Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: August 2018
Part 3 of a series
MY earlier columns presented a rationale for dismantling the century’s old dysfunctional American democratic political structures imposed on us by our colonizers. (Manila Times, August 1, 2018 “Parliamentary system and the reign of Gloria”; August 11,18 & 25, 2016, “How do we change from unitary to federal”).

We submit that the unitary-presidential system be replaced with a federal-parliamentary by revising the 1987 Constitution. The arguments we proffered simply are that the unitary-presidential system has evolved cultural behavioral practices inimical to the greater majority. It has not substantially eradicated poverty in the country, particularly in the periphery. Over the decades, stark impoverishment became the petri dish on which democratic deficits plaguing our country today are incubating; from the emergence of traditional political patronage practices, allowing the proliferation of political dynasties that preserve political power among and within families; to the culture of impunity, corruption and criminality; to the rise of an oligarchy that tends to control both political and economic power. And in a vicious cycle, these sordid conditions in turn induced a poverty trap that many of our people seldom escaped from. To break this, a new paradigm needs to be introduced; alter the form and system of government and the deeply embedded cultural deficits will begin to transform.

A federal system where the local governments in the regions are freed from the clutches of central authority and control and allowed to flourish on their own terms is a preferred alternative. And to complement the federal structure, we propose a parliamentary government, replacing our aberrant presidential government.

The assumption to power of the Deegong championing federalism has popularized the slogan without so much as understanding the concept. His original pronouncements on his first SONA in 2016 was his take on parliamentary-federal government modeled after France with a “strong” president, enamored perhaps by an iconic leader like Charles De Gaulle. But France is not even federal. It is a unitary state. Thus, his 2018 Con-Com proposed a hybrid presidential/parliamentary system.

However, the belief of his unknowing supporters that federalism is a “package-deal” and can be applied all at once in one fell swoop of the revisionist pen, is mistaken. We need to de-couple these two components to understand and internalize which is more critical that must come first.

The Citizen’s Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP), the pedigree of CDP/CDPI (the Centrist groups) since the early 1990s have always maintained that a shift to parliamentary government be done first — before a full shift to a federal system. The logic here is simple. After 100 years of political malpractices and defects in governance, the political parties became the repositories of these perversions and thus are the primary perpetrators of this decadence on the body politic.

A case for immediate shift to parliamentary government is much easier once the various appropriate pending bills on political party reforms are enacted into law. These laws will effectively penalize and eliminate turncoatism (or the switching of political parties, “balimbing,” “political butterfly”); enforce transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign financing to eliminate graft, corruption, and patronag (corporate and individual contributions); and allow state subsidy to professionalize political parties by supporting their political education and campaign initiatives.

The Centrists therefore presented four preconditions while the process of constitutional revisions is ongoing; and to ease the shift from unitary-presidential to federal-parliamentary

1) The passage of the Political Party Development and Financing Act (SB 3214 and HB 6551);

2) Passage of the Freedom of Information bill (FOI) to enforce transparency in all transactions in government;

3) Initiate electoral reforms that put in place a system that will prevent the travesty of the will of the populace (i.e. rampant vote buying); and

4) Enact a law banning political dynasties as mandated in Article II Section 26 of the Constitution. This last item may have to be enacted as a self-executory provision in the revised constitution, considering the shameless disregard for its passage by Congress for decades.

As I have written in past columns, if these preconditions are not put in place and we proceed with a transition to a federal government, then we may have a government much worse than we have now.

Political party reform, the most important among the four preconditions, is imperative for the three draft constitutions being debated today: Centrist federal-parliamentary, PDP Laban hybrid-parliamentary and Con-com presidential-federal. Ample time is needed for the political parties to reorganize and reorient their ideological perspectives based on the new paradigm which is really the core operating program of a well-functioning government.

To reiterate, the Centrist preference for a parliamentary government is really based on the model’s proclivity to prevent gridlock in a unicameral body. The government of the day is checked by the opposition with a unique “question hour” that requires cabinet members who are likewise members of parliament to defend on the floor any policy questions. This ensures accountability and transparency on the part of the majority on all government transactions. On the part of the minority, a “shadow cabinet” parallels the work of the majority mirroring the positions of each member of the cabinet allowing considerations of alternatives. More importantly, all these promote cohesive and disciplined political parties, allowing a broader base and inclusive politics through a multi-party system.

The parliament is a critical component in the installation of federal states or regions as in our Centrist proposals it will oversee the step by step formation of the federal republic through initially, the creation of autonomous territories. The birthing of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) model through the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) bears witness to the intricacies and difficulties of the process and the many decades over which it was hammered into reality. The BAR could be the template upon which the national parliament will establish the future federal states of the country. But by then, the early kinks, failures and lessons of institutionalizing an autonomous region will have been learned and internalized.

In the Centrist roadmap (next week’s article in this series), this process will commence from the first proposed parliamentary elections in 2020, provided the constituent assembly AAcomposed of the two houses of Congress will take time out from their shameful bickering and will have their work finished in time for the 2019 plebiscite.

