Democracy – a model

First, kudos to Manuel L. Quezon III for writing a post that covers all the bases about the Glorietta tragedy. I think, as I posted here an hour ago, that if in another country irresponsible comments like those made by Messrs. Trillianes and Lacson were made about the government’s culpability, it would receive instant condemnation. However I would like them to step down, I think the whole political class should go with them. (Of course, I fully expect those who agree with me re: Trillianes and Lacson to disagree about their heroine.)

Second, I have wondered whether people ought to take more responsibility for being in a democracy. To achieve this, one idea I’ve had is to strike a balance between having a large popular assembly a la Rousseau and a smaller, delegated body to exercise, on the people’s behalf, their power. The wrinkle is, at least half the members of the assembly and a quarter of the smaller council should be chosen by lot, like in ancient Athens. Those who are in the pool, however, should be limited for the moment—or perhaps indefinitely—to those who have had a substantial degree of education or life experience. From the lowliest barangay councilor to the highest national assembly member, the people who would decide on our behalf on our future would be just like you and me.

The model I am thinking operates on the idea that maybe the old cube-root rule political scientists use to determine the optimal size of a legislature could be modified. In my view, the ideal size of an area’s assembly to ensure that enough people are represented would be the square root of the number of adult citizens who are registered to vote in that area. Since, however, the size of such bodies would be quite large in the first place, membership in such bodies would be considered a real honor (no salaries or allowances should be paid). Any citizen would know that at some point, whether they like it or not, they would have to make decisions for their fellow-citizens, even if they meet together for a few weeks a year.

The size of the smaller body, what I would call a senate, would be the square root of the bigger body’s size. (If one wants it even smaller, it would be the cube root.) The constitution would vest this body with all the legislative powers of the assembly between sessions; at the same time, they would be the main body to whom a much smaller executive, a collective Swiss-style body with rotating leadership, would be responsible. Every year, when the assembly convenes, they would have to vote on ratifying certain senate decisions, including the budget. The senate and the executive would be the only full-time positions in the government outside the civil service.

At the same time, the senate and the assembly would put to the people, say, every two years or so, any law they wish to see enacted. Again, I am influenced here by the Swiss example of direct democracy.

The head of state of the whole country would be elected by the national assembly for life, and be treated with the same courtesy, titles, and honors as a monarch. I think the Philippines cannot be strictly speaking a republic, but I would oppose hereditary monarchy as is practiced in the UK and elsewhere.

I still have to work this into a full paper I could circulate, but the crucial point is that if more people are made to feel involved in running our country, even if they are doing their other jobs, it might just change the way they think about it. And getting out is not an option either; overseas Filipinos would get a significant number of votes in regional and national bodies.

Also, having a head of state, a Sovereign, to represent us might resolve the need for a leader who can be respected and above day-to-day politics. He or she would be the focus of our loyalty and therefore would have to lead an exemplary life. Which is why, pace my friends who oppose monarchy, it may have a place in building national unity in this country, if not elsewhere.

Social networking in print

With the release of Nina Terol’s piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, this brings up to three the number of essays published over the last ten days in publications of record on the social networking phenomenon. The other two are both on Time Warner publications:

1. Fortune’s October 15 issue features a piece on Facebook, saying that though the author was not really too keen on it, he feels that it could be the site that defines the internet of the future.

2. Time’s October 29 Asia edition (which we now have) has a pessimistic piece on the whole social networking affair. The author feels, and I do too, that more often than not social networking sites have indeed become places for people to build an image for themselves, something which I am afraid is very much true.

These two pieces, alongside Nina’s piece from a young Filipina perspective, provide a good sample of the views people have on the social networking phenomenon. (I declare an interest: this piece is being posted to two social networks!)

On the NDC, with a memorial.

Once upon a time in 1999, the Ateneo de Manila hosted the first National Debate Championships, in the wake of hosting the first Worlds in Asia. It was around this time of year that this was held. Since then, without fail, teams from universities from all over the country have gathered to demonstrate their prowess in debating, and their accompanying adjudicators have joined them to show that they are fair, impartial, and competent in assessing that prowess.

This year’s tournament will be held at my paternal grandfather’s alma mater, the Philippine Military Academy. He never officially finished because he was part of the legendary class of 1944, the class that graduated on the battlefield defending our nation’s freedom in World War II. I was surprised when I heard about this at what is now the Philippine Schools Debating Championship. It still remains a bold move on the part of the Academy, and indeed the military, to present a new image of the Filipino soldier, to replace the one tarnished to this day by generals and admirals who have tasted power and continue to crave for it. Perhaps it is not far from the example set by my grandfather, who retired from the Philippine Air Force in the 1970s.

But it is not about the soldiers-to-be that Nationals represents. There is a value to what the late Ana Alano, a distant cousin to my friend Don and a debater, did at the end of her life, perhaps the same one that guides the debating community to this day, after all the rounds of debate and whatnot. It is the value of communion, of agape, that in sharing a common interest, they can build something much bigger than themselves that will hopefully last once they part for home. It is that agape that enabled her to save her father’s life. As we did on the day before Nationals, so now, on its eve this year, I hope you can all join me in remembering her, wherever you are.

requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

And I wish all the debaters and adjudicators in the 9th Nationals all the best. I will remember you in my prayers.