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A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is “When?” [Part 1 of 3]

I think it’s been awhile (heck, probably years) since I got to write a political piece once again. Admittedly, most of what I’ve written in the past sound more like rants than an intelligently, well-researched commentary. So, I guess let me begin by begging for your forgiveness in behalf of my ‘young, dumb and broke’ self.

Second, I can’t claim sage-like wisdom and political maturity with this article. I’m simply a typical working girl from a middle-class family who spends so much time sitting on her ass going through the hellish Manila traffic everyday, thus giving her ridiculously large amount of time to think of silly stuff….like the circus that is Philippine politics, I must say.

I know you’re probably getting annoyed that it’s already the third paragraph and I haven’t written any substantial yet, but please let me state this plainly. I am not a rabid Duterte supporter, nor am I a rabid Duterte critic. Sure, I admit I didn’t come as far as to think it was the end of the world when he got elected. Honestly, I found it funny how his critics reacted on social media feeds. But looking back now, I guess I can say their fears are not without foundation. Like, their reasons are terrifyingly real and they are unfolding right in front of us.

Now you might ask, how all of this leads me to talk about, in my opinion, the best form of government in the Philippines. If I’m wary and guarded of Duterte administration, why am I supporting a form of government that moves all focus of power to one institution in a political scene where most legislators are so balimbing to the incumbent president so they can carry out their own ambitions?

Simple. Because the present form of unitary democracy is failing us.

Not that the practice is failing. Theoretically, it’s actually effective in some countries with healthy democracy. The thing is, our Philippine-version of democracy is far from that.

Allow me to discuss what the setup will be if the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government. I’m no political analyst nor I claim to be an expert I’m just a temperamental brat, but I’ve observed and researched that this setup is common to democratic countries with a duly-elected Parliament.

I’d like to demonstrate the difference between the two systems with three scenarios: Electing the Head of State, Passing a law into practice and the Party-System. Bear in mind that the government is beyond this three but for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on these.

First, the election.

Presidential

Why the Parliamentary form is better? 

Face it. Election in the Philippines is a circus. One’s platform is always second to popularity. These past presidential elections show us how emotional we can be. I think the reason why Duterte won is because Filipinos are simply fed up with Noynoy’s ‘softness’ and seemingly bias towards the rich. Never mind that Duterte is a tough-talking, gun-loving, vigilante justice advocate. He gets things done anyway. Screw foreign policy and common decency. They ain’t gonna feed us anyway.

And this problem is not only evident with presidential elections. From the local office to the Senate, campaigning is simply selling yourself to the people. Emphasize the ‘yourself’ here. Never mind if your family is waddling through corruption and graft cases, never mind that you received suspicious funds for questionable government projects in your last term in office, never mind that you did not attend a single assembly in Congress for the whole year, never mind that you are once an action star and found yourself wearing Senatorial robes without any degree in public governance or a college diploma.

With a Parliamentary style of government, anyone who wants to serve as Head of Government has to work him/herself up to the ladder. You just don’t get elected in a snap. With hard work, commitment and good credentials under your belt, your political party has to believe in you and your platform enough to elect you as their Chairman. The other members of the Parliament has to believe in your party and its platform enough to elect it as the ruling party for that term.

As Prime Minister, you are accountable to the Parliament and the Parliament is accountable to the People.

A Parliamentary style of government does not divide the people, just as what we are witnessing right now. There’s so much mud-slinging and ad hominem going on between the pro-admin and the critics that the more pressing national issues and the present situation of the country are set aside just to prove to the opposition that they are right (vice versa). In a Parliamentary setup, if the Prime Minister and the Parliament did not do their job properly, the People can rally together because essentially, each and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is affected. There won’t be any blame games among the people.

Why the Parliamentary form won’t work right now?

With a parliamentary style of government, the Upper and Lower house will be fused into one. In short, the Senate will be dissolved. And c’mon, can you see that happening in our lifetime? Hardly. There are too many trapos in our current legislature to let that happen.

With the Congress voting to give the Commission on Human Rights a measly budget of Php1,000 (20 USD) on year 2018, there’s no way in hell I would let these people decide how my country will run. On top of that, most people in office are the living proof that political dynasties are still rampant in the government while most are elected because they are simply popular. No, the current government is still infested with turncoats and snakes, backed by oligarchs and the rich. The only thing they care about is furthering their own political ambitions.

I can understand why some youth groups and activists are so wary of Charter Change and Constitutional Reform. The people elected in office are too untrustworthy, too greedy. With how the past administrations have failed us, we have every right and reason to be.

 

Still, I would continue to fight for better governance and accountability. My idealistic self may be gone after college but that doesn’t mean I have to give up. I still have trust on people in my generation of leading this country to a better future. What I can do right now is to do my part in helping people understand that this current system is failing us and the current government is not that different to the ones before. That the few good ones in the government are often ignored and discouraged to give the service we Filipinos deserve. That we deserve better than this, but we can only get what we think we deserve.

And we deserve better. Gosh, we should start thinking, no…demanding that we do.

 

***

This post is the first part of the series: A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is when? For the 2nd part, I’ll be comparing how policies and laws are implemented between the Presidential and the Parliamentary government. Why are we experiencing so many delays in implementing laws and why the Supreme Court has the power to hold it off, sometimes for an indefinite period of time? Is the Parliamentary government more prone to an authoritarian regime and dictatorship? 

For further reading, please check out the links below:

 

All thanks to www.canva.com  for allowing me to create the infographic 🙂

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Modern Atlas: The Filipino Middle Class

Having a job made me realize four things: (1) You can write a whole chapter of a novel while stuck in a traffic in Manila at rush hour, (2) Having to eat in a fast-food everyday isn’t really that great as you think (3) Working 8 hours straight drains some of your closely-guarded and tightly-kept idealism and (4)Why in the name of unholy hell is that the tax on this country is so damn high?!

