As a Catholic congregation with a mission to provide human and Christian education to the young, we, the De La Salle Brothers, are constantly immersed in the world of young people. As mentors, teachers, and guides, we listen to their complaints, problems, stories, hopes, and dreams. We dialogue with them regardless of their creed, culture, and convictions, and learn from them, too. Because they are our primary concern, we believe that the upcoming election is not just about choosing a new leader. In our message to the Lasallian Family, “Discerning Our Future: The 2022 Elections” dated Dec. 8, 2021, we said that this election is also “about choosing the kind of future we want for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.”
We offered eight ethical principles for discerning the kind of leadership our country needs and deserves. One of these principles is the “promotion of subsidiarity which favors grassroots empowerment for social development over autocracy and authoritarianism.” Subsidiarity is a key principle of Catholic Social Teaching. We believe that everyone has the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Subsidiarity requires that decisions are made by the people closest and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community. Enshrined, too, in Article XIII, Sec. 16 of our Constitution, this principle gives everyone both a space and a voice at the table, and empowers them to participate in creating the common good.
Subsidiarity is the dynamic cooperation principle in the multi-level governance of the European Union, and is also the guiding principle of the Canadian Federation. The same principle is behind Republic Act No. 11054, otherwise known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law. In business, an example can be found in the small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany, which is the third largest exporting nation worldwide. SMEs account for over 99% of all their businesses. A 2020 study by Fred Mear and Richard Werner of De Montfort University in the UK revealed that the application of subsidiarity coupled with adequate staff training in German SMEs resulted in “greater productivity and material performance as well as greater job satisfaction.” The study concludes that subsidiarity is the secret of success of their SMEs.
In the Philippines, one of the best models of governance guided by the subsidiarity principle is the Naga City People’s Council, initiated during the leadership of the late Jesse Robredo. During those 19 years as mayor of Naga, this Ramon Magsaysay awardee partnered with every sector of society and established an effective mechanism to public participation, particularly of the marginalized sectors and other vulnerable groups, in local governance.
Leni Robredo continues his legacy of partnership politics today. As Vice-President, her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay has partnered with 372 organizations and mobilized P520 million worth of resources for more than 600,000 families in 223 communities nationwide. Although she is bereft of political machinery and resources, her presidential bid is driven by local people’s councils and the generosity of individuals and other volunteers campaigning on her behalf.
Are we ready for this kind of participatory and consultative democracy? Perhaps some still prefer taking orders instead of taking responsibility for their decisions. I suspect, however, that the youth are ready and capable of this kind of partnership politics. As digital pioneers and now digital natives, young people over the last two decades prefer collaborative, bilateral, experiential, and dialogical approaches to learning. We need to dialogue with them and ask what kind of future they want before we decide whom to vote for.
On Feb. 10, the De La Salle University Brothers expressed support for the Robredo-Pangilinan team: “In our collective discernment, the De La Salle Brothers of the Taft Community unanimously agreed that the tandem that has unceasingly defended our fundamental liberties and who continue to work in solidarity with those who empower and improve the plight of the poor and vulnerable sectors is the partnership of Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan.” To date, more than 120 groups coming from different sectors of society have expressed their support for Leni and Kiko.
During the pandemic, a number of our schools took the opportunity to retrofit some old buildings in order to re-strengthen the existing structure, improve their sustainability, and make them seismic resistant. As we continue our democracy building since its restoration in 1986, we need to make it resistant to autocracy and authoritarianism. It is time to retrofit our democracy with subsidiarity through the Robredo-Pangilinan team.
Brother Richie P. Yap, Fsc is a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools founded in France by St. John Baptiste de La Salle. He is a Humanities and Social Sciences faculty member of the Senior High School of De La Salle University and specializes in Religious Education.