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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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Election Musings: “Judge me for my candidate” 

As election time draws near, never have I felt political tension and drama in my Facebook and Twitter feed than  what is happening right now. Yes, it is actually happening. We are judging the intellect, ethics and sanity of one another simply because of one’s choice of a presidential candidate. 
A sign of a vibrant democracy? Maybe. This goes to show that we aren’t at least operating under a mob rule and we give each other different perspectives on viewing a certain issue or a candidate. At least, it shows our maturity in how we value and practice democracy. 

But some of us may have taken it a little overboard. As election draws near, social media increasingly becomes toxic, dare I say, a frightening place in expressing one’s political opinion. 

Recently, I’ve read an article of how a climate change advocate received cyber threats simply because she criticized Mayor Duterte, the candidate I believe to be one of the masses’ favorite choices due to his tough-talking stance against crime. 

I sympathized with her plight and I admired the way she never backed down on her political opinion. Some of the so-called threats are even amusing to read, some are really pathetic, and some…well let’s just say they shouldn’t have been introduced to Facebook in the first place. The comments of each photo are understandably unkind: “Dutertard” “Dudirty” etc. 

There is no excuse in the way how a certain candidate’s followers are acting. Who wouldn’t be angry if someone, a complete stranger at best, wishes you to be raped? Who wouldn’t be frightened if someone pushes a candidate in your face and calls you a complete moron just because you don’t want to vote for the same person? 

And then we generalized. How we Filipinos just love to generalize! Like how a certain group of supporters generalized all UP students for being disrespectful all because one of its students cut in one candidate’s speech because “they are running out of time” in an academic forum. We generalize Binay supporters as “Binayarans”, Mar suppprters as “Yellow Zombies” and Poe supporters as “un-Filipino enough for supporting a candidate with American citizenship” 

We never thought for a moment the reason why. Provided of course that vote-buying, personality-over-platform mentality and “hakot” crowd are still rampant, I believe (desperately hoping so) that for this coming elections, most of us will be more conscious with our votes. Most of us are aware that the leader we will choose on May will be a defining moment of what our future is going to be. 

Filipinos are emotional voters, but for this 2016 elections, our emotions will be closely intertwined with our priorities. Some of us wanted the Tuwid na Daan continuity, we vote for Mar. Some of us wanted a fresh beginning and an advocate of a transparent government, we vote for Grace. Some of us wanted a system overhaul through Federalism and ease the crime rate in our country, we go for Duterte.

These priorities have different factors in them and you cannot simplify that these people don’t think as well as you do just because they don’t share the same views. It’s a matter of how these people think differently from you. It may be that they came from this particular social class, or they live on a certain region, or this candidate did something in their lives on the past and the experience still has an ability to affect their choices now. 

We can campaign for our presidential candidate all we want, in Facebook, Twitter, heck even on the streets, but we can do it without stooping down to the level of our critics who would resort to petty name-calling, threats or pathetic insults. At the very least, what we can do is to engage them in a conversation on who they are voting for and why. We can discuss platforms and compare the priorities of our candidates. We can still debate and argue without disrespecting one another. This is the heart of a healthy discussion. We can make statements attacking the issue, not the moral code or the intellect of a person who do not believe the same things we do. 

To top it all of, I’m just going to leave this status of my friend here for you to think about. 

   
   “Me waiting for the presidential elections to be over”

A Duterte style of Leadership: Can Filipinos Stomach it?

When Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, also known as ‘The Punisher’ of Davao City, finally announced that he has closed his doors to presidency, a lot of netizens had their hearts broken. Some even go as far as calling him ‘the best president we never had’.

Is he?

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on his badass ride

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on his badass ride

Let’s start with the basis of the notion first. Most Filipinos, especially the middle-class and our hardworking kababayans abroad, are fed up with the government. They are fed up with transportation inefficiency, astonishingly high tax rates, corruption and graft cases allegedly committed in top-to-bottom rungs of the government, flood projects and traffic schemes that are seem to be going nowhere (ironically), nepotism, high rates of crime, uncontrolled boom of population, poor urban planning schemes, strife in underdeveloped parts of Mindanao, and most importantly, the slowest internet connection in Southeast Asia.

I can understand the public clamor of Duterte running. Unlike most public officials, his experience and political will has concrete evidence. Like how the late DILG Secretary Jessie Robredo changed Naga City and how the former MMDA Chief Bayani Fernado transformed Marikina City, Davao City has Duterte. Let’s take a look at Davao City and its humble yet tumultuous beginning.

Davao town in 1930s

Like the major cities Manila and Cebu, Davao was heavily affected by World War II but recovered eventually. In 1967, it was recognized as the second largest city in the Philippines and many people from the neighboring regions settled there, making it an ethnic melting pot. By 1970, it became the regional capital of Southern Mindanao and eventually the regional capital of Davao Region. The highly-urbanized city became a home for people of various faith: Christians, Muslims and the Lumad tribes (natives of Mindanao) 

But in 1980s, the city plunged into a crisis. It is caught in the middle in the conflict between criminals, communist rebels and leftists. Murders in the street became a norm. A story my aunt shared is that, as a little girl in Davao, people carrying guns and arms while buying bread or walking down the streets are a common sight. She remembered that her family used to bring food outside the house and if they did not, some men with guns would knock on their doors to demand why they didn’t give their share for the ‘revolution.’ As Luzon and Metro Manila is busy struggling to restore democracy during the Martial Law, Davao has its own war within. 

