Freedom of Expression vs. Religious Tolerance
By Rado Gatchalian
AS we exercise our vote we exercise the power to choose our leaders. This democratic faith where the rule of majority prevails is an attempt to outweigh small group of sectors and advocates. This political paradigm embraces a utilitarian dictum where the greatest good is for the greatest number of people and that our action should be directed toward the greatest happiness of the greatest number of persons.
Democracy is essentially good. It gives everyone, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, the right to participate in the national decision-making. But its utilitarian principle makes it essentially complex. A few number of elites, advocates, and educated will have difficulty in overpowering a group of people we call “masa.” Although the educated can always be firm with what they believe is right and good for their country they can never completely persuade and influence the common people.
How do the common people – the masa and the mahirap – think? They probably think out of necessity. Here the appetite from stomach is stronger than the reasons from the mind. Here the drama from emotion is more enticing than intelligence. They probably don’t even think at all. But to misjudge them is the worst sin a democracy can do.
Perhaps, we can say we really don’t know how they think. We don’t understand how they vote. Individually, perhaps we can pinpoint who is the culprit of wasting this democratic power. But collectively as a big group of masa: how can we absolutely condemn or praise their actions?
Vox populi vox Dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Is it or is it not? We can never accept that the victory of Nancy Binay is the will of God. The elevation and elation of Nancy Binay as an incoming Honourable Senator of the Republic of the Philippines is a direct result of the majority vote, the voice of the people. How honourable the position is that the citizenry shall give high regards and respect to her.
However, there are still a few of us who cannot believe that a woman who worked as a personal assistant to her parents, had a twenty-year OJT experience, and was an accidental candidate pushed by her political party can win the election with flying colours.
There are some of us who were frustrated and disappointed with this result. But how can we complain when in fact we already have so many celebrities and members of political clans in the government? Former convicted plunderer president Estrada is now the Manila mayor. Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Tito Sotto – they are all honourable members of the Senate. Jinky Pacqiao, Jojo Revilla, Isko Moreno… What else can we say? Speechless is one word we can speak this time. Gone are the days when the brains and dignity of statesmen such as Claro M. Recto, Blas Ople, Ninoy Aquino, Jose Diokno, Arturo Tolentino, Raul Manglapus, and Jovito Salonga occupied this august chamber. From a respectable chamber to a lost circus.
What happened to our country? But this democratic principle we fully embrace allows these people like Honourable Nancy Binay to enjoy their democratic rights to serve in the government. The candidacy of these deluded and unskilled politicians is protected by law, by democracy – the very reason why Nancy Binay was able to run in the first place. We adhere to this democratic principle of everyone’s right to vote yet we cannot agree to the decision of majority.
The paradox of democracy exists where one is confronted with a crisis between exercising democratic acts and respecting the ill result of this higher idealism we call freedom and democracy. As we search for the answer to this political conundrum – we are left with no choice but to accept this fate, of this majority vote. Even the Greek philosopher Plato urged that sound political decision- making requires a great deal of expertise.
Unfortunately, many voters do not have one. This reminds us of another critical challenge addressed to all of us – to educate the voters, to enlighten the masa. With the victory of Honourable Lady from Makati – we have to start the battle in reforming the cultural and social consciousness of the masa.
Hopefully, we can see victory as well. We have survived the colonization of Spain for 333 years. We have endured the dictatorship of Marcos regime. We have won democracy through Edsa Revolution. We have ousted the presidency of Joseph Estrada. We have impeached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And yet we have lost the battle of social and cultural transformation through responsible voting. We feel pity for our country.
Such misfortune that our pride as Filipinos is faced eyeball-to-eyeball with the problem of evil and the necessity of survival. Perhaps we cannot condemn the poor for voting that way. Perhaps they are lost citizens guided by blinded politicians. Perhaps they have lost hope that they thought it would not make any difference whoever they vote. Perhaps their conditions in life have affected their sense of meaning. Perhaps because of delusion they believe Nancy Binay is such an honourable person. Perhaps we have misjudged the common people. Or perhaps the common people have arrived at a wrong judgement about how they perceive their social responsibilities.
It is about time. It is about time once and for all to wake up to our senses: rich or poor, illiterate or educated. Perhaps we have to begin with ourselves. Perhaps the battle shall start within. Perhaps by fighting corruption and poverty – we can win the war in transforming the masa as responsible voters. Nancy Binay could have started it by acting honourably. The masa shall emulate her.
Rado was a previous college philosophy/psychology instructor at University of Luzon (UL), Dagupan City, Northern Colleges Foundation Inc., Dagupan City and Urdaneta City University (UCU), Urdaneta City. He also worked as Coordinator of the Extension Services both at UL and UCU. He was also a guidance counsellor at UCU. He represented Pangasinan province at the 4th National Youth Parliament. He writes poetry. He is now in Sydney, Australia embracing a new challenge.