Aarau,Switzerland. In this first global meeting on the the subject of direct democracy, “World of Direct Democracy”, I was quite surprised at the litany of abuses of so-called “representatives” of the people across the world. Philippines, it seems, does not have the monopoly of power-hungry politicians in democracies–particularly heads of state or government–who want to stay on in power beyond their constitutionally-mandated terms.
Thailand, of course, stands out with Thaksin–through his surrogates–trying to stay in power. But he was not the exception. However, the one interesting thing that came out of the conference was the prevalent use of instruments of direct democracy–recall, referendum, plebiscite, popular or people’s initiative–as the vehicle for such attempts.
It brings to mind PIRMA and SIGAW of Ramos and Macapagal-Arroyo presidencies who both tried to launch signature campaigns to bear upon the body politic to accept constitutional change in order to remove the presidential term limit. A variation is to use direct democratic instruments to remove opponents–the current example in the Philippines of which is the Pampanga political lords’ attempt to unseat Governor “Among Ed” Panlilio.
Direct democracy, in its broadest sense, include people power. The other lesson in the conference is that the people who made democracy should not have rested when it was established after an authoritarian rule. They should have continued to build it, protect it, and develop it towards a mature democracy where everybody–including the politicians–are conscious of and follow the constitutional democratic rules.
The people–and the people alone–are the ultimate guarantors of their democratic sovereignty.