Citizenship and Various Avenues for Citizen Participation in the Philippines

What relationship does the practice of citizenship and governance have? Are people and citizens merely bound to obey the state? Is the citizens’ participation in governmental affairs simply limited to voting? Does democratic governance require active and responsible citizenship in various forms through civil society? In this module you will learn the answers to these essential questions.

After learning from the previous modules the different venues for participation, this module presents and evaluates the multiple expressions of citizenship in the Philippines. The module explores the relationship between citizenship and governance both in theory and in practice. As in the previous discussions, this section aims to contribute to individual and collective participation and interaction in governmental affairs, and to encourage you—the youth—to become responsible Filipino citizens.

“Where citizenship is not effective, there can be no real democracy.”
– Adam Przeworski

What Is Citizenship?

Citizenship is the most basic identification of an individual with the nation. It is thus oriented toward the state and is expressed both in law and in policy. It is often characterized in terms of attributes associated with belongingness to a larger community and of processes by which citizens negotiate the nature and extent of their rights as individuals and their responsibilities to such community (Diokno 1997). Unlike nationality that is more of an ethnic or cultural concept, citizenship relates to a political one. Citizenship denotes the status of being a citizen.

An individual’s citizenship entails his or her rights and privileges and his or her responsibilities to the state. As a citizen, for example, you have the right to live, vote, and work in a particular country. Likewise, you have the privilege to benefit from the policies or programs of the said country. On the other hand, to be a citizen of one state also means giving unrelenting loyalty and obligation to that political community. For instance, it is your responsibility to pay taxes or be deemed legally bound to protect your country in times of war.

In comparison, nationality involves an individual’s ethnic origins, associated by his or her cultural and historical background, and perhaps the language he or she speaks. It is thus possible for an individual to have a nationality and at the same time possess citizenship in another country. For example, you may be of Filipino nationality but it is possible for you to possess rights and privileges granted by one state other than the Philippines.

Perhaps one might ask: What is good citizenship? Who is a good citizen? Is he or she the honest voter, the taxpaying individual, or the law-abiding one? Or perhaps good citizenship entails asserting one’s rights, speaking out to defend the weak and the voiceless, caring for the environment, or treating everybody equally?

The core of citizenship lies in the process of building a sense of community with regard to both rights and obligations of individuals. Hence, citizenship is “an identity defined by a bundle of rights and duties and by an awareness of others in a similar position” (March and Olsen 1995 in Diokno 1997).

Identity, the Self, and the Community

Understanding oneself in the context of the larger community is an important consideration when discussing citizenship and citizenship education. The construction of identity and a sense of belongingness are crucial in a number of views.

Diokno (1997) noted that from the standpoint of democratic governance, the identity of citizenship is by itself the very core of collective action, a shared vision, and the link to future generations. From the perspective of social psychology, an individual’s citizenship reflects his or her ability to relate to others, who also see themselves in a similar way. This group identity is the basis for the elaboration of beliefs and behavior needed in the larger polity.

Diokno (1997) identified three concerns of identity building. Being instrumental, identity building allows citizens and policy officials to act in accordance with established rules, regulations, and identities that are consistent with democratic principles. As moral concern, identity building underscores beliefs and values that embody and reinforce democratic principles. Finally, being transformative, identity building necessitates the process of self-reflection and redefinition of individuals, institutions, and communities. In these concerns, several factors come into play at various levels: the individual, the institution, and the community.

As to the level of the individual, there exists a dualism among Filipinos. One may be good or clean at home, but the same may be inconsiderate outside of his or her household. Such dualism points to the contradiction of the self and the community. This is further driven by the negative Filipino traits of having an excessive desire to go along well with one’s peers (sobrang pakikisama), and subservience and lack of concern for the public good. However, it must also be pointed out that the Filipinos’ sense of community is improved by a number of positive traits including, but not limited to, caring for others (paglingap), sympathy in times of trouble (damayan), and respect for elderly and social institutions.

At the institutional level, it can be said that the process of identity building is shaped by the agencies which influenced and shaped an individual from his or her childhood through the rest of his or her life. These agents may include the family, the church, school, government, media, laws, and NGOs, among others. While children are taught the basic human values (e.g., honestly, love, discipline), Diokno (1997) pointed out that the notions of community are being confined to the family, and the concept of public good tends to be left out from family values. For instance, socialization in the family does not necessarily include the notion of community or nation. Taking into consideration the nature of kinship in the Philippines, a Filipino family is so strong that other social entities and obligations lag behind it. Meanwhile, schools are seen to teach nationalism and its associated values. Just as important in the process of identity-building are the government, the church, and other community organizations.