Because the capital has its own conflict, locals of Davao decided to take the matter into their hands. Civilians form vigilante groups such as ‘Alsa Masa’ (People’s Rise) to drive out criminals and rebels. There was no day without someone killed. It earned the nickname, the country’s murder capital. 

A young boy who is part of the Alsa Masa Anti Communist Group patrolling Davao’s slums

When Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on 1988, it took a tremendous effort and drastic measures in his part to make the city livable again. In his tenure, strict laws are implemented. A curfew on minors is enforced. Bars and Disco are ordered not to sell alcohols by 1AM. Smoking policies are enforced in public areas. Motorcyclists without helmets and defective lights are not allowed to go to the city. Once when I came to Davao, the shuttle van we are riding stopped at a checkpoint before entering the city. I thought the officer would just poke his head inside, check the bottom of the car, and signal us to move, just like in shopping malls or subdivisions in Manila. No, he made ALL the passengers alight the vehicle so he can conduct a thorough search inside. Before we climbed again, he checked our bags. Guns are definitely not allowed in the city. 

And if you’re a drug addict, drug pusher or a drug lord in Davao City, you might as well leave a will or a suicide note behind because the Davao Death Squad will be knocking on your doors anyday. No due process of law. No time to say goodbye to your friends and family. It remains inconclusive whether Duterte is connected the DDS or he has nothing to do with it but the vigilante group acts as the present-form of Alsa Masa, this time battling crimes and drugs in the city. 

(To be fair, Duterte ordered the establishment of Drugs Rehabilitation Center for the Youth in Davao City.) 

Present-day Davao

Take note, social stability in Davao wasn’t restored in a single day, technically, in a single term. Of course, many initially refused to live with it. Many defied the city’s laws. Many accused Duterte for nonchalantly dismissing human rights just like that. He had to stay in power for more than a decade to give birth to the Davao now. Anyone who can’t stomach his leadership are either forced to flee out of the city or laid buried somewhere.

Are you prepared to live with this? No smoking in public areas. Liquor ban after midnight.

How about this in major roads and highways?

This will be the setup if we change into Federalism. Each state will have their own finance and budgetary departments. Two senators will represent each state in the Senate.

Many Duterte supporters like to apply his leadership in a national level. As I said before, we are fed up with government not doing anything. But did many of you ever stop and think this: It took more than two decades, more or less, for a no-nonsense, mercenary-like Duterte to change Davao and its image. For a country of 7,107 islands and more than 100 million people, can you imagine how long it will take for the whole Philippines to follow Davao’s stead?

And given how the Filipinos often complain about anything, how they insist and push the candidates they like to run and then after a short while (maximum of two years),  they felt that this person is not doing enough and they would now raise the cry for this person to resign. If Duterte does run, Filipinos have big expectations around him. If he gets elected, he will overthrow the present system and build a revolutionary government. He will change the Constitution. Goodbye, Centralism. Hello, Federalism. It will take an awful lot of work and time for the people to accept and adapt by it. And I’m not even talking about the laws and regulations we all have to live with yet.

SIDENOTE: In Marikina City, when Bayan Fernando was the mayor, people were fined and had to be part of community service when they are caught throwing candy litters on the street. Many were outraged and thought it as OA. But BF has to do it and grudgingly, Marikenos accpted it and lived with this. Now, we are known for being one of the most disciplined cities in Metro Manila. This didn’t happen overnight. 

I understand his reason for not running. He’s too old. All he wants is to enjoy the results of his work in the city. Let him. For those people stamping him as selfish, using Heneral Luna’s ‘Bayan o Sarili’ lines to taunt him, you’re not doing any much good. Please, just please, respect this man’s decision. If you want to make this bayan good, start with your sarili

If Duterte intends to change the system fast, to be compressed within the six years of his time or before he dies, and given the ‘Let the government do all the work’ mindset that we have, it will be like Martial Law once again. And admittedly, I would oppose that. Due process of law is a basic human right. It raises a disturbing and sad rhetoric that in order for all the Filipinos to get their, pardon the expletive, shit together, the authority must strike fear on their hearts. No, we, as a people, are capable of more than that.

We have to develop a critical mindset of what we need as a country. If presidents are assessed and are subject of critiques, why not ourselves too? If someone like Duterte is elected in national office, do we have the capacity to accept and cooperate with his style of leadership?

And in my opinion, given the present maturity that we have, most of us will not be able to. It will be messy, it will be bloody. We still have a long way to go. Before then, we have to evolve as a people. Understand that governance is a collaborative act and it needs your participation, cooperation and constructive feedback. It’s not a play that should satisfy you while you’re just there watching and doing nothing.

Hopefully, by then, we can finally choose the leader that we don’t only want, but the leader we need.

Are you sure you’re ready for this?

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