Comparing democratic institutions — US vs PH

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 09,2021 - 08:00 AM

Make no mistake, Reader. Democracy has been under vicious assault in the United States since before November. Last Wednesday’s mob march on the US Capitol was just the latest, egged on by the prime instigator, in a last attempt to change the results of a free and fair election in the country. That this prime assaulter is the sitting president makes it all the more reprehensible.

But there is very good news: The United States withstood those assaults, essentially standing up to a president who, having lost in his bid for reelection—a defeat that had been predicted—insisted that he was cheated and did everything within his power, including abusing it, to change the results.

How the democratic institutions in that country stood up to the most powerful man in the country serves as a shining example for all other countries and peoples, including ourselves, who are striving to be the land of the free and the home of the not-so-brave.

Let’s compare their institutions with ours, so we can learn some lessons. Starting with the judiciary: Donald Trump and his lawyers filed 63 election-related cases with the judiciary, and lost 62 of them. The judges were both Republican and Democrat appointees, but that did not matter. All they were looking for was the evidence, which Trump was not able to present. Since there was no proof that there was any irregularity or any cheating, they dismissed the cases forthwith.

The US Supreme Court was a particular disappointment to Trump, because he had appointed three out of nine of them, the last in an in-your-face maneuver just before the presidential election, and he was expecting some accommodation from them. But he had no case—and he was rebuffed in short measure.

Compare the actions of these judges and justices in the United States with how our judges and justices behave in the face of presidential involvement, direct or indirect. Here, it seems our Supreme Court is so anxious to accommodate the President, they give him more than he even asks for (as in the martial law ruling); and our judges would rather retire early or recuse themselves rather than turn in a decision that might displease him. We have a lot to learn.

Let’s move on to the executive. President Trump’s attorney general (equivalent to our justice secretary) not only did not back his boss’ claims of election fraud, but instead stated that the Justice Department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud and had seen nothing that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The attorney general had been one of Trump’s most loyal alalay, but drew the line when it came to outright lies attempting to steal an election. Can you imagine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra or Solicitor General Jose Calida saying the exact opposite of what President Duterte would have wanted them to say?

Furthermore, a joint statement from the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Elections Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees stated just as unequivocally that “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” President Trump was getting no help from his Executive Department underlings.

Next, how did the Legislative Department perform? Well, the majority of the Republican House members (120 out of 211) supported Trump to the end, even after the Capitol caper.

But the senators were a different matter. Although they did not act with as much alacrity as their colleagues in the executive and the judiciary, they did say that the elections were free and fair. They chose their country over their president. And after the Capitol caper, even more did the right thing. Only 8 of 51 did not.

So there are many similarities between our legislators and the US legislators. But the US legislature did the right thing in the end. Will ours?

Finally, the military. In the United States, senior military officials, including Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said publicly that the military has no role in determining the outcome of US elections and that their loyalty is to the Constitution, not to an individual leader or a political party. You think?

That is indeed the overarching principle in all these US institutions, which all our government officials, elected as well as appointed, would do well to remember. Simply that their loyalty is to the Constitution, not to an individual leader or political party.

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