Responding to the challenge of good citizenship

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Responding to the challenge of good citizenship

Topic |  

boholano-thumbMany Filipinos are inspired by the exemplary demonstration of civic virtue and concerned citizenship in the unique housing and community development of Gawad Kalinga led by Tony Meloto and by community development and civic projects involving civil society and outstanding local leaders recognized through the Galing Pook Awards. They are concerned with poverty alleviation, peace and conflict resolution, the environment, health, education, anti-corruption, cooperativism. These are notable examples of how Filipino citizens are responding to the challenge of good citizenship.

Pooling the strength and power of citizens’ movements of national NGOs and people’s organizations, international civil society organizations (otherwise called international non-governmental organizations  or INGOs) have been challenging and opposing corporate economic globalization.  For some years now, INGOs have been promoting awareness and achieving partial acceptance of specific alternatives under their ten principles for “sustainable societies.”

Citizenship in the philosophy and tradition of Liberalism. “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” Thus our citizens, referred to as “the people,” have a fundamental legal status and role in our democracy.  They are entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of their constitutional and legal rights which are protected and promoted by the state. Beyond their right of suffrage and their civil rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights (in Article III), the Constitution also mandates the state to protect or promote the family, human rights in general, the rights of the youth, women, labor, and indigenous cultural communities, the rights of farmers, farm workers, landowners, and subsistence fishermen.   

Given the dominant emphasis on citizens’ rights, the Constitution only implies who are “good citizens,” or what may be regarded as duties and qualities of “good citizenship” in the Philippine context. The Constitution provides: “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.” Therefore, exceptionally, “The Government may call upon all citizens to defend the state, and in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required … to render personal, military or civil service.” Also exceptionally, the Constitution provides that the state “shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs” (Article II, Section 13).      


Historically, under American colonial rule and since the Philippines regained its independence in 1946, Filipinos have followed the tradition of Liberalism. According to Banning, “Liberalism …regards man as possessed of individual rights and the state as existing to protect these rights, deriving its authority from consent. Liberals place the greatest value upon individual rights and personal autonomy (individual liberty, a purely individualistic notion).”

 Citizenship in the Classical Republican tradition. In sharp contrast to Liberalism as the dominant tradition in the Philippines, “Classical Republicanism emphasizes civic virtue and public responsibility (collective responsibility, the collectivist or communitarian ideal}.” Significantly, the Chinese and Singaporeans emphasize communitarian welfare over individual rights according to Confucian ethics. They promote social and economic rights over civil rights and political freedom. In this sense, some Filipinos may view the Chinese and Singaporeans, or even the Malaysians as authoritarian or less democratic. On the other hand, Chinese, Singaporeans and Malaysians may view us, Filipinos, as obsessed with our civil liberties and freedom while unable to provide for the social and economic welfare of our citizens.

Shifting from Liberalism to Classical Republicanism. Let me share my deliberate effort to help shift the orientation of Filipino democracy and constitutionalism from traditional Liberalism to a new Republicanism in the image of Classical Republicanism.

In our Draft Constitution for a Federal Republic of the Philippines with a Parliamentary Government, the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines ( CMFP ) proposed a New Bill of Duties and Obligations to complement the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution (Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations, CMFP Draft Constitution)

We argued that, together, the Article on the Bill of Rights and the proposed Article on the Bill of Duties and Obligations, would be very helpful in our civic education and the training of responsible and accountable citizens and leaders. While respecting freedom of worship and expression, we also urged that citizens should be encouraged and assisted by concerned leaders and institutions in their voluntary spiritual development—to round out their civic and political education.

Our society seems to suffer from an excess of selfish individualism, (Wala akong paki-alam sa inyo. Bahala na kayo.); materialism (materialismo, hindi espiritual); and secularism (makamundo, hindi maka-Diyos).


On the other hand, we have these important reminders over many years. “Bayan muna, bago ang sarili! This is a nationalistic reminder to all Filipinos as a sign of our love of country.


As Jose Rizal said: “…the thought of my whole life has always been love of my country and her moral and material development.” (1892)

In his Dekalogo (1893), Andres Bonifacio said: “Always bear in mind that the true love of God is the love of country, and that this love is also the true love of thy fellowmen.”

