Thursday, November 9, 2006

Western-style Democracy

Democrats Take US Congress: Lower House 229 to 196; Senate 51 to 49

I have always found the term "Western-style" democracy to be about as logical as "Western-style internal combustion" or "Western-style space exploration". I think that the term "Western-style Democracy" obscures the fact that democracy is not a style, not a custom or fashion or cultural artifact. Rather it is a technology and an invention that has been discovered and proven to enable human beings to live together in peace and prosperity without giving up their inherent rights and freedoms. "Western-style democracy" makes as much sense in a way as "Western-style scientific method." Democracy after all, is not a religion, but a method of mediating the relations of men and nations: it is a Constitution of Liberty, Sovereignty and Government. I think the term "Western-style democracy" is usually employed by those who are against its exportation and "forced establishment" in places "that don't want Western-style democracy," or "that aren't ready for Western-style politics." (In US History, such places have included the Philippines, Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq.) But democratic nations are expressions of their people's will and self-determination, of their character and their ambitions. However, it is strictly speaking true: you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

In the United States the people have just spoken in the 2006 midterm elections.

DONALD RUMSFELD resigns. Exeunt, stage right. Robert Gates will have to clean up.

San Francisco's NANCY PELOSI will be the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, lights please: stage left, as she vows to lead "the most honest, open and ethical House" in US history. (Many will remember she said that.) A few weeks ago, CBS 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl did an in-depth on the woman set to be two heart beats away from the Presidency. Speaking of which, possibly the first woman president of the US has been re-elected to a Senate seat in New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But I am sure my good friend Rodel Rodis in that sublime City by the Bay, and its highest elected Filipino-American official, is ecstatic, and rightly so. PDI Research has a roundup of Filipino-American candidates.

But lest the klieg lights blind, read also Ramesh Ponnuru, How to Win By Losing (via John Marzan).

Meanwhile back in the Archipelago...

Manolo Quezon (The Explainer) and his guest, Atty. Ed Lacierda were discussing the ongoing controversy over "voting separately" or "voting jointly" arising from an ambiguity in the following 1987 provision:
Article XVII - Amendments Or Revisions -

Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:
(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
(2) Constitutional Convention.
A plain reading of this provision, in my opinion, leads inexorably to the conclusion that there is actually very little ambiguity to this provision. Proposing amendments to, or revision of, this Constitution must be done by an "Act of the Congress" whose form and substance must conform to the requirements of the Constitution. In Lambino vs. Comelec, the Philippine Supreme Court indeed found that the Lambino Group's "Initiative Petition" was insufficient in form because the full text was not attached to the signatures, and unconstitutional in substance for being a Revision, which is prohibited in the people's initiative mode.

Now the question comes before us: Can a House Resolution signed let us say by 100% of all the members of the Lower House, be found by Comelec (and the Supreme Court upon an inevitable petition for certiorari!) to be sufficient in form and substance and be submitted to the people for ratification in a plebiscite? To me the Nograles-Pichay-Jaraula House Resolution is simply D.O.A. in this regard because a House Resolution is NOT an Act of The Congress. It is a mere act of the Lower House. It is thus insufficient in form ab initio. There is a growing air of forlorn desperation in the attempts of the House leadership to force a plebiscite on a wholescale revision of the Constitution. They really need to do everything and anything to avoid the coming 2007 elections, which are shaping up to be a disastrous referendum on the Arroyo regime that will usher in a Hanging Senate. See also the Comment Thread at MLQ3's blog.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has gotta be worried about all the Western-style Democracy she is about to get next year.

Saddam Hussein finds even more defenders at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, whose editorial waxes ever so eloquently about Justice and the Law and human life, whilst steadfastly ignoring the evidence of crimes against humanity and genocide presented against Mr. Saddam Hussein in what was indeed a chaotic and imperfect trial. But it's too much to suggest that Saddam might actually be INNOCENT, or that the Iraqi Court has no legitimacy. I suppose they are being consistent since they have utter disdain for Philippine Courts also (except when they like the Decision!) having proclaimed recently that a majority of Filipinos doubt the fairness of the Supreme Court. But who are we, really to question the Iraqi court's rights and existence? It didn't help the Republicans very much anyway, so why piss on the little retribution and happiness the relatives of Saddam's victims may now enjoy in that unhappy land?


john marzan said...

napansin ko lahat ng fil-ams na talunan sa midterm elections ay mga republicans.

manuelbuencamino said...


do we suspend the rule of law for a little retribution and happiness?

You are right the term "western style demovracy" means nothing.

Rizalist said...

I think it IS the Rule of Law in Iraq, such as it is, like green shoots after a forest fire, that affords a little retribution and happiness. Hopefully the graft will take. I for one WANT to accept the legitimacy of the Iraqi Justice system, not such as it is, but what it can be. Even in a century, hence.

manuelbuencamino said...

if the tiral was not fair and impartial then executing him would be murder

and it will still be murder a hundred years from now.

The rule of law begins after the rule of guns ends, maybe a hundred years from now.

Rizalist said...