You won’t realize it at first when the HR/boss tells you the amount of deduction, but those 10% (or 20%) are so cunningly evil, they laugh at you in the face when you received your first payslip. The worst thing is, you can’t escape from it. Even if you’re at the bottom or at the top of the corporate hierarchy, your dues will only get bigger and bigger. Added to that is the suspicious simultaneous  rising of basic utilities and food. Plus you are expected to pay for the rent of the house or the mortgage. Since you are the first to graduate from college, your dreams take the backseat and you are expected to help with your siblings’ schooling. You wake up early each day and battle with fellow commuters you uncannily grew to hate just because they took the last seat for the shuttle service that’s about to leave before you do. You leave the office in the same routine and you do it over and over again.

I am not ranting ( oh shoot, maybe I am).Believe me, I am getting used to the work. I am just amazed (and yes, bewildered) at how the actual world can be so different from the days of old, when all you have to do is attend classes, hang out with your friends and be angry at the government. Life is so much simpler. And although I am aware of the hardships the middle class are facing day by day as evident from my parents’ constant squabbling over money, this is the first time I really really begin to think: “Being poor is not the crappiest role in this country. Being the middle class is”

Back in college, where you are drowning with so much idealism and drive to change the world, the fight for the rights of the poor, of the masses, of those in Class E, of those at the bottom of the pyramid, becomes your life’s purpose. Everyday, as we go through the gates of the university, we passed by the slums and shanties left abandoned by the railway and thought too ourselves how unfair the world is to the poor. How oppressive the elite and the government is. How anti-poor they are. Our view may have been narrowed and myopic. We only saw the oppressors on top and those people at the bottom whose rights we must upheld. We were unable to see, or refused to see, the condition of the one in between, the class which most of us ironically came from.

I remembered one class in college when my professor is illustrating the iconic ‘pyramid’ shaped social hierarchy of the Philippines. We get the fact that there is an unequal number between the poor and the rich. The gap between them is widening. The ones at the bottom have no access to basic rights of food, shelter and education while the rich has it all. Down between them, the one usually ignored, is the middle class. Back then, I’ve always thought the middle class, both upper and lower, are just indifferent to the suffering of the poor. I didn’t realize they are just too busy working hard and clinging to this rung of the ladder before they can slide down to the bottom once again to even care for the poor’s suffering and of their own.

My prof drew another illustration, this time, a diamond-shaped one. This one, he said, is the social hierarchy of developed countries like Japan and Canada. The rich and poor are not not too large, they are more or less equal. It’s the number of middle class that makes up the large bulk of social hierarchy and eventually, the economy.

Earlier back then, we knew. I knew, that the ones who are truly oppressed, the ones who are unable to fight back and complain, the ones that must be taken care of but are drastically neglected, are the middle class. At least the poor folks get to be favored by the government until election period ends because of their overwhelming votes, but every day, it’s the middle class who gets the short end of the stick; Those OFWs being milked out of remittances, those professionals working from day in to day out no matter how crappy their job is, those call center agents, those floundering small-time entrepreneurs and businessmen, those factory workers who struggle to pay the rent, those self-employed individuals who file taxes in this hellhole of a country which they can toss out anytime for other countries offering a more relaxed financial burden.

These people are modern Atlases. Like the Greek god who was condemned to carry the world in his shoulder for all eternity, the middle class has the burden of the tax in their shoulders while both the ones who cannot compensate and the ones who refused to compensate ( tax evaders) are the ones lounging on top. It’s not the poor’s fault it came to this, the government simply uses their helplessness and ignorance for their political gains. If there’s one thing worse than having a government that is anti-poor, it is is having a government that is anti-middle class, or is negligent to the needs of the middle class.

The middle class has so much power to turn things around. It has been the same way in developed countries for many years. There are barely even any poor people around in these countries because most attained the level of the middle class and remained in this sphere, financially stable except when recession struck or some unforeseeable circumstances hit them. You can tell how good a country’s governance is if it takes care of the middle class and encourages and empowers the poor to ascend to that class, not tolerating their ignorance and demands just for the sake of a political influence.

It is so easy for the middle class to be critical and angry on the poor. After all, they are the ones who compensate for what the poor ought to give. But instead of blaming each other for the other’s misfortune, why not turn our eyes to the ones in power? For as long as the government is too busy playing their own version of Game of Thrones in politics,  hatred and strife among classes will just spread. Indifference will propagate. Each class will stick on its own. Philippines, as divided and fragmented as it already is, will further be separated into blocs of which social status is based.

It’s amazing that after all these years, we still retain the same social structure from the time of datus and slaves!

I therefore now challenge President Noynoy for the next three years of his term: Heed the needs and the voice of the middle class. Empower the poor, not tolerate them. Give them what they need, not what they want. Pass urgent bills and strongly enforce the existing laws that are pro-middle class. Amend the constitution if necessary. Turn the republic form into federalism if necessary. Just do it out of conscience and not for greed, not for inserting glory on your term but something that will last for many administrations to come. Just for sincere public stewardship and the vision to, as borrowed from your parents’ late archenemy, make this nation great again.

With the rise of social media, more and more members of the middle class are being awakened from all the injustice around them and find consolation to one another. As Karl Marx says,  a revolution need not be violent. Just as world history tells us, a revolution sparked by the intellectual and educated middle class, slow and internal as it may be, is one that will put the government into its knees and change the face of a country forever.

You think this is bloody? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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