Peace and order vs rule of law
One learns many lessons working over many years as a teacher in a state university. This one I learned from a fellow teacher: “Presidents, Chancellors, Deans, Chairpeople, come and go. After they go, we will still be here doing our work. And it is really up to us whether work gets done or not.”
This lesson marks the distinction between the rank-and-file teachers and their appointive or elective “superiors.” The latter have fixed terms. The former have tenure and may not be fired without due process. Otherwise, both are government officials, civil servants, operating inside a complex social and political fabric. The fabric of interrelationships defines decision-making and actions. They really define how successful any government will be over the short and long term.
Elective and appointive officials work mostly inside the viewpoint of their fixed terms. They work inside tight deadlines which usually get passed on to the rank and file even if the rank and file work within a longer chronological arch. Thus, the rank and file — especially teachers — always have a viewpoint covering the longer chronological expanse.
They work with longer term goals that stretch beyond the terms of elective and appointive officials. This longer arched view is often overlooked or not considered by elective and appointive officials.
In any case, rank and file officials often operate without even realizing the value of their longer arched views. And yet, government ought to realize the importance both of the short term and the longer arching views. We argue in favor of finding a good balance between the two.
Consider the issues: peace and order versus the rule of law. The two are related but they are certainly not the same. Peace and order are often looked at as short-term goals.
They are pressing goals especially in a situation where violations against them are rampant. The rule of law ought be considered as equally pressing but it is in practice the longer term goal; this, just simply because it is the more complex.
Peace and order are usually pursued using simple police action. But one can argue that it shouldn’t be seen that simplistically. Beyond police action, other actions ought be considered; especially, proper prosecution and adjudication of legal cases. But this would be the longer term view. One that involves the goal of ensuring adherence to the rule of law.
Adherence to the rule of law has never been a simple goal here. Filipinos have always looked at this from an informal and “exceptionalist” viewpoint. This means that those in power can get away with certain acts that less-powerful people can’t. Our rather feudalistic and elitist social system explains why and how. In the run of history, the “fall” of Aquino may be explained in part with the project of holding to account some very important people — government officials — for acts of corruption; in other words, the pursuit of the rule of law — the longer term goal compared to the goals: peace and order.
Peace and order and the pursuit of the rule of law should not be mutually exclusive. They should go hand in hand. The short term goals should lead to long term goals. The fact the two work against each other in current society indicates a social dysfunction that should be taken into careful account. The fact of our being a feudalistic and elitist society may be a historical inevitability.
But whenever we pursue peace and order goals that defy and take exception of the rule of law, the end result can only work against us sooner than later.
This is what should worry us the most about extrajudicial killings. While it might contribute to peace and order, they completely defy and historically compromise the rule of law.
Indeed, where this issue is concerned, it represents many backward steps in history. These backward steps remind us how we have simply replaced with ourselves, our old colonial masters. And how we have moved into a vicious circle from which there will be no easy escape. It tells us how unfree we still truly are, something of a historical debt our children will have to pay dearly for in the future.
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