Parliamentary system and the reign of Gloria

Parliamentary system and the reign of Gloria Featured

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.000
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