What to do when the Government is NOT listening?

In any jurisdiction, in any republic and under any government, it is a recurring problem that the Government most of the time does not listen to the people. Fortunately, as most constitutions do, the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines gives the people AT LEAST FOUR REMEDIES, among other remedies, to make that corporate body called government, and the officers and officials composing it, listen to their demands.

In a democratic and a republican state such as the Philippines, it is very important for the Government to listen to the people as it is their representative and sovereignty resides in them. Cliche as it is but true that the Government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

[1] FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION


Under Philippine jurisprudence, it is established that freedom of the press is crucial and so inextricably woven into the right to free speech and free expression, that any attempt to restrict it must be met with an examination so critical that only a danger that is clear and present would be allowed to curtail it. (G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008)

Freedom of expression has gained recognition as a fundamental principle of every democratic government, and given a preferred right that stands on a higher level than substantive economic freedom or other liberties. The cognate rights codified by Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution, copied almost verbatim from the First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, were considered the necessary consequence of republican institutions and the complement of free speech. This preferred status of free speech has also been codified at the international level, its recognition now enshrined in international law as a customary norm that binds all nations.  (G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008)In the Philippines, the primacy and high esteem accorded freedom of expression is a fundamental postulate of our constitutional system. This right was elevated to constitutional status in the 1935, the 1973 and the 1987 Constitutions, reflecting our own lesson of history, both political and legal, that freedom of speech is an indispensable condition for nearly every other form of freedom. Moreover, our history shows that the struggle to protect the freedom of speech, expression and the press was, at bottom, the struggle for the indispensable preconditions for the exercise of other freedoms.30 For it is only when the people have unbridled access to information and the press that they will be capable of rendering enlightened judgments. In the oft-quoted words of Thomas Jefferson, we cannot both be free and ignorant.  (G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008)

[2] FREEDOM TO ASSEMBLE AND PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES

The Bill of Rights as thus noted prohibits abridgment by law of freedom of speech or of the press. It likewise extends the same protection to the right of the people peaceably to assemble. As was pointed out by Justice Malcolm in the case of United States v. Bustos, this right is a necessary consequence of our republican institution and complements the right of free speech. Assembly means a right on the part of citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs. From the same Bustos opinion: "Public policy, the welfare of society and orderly administration of government have demanded protection for public opinion."

To paraphrase the opinion of Justice Rutledge speaking for the majority in Thomas v. Collins, it was not by accident or coincidence that the rights to freedom of speech and of the press were coupled in a single guaranty with the rights of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. All these rights while not identical are inseparable. They are cognate rights and the assurance afforded by the clause of this section of the Bill of Rights wherein they are contained, applies to all. As emphatically put in the leading case of United States v. Cruikshank, "the very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for redress of grievances." As in the case of freedom of expression, this right is not to be limited, much less denied, except on a showing of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil that Congress has a right to prevent. (G.R. No. L-27833, April 18, 1969)

[3] JUDICIAL POWER TO DETERMINE GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION

The Constitution provides for the Supreme Court's expanded power of judicial review "to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Govemment."

This proviso was borne out of our country's experience under Martial Law, to extend judicial review "to review political discretion that clearly breaches fundamental values and principles congealed in provisions of the Constitution." Under the present Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to resolve controversies involving acts done by any government branch or instrumentality with grave abuse of discretion.

Procedurally, our Rules of Court provides for two (2) remedies in determining the existence of any grave abuse of discretion pursuant to the Court's constitutional mandate: that is, the special civil actions for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65. (Justice Leonen's Concurring Opinion in Rappler v. Bautista, G.R. No. 222702, April 5, 2016)

[4] SUFFRAGE

As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage, whatever be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by which the great reservoir of power must be emptied into receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common weal. Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority. (G.R. No. L-22944, February 10, 1968)

Indeed, each time the enfranchised citizen goes to the polls to assert this sovereign will, that abiding credo of republicanism is translated into living reality. If that will must remain undefiled at the starting level of its expression and application, every assumption must be indulged in and every guarantee adopted to assure the unmolested exercise of the citizen's free choice. For to impede, without authority valid in law, the free and orderly exercise of the right of suffrage is to inflict the ultimate indignity on the democratic process. (G.R. No. L-22944, February 10, 1968)

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