Apolinario Mabini said: “Procure thy country’s happiness before thine own, making her a kingdom of reason, justice and labor, for if she is happy, happy will also be thou and thy family.” (1898)


For his part, Manuel L. Quezon said: “We must imbue our whole citizenry with a spirit of heroic patriotism. For a country as small and with such limited wealth as the Philippines , ordinary patriotism is not enough to insure its security. Heroic patriotism is necessary—a patriotism that is devotion, loyalty, and courage that rises to the heights of self-sacrifice.”  (1939)

To the Catholic Church: “Filipinism, which is nationalism for Filipinos, means hard work and generous sacrifice for the welfare of the Philippines in the temporal order, genuine love of Filipino culture in its nobler aspects, sincere appreciation of our historic past, honesty in public as well as in private life, mutual cooperation in common endeavors, scrupulous administration of public affairs, faithful compliance with laws, unselfish acceptance of the burden of services required by the nation, payment of taxes and sincere love for national symbols and institutions.” (1959)


And as John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what what you can do for your country.”

Therefore, as citizens in a developing democracy we should balance our emphasis on individual rights and privileges with a much stronger sense of collective and communitarian duties and obligations. In this way many more citizens can become patriotic, responsible and effective—in solidarity with our kapwa Pilipino. We can build a cohesive national community and a peaceful, just and humane society.

Citizens of progressive nations like Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Israel, the Scandinavian countries, and the Federal Republic of Germany have a deep sense of their duties and obligations to the community and the nation.

Accordingly, the Draft Constitution of our Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines ( CMFP ) had  Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations immediately after Article IV. Bill of Rights. The 1935 Constitution and the 1987 Constitution did not have a Bill of Duties and Obligations of citizens. The CMFP was improving on Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations in the 1973 Constitution.  What follows is what was finally approved by the 2005 Consultative Commission headed by the author and submitted to then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Evidently, this proposed Bill of Rights was not ratified in a plebiscite.

  1. A Bill of Duties

SECTION 1. It shall be the duty of every citizen to be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine Flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane and orderly society.

SECTION 2. The rights of the individual impose upon him the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

SECTION 3. Citizens and the State shall at all times respect the life and dignity of every human person and uphold human rights.

SECTION 4. Citizens shall participate actively in public and civic affairs, and contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service and the vitality and viability of democracy.

Good Citizenship as Civic Virtue. In discussing “Good citizenship as Civic Virtue,” I am relying heavily on Richard Dagger’s book, Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism. Civic virtue is the ideal role or expected behavior of citizens’ in performing their duties, responsibilities and obligations and exercising their rights (Dagger: 13). “Civic virtue simply is the disposition to further public over private good in action and deliberation (:14). There are three basic elements of civic virtue:  (1) fear of corruption (of overthrowing the rule of law in favor of self), (2) fear of dependence (on the powerful and wealthy), and (3) the importance of independence, or liberty, in democratic self-government.

On the other hand, there are six overlapping virtues that are most directly civic and most clearly vital to Republican liberalism. Dagger asserts that the Republican-liberal citizen is someone who (1) respects individual rights, (2) values his autonomy, (3) tolerates different opinions and beliefs, (4) plays fair, (5) cherishes civic memory, and (6) takes an active part in the life of the community (Dagger: 196).

Cultivating Civic Virtue. How do we cultivate, nurture, and diffuse (inculcate or teach) the civic virtues of Republican liberalism?  Our basic premise is that the individual citizen learns, practices, and sustains his or her civic virtues in relation to, or in the context of, the different institutions of society. Among these are: (1) the state or government, (2) political parties, (3) family and domestic life, (4) neighborhoods, the community, (5) schools and universities, (6) churches/ religious organizations, (7) the arts, (8) media (print, broadcast, cinema, internet), (8) business corporations, (9) civil society or voluntary associations, and (10) the workplace, wherever this  may. A thriving, vibrant, responsible, and accountable civil society has a very important role in promoting civic virtues. However, while much of the cultivating of the civic virtues must be done outside the state or government, this must not necessarily be done against or in opposition to the state. The state and civil society need each other. (By Jose “Pepe” Abueva)

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