There has been some discussion going on as of late about the rights of people, how there are instances of possible rights violations, and how many don’t seem to understand nor care what their rights entail.
But rather than go with the usual flow of discussion with regards to these things, I’d like to go on a different direction as a way to understand this particular problem. I’ve already discussed one problem in a previous post in which the Bill of Rights in our current constitution is not written in a way that Filipinos can understand, as far as language and historical context is concerned.
The concept of duty to the State
Now, let me discuss the other factor as to why there are those who don’t seem to have a firm grasp of human rights: our constitution has not fully defined what our duties are as Filipinos.
To illustrate my point, let me provide an analogy. Everytime we are given entry to a certain place or be allowed to use a certain facility, we are also given certain privileges as part of the perks of such access. In return, it is expected that we follow the rules set by the one giving us this access as courtesy not only to them but to others who are also provided with this access. With these responsibilities in place, at the very least we are more conscientious of using the facilities and helps us avoid doing something stupid.
In essence, having such responsibilities is helpful in molding better citizens who not only know and uphold their rights but also are ready and willing to give back to the State that has provided them these rights.
It must be noted that the idea of having what can be called a “Bill of Duties” in a constitution is not a widespread one. But there are notable examples of countries that have it. Notable examples are the constitutions of India, Japan, South Korea, and Spain. In the Philippine setting, at least one draft, the one prepared by the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, has a Bill of Duties as well. All those were the inspiration for the one in the Konstitusyon draft which we will look into in a bit.
The duties of the Filipino citizen
In truth, the present constitution has enshrined some responsibilities. Article II, section 4 of the present constitution calls upon its citizens such as the responsibility to defend the State and render service as may be required by the circumstances. It is a vital duty that deserves to be retained. But is that the only responsibility citizens should be mindful of towards the State?
In the Konstitusyon draft, we decided to take it further and lay out down an additional six key duties that citizens should fulfill to better inculcate the idea of patriotism and respect for one’s rights.
- The duty to exercise one’s rights responsibly with due respect to the rights of others
- The duty to uphold the ideals, principles, and institutions established in the constitution and resist any attempt to violate or undermine them
- The duty to respect the symbols of the country defined in the constitution and the law (e.g. the flag and the anthem, without the stupid restrictions of singing it only in one language but that’s another story)
- The duty to obey the law, pay taxes, and cooperate with authorities to ensure order and good governance
- The duty to participate in the practice of democracy and good governance
- The duty to strive for excellence for the country’s development.
One particular duty included in our draft, the duty to resist attempts to violate or undermine the ideals, principles, and institutions established in the constitution, takes its inspiration from the provision in the German constitution that enshrines the “right to resist” those that seek to “abolish the constitutional order.” Given the common histories of Germany and the Philippines with regards to authoritarian rule, it’s interesting that the Philippines thought of ways to prevent it like imposing martial law, not allowing for a president to run again, etc. but did not think of having that one key provision that has helped Germany become a thriving democracy after the experience of Nazism and World War II and has never once went into the brink of authoritarianism, unlike the case here.
The Bill of Duties may be seen as trivial and perhaps “obvious” already to some. Others may argue that some of these duties may be too “lofty.” Nevertheless, having these duties “imposed” on our citizens helps set the expectations the State should have for its citizens in return for the freedoms they get to enjoy. It also helps develop a proactive citizenry the State can count on to defend the State and its institutions as defined in the constitution.
And considering the criticism that Filipinos seem to be apathetic to what’s going on, having a Bill of Duties instilled in a relatable, comprehensible, and concise constitution may help address that.