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Concepts of State and Government

Meaning of State. - A state is a community of persons more or less numerous,

permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, having a government of their own to which
the great body of inhabitants render obedience, and enjoying freedom from external control.

Elements of a state. –
1. People - The mass of the population living within the state; “people” answers the
question, “who governs whom?” There is no specific number requirement; “…the state
shall neither be too small nor yet one that seems great but has no unity.” (Plato)
2. Territory - demarcated area that rightly belongs to the population; “territory” answers
the question, “where?” terrestrial, fluvial, maritime and aerial; should be permanent and
large enough to be self-sufficing.
3. Government - Refers to the agency to which the will of the state is formulated,
expressed, and carried out.
4. Sovereignty - May be defined as the supreme power of the state to command and enforce
obedience to its will from the people within its jurisdiction and corollarily to have
freedom from foreign control. “Sovereignty” may be Internal – power of the state to rule
within its territory or External – the freedom of the state to carry out its activities without
subjection to or control by other states.

*Origin of states

There are several theories concerning the origin of states, among which are:

1. Divine Right Theory. – It holds that the state is of divine creation and the ruler is
ordained by God to govern the people. Reference has been made by advocates of this
theory to the laws which Moses received at Mount Sinai;
2. Necessity or force theory. – It maintains that states must have been created through
force, by some great warriors who imposed their will upon the weak;
3. Paternalistic theory. – It attributes the origin of states to the enlargement of the family
which remained under the authority of the father or mother. By natural stages, the family
grew into a clan, then developed into a tribe which broadened into a nation and the nation
became a state; and
4. Social contract theory. – It asserts that the early states must have been formed by
deliberate and voluntary compact among the people to form a society and organize
government for their common good. This theory justifies the right of the people to revolt
against a bad ruler. (*Textbook on the Philippine Constitution 2011 by Hector S. De Leon and Hector M. De

Purpose and necessity of government

Governments of all the countries, including the Philippines, have these purposes. They
are defense, national identity, representation, social welfare and infrastructure. Our
government according to our Constitution has, basically, three branches - the Executive, the
Legislative and the Judicial - that help in the all-round functioning of a government. Take a
look at the five main purposes of a government.
Defense: One of these purposes of government is to defend the borders of the nation
against foreign invasion. Hence, all governments have some form of defense system that
includes the army, the navy and the air force. Maintaining internal order is also one of the critical
defense purposes of a government. This is taken care of by the internal police force.

National Identity: Each nation is unique in its own way. Each nation has its own
traditions and culture. It is said that for a nation to exist, it must have an identity. For instance, no
two flags of any two nations are alike nor are the national anthems and pledges. Hence, one of
the most important functions of a government is to protect and uphold the identity of its nation.

Representation: A government represents the interests of the nation. To protect and

safeguard the interests of the nation, the government enters into bilateral trade agreements,
negotiations, treaties and so on, with the governments of other nations.

Infrastructure: One of the main purposes of the government is to provide good

infrastructure to all its countrymen in the form of roads, bridges, drinking water, electricity and
communication networks.

Social Welfare: Last but not the least, introducing social welfare programs to protect and
fulfill the interests of the minorities, such as to provide education and healthcare facilities to the
underprivileged classes of the economy, is one of the primary purposes of the government.

State distinguished from Government

1. State is a political concept, while nation is an ethnic concept.

State = place and its territory

Nation = the people themselves

2. State is not subject to external control while a nation may or may not be independent of
external control

3. A single state may consist of one or more nations or peoples and conversely, a single nation
may be made up of several states.

The government is only the agency through which the state articulates its will. The former is the
agent, the latter is the principal. A state cannot exist without a government, but it is possible to
have a government without a state. Thus, we had various governments at different time periods
of our history, from pre-Spanish to present. There was no Philippine state during those periods
when we were under foreign domination.

A government may change, its form may change, but the state, as long as its essential elements
are present, remains the same
*Forms of Government

The principal forms are the following:

1. As to number of persons exercising sovereign powers:

a. Monarchy or one in which the supreme and final authority is in the hands of a single
person without regard to the source of his election or the nature or duration of his tenure.
Monarchies are further classified into – Absolute monarchy or one in which the ruler
rules by divine right; and Limited monarchy or one which the ruler rules in accordance
with a constitution.
b. Aristocracy or one in which political power is exercised by few privileged class which is
known as an aristocracy or oligarchy; and
c. Democracy or one in which political power is exercised by a majority of the people.
Democratic governments are further classified into – Direct or pure democracy or one in
which the will of the state is formulated or expressed directly and immediately through
the people in mass meeting or primary assembly rather than through the medium of
delegates or representatives chosen to act for them; and Indirect, representative, or
republican democracy or one in which the will of the state is formulated and expressed
through the agency of a relatively small and select body of persons chosen by the people
to act as their representatives.

2. As to extent of powers exercised by the central or national government:

a. Unitary government or one in which the control of national and local affairs is exercised
by the central or national government; and
b. Federal government or one in which the powers of government are divided between two
sets of organs, each organ being supreme within its own sphere. The United States is a
federal government.

3. As to relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the government:

a. Parliamentary government or one in which the state confers upon the legislature the
power to terminate the tenure of office of the real executive. Under this system, the
Cabinet or ministry is immediately and legally responsible to the legislature and
immediately or politically responsible to the electorate, while the titular or nominal
executive – the Chief of State – occupies a position of irresponsibility; and
b. Presidential government or one in which the state makes the executive constitutionally
independent of the legislature as regards his tenure and to a large extent as regards his
policies and acts and furnishes him with sufficient powers to prevent the legislature from
trenching upon the sphere marked out by the constitution as executive independence and
prerogative. (*Textbook on the Philippine Constitution 2011 by Hector S. De Leon and Hector M. De Leon)