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Federal versus parliamentary By Ricky Poca Cebu Daily NewsFirst Posted 15:29:00 10/21/2008Filed Under: Politics, Government The problem with today's current political system is that there is so much an adversarial relationship between and among members of Congress and that of the executive department, headed by the President, so much so that the primary reason for governance has been neglected or has been distracted. Today one could find our distrustful Congress at war with the executive depart
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  Federal versus parliamentary  By Ricky Poca Cebu Daily News First Posted 15:29:00 10/21/2008Filed Under: Politics,Government The problem with today's current political system is that there is so much an adversarial relationship between and amongmembers of Congress and that of the executive department, headed by the President, so much so that the primary reason forgovernance has been neglected or has been distracted. Today one could find our distrustful Congress at war with theexecutive department, always conducting congressional inquiries on nearly all programs (and scandals) of the governmentthat are deemed to be awash with graft and corruption - from the “Hello, Garci” tape to the recently discovered scam at theDepartment of Agriculture in which P100-million funds were donated to fictitious foundations.The presidential wannabes' maneuverings have also affected the Senate as 2010 draws near. Senators Ping Lacson andJamby Madrigal are accusing Senate President Manny Villar, the reported Nacionalista Party standard bearer in the 2010derby, of inserting another budget for the circumferential road project (C-5) in the national capital after it had already beengiven a budget that had allegedly benefited Villar's real estate venture. What is so disgusting is that Congress uses too much tax money for legislative work and the legislators' pork barrel, but ourlawmakers waste too much time on investigations into alleged anomalous transactions of the Arroyo administration, thePresident and the First Gentleman, only to find no substantial evidence to directly connect the President or her husband or, worse, not act on their findings. The Lower House is packed with the President's men, so any attempt at impeaching hercould not even reach the plenary hall.The people entered the fray by engaging in what they call “people power” acts, which were really unsuccessful attempts tooust the “abusive and corrupt” president to no avail. We have a president who has studied well the lessons of Edsa 1 and 2.The endless political squabble between the members of the Senate and of the President is a logical consequence under thepresidential system of government, specifically under the principle of checks and balances, in which one branch of government checks the exercise of power of another branch for abuses, balancing the exercise of power by the other.Somehow our political immaturity as a people has led us to the extreme, towards the destruction of this monumentalprinciple.There are so many gridlocks in government because of the misuse or abuse of the principle of checks and balances. It is sodifficult, probably next to impossible, to remove an erring president because of the fixed term of office under the presentsystem, and because she has too many allies in Congress, thanks to pork-barrel politics.Our country is hard-pressed to institute reforms because of the highly personal system of electing government officialsthrough the regular process of election. People choose their public officials not on the basis of party platform of government but on the popularity of the candidates - that is why entertainment celebrities are elected local government leaders,congressmen, senators, even president.Our political parties are very weak because each of them is not based on the strength of the party organization and beliefs orparty platform but more on the personalized organization of a candidate down to his/her relatives and circle of friends. If one is to evaluate carefully the political party structure in our country, one would find that indeed there is no clear party organization down to the sitio (district) level. What we have are temporary alliances of political bosses and relatives andfriends of political party leaders who are responsible for the election of government leaders.  The end result of such a scheme is the people's dependence on, and the emergence of, political elites in the spectrum of political and governmental institutions. There is not much proportional representation of the other major and minor sectorsin Congress and other local legislative bodies. Because the people's bases for electing members of Congress and otherlegislative bodies are the candidate's personality and popularity, most of our elected officials come from the elite. Congresshas not passed monumental pro-poor laws because most of our lawmakers are big landowners, businessmen, employers, orminions of the high and mighty. (To be continued) BULLETIN EDITORIAL: A CITIZEN VIEWS CHARTER CHANGE MANILA, JUNE 20, 2006 (BULLETIN) By FIDEL VALDEZ RAMOS Former president of thePhilippines (Address of Former President Fidel V. Ramos, Chairman, Ramos Peace and Development Foundation (RPDEV) and Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), Philippine Constitution Association(Philconsa) General Membership Meeting, Manila Hotel, June 20, 2006.) I AM honored to be asked to speak before this Association, which is civil society’s guardian of the Philippine Constitution. I have, as you know, retired from public office – but not from myresponsibilities as a concerned citizen, because citizenship is neither a hobby nor a job but alifelong duty. And it is as a citizen among other citizens that I state my reflections and insightstoday on the current issue of Constitutional change.I have long argued that building State capacity is essential to our country’s modernization. In myview, the overriding object of Charter change should be to empower our people, strengthenState capacity, and insure good governance.Measured against the political institutions of our vigorous neighbors, the weakness of our owninstitutions is plain to see – in laws honored in the breach more than in the implementation; ina tax effort that is the lowest among comparable economies in East Asia; in the continuedexistence of politico-economic oligarchs and of private armies; in the corruptibility of portions of the officialdom, including the judiciary; in the shallowness of our legislative discourse.In recent months, a national consensus for amending the 1987 Constitution has been forming.Such a result should not be all that surprising.Every Constitution is the mirror of the political culture of its time. And people’s purposes changeas their circumstances and the global environment change, just as the priorities of the politicalcommunity change – to suit changing reality.Why Charter change? Charter change has become critically necessary because the presentpolitical system has become inefficient and inflexible in relation to our present-day needs.Twice in the last 20 years, citizens backed up by the Armed Forces and National Police have hadto intervene directly in the system of governance – taking upon