A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations in the fourth quarter of last year yielded a surprising result: 89 percent of the respondents said they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the country.
This figure is said to be 11 percent higher than the 78 percent in April 2021 and exceeded the previous record of 86 percent in September 2016.
But the survey group clarified that public satisfaction with the way democracy works in this country is closely related to the results of national elections.
The SWS noted that “satisfaction with the way democracy works had peaks of 70 percent in September 1992; 70 percent in July 1998; 69 percent in September 2010; 86 percent in September 2016, and the current record of 89 percent in December 2022, related to the successful presidential elections of 1992, 1998, 2010, 2016, and 2022, respectively.”
The Ramos administration posted a high satisfaction rating of 70 percent at the start of its term in 1992 but dipped to a low of 46 percent in November 1994 before climbing up to 64 percent in December 1997.
The Estrada administration started with a satisfaction rating of 70 percent in July 1998 but this decreased to 47 percent in October 1999 and even lower to 42 percent in September 2000.
The Arroyo administration started with a 34 percent satisfaction rating in September 2001; this dropped to 28 percent in 2003 but increased to 47 percent in March 2010.
The Noynoy Aquino administration began with a high of 69 percent in September 2010 but ended with 80 percent in 2016.
The Duterte administration started with 86 percent in September 2016 but this dropped to 78 percent in April 2021.
The SWS said that based on their survey, two-thirds or 60 percent of Filipinos would choose democracy over other forms of government.
That’s reassuring, as this shows that the majority of Filipinos still adhere to democratic principles.
But 26 percent also said they would prefer authoritarianism under certain circumstances, while 15 percent said that it personally “does not matter whether we have a democratic or a non-democratic regime.”
This is what’s disturbing, since this demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of what democracy really means.
For where we sit, democracy means much more than having your favorite candidate win in an election, which is what the SWS survey result implies.
If your candidate wins, there’s democracy, if not, there’s no democracy, since in all likelihood, your candidate was cheated, or spent an inordinate and unconscionably huge sum of money for the campaign to win at all costs.
Genuinely free and fair elections where all candidates have an equal chance of winning public office, of course, is only one component of a real democracy.
Our Constitution contains an explicit provision prohibiting political dynasties, but left it to the lawmakers to decide to make themselves redundant.
The result, as we all know by now, is the proliferation of political dynasties in all regions from north to south and east to west, thus denying opportunities for access to opportunities for public service by those without money to burn in expensive electoral exercises.
There are others, perhaps equally important under a democratic system.
There should be full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
These include freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press.
There should be no law abridging the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
There should be an efficient, effective and equitable justice system.
We do have a double standard of justice: one for the rich, another for the poor.
The rich and powerful can always get away with grand-scale theft of public funds or with murder most foul by hiring the best lawyers to extricate them from legal troubles.
The poor and the uneducated languish in prison because they have no money to defend them in a court of law.
There should be people’s participation in governance, with those in
public office regularly consulting their constituents on issues that will affect them and their communities.
There should be a bottom-to-top approach to governance, rather than the top public officials making decisions by themselves without asking for suggestions or proposals from their constituents.
And there should be zero-tolerance for corruption.
We know where corruption exists in our government.
The problem is that the corruption has become systemic and institutionalized, with both elective and appointed officials helping themselves to the public till and getting away with it.
Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who defined the essence of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”?
But was it Al Smith, the American politician who served four terms as Governor of New York and was the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 1928, who said: “It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting”?