Flawed, vibrant democracy

Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D. Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.

By Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.


Two recent developments in the country proved once more that our democracy works even if it is far from perfect.

The first was the removal of a sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The second was the more recent elections for officials of our barangays and Sangguniang Kabataan.

The first development has proven to be the more controversial one. It has been marked by heated debates, passionate discussions, and divisive arguments. It appears the process with which the matter was tackled by the Supreme Court and the majority decision which followed was bound to attract diverse views and to polarize many segments of our society.

We recall that the controversial Quo Warranto hearings was preceded by an earlier attempt to impeach the chief justice at the House of Representatives. The impeachment process was stalled and then overtaken by the proceedings at the High Court.

While at the House of Representatives, the bid to oust the chief justice was already marked by highly emotional moments. There were many exchanges of ad hominem. There was name-calling. There were attempts at sober discussions. In the end, it was the human drama which took center-stage, drowning the efforts for a dispassionate, rationale deliberation.

The process at the Supreme Court was partially hidden from public view. The public discussion outside of the halls of the High Court, however, were loud and high-strung.

While the exchanges were mostly among legal minds and political pundits, most of us felt the heat. Never has the Supreme Court been involved in a controversy as heated as this one.

True, the High Court had been the subject of issues in the past. There were instances when the integrity of this venerable institution had been out under question. But they were short-lived. They never pushed the Supreme Court to the brink, never exposed it to as much public scrutiny as this one did.

In the past, our justices hardly spoke extensively before the public. If they ever did, they did so with sobriety and logic which was the hallmark of our magistrates. There were a number of them who had to leave the court in the aftermath of a controversy. They did so with nobility. They rode into the sunset with their heads held high and the reputation of the High Court intact.

Despite the noise which accompanied the ouster of the chief justice, one fact remains – that, despite the flaws of our democratic system, it is working.

This is contrary to the insinuation by some that the development meant that our democracy is dead.

On the contrary, the fact that there has been a process witnessed by the public and marred by massive criticism shows that our democracy is working. There are views that the Quo Warranto procedure is basically wrong. The fact that those who oppose it can express their views and attack the justices who espoused is also proof that our democracy remains robust even if it is less than perfect.

Last we heard, groups sympathetic to the ousted chief justice are doing two things: organizing mass action to demonstrate their support for her and their opposition to the ruling by the majority of our justices; and, preparing a motion for reconsideration.

We should welcome these moves. After all, these are further proof that dissent is alive in our country and that this dissent remains a strong foundation of our vibrant democracy.

Last week, we held the elections for officials of our barangays and Sangguniang Kabataan.

The exercise also showed the flaws of our vibrant democracy. There were reports of violence and fraud. Despite these, no barangay reported a failure of election. The democratic exercise was successfully concluded. The rightful winners were proclaimed. Those who oppose the bid of their rivals and the outcome of the elections have filed their respective protests before the Commission on Election.

There were comments that our electoral process remains convoluted and complicated.

There were complaints that going to the polls to exercise one’s right of suffrage continues to be a tedious task, especially for the old and the disabled.

Yet, people showed up in massive numbers to cast their vote.

Despite the flaws, it appears we, as a people, still value and believe in our democracy.

Our democracy is less than perfect. Even far from perfect is the way we exercise it.

Still, it is alive. This, we celebrate and are grateful for.


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