themselves the task of replacingfirst a president perceived to be oppressive and then second, another one perceived to becorrupt – risking constitutional crisis, civil conflict, and even shooting war in the process. The AFP  and the PNP have been – most unfairly – the objects of a constant tugofwar by various politicalfactions and interest groups, instead of being kept united and undisputed to enable them (ourArmed Services) to effectively protect public safety and our national integrity.And because our political parties have been formed around popular personalities, instead of being based on principled and coherent programs of government, sheer popularity – and notcompetence, training and experience – has become the winningest qualification for public office.Because of basic problems like these, the case of constitutional change has become well-established. A Better Future For Young Filipinos Those who say that constitutional change can wait ignore the urgency of our country’s need for anew beginning. Our people more and more realize that it is not only individual leaders but thepolitical system that itself that is responsible for the way we have fallen behind most of ourneighbors in the world’s fastest-growing region, the Asia-Pacific. And this loss of people’s faith inthe quality of our governance has resulted in a growing lack of confidence in our country’sfuture.Already, more than eight million of our people have exiled themselves to work in more than130 foreign countries. Today’s Filipinos have become dispersed to more countries than even theJews were, since the Middle Ages – and many more of our people vote with their feet and travelvisas everyday. Indeed, we as elders need to assure our young people that there is hope fortheir better future.Protectionist policies have been written into every Philippine Constitution since 1934. And theyhave remained there, despite substantial evidence that it is the country with the open economy,even if poor initially, that succeeds best in today’s interdependent world. The protectionistprovisions in our Constitution – which limit foreign participation in key sectors such as mining,agriculture, and public utilities – have operated to choke the flow of foreign direct investments(FDI) into our economy. Even during my watch on the Presidency (1992-98) – which was aperiod of relatively high growth – our country received less than 6 percent of the total FDI thatwent into the Southeast Asian region. It is investors – both foreign and local – who create jobs.But our own Filipino businesspeople cannot create all the jobs: They simply lack the capitalenough to do so.Today, the only way to get people out of poverty permanently is to give them jobs: Any othersolutions is merely palliative. Populist, give-away programs may gain pogi points for theincumbents but serve to prolong outside perception that ours is a weak State.Let us take a minute to consider the formula for growth and investment familiar to oureconomists.UP Professor (Dr.) Arsenio Balisacan, President of the Human Development Network, Philippines,whose field is poverty studies, notes that the main reason for the relatively low growth in thePhilippines is primarily the short duration of growth and the slowness of this growth. Dr.Balisacan figures that, if we are to significantly reduce mass-poverty among our people, we needto grow – over these next 10-12 years – by a minimum 7 percent annually. This is also the well-publicized assessment and advice of the Asian Development Bank for backsliding countries inthe Asia-Pacific region.And if we are to grow by 7 percent, expert analysts say we need to invest at least 30 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) every year. Unfortunately, we Filipinos save at best only 19percent of our GDP. In ASEAN, the savings rate is at 31 percent on average. Simple arithmetic  tells us why foreign investment is crucial to our economy. Since we need to invest 30 percent of GDP, but save only 19 percent on average, we have a yearly financing gap that theCongressional Planning and Budget Office estimated to be equal to 11 percent of GDP. In 2000,for instance, that financing gap was equivalent to about US.4 billion. Usually, countries couldbridge this gap by public and private borrowings. But, in our case, the gap was just too great –since the FDI in that particular year was only US.3 billion.In a qualitative sense, the constitutional restrictions on foreign investment hurt our economyeven more – now that FDI is valued less for the capital it brings in than for the technological,managerial, and production skills that come with FDI into any country. The Key Amendments Since late 1991, I have come to believe honestly that no less than a transformation from thepresidential to the parliamentary form has become critical. In view, the basic problem issystemic. I also seek the immediate reform of our electoral system.Let me elaborate briefly on these two fundamental changes that I see as urgent.First – the failure of presidential democracy in our country.For the first Philippine Republic, the Malolos Congress had chosen the parliamentary systembased on the European mode. Then, we borrowed the presidential system from the Americanduring the Commonwealth period (1935-1946) and then embraced it since winning back ourindependence from the US. Yet, our circumstances have always been far different from that of the Americans.The American Founding Fathers – in trying, well over two centuries ago, to establish liberaldemocratic government in a vast and diverse society – deliberately designed their Constitution toavoid a strong central government because of the rights of their separate states that werealready well-established. And this they managed by dividing government’s powers: Horizontally– between the federal government and its constituent states; and vertically – among thelegislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The presidential system has obviously worked wellfor the Americans. In our own experience, however, this elaborate system of checks-and-balanceamong the three branches has produced more often than not administrative and politicalgridlock. (Consider, for instance, the infighting in our twochamber legislature. With half of theyear gone, Congress has yet to pass the 2006 budget.)Within the context of our fractionalized and personalized political system of today, domesticpolicymaking has largely become a game with no winners – in which the President, the twoHouses of Congress, and the Supreme Court all hold veto powers against each other.For any policy to be carried out, all the players holding vetoes must agree. In reality, whatever isthe least common denominator of agreement among the veto-holders has become the norm formost of our policy-making – but not the national interest.The lack of accountability in the presidential system and its institutional rigidity have beenanother plague on our politics. Since the President is accountable directly to the electorate,he/she is – in practice – really answerable to no one the moment he/she is elected. And, as wesaw in 2000-2001, a President can even defy or ignore public opinion with impunity – becausethe fixed presidential term also makes impeachment tremendously difficult.
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