Finally, at the community or societal level, Diokno (1997) explained that an individual identifies himself or herself with the nation depending on the type of community he or she belongs to, and to the degree through which he or she benefits from the instrumentalities of the state. While this is true, it must also be noted that an individual’s inclination or attachment to the nation is also motivated by ideological and sentimental factors. Communitarian values may prevail in matters of collective concern, but these cannot necessarily be identified with a larger context—that is, being a Filipino. This situation is further compounded by the multilayered affiliation with a clan, ethnic group, religion, political affiliation, and with the nation. Nonetheless, when the government delivers services effectively, citizens are encouraged to carry out their responsibilities to the nation. More than fulfilling the basic needs of the people, a government which exhibits care and compassion gives people a deeper sense of community. When a government fulfills its obligations, the citizens are more likely to respond positively (Diokno 1997).

Expressions of Citizenship in Democratic governance

Citizenship and democracy may be intrinsically linked but they do not always go together. As such, one of the most important challenges faced by the Filipino nation after the fall of the Marcos regime was how to translate democracy into a more meaningful way of life and how to redefine the roles of citizens in the context of participation in policy making and access to basic social services and benefits of citizenship (Diokno 1997).

In the Philippine Democracy Agenda (1997) project, a conference and workshop that looked at perspectives on democracy and citizenship in Filipino political culture, citizenship was viewed from two perspectives. The traditional view of citizenship was espoused by those persons in authority (e.g., government officials) who subscribe to the importance of formal government structures and processes in the prospect of citizenship. On the other hand, the proactive view (the perspective which the conference adopted) viewed citizenship as a democracy of shared values and understandings that transpire in a deliberative process. The second view emphasizes the democratizing function of citizenship.

The proactive view of citizenship is further categorized into two perspectives. The first one looks at the indigenous, day-to-day practices of democracy and decision-making in communities. In this setting, formal governmental mechanisms and elected officials may or may not exist. Examples of these indigenous, day-to-day practices of democracy include the selection of leaders, the conduct of consultations with community members, and the settlement of disputes without resorting to courts, among many others. As such, some of these practices may not be democratic in the formal sense, but these are from the standpoint of popular democracy. On the other hand, the second perspective looks at those practices taken by organized groups or sectors, which engage in formal democratic processes to explore other venues of expression and alternative solutions. Among the many alternative actions include street protests or rallies done by groups who believe that legal methods and access to courts are not sufficient to win their cases.

Given all these, we can say that citizenship involves a set of obligations for both citizens and the state. Therefore, an effective citizenship is a product of the government’s and the citizens’ collaborative work. It is expected from the government to have public accountability, while citizens, for their part, must perform their obligations and exercise their rights in order to bring about the desired change in society. Such is considered as a deliberative process—definitely an aspect of strong democracy. 

The Value of Citizenship: Becoming a Filipino Citizen

One may wonder who a Filipino citizen is. While the earlier discussion presented citizenship as more than the possession of the legal title of a citizen, it would also be material to provide the constitutional bases for Filipino citizenship.

According to Article IV of the 1987 Constitution, the citizens of the Philippines are

  1. those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of the 1987 Constitution;

  2. those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;

  3. those born before 17 January 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and

  4. those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

The mere possession of the title of a citizen does not automatically make one a good and effective citizen. Citizenship apparently involves a set of privileges and obligations to fulfill. What gives citizens the privileges to participate in the affairs of the government, both in policy making and in the delivery of services? The 1991 Local Government Code is a legally enabling document that supports citizen participation. Apart from this, the 1987 Constitution outlines some of the bases for popular participation in the country.

The following are some of the constitutional bases for popular participation in the Philippines.

Article II, Section 1. The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.

Article II, Section 13. The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.

Article II, Section 20. The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.

Article II, Section 22. The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development.

Article II, Section 23. The State shall encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.

Article III, Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Article III, Section 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

Article III, Section 8. The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged.

Article V, Section 1. Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines, not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.

Article VI, Section 1. The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives, except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and referendum.

Article VI, Section 32. The Congress shall, as early as possible, provide for a system of initiative and referendum, and the exceptions therefrom, whereby the people can directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by the Congress or local legislative body after the registration of a petition therefor signed by at least ten per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters thereof.

Article X, Section 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units.

Article XIII, Section 15. The State shall respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means.

Article XIII, Section 16. The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.

As provided above, citizenship implies a set of individual rights. More so, citizenship entails a broader set of social and civic responsibilities, which require one’s participation and involvement in societal affairs. Engaging in social, economic, cultural, and political decision-making is part and parcel of basic human rights. Thus, citizenship as participationrepresents an expression of human agency in the political arena.

On the other hand, citizenship as rights enables people to act as agents of change (Lister 1998, in Gaventa and Valderrama 1999). Citizenship as rights is specifically important in the prospect of governance, where citizen participation is becoming more and more recognized in ensuring transparency, accountability, and efficient delivery of basic social services. The following activity presents some of the various avenues for citizen participation.