THIS is a supplementary article to my series on "Centrist Democratic (CD) Agenda for President-elect BBM" which started just after the May 9, elections. My memo to president-elect BBM, was followed by "Political dynasties – party-lists" (May 22); Part 1 – "Centrist agenda for a Marcos regime" (May 25); Part 2 – "Replace the 1987 Constitution" (June 1); and Part 3 – "Institutionalize real political parties" (June 8). I received so many comments by email and FB that I thought I'd simply direct them to our website Centrist Democratic Political Institute, www.cdpi.asia, where all my columns, articles, speeches, essays and blogs are lodged.

The latest queries revolved around clarifications on the relative merits of a parliamentary-federal (Fed-Parl) over a presidential-unitary government. I have written extensively on this and many of my colleagues in the Fed-Parl movement have their essays and articles copied to this CDPI website. Links to excellent articles and books are provided particularly one authored by the incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) Clarita Carlos, Democratic Deficits in the Philippines: What is to be done? (KAS Publication, 2010). Secretary Claire has been my colleague during our salad days when together with our now departed comrades, 'Nene' Pimentel, 'Pepe' Abueva and 'Rey' Teves, we went nationwide spreading the Fed-Parl gospel under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and country representative 'Willy' Frehner. KAS is allied with the CDU party of Germany.

The details of what makes Fed-Parl a superior system are extensively discussed in the CD websites. Another interesting link is to the "CoRRECT Movement" websites founded by a young OFW Centrist Democrat, Orion Perez, who has been championing an open liberal economy that welcomes foreign direct investments (FDI) as central to the solution of stark poverty in the Philippines. To detail the relative advantages of the Fed-Parl over the Pres-Unitary will take more than the 1,200 words allotted to this column. For simplicity and clarity, a matrix is provided.

Evidence of Fed-Parl superiority

The following are excerpts from my speeches and lectures in the course of several years in the formation of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP), the precursor of many of the parliamentary-federal initiatives, mostly of NGO and civil society networks, that led to the establishment of the Centrist Democratic groups. The purpose of this matrix is to present at a glance a list of the world's governments practicing parliamentary, presidential, federal and unitary systems and some permutations thereof. These are by no means a comprehensive argument for the superior system, leaving the readers, perhaps latitude to do research on their own to understand better why the CD groups consider these structural changes primordial. All Philippine presidents understood the necessity for systemic changes from the very start of their regimes, only to falter somewhere in the course of their administrations when perhaps personal political interests or the vested interest of their patrons were inputted. Only the two Aquino governments sought to protect the status quo, post-1986 — advancing the classic arguments that systemic changes are unnecessary, you only need to choose the right leaders. The fallacy of these arguments has been exposed several generations back. Tongue in cheek, it has been advanced too that even if Jesus Christ sits on top of our Philippine government structure, he will fail.

Most corrupt countries

Evidence suggests how countries under the presidential system have serious problems of corruption, development, and peace.

TOP 10 MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES

1) SOMALIA – FEDERAL-SEMI PRESIDENTIAL
2) NORTH KOREA – UNITARY-PRESIDENTIAL
3) AFGHANISTAN – PRESIDENTIAL
4) SUDAN – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL
5) SOUTH SUDAN – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL
6) ANGOLA – UNITARY-PRESIDENTIAL
7) LIBYA – PARLIAMENTARY-TRANSITIONED FROM TOTALITARIAN RULE
8) IRAQ – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
9) VENEZUELA – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL
10) GUINEA BISSAU – SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL

1. From the 2015 Transparency International Corruption index (TIC), the most corrupt/least transparent countries are under a presidential system. These include Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Libya, Venezuela and Guinea-Bissau. Iraq, placed as the eighth most corrupt, is the only country with a federal-parliamentary form.

2. Five of these 10 most corrupt countries (South Sudan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and North Korea) are ranked among the 10 least peaceful nations in the world (TIC 2015 Global Peace Index). To recall, the above-mentioned nations have presidential systems except for Iraq.

TOP 10 LEAST PEACEFUL NATIONS

1) SYRIA UNITARY – SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL
2) SOUTH SUDAN – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL
3) IRAQ – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
4) AFGHANISTAN – PRESIDENTIAL
5) SOMALIA – SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL
6) YEMEN – UNITARY-PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM
7) CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC – SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL
8) UKRAINE – UNITARY-SEMI PRESIDENTIAL
9) SUDAN – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM
10) LIBYA – PARLIAMENTARY-TRANSITIONAL (FROM TOTALITARIAN RULE)

3. Similarly in nations with the highest Terrorism Index, more have a presidential form (Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Central African Republic, Ukraine (70 percent) while the rest have a combination federal-parliamentary government.

TOP 10 LEAST CORRUPT NATIONS

1) DENMARK – UNITARY STATE-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
2) FINLAND – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
3) SWEDEN – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
4) NEW ZEALAND – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
5) NETHERLANDS – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
6) NORWAY – UNITARY-MONARCH-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
7) SWITZERLAND – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
8) SINGAPORE – UNITARY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
9) CANADA – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
10) GERMANY – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY

Least corrupt — the better ones

1. By contrast, all of those in the top 10 "least corrupt" nations list (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, and Germany) have parliamentary systems.

