(Pre-recorded speech delivered by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman via Zoom during the 2nd Political Science Forum of the Christian Political Science Society of the Philippine Christian University on 18 January 2021)
Good afternoon, my fellow political science majors, senior high school students who are interested in pursuing a degree in political science, and those of you who are intent in understanding the role of political science as a discipline in promoting and safeguarding democracy.
In this speech, I would like to answer three basic questions on political science and democracy.
The first is: What is political science and what does its study entail?
When I first enrolled as a freshman at the University of the Philippines, my undergraduate major was political science with the intention of using what I would learn to pursue a law degree.
But I discovered that a degree in PoliSci does not necessarily have to culminate in earning a law degree because it is a discipline that encompasses so many other fields of study.
Political science is not a standalone field and it intersects with many other branches like sociology, economics, history, anthropology, public policy, and public administration, among others.
The election and rejection at the polls of leaders and candidates, the realities of governance, the nuances of exercise of power and censure, and the participation of the people in nation-building are all in the realm of political science.
Verily, political science includes the relationship and interaction between the representative leaders and the represented sovereign people.
Believed to be the discipline’s founder, the Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first to introduce empirical observation into the study of politics. He defined political science as “the study of the state”.
The purpose of political science is to deepen knowledge and understanding of one of the most powerful forces that influence people, communities and even corporations worldwide today – politics of governance. This knowledge and understanding are valuable for all citizens and national leaders.
For example, business executives in Europe, the US and other Asian countries need to have some understanding of the likely trajectory of policy and politics in the Philippines in order to make wise and prudent investment decisions. Political decisions of other world leaders also affect our national polices like the anti-immigrant, anti-foreign worker stance of President Trump and the 180-degree turn that President-elect Biden’s immigration policy is expected to go. Even China’s intransigence in not respecting the arbitral decision in favor of the Philippines in the West Philippine Seas has serious repercussions on our foreign policy directions.
We now go to the second question: What is democracy?
Democracy is central to the study of political science because political science can trace its origins to the importance and benefits of good governance and civic responsibility.
A very basic definition of democracy is it is a government of and by the people and for the people.
But in order to evaluate whether or not a particular government is fully democratic here are some criteria that political scientists use as indicators of democracy: (1) freedom to form and join organizations; (2) freedom of expression; (3) the right to vote; (4) free, honest, and fair elections; (5) the right to alternative sources of accurate information for the public to choose from, and from which they can form opinions and make informed decisions; and (6) the active participation of citizens in civic life.
These are the benchmarks of democracy and these are the standards we have to consider in determining if indeed we are currently living in a fully democratic nation.
The third question, which is central to the theme of your seminar is: What is the role of political science in democracy? Or more precisely, what is its role in promoting and safeguarding democracy?
Political science deals with governance and politics and thus plays a direct role in the protection and preservation of the ideals of democracy by providing enlightening theories and a practical guidebook on how both citizens and their elected leaders can use democratic principles on the distribution of power and resources within society; who will reap the benefits and pay the costs of public policies; how civil society can influence public policy and the exercise of political power, among others.
The study of political science encourages critical thinking and probing questions, emphasizes problem solving and the ability to sift through information, and helps students develop the capacity to judge independently.
All these characteristics make for a citizen who is vigilant, aware of his or her rights and obligations, and politically conscious – a citizen who will safeguard democracy and its attendant principles at all cost; demand accountability from government and political leaders; encourage others to contribute to participative democracy; and promote equality, equity, and libertarian traditions.
To end this speech, I would like to underscore two current issues that involve political science and our democratic institutions and the posterity of Filipinos.
I refer to the Ant-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the renewed efforts purportedly to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution.
While the Duterte administration insists that the Anti-Terrorism law seeks to preserve our democracy, it in fact infringes on the fundamental rights of our people as enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution like: freedom of the speech and of the press; right against unlawful searches and seizures; right of association; right to peaceable assembly and redress of grievances; the right to be presumed innocent; and the right to due process, among many others.
The fact that 37 petitions were filed before the Supreme Court, the biggest number in history challenging a statute, is a grave indictment of the odiousness and constitutional infirmity of the law.
With regards to the resurgence of the Cha-Cha campaign, it is foolhardy for politicians to tinker with the Constitution instead of fully addressing the continuing pandemic which adversely affect the health of our people and has hobbled the economy even as the country is in a quandary in the procurement of safe and effective vaccines.
Removing or diluting the nationality or citizenship requirements of the economic provisions of the Constitution, which is not even clamored for by prospective investors, as documented in the studies of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank, will irretrievably forfeit the enduring safeguards for Filipino posterity.
Studies conducted by the aforementioned reputable international organizations show that the following factors principally determine the entry of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in a country: (1) ease of doing business, (2) adequacy and quality of infrastructure, (3) predictability of government policies, (4) government stability, (5) cost of power, (6) internet speed, (7) incidence of corruption, (8) transparency in public procurement, and (9) labor skills and wages.
Verily, amending a country’s Constitution is not a principal determinant for FDI inflows.
I call on the Filipino people, particularly practitioners, adherents, and students of the discipline of political science to resist and condemn the repressive and unpatriotic policies of the present administration and its allies in the Congress.