Sovereign, we?


    SO goes the Preamble of the Philippine Constitution, clearly setting the justification and the purpose for the political entity we call our Republic, of which we are its citizens.

    And, collectively, the seat of its sovereign (supreme or ultimate) powers.

    As a lifelong student of political science, however, I am often left wondering whether we the citizenry are indeed the sovereign authority. Or are we just the window dressing that gives legitimacy to a government that is hijacked by the political elite — with, at its most innocent, the consent, tacit or otherwise, of the economic elite?

    Recent developments have once again shaken my confidence in the introductory portion of our Constitution, making me wonder whether we have just been knowingly fooling ourselves for years because, well, because we prefer keeping silent as asking questions that make vested interests uncomfortable can often be dangerous to one’s health!

    I have reasons to remain hopeful, but frankly my reasons have lately been buffeted by super typhoon-like winds.

    When Rep. Alan Cayetano, the Bible verse-quoting former senator and DFA secretary became one of the youngest speakers ever in the history of the House of Representatives, I found reason to be hopeful. For the first time in my life I read and see and hear a speaker who is no stranger to me. A considerable part of my life – actually the last three decades – have been spent in interaction in one form or another with the speaker. And I’ve always felt that I know enough of him to rest assured that, traditional political give and take aside, the Lower House is in good hands.

    But reports about the proposed budget that has emanated from the House bother me deeply, and part of me would like to think that it is because any and every speaker needs to compromise with how things are done in order to achieve a greater or higher good. But to hear, for example, that the budget for the Health department in general and the PGH in particular was cut was deeply disturbing (though I take solace in the fact that the Senate can do the necessary adjustments). What made the budget cuts for health and education more troubling for me was the proposed increase – by P2.5 billion reportedly – of the current P2 billion that the Office of the President can dip into for its intelligence fund, a fund that is not subject to audit or liquidation.

    A fund that, in effect, is anti-republican.

    I believe that in a Republic where the people are sovereign, the default philosophy is to err on the side of accountability – because that’s what proclaiming the citizenry to be sovereign means in essence. Government is just a representative, in office like a temp for a fixed term, and always and forever answerable to its principal, the people. Setting aside public funds and making them unaccountable is diametrically opposite this concept because it removes from the principal – the People – the ability to hold an agent responsible for the disposition of property owned by the commons.

    And so when you on the one hand decrease the funding for necessary service like health and education, and on the other hand increase funds that are not subject to audit and accountability, what it is to me is the like the agent spitting in both eyes of the principal who, in turn is either blissfully ignorant of what is happening or, worse, uncaring.

    The consequence is undeniable – an erosion in the principle of Republicanism on which our nation was founded and which is the essence of our Constitution.

    And that, I am sure, is not the intent of the man now at the helm of the Bigger House but who, for all I know, has to operate within certain confines if he has to achieve a higher good.

    Which means the burden of carrying on the battle must shift to us, collectively.

    We are the sovereign anyway.

    Or are we?