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Personalism and democracy

Abp. Oscar. V. Cruz, DD

Views and Points


AS values usually stand for what is proper and correct, what is right and worthwhile, what is ideal and the like, people should be vigilant  and careful lest their value system become but ego-centered. These are the times that seem to promote if not actually affirm the social liability  of personalism in what is right or wrong, what is virtue or vice—particularly in the sphere of governance anchored on egoism.  Whereas such downright egoism would readily and eventually promote if not even facilitate socio-political disorder in terms of individuals and/or groups thereof simply doing what they please, a supposedly democratic government would find it really hard if not practically impossible to work for the common good, for the public welfare of society in general—precisely under such a personalistic or egoistic orientation in the local/national level of governance anchored on egoism.

Democracy and self-discipline are not contradictory. True freedom and proper regulations are not mutually exclusive. In other words, without discipline, democracy becomes a moral difficulty if not a downright political impossibility. There is, however, a big difference between the freedom upheld and promoted by true democracy vis-à-vis relativism subscribed to and justified by liberalism which considers objective truths as inimical even to what is true, right, and proper.  The truth is that freedom promotes choice such that there is even the reality known as “Freedom of Choice”. So it is that there is really no objective ethical and moral choice between what is virtuous and what is vicious, what is democratic and what is tyrannical.

In a democratic system of government, political authority is accountable to the people. Such accountability is by virtue of the free election of those holding accountable public authority. So it is that—when eventually perceived and actually proven incapable of heading a democratic leadership—despotic public authority are ultimately dismissed from office in due time by the people themselves through subsequent uprising if not free elections. As it is correctly said, some individuals can fool some people some of the time—but definitely not all people at the same time.

To make civil life proceed well in its over-all course towards truth and justice, peace, and development—such is the over-all commitment of those elected by the people to public offices in a true, actual, and lasting democracy. And those thus representing the people in general are held accountable to the same people that gave them their respective elective public authority in a democratic government.  This, however, in no way means that public officials may just remain passive agents, indolent individuals, laid back characters. The said officials should then have the freedom to fulfill their mandate generally in terms of knowing and working for the common good of the people, whereas public offices are categorically intended for public service in favor of the common good.

So it is thus provided:  “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State.  Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”  (1987 Phil. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 1)  So it is that in the context of the above provision, personalism, egoism, individualism in government are the enemies of people living in a democratic country.

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