Social Discourse: The Question of the Right of the People to Peaceably Assemble and the Right to Association
by Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
The right of the people to peaceably assembled for purposes of petitioning the Government for a redress, of calling the attention of the same with regard to the people’s demand and to air their collective grievances is not only a constitutional right conferred by the law, but also a primordial duty as a member of a given body politic or community!
In fact, it is one of the indispensable attribute of universal responsible citizenship.
Wikipedia defines the said right as:
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political freedom and a civil liberty.
As a human right, man by nature is a socio-political animal. We love to be with our fellow-men. That gives credence and veracity to the time-honored principle that: no man is an island. Hence, it is in our very nature to bond, to associate and to converse to our fellow human being. There is no shadow of doubt that this right is a pre-political; which means that said right is already in existence prior to the arrival of the need of a government. That is one of the primary reasons why it is a human right, is that because it is inherently programmed in us by Mother Nature herself.
It logically follows that no government (no matter what its form or structure) have the right whatsoever to delimit and curtail that right; because the moment that state do so, it will lose its legitimacy by virtue of the fact that it is strangling one of the key elements of man’s humanity.
If that scenario happens, then the writings in the wall which categorically stated that: “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty” might arise!
As a political freedom, the right to peaceably assembled and/or the right to association includes the right to protest and to contest.
Protest and contest what?
To protest any abuses committed (whether consciously or unconsciously) by the government or any of its subsidiaries, agencies, and instrumentalities.
To contest and object to any grave abuse of discretion, wrong program, misplaced priority and anti-rakyat policies (whether wittingly or unwittingly) carried out by our political leaders, government officials and various ministries.
Part of our duty as a responsible member of society is to serve as an independent fiscalizer/observer and objective critic of the government. Inarguably, it is part of our social obligation to call the attention of the government for any mistake committed, negligence done and unwise policies that they laid that gravely affects the whole political spectrum of the community in its totality.
How will the government knows if its programs and policies are conducive to the people, if the people will not go out and tell them directly about the central matters of society and the pressing problems of the country?
As a civil liberty, the right to peaceably assembled is granted to all citizens and guaranteed by the fundamental law.
Of course, in every right, there is the corresponding corollary obligation. Yet, let me state for purposes of the record that I believe in the political judgment of the people of this country and I have high regard to the degree of their civic-consciousness.
I certainly believe that the people will not simply go to the rally just for the sake of going to it and doing it. What I am saying is that the people are responsible enough to exercise their right with firm discretion and sound judgment.
In my conclusion, may I beg the indulgence of our reader to leave an insightful analysis and the brilliant words of a great Filipino political commentator, Jose Ma. Montelibano:
The journey to political maturity and the return of finer cultural values and higher ethics as the foundation of our sense of justice and societal relationships will continue to be a great struggle. With the freedom to express our views, the journey will be a most noisy one, too.
It is the legacy we seek to bequeath the younger generations and those yet to be born. We cannot give up, we cannot fail. In the drama, we must remain aware that honesty, integrity and honor must find their way to reign in our hearts – and that only courage can see us through.
This work is a humble expression of my unity and solidarity to Bersih 3.0 and the valiant people of Malaysia who braved and rallied at Dataran Merdeka to reclaim their Independence Square!
In doing so, they have shown the world and proclaimed to all that they are unafraid and that they are free!
All Powers to the People!
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Former lecturer: General Philosophy and Ethics
All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.
Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.