Presidential to parliamentary – the preconditions

Presidential to parliamentary – the preconditions Featured

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)000
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