Time to change our system and structure of government
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

The recent imbroglio in Congress caused by the rift between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco shows yet again the need to change the system and structure of government forced on us by the US when we became “independent.”

It is said that the US stipulated that the unitary presidential system be enforced as a condition for granting us our independence. One view for US partiality to a presidential system was a retort as part of their rebellion against Great Britain that had a parliamentary system.

Charter change is an essential component of President Duterte’s campaign for reform. There is no way he can achieve these reforms under the 1987 Cory Constitution.

I was a member of the constitutional commission created by then president Gloria Arroyo and the consensus was for a parliamentary federal government.

So far Duterte has concentrated on the change from a unitary to federal government.

The current Constitution, ratified in 1987, was produced after the EDSA peaceful coup which returned the oligarchy to power. Its provisions specifically created a single six-year presidential term, along with other safeguards to unchallenged leadership.

This system ensures continuity of good government and removal of bad government through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

But Duterte is more determined than his predecessors to achieve Charter change. A meeting of the constitutional amendments committee of the House is set to discuss how best to proceed.

COVID-19 has changed the political hesitancy for Charter change.

The Duterte administration has managed to push through a number of schemes previously held back by critics. He was able to rid jeepneys in favor of mass transport.

Here are some of the highlights of the consensus of the Consultative Commission headed by Jose Abueva on the form of government on Oct. 17, 2005.

What’s wrong with our present presidential government? Why do we want to change it? (We have had presidential government since 1946 when we regained our independence from the United States, except under the Marcos dictatorship).

Separation of executive power of the president and legislative power of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) causes intense rivalry and competition for power among them. Especially because, like the president, the 24 senators are elected nationwide.

Constant conflict and gridlock between the president and the House and the Senate, and too many congressional investigations, delay and obstruct legislation and reforms.

Because of the power of the media and cinema, candidates for president and the Senate are increasingly being elected for their personal popularity or “win-ability” and wealth rather than political leadership.

Rising cost of elections, especially national elections of president and senators, corrupt the system. It takes long to determine the results of nationwide elections without automation.

Because our political parties are weak, undemocratic, unstable and not program-oriented, our leaders and political parties cannot be held responsible and accountable to the people. With power diffused and the leadership fragmented, it is difficult to know who is responsible and accountable for the success or failure of governance.

In a parliamentary government, parliament exercises both legislative power and executive power. Parliament will therefore ensure the coordinated, efficient and effective exercises of legislative and executive powers – the making of laws and policies and their implementation. Especially if we have a unicameral parliament (only one house or chamber).The prime minister and the government (the governing party headed by the prime minister) assume collective responsibility and accountability to the parliament and the people for governance. The people will know whom to reward for good governance and administration, or punish for failure and corruption.

Parliamentary government is more likely to ensure the election of the head of government – the prime minister – for his leadership and experience in the party and in the public service, as known to party members.

It will help prevent election of the head of government on the basis largely of wealth, personal popularity or “win-ability,” not on proven competence and experience.

It will be easier to change the head of government and the ruling party whenever it becomes necessary by a vote of no confidence in the parliament. No need for impeachment, people power revolts and military intervention that cause political instability, disrupt the economy, discourage foreign investors and hurt the people, especially the poor.

It will develop political parties that are democratic, disciplined, united and effective in making and carrying out a program of government that can secure popular support.

It empowers the people to choose not only the candidates for the parliament but also the political party they want to govern the country and the regional and local governments.

The people elect the members of parliament among candidates in the parliamentary districts and also by proportional representation of the rival political parties in the parliamentary election. It will be easier and faster to administer elections and proclaim the winning candidates.

It will reduce the high cost of electing the head of government, by choosing the leader of the majority party (or coalition) in parliament as prime minister.

The selection of additional members of parliament through proportional representation of the political parties (party list of all political parties) will let the leading political party select competent leaders (among professionals, business leaders, scholars) to serve in parliament and the Cabinet. These are leaders who are not willing to run for public office.

Most stable and progressive countries in the world have a parliamentary government. These include Japan, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden and also India, Singapore and Malaysia in Asia.

Charter change to a parliamentary government, along with decentralization and devolution of powers, will enable us, Filipinos, to respond more efficiently and effectively to our problems, meet our challenges, achieve our goals as a nation and compete in the global economy.

Government will be better able to help in attracting investments, creating more jobs, raising incomes, providing better education, health, welfare and security to our people. And we can build and maintain more schools, hospitals, waterworks, roads, bridges, seaports and airports.

(Excerpted from a report of the PNA ConCom Press Center.)

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with