth) in public and civic affairs (Art. I.13).


[16] The State also recognizes the role of women (Art. II.14) and the youth (Art. II.13) in nation-building.

[17] The State shall ensure local autonomy and the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. (Art. ?)
[18] The tyranny of the State or the Government is prevented not only by the checks and balances of institutional pluralism (The Executive Power, The Legislative Power, and the Judicial Power, Human Rights, Civil authority over the Military.) [19] But also by the centrifugal forces of social pluralism (Government, Civil Society, Business, Labor, Media, Religious, Ethnic Communities, etc.)

The Goals of Social Transformation: Building The Good Society and Ideal Democracy
Popular Sovereignty Participatory Democracy Good Governance Human Rights (Civil, Political, Social, Economic, Environmental, Poor Indigenous Peoples) The Common Good The National Interest Peoples Empowerment & Welfare Social Justice Preferential Option for the and Disadvantaged


The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy.

It appears that social transformation in the Philippines international relations, again ideally, should be in the direction of asserting more vigorously and effectively its national sovereignty, independence, self-determination, and territorial integrity in pursuit of the national interest in a world of increasing interaction and interdependence among nations, states, international organizations, and multinational corporations. We call this Globalization and this puts constraints and limits on our national sovereignty.


We Have to Learn and Pursue Social Transformation Toward Our Vision of The Good Society and An Ideal Democracy.
Our democratic institutions are still, fragile and subject to constant challenges and failures.

In this first decade of the 21st century, the Good Society and Ideal Democracy envisioned in the 1987 Constitution are distant and elusive. Unless the leaders and the people together enable social transformation to take place significantly improving the peoples lives, there could well be greater social tensions and conflicts, more violence, frustration, anger and despair.

Two aggravating conditions are rapid population growth and environmental decay. When elitist democracy and greedy capitalism fail, a form of democratic socialism could become an alternative.

Otherwise, by default, an authoritarian solution from either extreme of the political spectrum might just look attractive and necessary.


Indeed, we face many dilemmas and contradictions.

Our political and economic elite cannot seem to rise above their privileged positions and share their power and wealth with the people. The people cannot seem to compel this redistribution of power and wealth. The Constitution mandates the State and the Government to do so much for the people through free and open political competition, economic bargaining, social pressure, and compromise. And yet the State and Government are often weak, slow, ineffective, wasteful, corrupt and partial to the wealthy and powerful.

Although labor and NGOs are organized and activist, most citizens are not. Rebellion and lawlessness are signs that the State does not have a monopoly of force, or unquestioned legitimacy. The best efforts of the Government have had limited effect on violations of human rights being committed by the military and the police, as well as by the rebel forces and plain criminals.

Economic development from the center is not trickling down to the periphery, nor is it sustainable.
Filipinos are again fragmented after the EDSA Revolt that ousted the dictator. It seems hard for many people to subordinate their personal interest to the common good or the national interest, to obey the spirit and substance of impersonal policies and rules, to effectively support the national leadership.

Most Filipinos speak in their native tongue but more and more people can now speak in Filipino, our Tagalog-based national language. This has spread around the country through the media and cinema, its teaching in the schools, and the peoples greater mobility.
In contrast, the language of government, business, education and the print media continues to be English, thus dividing the nation into those who communicate in a foreign language and those who habitually think and speak in their own languages. While serving increasingly as a national lingua franca, along with English as both national and global lingua franca, Filipino is also resented among non-Tagalog speaking Filipinos whose own languages are becoming marginalized. In fact, some linguists predict the demise of some indigenous Filipino languages. In response there are movements to encourage speaking and writing in the mother language and appreciation of regional cultures.

How is the Philippines to break out of its customary external dependence for its economic development and security, given its crushing foreign debt and the condition laid down by its foreign creditors and donors? How can we meet the threats of fragmentation, lawlessness, violence, rebellion and secession? How can we overcome our myriad other problems and constraints? There are many such questions begging to be answered.


Learning for Social Transformation and Political Development

Clearly, a great deal of effective and sustained individual and social learning by us, Filipinos, is required for us to understand and internalize the egalitarian, just and humane values and behavior, and to evolve the democratic structures and processes indicated in the Constitution. Such Civic Learning and Political Development are possible through: [1] Formal and informal education, [2] Reflection, discussion, and debate; [3] Peoples participation in decision-making and reform, [4] Progressive policies, [5] Practical experience in the operation of institutions and voluntary organizations, [6] Transforming leaders, [7] Comparison with the institutions and practices of other countries,


Certainly, very much is expected of our leaders and our citizens in managing and transforming our society, polity, economy, and culturein search of a peaceful, just, humane, prosperous, and truly democratic Philippines our constitutional vision of

The Good Society and Ideal Democracy.