Primer for Engaged Citizenship
Every Filipino has the capacity to do their part as engaged citizens in working toward a better Philippines. How can we work together as one Filipino family in showing our love for our country?
In previous exhibits, we learned about democracy and the ways that it upholds the dignity of every Filipino citizen. While Martial Law was declared with the promise of a New Society, it also violated people’s freedoms, plundered the nation’s wealth, and corrupted institutions with effects we continue to feel to this day.
The success or failure of a country cannot depend on a single man. No matter who our leader is, every Filipino has the capacity to do their part as engaged citizens in working toward a better Philippines. How can we work together as one Filipino family in showing our love for our country?
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
As Filipinos, we are all recognized under the 1987 Constitution as having fundamental, inalienable rights. No matter who the leader is, we have a just claim to these rights. We also know that each basic right corresponds to an inherent responsibility. In our everyday lives, we strive to uphold these responsibilities as engaged citizens.
The first step to being able to embody these rights is knowing them. Once we know what our rights are, we are empowered to live out these rights and the responsibilities they entail. For each of our rights recognized under the Constitution, what do you think is our corresponding responsibility?
The right to life.
Under this right, all life is considered sacred. No life can be taken away with impunity. The law equally protects all life, and no person can be denied this right.
The right to property.
Under this right, all people have the right to their own property. Private property thus cannot be seized or searched without sufficient reason. Even with a search warrant, authorities must present probable cause, and specify exactly what will be searched.
The right to privacy.
Under this right, the privacy of communication between citizens is considered inviolable. Any information obtained by violating this privacy cannot be used in court to incriminate the speakers. Thus, the state is not mandated to invade the persona lives of its citizens, but instead respect their autonomy and freedom in relationships.
The right to freedom of speech.
Under this right, no law may be enacted that restricts the people’s freedom of speech. Even when this speech goes against the government, the state cannot curb the people’s ability to peacefully express their grievances. This is a basic precondition for any democratic society: that one is free to express one’s views and contribute to ongoing dialogue with their fellow citizens without fear.
The right to freedom of religion.
Under this right, Filipino citizens are free to practice any religion of their choosing. Laws may not be enacted that prohibits the free exercise of one’s religious beliefs. Moreover, religion can never be made a condition for whether someone can exercise their civil and political rights.
The right to freedom of information.
Under this right, Filipinos may have free access to information that matters to the public. This includes official records and data used by government to create policies. Thus, every citizen will be able to scrutinize the evidence and draw their own conclusions about the actions we should take as a nation.
The right to vote.
Under this right, all Filipino citizens above 18 years old who have lived in the Philippines for at least a year have the right to vote during Philippine elections. Ways and means shall be designed so that literacy and disability will never be an obstacle to suffrage. All Filipinos are guaranteed a voice in choosing our leaders in a free and democratic society.
The right to assemble.
Under this right, all persons are freely allowed to form unions and associations, so long as their purposes are lawful. This right stands even in the case where these associations are in disagreement with the views of authority.
The right to due process.
Under this right, no person shall be punished for a crime without due process. Moreover, the court shall strive to provide citizens accused of crimes with speedy, impartial, and public trials, including providing them with competent lawyers in case they cannot afford one. All are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The right against inhumane treatment.
Under this right, no torture or violence may be used against someone being investigated for or convicted of a crime. Similarly, secret detention and solitary confinement are prohibited because of their cruelty. Victims and their families shall be appropriately compensated in the event that such violations occur.
In Filipino culture, it is said that we think and act as one big family. But who really is our family? As engaged Filipino citizens, how can we live so that we treat each other as belonging to the same family?
One problem we may encounter is when we limit the horizon of whom we consider to be our family—whom we treat with respect, kindness, and compassion. Imagine where we could be as a nation in a Philippines where we truly believed and acted as one family working together for a brighter future. You can start this change today, beginning in your own home, and serve anywhere.
The journey of becoming an engaged citizen starts at home. When we think of heroes, we often imagine larger-than-life figures performing grand feats. We seldom realize that there are plenty of opportunities to learn and develop engaged citizenship even at home. Help with the household chores. Study hard. Teach your siblings when they have difficulties in school. Respect your elders. Respect those younger than you. Learn to save water and electricity. Say “please” and “thank you”. As these seemingly mundane efforts build-up, together they can empower us to apply these same principles of ordinary service in every aspect of our lives, ever radiating outward. Never underestimate the power of everyday acts of love and kindness that contribute to the unshakable strength of the basic unit of the Filipino society.
Our community is our first encounter with members of society whom we may not know as intimately as our immediate family yet see every day. They may also be our first concrete experience of a special cause, one that we believe in, and that inspires us to act. Thus, our community is our first opportunity to go beyond our comfort zones and grow in service to our fellow Filipinos. Whether in our school, in our church, or in our immediate neighborhood, there are always opportunities for us to serve and engage those around us. Reaching out to discover what those opportunities are is the best first step.
It is said that character is shown by what a person does when nobody is looking. Online, people are often allowed the benefit of anonymity. This has been the source of unnecessary conflict and disrespect, surrounding virtually any public issue. Because of the widespread availability of diverse kinds of web content, people may also be led to share news or information that might not necessarily be accurate—or worse, they might be falsehoods intentionally designed to misinform. Engaged citizenship in the digital sphere of the internet calls for conducting oneself responsibly, even when nobody knows who you are. By promoting honest and respectful conversation, civil engagement can thus be cultivated even online; better yet, various parties may learn a new take on an issue, which allows them to grow as people. Moreover, by developing critical thinking skills, engaged citizens may learn to discern between fake news and credible information, promoting the value of truth and fact-based discussion.
How can we show our love for our nation? It may be a daunting prospect to imagine, but in fact, being an engaged citizen at home, in our communities, and even online is already a way of concretely showing patriotism. As individual citizens, our collective efforts to cultivate service in our everyday lives build together toward an engaged Filipino citizenry. One way to expand the role patriotism plays in our lives is to actively expand our understanding of what our nation means, especially in our geographical setting as an archipelago. We may, for instance, get so caught up in the everyday experience of our specific place and time that we fail to recognize that the Philippines is composed of very distinct contexts in a single nation. It is only in recognizing these differences that true unity can be built. Thus, to be patriotic means to choose leaders that uphold this unity through their actions. It means seeking out, for example, government policies that benefit all provinces, instead of favoring one at the expense of another. It also means developing empathy for Filipino experiences outside our own, which involves integration with others and genuinely listening to their joys and struggles. As engaged citizens, we must recognize that to love the country is to love all 100 million of our fellow Filipinos, as one family.