Federalism in its death throes? (Part 2) BusinessMirror

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Part 2 – Unitary presidential vs federal parliamentary
IN Part 1 of this series we took DU30’s “Federalism is dead!” with a grain of salt. The Centrist Democrats (Centrists) are unequivocal that PRRD is the linchpin of a constitutional shift from unitary-presidential to parliamentary-federal, his original advocacy. But he may have failed to comprehend that the federalization process may not be realized within his term of office. Also, he dropped the “parliamentary” adjunct after his much maligned “French model” didn’t wash. But he stuck to his overall nebulous idea of federalism; yet long on slogans but short on concepts.

This is understandable for an impatient and driven executive who has the misfortune of being surrounded by some senior political advisers whose appreciation of their jobs does not go beyond the level of sycophancy. This is partly the President’s fault as his stint as a superb local executive, an autodidact in the intricacies of national politics and international relations has confined his recruitment among a coterie of a prosaic circle of associates easily intimidated by a display of his alpha male attributes; thus, inhibiting good counsel.

Meanwhile, the Centrists which have been refining the idea of a shift to federal-parliamentary since the 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) of President GMA has produced the Centrist Proposals to revise the 1987 Constitution. This document has not been accorded due importance by the PRRD bureaucracy, preferring instead to divine the Deegong’s perorations and perceptions inaccurately, thus failing to inform, educate and precipitate debate among the masses. The presidential backtracking therefore is taken by the Centrists as a challenge to push through its original vision: a shift from unitary-presidential to parliamentary-federal systems.

For a short tutorial, what we have now is a unitary-presidential form of government where power and authority are concentrated in the national central government (the Center) making the same inordinately dominant. The regional and local government units (LGUs) are subordinate and exercise only such powers allowed to them by the Center, headed by the President. This subservience stifles local initiative and resourcefulness, perpetuates dependency and reinforces traditional political patronage relationships.

In theory, executive power is vested in the president who is the head of government and the state; legislative power is entrusted to a bicameral congress consisting of the senate and the house of representatives; and judicial power is conferred upon a supreme court and in the lower courts created by law. This is the classic separation of the three branches of government handed down to us by our American colonizers. But in practice, our present system is characterized by intermittent gridlock between the senate and the presidency, a clash of super-egos, a systemic anomaly.

One source of “ingrained corruption” is the very expensive nationwide elections where the president, vice president and senators are susceptible to the intrusion of the moneyed class and the oligarchy to finance elections. Such an environment enforces a malicious quid pro quo allowing office holders to recoup election expenses through rent-seeking activities or even outright regulatory capture.

Planning and programs for the communities are characterized by a top-to-bottom approach divorced from the realities on the ground; and impairing gravely the decision-making process. Critical revenues directed centrally and collected locally are invariably expensed from the top; detached from the actual needs below.

The Centrists want an alternative, a federal form of government, a system with clear separation of powers and authority between national government (federal) and the regional or local governments (states).

The federal government aims to establish a democratic system that recognizes the rights of each region to govern itself and pursue its own agenda of progress and development consistent with the national interest. It will run its own affairs and decide its own destiny without interference from the national government. Federalism emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance, based on the principle of subsidiarity. This means decisions should be made at the lowest level where problems are best solved.

While regional or state governments are designed to be autonomous in state and local affairs, the federal government helps the various regions and states, especially the less developed ones — as in all federal systems in the world.

Federalism emphasizes respect for the socio-cultural diversity of the people and seeks solidarity and cooperation in governance, nation-building, modernization and development. The Constitution will define the powers that may either be exclusive to the federal government, to the states or shared. Universally accepted are federal powers on defense, foreign affairs, currency and coinage and customs and trade.

The Centrists also want to replace our presidential form with a parliamentary government where the legislative and executive powers are fused and vested on a unicameral (or bicameral) parliament; and the “head of government” is the prime minister with his cabinet recruited from among the members of parliament. The president is the “head of state” and is elected from among the members of parliament; and upon taking his oath he ceases to be a member of parliament and any political party.

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. The members chosen by the political parties (party list) shall constitute 30 percent of the total number of members of parliament. The political parties shall ensure that in the 30 percent “party list,” the labor, peasant, urban poor, veterans, indigenous people communities, women, youth, differently abled, except the religious sector, are properly represented. The current “party list” system is a perversion of the German model from whom it was copied. As practiced now, there is no clear representation of the less privileged. This should be abolished.

A parliamentary government is also called “party government” because of the pivotal role of political parties in parliamentary elections, governance and public administration. Our political parties are personal factions and alliances of politicians, united mainly for elections and patronage; they have no mass memberships and no sustainable and exclusive serious platform of government that differentiate them from one another. They are not responsible and accountable for their performance in and out of office.

For these reasons, they don’t have loyalties to their parties and migrate to the political party of the winning president. This spectacle is known as “political butterfly.” As proposed, 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 by electing 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 of replacing a president.

All these need constitutional revisions and may not be accomplished within the remaining term of DU30. But there are critical reforms which need to be done prior to a shift away from unitary-presidential to federalism with a parliamentary form of government.

Next week: Part 3 – Preconditions to federal-parliamentary system000
Read 312 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 July 2019 12:38
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