(Next week: The process of federalization, the roadmap/framework)
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 01 August 2018 13:40

Parliamentary system and the reign of Gloria

Part 2 on constitutional revisions
LAST week, President Duterte’s SONA, as in the past, would have been the centerpiece of the opening of Congress and his chance to claim bragging rights on the current state of the nation’s health. No details were spared starting with the “mini SONAs” conducted by the President’s henchmen in the various venues the previous weeks, to the hiring of an events director to oversee the President’s tour de force. It was, however, eclipsed by a naked power play by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) loyalists catapulting her to the speakership. But this was not totally unexpected although its timing was deplorable as it stole the thunder from the Deegong.

Gloria’s ascendancy was at the expense of Pantaleon ‘Bebot’ Alvarez. In my column “Games of thrones” (The Manila Times, March 15, 2018), I wrote: “…Alvarez’s… maneuvers were less than elegant: a petty and uncalled-for quarrel with an agricultural oligarch as an upshot of a catfight between their girlfriends; a puerile squabble with the daughter-mayor of his principal; and the snubbing of the ‘original PDP Laban purists.”

“According to the PDP Laban originals and purists, he is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the political party system in the country. In fact, rumors are rife that the factions arrayed against the Speaker are now gearing up to make him a one-time representative of the 2nd district of Davao del Norte, effectively toppling him from his perch.”

The portents to me were clear then and in “Part 2, Games of Thrones” (Times, March 22, 2018), I wrote: “And here awaits one astute politician who may have calculated these permutations and may now be positioned for any eventuality. In the midst of all these, it is obvious that the Deegong needs a surrogate that stands out from among the dregs of the carcasses of the other parties now populating his supermajority; one with a similar charisma, possessing qualities acquired uniquely by those who have attained the pinnacle of power and grasped the parameters of its flaws and possibilities.

We have such a one. Today Gloria stands at the cusp of a chaotic political tableau, poised on the side stage, awaiting the call. She is no doubt a quintessential traditional politician, steeped in the arcana of Philippine politics, knowledgeable of the flaws and strengths of the system.”

Thus, it came to pass!

But this article is not about the downfall of Bebot or the ascendancy of Gloria. This is about the underlying political structures that allow such distortions to the democratic process. Our centuries-old presidential-unitary system of government is susceptible to this kind of eruption as the system feeds on political power anchored on personalities rather than ideologically defined party politics. Both protagonists are members of PDP-Laban and both are traditional politicians although Bebot and his cohorts had recruited Gloria from her Lakas Party to bolster his own faction of PDP Laban, perhaps against the then Senate President Koko Pimentel and his PDP Laban purists. If we were in a parliamentary government, this sordid event would not have been executed in such an inelegant fashion.

But what is a parliamentary government in contrast to a presidential one. Read last week’s column (“Federalism Cha-cha going nowhere?” July 25, 2018) as a background for the following excerpts taken from the CENTRIST Proposals; the version of the CDP, CDPI, Lakas, 2005 ConCom draft replacing the Cory 1987 Constitution.

In a parliamentary government, the legislative and the executive powers are fused and vested in a unicameral parliament; and the head of government is the prime minister, with his cabinet recruited from among the members of parliament. The republican concept imposed on us by America on the fictional independence of the three branches of the executive, legislative and judiciary is drastically modified in the parliamentary system.

The president is the head of state, elected from among the members of parliament; and upon taking his oath he ceases to be a member of parliament and any political party. He serves a term of five years. The head of state is meant to be the unifying symbol of the Filipino nation and his powers are largely ceremonial.

A unicameral parliament is composed of elected members from the parliamentary districts, plus those chosen on the basis of “proportional representation” by the political party according to the votes each party obtained in the preceding elections. In the Centrist version, the two houses of Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives are replaced by a parliament.

The members chosen by the political parties (party list) shall constitute 30 percent of the total number of members of parliament and the seats reserved solely for the “less privileged”— farmers, fisherfolks, workers, etc. Party lists, as we have today under our anomalous 1987 Constitution, are not meant to run separately and outside of a nationally accredited party.

A parliamentary government is also called a “party government” because of the pivotal role of political parties in parliamentary elections, governance and public administrations, which means Congress should now pass the “Political Party Development Act” archived by the PNoy administration.

As proposed by the Centrists, any elective official who leaves his political party before the end of the term shall forfeit his seat and will be replaced by his political party.

A mechanism to replace a prime minister is for parliament to withdraw its confidence and choose a successor by a majority vote of all its members. This “vote of no confidence” is a much easier process of replacing a head of government in a parliamentary system than the current impeachment process.

The Centrists have always maintained that we shift to parliamentary government first before transitioning into a federal system, given that the federalization process is more complicated. This is contained in the Centrist Roadmap Toward a Federal Philippines which has undergone deep study and research and was codified by the 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) under the tutelage of President Arroyo, now the Speaker of the House.
Published in LML Polettiques