2. Moreover, these topnotchers in curbing corruption (Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand and Canada), including the United States and Ireland, also have very high human development ranking in the 2015 UNDP human development index. Among these roster of highly developed countries, only the US adopts a presidential form, although a federal government.

TOP 15 MOST PROSPEROUS NATIONS

1) NORWAY – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
2) SWITZERLAND – FEDERAL REPUBLIC
3) DENMARK – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
4) NEW ZEALAND – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
5) SWEDEN – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
6) CANADA – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
7) AUSTRALIA – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
8) NETHERLANDS – UNITARY-MONARCHY-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
9) FINLAND – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
10) IRELAND – UNITARY-PARLIAMENTARY
11) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – FEDERAL-PRESIDENTIAL
12) ICELAND – CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC-PARLIAMENTARY
13) LUXEMBOURG – UNITARY-PARLIAMENTARY
14) GERMANY – FEDERAL-PARLIAMENTARY
15) UNITED KINGDOM – UNITARY-PARLIAMENTARY

Finally, in the list of the top 15 most prosperous nations (Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, United States, Iceland, Luxembourg, Germany and the United Kingdom), all except the US whose government is federal-presidential, have parliamentary systems.

This clearly indicates that a federal form may be better than a unitary one; but clearly it also suggests that a parliamentary system is superior to a presidential system in government performance.

President Makoy, the father, understood this only too well, instituting parliamentary government in the 1973 Marcos Constitution, which was abrogated by President Cory, and substituting her 1987 Constitution that enshrined a presidential-unitary system.

Will the Marcos son continue his father's legacy?

The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.
“Then I fall to my knees, shake a rattle at the skies and I’m afraid that I’ll be taken, abandoned, forsaken in her cold coffee eyes.” – A quote from the song, “She moves on” by Paul Simon, singer/songwriter

THE recent tremors affecting the central provinces of Mindanao caused by a series of seismic waves radiating to the northern and southern parts of the island, were like nature shaking a rattle, emitting sharp sounds and unnerving motions from the underground, both frightening and bewildering as to the intensity and confusion they generated.

The successive earthquakes and aftershocks were rattling the nerves not only of residents close to the epicenter but also those living along the active fault planes who were not used to strong earth movements. Some reported dizziness, anxiety, depression and other post-traumatic stress symptoms after experiencing continuous shaking and periodic vibrations.

As this article was written, less frequent but perceptible tremors were felt on the affected areas although everyone is reportedly bracing for aftershocks which many hope and pray, would not turn out to be the dreaded “big one,” as some irresponsible persons are falsely posting on social media. Shake a rattle drum to this latter blokes.

According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), since the 1900s, Mindanao has been rocked by at least 35 earthquakes, three of which, felt at “Intensity 7” or worse, were deemed destructive: the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake which caused a tsunami reaching up to nine meters that killed about 8,000 people including the unaccounted ones; the 1999 series of earthquakes in Agusan del Sur damaging roads, and poorly constructed schools and infrastructure; and the Sultan Kudarat earthquake in 2002, killing eight people with 41 others injured and affecting over seven thousand families in the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato (Rappler 2019). Shake a rattle of prayers for all who perished in these tragedies.

The series of earthquakes in October of this year, just weeks apart, with magnitudes of over 6 hitting many provinces, again, in Cotabato and southern parts of Davao accounted for the death toll of 22, damaging homes, school buildings and many infrastructure, shaking and sending chills to many residents who have to deal with continuing albeit smaller tremors which can be felt as far up the city of Cagayan de Oro and down the southern province of Sarangani.

Some local officials reported residents having developed “earthquake phobia” keeping watch on their clock hanging inside their tents in evacuation sites, losing sleep with anxiety awaiting when the next tremor would be coming. With frayed nerves, some would panic over even slight ground shakings.

But this is not about the temblor as much as the response of people and the country’s leaders and responsible officials. Except for the government of China which donated P22 million in aid and support for relief efforts in Mindanao, hurray for China, other foreign countries just expressed condolences and messages of sympathy to families of victims. No pledges, no assistance. Perhaps, they can’t trust our government agencies to do the job for them anymore. To them, a shake of the baby rattle.

To the initial bunch of donors who immediately come with their financial assistance such as Yorme Isko Moreno of Manila with his P5 million personal money, Mayor Vico Sotto with relief goods and P14 million coming from the people of Pasig City, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina with 100 modular tents, movie star Angel Locsin who moved about sans fanfare for her charity work offering food and other assistance to victims in Davao and North Cotabato, to Mayor Inday Duterte for relief distribution, Cebu provincial government for disaster relief campaign and to the many nameless others who came with their relief aids, shake a rattle of joy and thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.

To our government officials and politicians goes our appeal to set aside politics, distribute the relief items according to the wishes of their donors and not allow goods to rot because of political colors as was shown in the previous administration’s handling of donated goods. To them, shake a rattle of enlightenment and peace.

In whatever disaster or crisis that befalls the country, trust Filipinos’ resiliency and coping mechanisms such as resorting to prayers and humor to come to their succor.

Social media become a natural venue for memes, practical jokes and bantering such as the ones which came after Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy reportedly claimed that he caused to stop the earthquakes so they can no longer create damage. To everyone, shake a rattle of laughter and fun while we help provide for the needs of our less fortunate brethren in Cotabato and Davao provinces.