Monday, December 19, 2011

The Libertarian Legacy in the Philippines

A libertarian friend posted this wonderful and stirring write up on our egroup dealing with the largely unseen influence of libertarianism on Philippines** which prompted me to request his permission for publication on this blog.

[Let me note that the article serves a prologue to his forthcoming paper/book.]

For those of you who aren't really interested in history, please remember 21 January 1899. This is a date of triumph for libertarians during what I call the "First Epoch" (1812 - 1903).

Flashback. In 1812, classical liberals in Spain sign the Constitution of Cádiz bringing the ideas of (European) liberty to the Spanish Empire. It is the fourth charter from the Age of Enlightenment, the first three being the US, France, and Poland. The 1812 Spanish charter is the grandfather of almost a third of the planet's laws and a model for other liberal constitutions in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida (then under Spanish rule), and Asia (Philippines, Guam, Palau, Marianas are still one country). It remains in force until 1816 when absolutist factions realize that they are losing the empire and take control of the government. From then on, it is a swing between liberals, socialists, and autocrats and this spills out across the Empire.

In 1868, liberals once again have control of the empire and a year later a new liberal charter is written, the Constitución de la Monarquía española de 1869. Carlos María de la Torre y Nava Cerrada is appointed governor-general to the Philippines and together with his wife abolishes censorship and extends to Filipinos the rights of free speech and assembly contained in the new Spanish constitution.

He was our version of Ron Paul and his actions inspired future generations of Filipino liberals (and socialists) including José Rizal. de la Torre reigns until 1871 when the political pendulum of Spain once more swings back towards absolutism. His successor Rafael de Izquierdo y Gutiérrez works to undo all the liberal reforms taking away the political freedoms from the Filipinos, without understanding that liberty cannot just be taste-tested. Once a man has liberty, he cannot not have it. The Cavite Mutiny happens ten months later.

Ten years later, José Rizal decides to pick up where de la Torre left off. After another ten years studying Spanish liberty (and unfortunately European socialism), Rizal organises La Liga Filipina to promote peaceful reform. It is crushed and the liberals and socialists split into two organizations, the Andres Bonifacio's Katipunan (which advocates revolution) and Apolinario Mabini's Cuerpo de Compromisarios (which understands that we are still socially and politically immature and continues faithfully the objectives of the Liga Filipina.

The Cuerpo de Compromisarios are regarded as traitors for sticking to peace in a time of blood-lust. Membership dwindles and they attach themselves as administrators to Aguinaldo's Magdalo faction, knowing that Magdiwang plans genocide. These liberals take their time and wait for an opportunity to save the country from the mess that is the War for Independence.

23 June 1898, the Cuerpo de Compromisarios (now known in the school history books as the Constitutionalists) quietly nudge Aguinaldo to abolish the military dictatorship and plan for civilian rule. By this time, the Cuerpo de Compromisarios is the quiet influence in the administration of the government and acknowledge that it is the Filipino military (particularly the 'showbiz personalities' AKA national heroes) that is the greatest threat to Filipino liberty, much more than Spain and the US combined.

One 21 January 1899, the Malolos Constitution is promulgated. After seven months of wrangling, Felipe Gonzáles Calderón y Roca of the Cuerpo de Compromisarios single-handedly writes this charter. Calderón is pragmatic and understands the idea of "liberty with Filipino characteristics". Rather than imposing some abstract ideal, he takes into account not only what Filipinos want in a government, but what they will accept, and how they understand things. For example, Calderón was a Freemason, and yet he refused to place Masonic ideals into the Constitution and even championed the society's chief enemy, the Catholic Church simply because most Filipinos were Catholic and were quite comfortable with it and Freemasonry was at the time both a fringe group and viewed with suspicion. Practical workability was preferred to strict adherence to ideology.

He also has 86 years of watching how the children of the 1812 Constitution have grown on his side and begins to cherry pick the best features from them all.

From Florida and the American allies, the notion that democracy and republicanism are two different forms of government. The word democracy is not found anywhere in the republican document. The ordinary Filipinos want a gigantic list of rights guaranteed by the government because they know that the government has a tendency to do whatever as long as there is nothing specifically prohibiting them from doing so. Calderón gets this from the Constitución de la Monarquía española de 1869 which de la Torre brought with him.

From the Central American republics Calderón sees many South American presidencies becoming dictatorships in all but name since there is so much power attached to the office and wants to nip that in the bud so he comes up with the idea of a President who is constrained by another agency from unilateral action. The president also has no power to call for martial rule even in emergencies. It didn't work well in the Roman Republic so why would it work here? 1972 Calderón proved right.

Actual executive power lies in the collegial Consejo de Gobierno, taken from the Swiss Bundesrat. The Swiss structure is role model for Filipinos particularly in the South where the Republic of Negros uses it as the model of government.

Most may not be aware of it, but libertarianism has vital links to our present state. It is a heritage that deserves not only recognition, but requires revivalism.

I earlier posted Jose Rizal’s Libertarian Roots here

[Thanks dude]

**partial list of references

Calderón, F. (1907). Mis memorias sobre la revolución filipina: segunda etapa, 1898 á 1901. Manila: Imp. de el Renacimiento

Payne, S. (1973). A History of Spain and Portugal, v. 2. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

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