March 05, 2006

Steve T. Barreiro

Searching for a New System

In response to the political upheavals gripping the nation, the MMSU Graduate School Public Administration masteral class sponsored the “First Forum on Governance” with Dr. Ferdinand Lamarca of the University of the Northern Philippines as the guest speaker last Sunday, February 26.

The theme of the discussion was “In search of a political system fitting for Filipinos.” Dr. Lamarca proposed an organizational shift from the current presidential form of government to a parliamentary form. In the light of the current political instability, this political restructuring could resolve the problem of how to effect a change in the political leadership within the system. The current system does not allow for the effective replacement of a current president; impeachment while theoretically in place for such an event has been proven to be ineffective. This has resulted in efforts to replace the president through extra-constitutional means as in rehashes of “People Power” or through military coup attempts.

Unfortunately, history has shown that whether these attempts have been successful or not, the result has always been political instability. The first “People Power” revolt resulted in the unstable Aquino presidency, which was besieged by coup attempt throughout the term. The second People Power uprising brought the current Arroyo administration into power. That the country has experienced seemingly unending political turmoil is one more testament to the instability of governments brought into power by extra-constitutional means.

The flaw in the current system is perhaps best enunciated by the saying, “6 years is too short for a good president and too long for a bad one.” Since the current presidential system does not allow for the effective removal of a discredited leader, perhaps a shift to a parliamentary form of government will enable a more responsive system of leadership change.

Discussion was informative, with students and faculty from the major local colleges and universities, and reactors representative of government, business, and media participating.

Perhaps the most repeated concern was whether a structural change would work in solving our political troubles without a corresponding change in our fundamental and moral values. Dr. Lamarca replied that the parliamentary system has been successful as shown in several countries. Further, the system would lay the foundation for a shift in values; with removal of an ineffective leader through a mere two-thirds no confidence votes, there is an impetus for more responsible and progressive leadership. Also, the necessity to control the number of seats in parliament will foster the growth of major political parties in contrast to the fragmented and numerous groups under the multi-party system in place today. As a reactor explained, this system has worked elsewhere.

Corollary to the establishment of a parliamentary political structure is the shift to a federal state. A federal system has likewise worked in other countries. Both moves are in response to the need for government to be more responsive to the challenges of the rapidly changing times.

Dean Balantac of the MMSU posed perhaps, the most intriguing question: “What would the Philippines have become if Quezon had preferred a government run like heaven by Americans?” This is in reference to President Manuel L. Quezon’s classic remark: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans. “

To which Dr. Lamarca replied with a single word, “Hawaii.”

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