Concept of Political Freedom in Asia [KAS/ASG]

Culture, Arts, and Politics

A political debate on the theme of "Political vs Economic Freedom", capped by an evening gala as part of the "Democracy Update Lecture Series" of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Manila. The highlight of the evening features Professor Ambeth Ocampo.


Renowned Historian Prof. Ambeth R. Ocampo, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., German Ambassador Dr. Axel Weishaupt, Ayala Foundation President Vicky Gartichorena, and the Head of KAS Team Asia Dr. Stefan Friedrich, as well as KAS Country Representative Klaus Preschle, addressed 180 guests in Ayala Museum and gave their view on how culture, arts and politics influence each other and shape the lives of the people. The event was part of the “Democracy Update Lecture Series” of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, which focuses on relevant reform issues for Philippine democracy.

19 KAS Representatives from all over Asia, who attended the event got engaged in the interdependence of Philippine culture and democracy and enjoyed this experience. The KAS Team Asia met in Manila for its annual conference which focused on “the concept of political freedom in Asia”. Earlier in the day, the group was received by Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, President of the Ateneo de Manila University, which has been a long- term partner of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in the areas of media and governance.

The reception was followed by a forum in the Ateneo University on political freedom and economic freedom with introductory speeches from Dr Carolina Hernandez, Chair of the Institute for Strategic & Development Studies, and Dr Federico Macaranas, Executive Director of the AIM Policy Center.

Later in the day, the Ayala Museum opened its doors for the participants of the lecture series to present regional and Philippine art. This served as a good introduction for the program to follow which was opened by the KAS representative Klaus Preschle, who reminded the audience of the relevance of culture in the debate regarding political reform. It was Speaker de Venecia who mentioned the different ethnicities in the Philippines and the different faiths, and called on Philippine politics to focus on the relevant issues for the country. He expressed his gratitude for the contribution of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in relevant reform debates, such as party-reforms, decentralization, economic reforms, Christian-Muslim dialogue, and the peace process.

German Ambassador Axel Weishaupt also highlighted the relevance of political foundations in the country and its contribution to German-Filipino friendship. Ayala Foundation Vicky Garchitorena focused in her message on the need for reforms and expressed her expectation that the reform climate may improve after the 2007 elections have been completed. She stressed the good relationship between the Ayala Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

With one of the best possible atmosphere and venues to discuss Philippine culture, history and the arts, the evening program was highlighted with a talk by one of the foremost and respected Philippine historians, Prof. Ambeth Ocampo, the current Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and likewise Chairman of the National Historical Institute (NHI). Prof. Ocampo, in a fresh and entertaining manner, elaborated on the interrelationship and dynamics between culture, the arts and politics and the various impacts these factors have in Philippine history’s interpretation of the country’s experience in its relatively young democracy.

The first installment of the Philippine Democracy Update series finds its timeliness with the post-2007 synchronized national and local elections in the Philippines – elections being one of the basic foundations of any democracy. The series takes a critical look, most especially during the afternoon debate, at how the kind of democracy and process of elections in the Philippines relate to its economy and to Philippine culture. As KAS Country Representative Klaus Preschle elaborated in his welcoming remarks during the evening event, “While Filipinos often like to highlight the deficiencies of Philippine democracy, they do fastidiously believe however, that democracy is still best for the country. High turnouts in elections express the desire of the people and their deep conviction that each individual should contribute to the political decision-making process and ultimately to nation-building.”

The evening event at the Ayala Museum was gracefully closed to its conclusion by Dr. Stefan Friedrich, Head of Team Asia of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, who lauded the efforts of the foundation in the Philippines and reaffirmed the foundation’s commitment in the region.

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Klaus Preschle