Fixing a dysfunctional system TMT

Fixing a dysfunctional system Featured

AS discussed in the first part of this series last week, political patronage is central to what ails our system of governance. Professor Jose "Pepe" Abueva, citing Gunnar Myrdal's book, Asian Drama, depicts the Philippines as a soft state and a weak nation, arguing that it is unable to apply the law equally to all its citizens. Our institutions are captives of the oligarchy and serve mostly their interest and that of the few rich allies and powerful politicians. Our leaders failed to unite and inspire our diverse peoples as a nation. These are symptoms of political patronage, peripherals feeding on themselves, defining us after centuries of this practice.

Former chief justice Renato Puno referred to our dysfunctional democracy in one of his speeches: "I like to stress the failure of our electoral system to excise the virus of the politics of patronage that has infected our so-called vicious politics of patronage has allowed few oligarchs and bosses to rule us from colonial times to post-colonial times, and their rule has brought us nothing but a facade of democracy, its mirage but not its miracle."

Furthermore, the agenda of the oligarchy, the political dynasties, clans and cabals who get their candidates elected allow their legitimate capture of state institutions. They build on this dominance and perpetuate themselves in power, positions and wealth. It is unfortunate that all these deformities are intertwined and protected by the 1987 Constitution.

It will be recalled that the US-sponsored 1935 Constitution was the overriding political document governing our political life until replaced by the Marcos 1973 Constitution, which was then abrogated by the 1986 Edsa People Power revolution. These authorizations contain the structures underpinning our dysfunctional system of governance buttressed by deleterious provisions evolving into what was to become the Cory Constitution of 1987. (These will be apt topics for dissection in future columns.)

1987 Constitution

Subsequently, the socio-political-economic system fashioned by and for the elite and the oligarchy enshrined in the 1987 Constitution has so constricted an all-encompassing growth unable to keep pace with progress and the changing needs of society. The irony of it all is that laws perpetuating these deficits are legitimately framed by those controlling the levers of political and economic power - the two lawmaking bodies, the Senate and the House - bastions of the oligarchy and political dynasties.

On the economic front, these defects are attributed to the constitutional provisions restricting foreign direct investments (FDI) attracting foreign technology and capital that create jobs. Here, the role of the State is to provide a supportive framework, spurring inclusive growth and not be a direct participant competing with the private sector in an interplay of free market mechanisms. In the homegrown basic sectors, there needs to be a restructuring and modernization of agriculture and fisheries and a rethinking of investments in the mining industry; and the reform of progressive taxation policies that shifts the burden from income to consumption.

Charter change

Political and socioeconomic reforms require revisions of the 1987 Constitution. But every post-Cory administration has failed at critical reforms - from FVR's 1997 Pirma to Erap's 1999 Concord to GMA's 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) ending with Duterte's 2018 Constitutional Committee (Concom).

Looking beyond the limits of our discretion, it is hard to find a country that has not amended or revised its constitution in 30 years. In a nutshell, we are unable to tackle the most severe problems within our existing system.

Our leadership fatuously pays lip service to change, pagbabago, but sorely lacks the courage to take it to the finish line - a bankruptcy of political will. No president can permanently alter our realities without overhauling our decaying system. Only when the imperatives of good leadership and governance are put in play can we cure our ailing political system.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd (may he rest in peace) made it very clear that he never wanted to modify "a comma in his mother's constitution"; as if Charter change were a sacrilege.

Parliamentary system

Our presidential system does not provide a sufficient degree of checks and balances for constancy. The executive and the legislative branches are intermittently at odds resulting in gridlocks. Our colonial past inculcated a premise that a presidential form is a natural choice. Looking at the list of countries with similar systems, you find a list that starts with Afghanistan and ends with Zimbabwe - practically turbulent and failed states. The most stable and successful countries in the world have parliamentary forms of government. America that imposed on us the presidential model has, since the ascendancy of Trumpism, exposed the weaknesses of its presidential system, its practice of democracy and the mockery of the concept of co-equal branches of government and separation of powers - in a perpetual deadly stalemate.

In a parliamentary system the legislative and executive powers are fused. Members of parliament elect the leader of government among themselves (usually called prime minister) with his Cabinet recruited from among the members of parliament. Thus, the accountability is clear and direct between the makers of the law and executors of the same.

The prime minister is accountable to congress (parliament) and can, if needed, be replaced through a vote of no-confidence - instead of the acrimonious and highly partisan impeachment process. The president still exists as a symbolic head of state, possessing no real political powers.

Studies from all over the world have shown that this form of government provides a higher degree of stability and is less prone to corruption, delivering services much more efficiently to constituents as in Germany, Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries. An important feature is that the prime minister is likewise held accountable to the political parties represented in it. Needless to say, our current party system is a parody of these models.

Presidential system and dynasties

We pointed out the aberrations of the sequences of our selection and election of persons who will eventually occupy the presidency, one inherently undemocratic.

But the most glaring defect of the presidential system is that this is the embryo upon which patronage politics is nurtured. For almost 100 years the system flourished feeding upon the least desired aspect of the Filipino culture - the desire for and dependence on a benefactor from the datu and sultan, heading a clan; to the Spanish patron looking over the indios, to the American "big brother"; morphing into the Philippine president, the "father" of the people.

And where the president is elected at large, he is expected to provide the wherewithal for an expensive election campaign (billions of pesos). This opens an aperture for the oligarchy and the moneyed elite to influence the outcome. We can only speculate at the quid pro quo.

And with the constitutional mandated term limits of elective officials, this deviant model of "public service as a private business" becomes a strong impetus toward the perpetuation of this power base - thus the birth of powerful political dynasties.

Charter revisions are central to fixing our dysfunctional systems. But a critical precondition to all these is the existence of political power delivery system - real political parties - much needed in all reforms in governance.

Next week, July 14, 2021: Political parties000
Read 999 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 July 2021 14:01
Rate this item
(0 votes)