You are right in that "IF...then" statement. But the Rule of Iraqi Law now says the verdict and sentence must go to their Supreme Court for adjudication. I bet they beat us to convicting Saddam since Erap's trial isn't even up to our Supreme Court yet!

Rizalist said...

I for one am willing to assert that the Iraqi people validly ratified their present democratic Constitution as a revolutionary constitution to replace Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Legally speaking, their constitution is every bit as valid as our 1987 Constitution. Whatever problems people may have with what George W. Bush did or did not do, is not the Iraqi people's fault. They have established the first and only democracy in the Arab World.

manuelbuencamino said...


"They have established the first and only democracy in the Arab World."

I don't agree with that staement one bit but I really believe you have convinced yourself it's true. So let's leave it at that.

domingo said...

DJB, some relevant provisions:


(1) Par 1, Sec. 23, Art. VI--"The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war."

(2) Sec. 10, Art. VII--"If the Congress, within ten days after receipt of the last written declaration, or, if not in session, within twelve days after it is required to assemble, determines by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, voting separately, that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall act as President."


(1) Sec. 18, Art. VII--"The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President."


(1) Sec. 19, Art.VII--"He shall also have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress."

(2) Par (1), Sec. 1, Art. XVII—"Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members."

So, the 1987 Constitution recognizes the difference between "both Houses" of Congress voting "separately" and the Congress voting "jointly."

Now, which of the two alternatives is the phrase "all the members of the Congress" intended to apply?

Rizalist said...

In most of these cases, the Constitution explicitly tells us which of the phrases "voting separately" or "voting jointly" applies.

In the case of Art XVII Sec. 1, the framers left an ambiguity. I guess my only point is that we may deduce the meaning, but not by comparing it to those provision with explicit orders.

I admit that I worried about the very point you are raising: that the 1987 contemplates both modes. Where it is ambiguous I appeal to the innate structure of the Congress and the principle of "default operation."

Suppose for example I say to my child, please go to the next room, he may assume I mean "walk on both legs" into the next room because that is the default operation employed when going somewhere. He does not assume I mean he should hop on one leg there, even though that would also do the job.

Similarly, the normal lawmaking powers are operated in bicameral mode. When we do not therefore specify a nondefault mode, we are forced to assume bicameral mode is intended, otherwise the deviation from normal mode should have been made explicit.

Rizalist said...

Educate me. I can take it!

baycas said...



(3) Par. 5, Sec. 4, Art. VII. “The person having the highest number of votes shall be proclaimed elected, but in case two or more shall have an equal and highest number of votes, one of them shall forthwith be chosen by the vote of a majority of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately.”

(4) Sec. 9, Art. VII. “Whenever there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President during the term for which he was elected, the President shall nominate a Vice-President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately.”

(5) Par. 4, Sec. 11, Art. VII. “If the Congress, within ten days after receipt of the last written declaration, or, if not in session, within twelve days after it is required to assemble, determines by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, voting separately, that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall act as President; otherwise, the President shall continue exercising the powers and duties of his office.”


(3) Par. 4, Sec. 28, Art. VI. “4. No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.”

(4) Sec. 3, Art. XVII. “The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.”


Yes, unless otherwise specified, the Congress operates separately by default.

I would like to know now how the Congress operated in granting tax exemptions (highlighted above), if ever this provision has been used before. I haven’t done net searching yet…

baycas said...

...also in granting amnesties, for that matter.

john marzan said...

sigh. i'm worried about the ascendancy of papa Bush's people like Robert Gates in the administration. I guess the neocon policy is dead. Foreign policy realists are en vogue again, which is good news for Arroyo.

john marzan said...

I'm worried the bush admin's possible adoption of the "Scowcroftian foreign policy".

9) But you’re not really upset about the fact that the administration kneecaps Congress. Who cares about that? Be truthful – what’s eating you?

I’m very concerned about the ascendancy of Bush 41 apparatchiks in the current administration. If I wanted a second Bush 41 administration, I would have voted for G.H.W. Bush in ’92.

11) You keep describing “Scowcroftian realism”. What do you mean by that term, and why do you belittle it?

“Scowcroftian Realists” pride themselves on taking a purportedly hard-headed look at the world and not letting silly misguided idealism rule their judgment. But their realism usually turns into an ugly kind of cynicism, the kind that allowed Saddam Hussein to butcher tens of thousands of his own people in order to maintain a balance of power in the Middle East and to not risk any American troops.

But the real problem with “Scowcroftian Realism” in 2006 is that its proponents are hell bent on avoiding a war that can’t be avoided. It can’t be dodged. The Salafists and the Khomenists are both coming after us. Their intentions are clear. We’re going to have to fight. The best the Scowcroftian Realists can do at this point in history is push back the day of reckoning for a while.

12) So what’s wrong with that? Why so eager for war?

The delay doesn’t work in our favor. Any breathing room we give our enemies will be used to develop greater destructive powers. And whether I’m eager for war or not, it’s upon us. Donald Rumsfeld realized that as far back as the 1990’s. The Scowcroftian Realists still don’t realize it today