Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

With Annotations from Apolinario Mabini’s Memorias de la Revolución Filipina

by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

Part 3: Models away from our colonial past

My mind took to these shores because two days ago, July 1, the Peoples Republic of China celebrated its 100 years anniversary.

Prior to this was the G7 meeting in the United Kingdom, where the United States was playing catch-up with its European allies to recover waning space that has been attracted to China.

But if the west were to catch up, former Liberian public works minister Gyude Moore implies that it may have to change its models. He said “in renegotiating our compact with the US, a constraint analysis has to be done first – a growth diagnostics that tends to answer the question what is the binding constraint to economic growth within a country.”


Gyude Moore: “China in Africa: An African Perspective”

The US has been busy with wars all over the world, hastened since September 11, 2001 that in so short a time, it has already been overtaken by China in so many respects. That was just twenty years ago.

China was at the center of its 100 years of humiliation in the 1930s. Thirty years after in 1960, it was coming out of a cultural revolution onto a new revolutionary shell. By 1990s, it was tinkering on democratic socialism.

Today, after another 30 years, it is exporting communitarian democracy using the revival of the Old Silk Road onto the Belt and Road Initiative as its economic thrust into a “Shared Future with Humanity”.

As recent as ten years ago in 2010, Dr. Baogang Guo asked, “To what extent will democracy expand in Chinese society in the next few decades under the auspices of one-party rule and under a system of a corporatist state?”

Dr. Guo received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA, and BA and MA from Zhengzhou University in China. He is Professor of Political Science at Dalton State College and a Research Associate at China Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The question was triggered by the seeming dichotomy between authoritarianism and democracy confronting China’s communist party, and how China was challenging itself to melt the impasse into a paradigm that would best suit its 1.5 billion population.

Definitely, if taken too tightly it will implode, taken loosely, it will explode. 

Instead of a zero-sum model, or a fission, where one could displace the other, the party took on a fusion on the ground.

In Confucian terms, China developed a “zhongyong” style of governance model that combines a strong state with decentralized democratic politics.

It may resist the idea of liberalism as it will remain a communist state in the predictable future. But it does not and cannot resist the idea of democracy.

Kang Xiaoguang, a well-known scholar in China says Confucianism disagrees with liberalism in that it does not recognize the notion that all men are equal. Instead, it is inequality that leads to meritocracy that had persisted in Chinese history. The legitimacy of meritocracy is rule of benevolence.

Unlike liberalism which considers the state to be a necessary evil, Confucianism believes it is the state that is always needed for public welfare.

It may attempt developing its own model of democracy that will best suit its own needs for efficiency and equity, a model that will also unite its past with the present, and a model that will accommodate the needs for a strong state and the needs for a large yet vibrant civil society.

This is “vertical democracy!”

John Naisbitt claims that a new vertical democracy, which combines the bottom-up democracy with a top-down central command, is emerging in China and is an insightful analysis.

Vertical democracy, as an alternative to the “horizontal democracy” of the west, may also be called by some as collective democracy in which traditional collectivism will be combined with individual rights.

The notion of a “vertical democracy” is not new. Aristotle’s ideal type of government is a polity – a state in which rich and poor respect each other’s rights and the best-qualified citizens rule with the consent of all and a form of government that infuses oligarchy with democracy. Oligarchy here is understood to mean as the rule of the powerful, much more than the rich.

Men ben idea is the essential value of the paternalistic state.

Anyhow, the CCP has already endorsed Leninist democratic centralism for many years calling for “freedom of discussion, (but) unity in action”.

The key to developing the democratic component of this doctrine is enabling the ruling party serving as the core of the new democracy, to balance exercising veto powers while practicing governance over popular wishes, tempering cultural influence under a new Chinese polity or organized society.

Our own indigenous model exists

Many have taken fancy with the Malolos Constitution of 1899.

Assumably because against all forms of basic laws that have run our country, this constitution stands out as the only basic law that has been truly developed by Filipinos.

Its specificity is definitely a reaction to the denial of civil and human rights by the Spanish rule. Its marks champion basic freedoms as an expression of our forebears preferring a democratic way of life.

Articles 7 to 32 of Title IV constitute the citizens “bill of rights”’

In the Malolos Constitution, just as in the China’s Communist Party, the absolute power rests in the people, electing to form an “Assembly of Representatives of the Nation”.

Thus, the legislature is the most powerful branch of government.

Emilio Aguinaldo with ten of the members of the First National Assembly that passed the Malolos Constitution of 1899 at the Barasoain Church.

