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Direct democracy


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

By Florangel Rosario Braid


My piece today was triggered by talks about the imposition of Martial Law which I believe is not likely to happen. It is because of what we are now witnessing in the form of three irreversible forces which are demographic, political, and technological. These trends are happening here and throughout the world today and are gradually fueling what is described as direct democracy.

This is a trend where people, through the vote or consensus on policy initiatives, have direct participation in decision-making on vital issues that affect their lives. It is different from representative democracy where people participate indirectly, which is what we have in the country, in the United States, and in many other countries in the world.

The various forms of direct democracy include the town meeting, constitutional amendments, power of initiative and recall, and the referendum.

International IDEA, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance explains that the demographic trend, shown in a better educated populace, access to communication technology, and the tendency of representatives to become disconnected from their electors, appear to be the critical factors that are forcing people to turn to direct democratic modes of decision-making.

Today, citizens are able to communicate directly with their elected leaders through online petitions, blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts. And as we have seen in several country cases, these information technologies have become powerful tools in mobilizing communities towards political change.

Where the political party system is weak, there is a greater likelihood that people would want to exercise direct democracy. In fact, the people power movement is a form of direct democracy. But even in the United States where the two-party system is strong, the referendum and initiative processes are being practiced in most states on some high-profile issues such as affirmative action, illegal immigration, lotteries and casinos, medical marijuana, school vouchers, tax limits, and term limits of officials.

Brexit in the United Kingdom, is an illustration of the growing desire of the people to exercise direct democracy on an important national concern. Similar citizen-initiated mechanisms have been used in countries like Uruguay, Uganda, Iran, and other countries.

Direct democracy appears to be the solution to problems of unemployment, failing wages, terrorism, illegal drugs, human trafficking which are often blamed on globalization, and the failure of the ruling elite to address these problems.

But even while acknowledging these important functions, analysts state that at best, direct democracy is a useful tool when it is used to help us understand democratic will and to enhance the accountability of elected representatives.

Direct democracy has limitations. It is most effective as a complement to representative democratic governance. Among the limitations are that it requires of the population a high level of commitment. It may be difficult to sustain it within a large population and where there exists apathy and complex social and economic problems. Among the dangers are low voter turnout, the presence of special interest groups, and lobbyists who may bankroll direct democracy initiatives. While citizens must have a say, they are merely partners and cannot replace the work of the legislature. There also exists a belief among some states that there is danger in the tyranny of the majority.

This is why modern citizenship lawmaking (statute referendum and constitutional amendment initiative) which started in the cantons of Switzerland in the 13th century was known to have been quite successful because of the smaller population. The earliest known democracy is the Athenian democracy which was not, however, inclusive as it excluded women, foreigners, and slaves.

Quo vadis? Direct democracy is here to stay – and as partner of representative democracy.


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  • Yolanda Santos

    I disagree. I’ll bet my last peso that the lunatic, serial killer president will declare Martial Law and install himself as a dictator. Why? This psychopath needs absolute power so he can satisfy his lust to control us and to kill 3 million Filipinos, as he vowed he would. Then this this corrupt fentanyl addict would plunder our country, as the previous Philippine dictator did.

    • diosdado apias

      very nice how i wish it could happen and you will be one of those killed.

      • Yolanda Santos

        You may be an idi0t unggoy, but I still don’t wish you to be Tokhang’ed by Idioterte’s death squad.

  • Yolanda Santos

    Contrary what the author says, there is no democracy in the Philippines today; what we have is a dictatorship. Since Idioterte assumed the Presidency, he had trashed our Constitutionally-guaranteed human rights – the right to life, liberty and due process. The other bastions of our democracy – Congress and Supreme Court had been cowed to submission by the serial killer President.

    During the past six months, Idioterte forged alliances with China and Russia without asking Filipinos whether they approve of them, or not. He had over 6,100 mostly poor Filipinos extrajudicially killed with impunity, making the Philippines the most savage and brutal country in Asia, if not the world.


    • diosdado apias

      That is bullshit. this country is very much democratic. you can go anywhere you want. you can say anything without being oppressed, you can say anything you want against the government and president. The House of congress is very well functioning. You can file in court if your human rights is violated. the courts are functioning. How do you know that the country is most savage and brutal than other countries. There were no 6, 100 killed extrajudicially. The president does not need the approval of the filipinos to ally the country with other countries.

      • Yolanda Santos

        You are one stUpid, misinformed assh*le.

    • diosdado apias

      Madame Yolanda Santos. Do you really know what you are talking about? Or you are just trash-talking the President with baseless assumptions? Why don’t you go to any court and ask if there are plaintiffs or complainants-witnesses for the state, accused or defendants that were not given their day in court and tell who this people are. Give proof that the Philippines’ House of Congress and the court of law and other quasi judicial bodies of this country were cowed. What is your proof that Duterte is a serial killer. do you know what is a serial killer? How could this country, where people like you who will even post their histrionics in a website, is a dictatorship. People will even demonstrate in public and nothing stop them. Do you know what transpired about the Philippines and China? Are you aware of what is really happening to the country? Madame mag isip ka nga muna. nakakahiya.