The Social Phenomenon of War in Democracy

By Dr. Romulo Bautista

This paper is about war in general and in particular war in Muslim Mindanao, from the standpoint of the Philippine Constitution.

Human history until the end of World War II is replete with armed conflicts which did not effectively threaten the existence of planet Earth or the continuity of the human race because there were survivors on both sides of the warring people. But contemporary war with weapons of mass destruction is qualitatively a new phenomenon. We could no longer use the conventional terms homicide or genocide to describe a nuclear war which is .capable of wiping out not only the existing human values, but the very possibility of creating any further human values. We must, therefore, invent the term biocide to describe the killing off, at one stroke, of all forms of life – plant, animal, and human. Such is the technical possibility which has now emerged in the development of nuclear weaponry. We must confront this threat of war in democracy.

In view of the changed character and consequence of war today, there is urgent need to rethink the problem of war in relation to the concept of democracy. Responsible philosophers used to distinguish between just war and unjust war, when there was a need to justify the declaration of war. Is this distinction still valid today? Is war in Muslim Mindanao just or unjust? We need to undertake a new moral evaluation, specifically whether contemporary war, particularly a nuclear war, is just or unjust. As main reference to this question, take note of the following provisions of Article II, Section I of our Constitution –

“The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them”.

Let us view war from the standpoint of our Constitution. It is important to note that war as we are speaking of it is not an activity of individual Filipinos as individuals. It is not even an activity of large Filipino groups just as large groups. It is equally important to note that we, as individuals or groups of individuals, live in a democratic state where the sovereign power of the government emanates from us. In times of war, the sovereign state through the government is the only kind of large group which possesses the measures, powers, and authority necessary to carry on the kind of war which constitutes our problem. It is even more important to note that war can be carried on only if individuals as individuals agree to participate. In a sense, it is first a matter between the individual and his conscience, and then it is a matter between the individual and his government.

Considering those facts we need not simply be fatalistic or pessimistic about war. It is far from being a phenomenon which is beyond our human control, like the gradual cooling of the sun. Although war is a social phenomenon, it is also individually voluntary in a very high degree and in a way that makes it humanly controllable. In other words, war is our moral choice, or a choice of our free will. In point of fact, it is more controllable than government itself. In a large part, government is something done to us rather than anything we do; something often silent, elusive, of which we may not even be conscious. It does much of its works through the accepted routines of normal life, by inertia as it were. We as individuals, as workers, consumers or citizens, may never be aware of myriads of enforced regulations, standards, and prohibitions which enter into and determine in so many ways the warp and woof of our daily living conditions in regard to the building in which we dwell and work, our supply of water and other utilities, all that goes into buying, selling, education, entertainment, travel, and the whole social and economic spectrum, To a large extent, we can be governed without knowing it, but we can never fight a war without knowing it. Government without consent of the governed is relatively easy to bring about. War without consent of the warriors is impossible. Conscience, if it has courage of its conviction, can remain in control. These facts make imperative the conduct of moral education in school.

Under the impact of modern democracy, the concept of human rights has become firmly established as standard for regulating the relations between the government the and the persons being governed; as a standard for determining, among other things, the limits of governmental power; the limits beyond which the government has no legitimate authority to exercise power over the individual. The modern democratic tradition is very clear and explicit in its insistence on the principle that, insofar as the government is something having an authority over the people, such authority is never absolute. It is always subordinate, in the final reckoning, both morally and empirically, to the authority which the people have over the government. This is the immediate meaning of the sovereignty of the people. First come human rights, then comes government. This is precisely what President Noynoy Aquino means when he tells the Filipino people, “kayo ang boss ko, kayo ang masusunod”.

The government exists for human beings, not human beings for the government. The use of power, in times of war, must be judged and controlled by relation to human rights; the primary, the precondition to the enjoyment of any other human right, is life; the right to live out and the duty to survive during one’s natural span. The survival of the human persons is the underlying moral realities of war and peace. These moral realities are impliedly recognized, supported, and protected by our Constitution under the following Articles:

·       Article II, Section I - “The Philippines renounces war as instrument of national policy adopts the generally accepted principles of internal law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, freedom, cooperation, and unity with all nations.”
·       Article II, Section 4 – “The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal or civil service.”
·       Article II, Section 8 – “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursue a policy of freedom from nuclear weapon in its territory.”

The actual problem that revolves around evasion and violation of the afore-mentioned constitutional provisions concerns the entering into war. Entering into war is viewed from different standpoints at different times and different situations. It took so much time for the Philippine Government and the MILF to agree on a common perspective toward the pursuit of peace in Muslim Mindanao and the reduction of the incidence of war in Muslim Mindanao. Moral education in school of the human will shall strengthen the MILF-RP efforts in the tedious process toward peace.

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