From among its members, the Assembly elects the president as head of the state and the government, and the vice presidents. It also elects the department secretaries.

Thus, the form of government is parliamentary, where the executive arm emanating from the members of the Assembly.

The base of the Malolos-inspired government is undoubtedly democratic.

But the pillars of authoritarianism are also evident.

But the President the Assembly elects is a strongman, who besides his governance functions, is the commander-in-chief of the military and is given the power to declare war on another country.

There are checks and balances but most may be fine-tuned as we go, through constitutional amendments, made easier and more deliberate than the rigid versions colonial versions.


We seem to be ready but the ghosts of Rizal, Bonifacio and Luna haunts us in the accounts of Mabini.

So this leads me back to where I started – to the La Liga Pilipina, which I hope ushers in a single party system.

But even before that, I wish to say that our attraction to legalism must be tempered by a cultural re-orientation of our people back to the Bathalas where we came from as mga “taga-pulo” a melting pot of migrant nations from all around us, including the Chinese and the Arab traders.

If China eventually succeeded defining itself to the modern man, it was the paradigm shift that Hu Jintao reintroduced from its long history to define the characteristics of China’s communism.

It had to be done because with economic power blending with the political power wielded by the Communist Party of China, the temptation to transforming into a second hegemon, given the US activities around the world, was becoming tempting.

Left alone, that would spell a third world war, or a more bitter cold war at the very least.

It was the effort of Hu Jintao reviving the preeminence of the Mandarin term “hexie” onto the centrality of the Chinese consciousness. Translated this meant – promotion of the “Harmonious Society” reconciling a strong central power in co-existence with a democratized population base.

In internationalizing this principle, Xi Jing Pin has successfully extended this to promote a “harmonious world” of a community of share future for humanity. China’s use of its economy as soft power is a deliberate move to stray away from US hegemony to avoid a confrontation where all sides lose.

If China can modernize Confucius, and arrive at a win-win solution – we can revive our humble beginnings nurtured with the ideals of Jose Rizal, the courage of Bonifacio and the tenacity of Luna, to a synthesis provided by Mabini inspired by the political infrastructure of the Malolos Constitution to arrive at our own version of a vertical democracy.

Rodrigo Duterte’s passion for federalism faded after more years chalked into his administration, following a realization that the timing might be brutal because for the past 30 years of neo-liberal governance from Aquino the mother to Aquino the son, necessary powers by the state have been fissioned back to the oligarchies, and the oligopolies they have created, to the obvious detriment of the people’s interest.

The most recent example is how an oligopoly made up of American, British, Indonesian multinationals in cahoots with locals, frustrated from mining oil, gas and other minerals from the Spratly Islands, influenced the shift of our foreign policy from national security to engaging China in a lawfare and information war.

As a result, we lost at least five years of economic opportunities that China was already sharing with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). A startling case was at the last full year of his predecessor’s term, Chinese tourists to the Philippines was only 360,000 while those to Thailand was already breaching 8 million.

Factor with the accepted formula that for every two foreign tourists, one local job is created, and suddenly conclude that the Chinese alone have created 4 million jobs in Thailand in 2015. Factor this further to the mean expenditure of $1,200 per Chinese tourist, that economic contribution in 2015 alone to the Thai economy was almost $10 billion, translated to almost half a trillion pesos in revenues. 

Much more than immediately transferring more autonomy desired by the local from the central government, President Duterte prioritized on putting the national house in order first. Certainly, devolving powers right away could have also devolved the control of the oligopolies and organized criminal syndicates to the LGUs, sending our societal equilibrium to oblivion.

The late Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, for instance, always boasts about local autonomy. The Covid-19 pandemic woke up President Duterte that especially in the Health sector, more than corruption being most discernible devolution occurring   from the central government, the state of government hospitals and health centers was too decrepit and deplorable.

A vertical democracy will immediately confront corruption with fire from the top as well as from the bottom.

This will give direction to Ka Nilo Tayag’s trinity of political liberation, economic emancipation and social concord, and those who wish to truncate our present governance madness with a revolutionary government, but with little or no bloodshed.

Vertical democracy will enable us to catch up with China’s Belt and Road Initiative as its gateway to the East Asia Growth Area of Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Australia and New Zealand and Oceania projecting all the way to South America, a more prosperous revival of the Galleon Trade from Manila to Acapulco.

This positioning we will definitely lose to Indonesia if we concentrate more on destructive polemics rather than constructive development opportunism. 

Thank you and good day.

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