Ateneo PolSci Bloggers

A CRITICAL ANNOTATION OF Resolution No. 20091103 of the Sanggunian

In Elections, Politics on November 22, 2009 at 2:19 am
by Hansley A. Juliano


A brief review of the resolution, its totalitarian (therefore anti-democratic) nature and why it is not a just mode of action to express citizenship

The Sanggunian ng mga Mag-Aaral ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila has recently released Resolution No. 20091103 which purportedly calls “ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS OF THE SANGGUNIAN NG MGA MAG-AARAL TO INTROSPECT ON INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENTS FOR THE 2010 NATIONAL ELECTIONS.” At face value it would appear as a manifesto to uphold democratic participation, but a closer look would show that it is a quite problematic, even immature, statement of the Atenean’s perception regarding political participation. We quote in length from the manifesto:

3. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian as an institution, in recognizing the rightful and vital role of the Filipino youth in national efforts to advance and preserve freedom, democracy, human rights, national dignity and interest, social justice, unity, peace, and development in Philippine society, has the responsibility to raise the Ateneo student body’s critical awareness of and proactive response to issues and their root causes affecting the life of the nation and the Filipino people,

4. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian, as an institution, has the purpose of helping foster the social, political, cultural, and spiritual life of students; develop a University spirit and work for effective student participation in its activities; and to serve as the official coordinating channel of the students to democratic institutions,

5. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian, as an institution, took on the role of being at the forefront of Ateneo Task Force 2010 (ATF 2010) and upholds as one of its foremost ideals integrity, must remain committed to such,

6. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian, as part of its commitment to ATF 2010, continues to participate in the successive segments of Voters’ Registration, Voters’ Education, Voters’ Mobilization and Accountability Efforts and Engaged Citizenship.

The train of the Resolution already shows a decidedly suffrage-centric train. It appears as if the Ateneans’ collective understanding of social participation is already in its pinnacle manifestation with a focus for electoral participation. Yet the informal and the minute historical, cultural and ethical perspectives of most Ateneans, one that is not written down but seen in the text of their bodies, minds and values, shows a persistent fetish for private satisfaction, shying away from public participation. It is situated as such that any movement for social involvement, even including the programs of the Office for Social Concern and Involvement, only appears as mere apologetic moves, palliatives harking back the image of Pontius Pilates.

7. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian, as an institution, believes that to build the Filipino nation concretely includes engaging its democratic institutions by practicing the right to suffrage,

8. WHEREAS, the Sanggunian, as an institution, believes that commitments of the institution must be upheld by all units of this one body,

9. WHEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Sanggunian as an institution appeals to all its duly elected officials to reflect upon their commitment to the founding principles of the student council,

10. WHEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Sanggunian as an institution appeals to all its duly elected officials to recognize the greater cause enshrined in its constitution and to protect its integrity and commitment it adheres to,

These statements are pregnant with the exclusivist nature the Sanggu has been accused of possessing for a long time and what its past administration under Mr. Omar Castañar (AB DS 2009) has sought to do away with. It must remember that as per its name, and as mentioned above in paragraphs 3-4, its responsibility for formation is not only with regards to its officials but also to its constituents, the Ateneans themselves. There should be no presumptions of its leaders’ beliefs trickling down to the student body immediately, seeing how most of the Sanggunian’s movements are not at all reflective of the ideals of Ateneans themselves. In espousing a stance without exhorting Ateneans to hold them as well in a more intrusive and polarizing manner, we could not expect to make the student body affirm those they have supposedly elected to represent: a governing body who thinks making students eat canned goods is ideal to make them more receptive to public participation.

But what could be stated as, decidedly, anti-political, IS THIS:

11. WHEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Sanggunian as an institution does not in any way pass judgment on its duly elected members who have not registered in the national elections but seeks to be a co-formator to its constituents by providing an opportunity for personal discernment and personal action,

12. WHEREFORE, BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, the Sanggunian as an institution upon immersed reflection, with open, honest, transparent dialogue, calls all its duly elected officials who have not registered for the 2010 Philippine national elections to consider tending their resignation,

This statement is a fatal, totalizing statement unworthy of a call regarding a promotion of democratic participation and action. It appears as if elections are the sum total of political participation and thus it is only the salvific point of democratic responsibility. John Stuart Mill has stated it impeccably in his Representative Government: “The pure idea of democracy, according to its definition, is the government of the whole people by the whole people, equally represented. Democracy as commonly conceived and hitherto practised is the government of the whole people by a mere majority of the people, exclusively represented. The former is synonymous with the equality of all citizens; the latter, strangely confounded with it, is a government of privilege, in favour of the numerical majority, who alone possess practically any voice in the State. This is the inevitable consequence of the manner in which the votes are now taken, to the complete disfranchisement of minorities.” In thinking that elections alone would become the lifeboat which will keep the practice of citizenship afloat, we are actually disenfranchising the responsibility to citizenship altogether.

This idea is precisely what the great thinkers of antiquity have strove to prevent by stressing that the good life is the political life: one that encompasses ethics, virtues and manner of living. Democratic activity is not summed up in the ballot or in the ostrakon, but in manifesting their responsibilities and respecting the laws of the land that are in accordance with the Constitution.

In singling out electoral participation as the end-all and be-all of citizenship, one would be falling to the fatal mistake of actually believing that it is only the vote that makes public life worthy. It is as problematic as the Hobbesian perception that only the sovereign (or for that matter, the “tyranny of the majority”) is the one responsible for the endless structuring of the state, decidedly excluding the voices that have been for so long “sub-alterned” by the repressive remnant systems of the Philippine garrison state. We cannot, in democratic and good faith, support such a resolution forcing our representatives in the Sanggunian to renounce their responsibilities as guides of the student body, their problematic understanding of political participation nonetheless, for it would be more destabilizing to the Ateneans’ ability to reflect their aspirations and their desire for legitimate reform and revolutionary means of practicing and living out their responsibility as Catholics, as Filipinos, and as Ateneans.

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