"I propose that we elect a lower number of officials, which will translate to more efficient policy-making."
A friend, after reading my previous article entitled “Parties,” asked me whether I propose a return to the presidential two-party system in the 1935 Constitution.
My reply was, if we are to retain a presidential form of government, yes, we ought to revert to a two-party system.
It’s different if we shift to a parliamentary form, where a multi-party system, hopefully with specific platforms or advocacies, may vie for political power and with it, the commitment to pursue their core advocacy.
If we retain our present unitary government, we ought to remain presidential. If we shift to a federal structure, I would go for a quasi-parliamentary form where a president who is head of state and retains fundamental responsibility over foreign policy and national security is elected at-large by direct vote of the entire Filipino electorate.
It would be similar to the French quasi-parliamentary system, which although unitary, has a president elected nationally, with a run-off election to produce a decisive majority if the multi-party election does not produce a president voted by more than 50 percent of the electorate.
Whether unitary or federal, the Filipino would want to retain the right to elect his “supreme” leader in whom, rightly or wrongly, he would repose his trust toward a better life and a better future. The parliamentary concept of a purely ceremonial head of state with a head of government with plenary powers elected not directly by the electorate, but by his elected representatives in a parliament or congress, would not sit well with our political culture.
Let me go beyond that proposal.
I propose a simpler model of governance which could be adopted whether we go federal or remain unitary.
We begin with the bottom rung of government—the barangay or village.
A first step would be to rationalize our barangay size and voting population to achieve as much equality as possible.
Let me give an example: Manila with a voting population of less than a million has six congressional districts and 897 barangays.
Butuan City, with a voting population of almost 160,000 (my numbers may have changed as of latest registration) has 80 barangays. By land area, the entire city’s territory is bigger than Manila’s.
Proportionately unfair. By population, Butuan’s barangays should be a sixth of Manila’s, not 11 times more.
The disparity becomes more glaring if you compare Manila with Quezon City. The former has almost six times more barangays than its neighbor which has almost one a half times more voters than the latter.
Review the number of barangays in every municipality and city and my point will be proved. The disparities need to be improved.
I go to my second proposal after having rationalized the number of barangays in every municipality and city in the country, which is quite radical.
The barangay chairmen would constitute the legislative or policy-making body of the LGU, rather than an elected set of councilors. In smaller LGUs with proportionately smaller populations, the number of barangay chairmen would likely be about a dozen. In larger LGUs, which would have, say, less than a hundred barangays, the chairpersons could take turns, of say two or three years each.
Effectively, there will be no more elected city councilors. Since the barangays are representative of the entire populace, why have another layer of policy-makers in the councilors? Policy-making would be similar to a board of directors in a corporation where each represent stockholdings, as the barangay chairs would represent stakeholders.
Corollary to this proposal is another: elective terms should be six years, rather than three. As has already been shown by our experience since the 1987 Constitution was ratified, three years is too short a term to achieve good and goal-oriented governance. If six years proves too long for an incompetent and corrupt LGU head, a recall mechanism can be institutionalized.
If we abolish city and town councils and supplant its councilors with barangay chairs, so should we replace the provincial boards (bokales) with the elected town mayors in a province. The same principle applies. Where we have 20 mayors or fewer, the policy-makers would sit for six years. Where there are 40 or fewer, the mayors could take turns of three years each.
Let us elect mayors and vice mayors as a team, and the same goes for provincial governors and their elected second-leads. Vice governors will preside over the policy-making board composed of the mayors; vice mayors over the barangay chairpersons sitting as a council.
The same goes for the president, whose vice presidential team-mate in the same party is automatically elected with him. No cross-party voting should be allowed under a new constitution. The vice president is not only the constitutional successor; he should preside over the Senate if we have a two-chamber legislature. Or the speaker of a national assembly if we opt for a single-chamber legislature.
With these proposals, there will be a lower number of elected officials, with consequently lower cost for the taxpayers. But it will yield more effective policy-making.
Voters will also write on their ballots every six years with fewer names: One vote for the president automatically elects his vice presidential candidate. One vote for governor translates to the same vote for his vice governor. The same goes for the mayor and his vice mayor. Three elected executive officials—the president, the provincial governor and the town mayor. Two in the case of highly urbanized cities which do not vote for a provincial governor.
If there is a single-chamber legislature, the voter chooses a congressman to represent his district. If we opt to have a Senate, we should elect senators by region, where the candidates are chosen by the party in a convention.
If we have the present number of administrative regions, we would have a 30-member Senate with each region having two elected senators. With a genuine two-party system, our senators, chosen in regional party conventions, will surely possess better qualifications than the celebrities and other candidates whose only qualification to the Senate is their popularity.
Voters will write down only five to six names in their ballots. We don’t even need voting machines like the US-Venezuelan Smartmatic contraptions made in China.
We would have two elections in six years, with the barangays alternating with the other officials to be voted upon, from president down to mayor.
Will government be less responsive if we had not bokales and konsehales, and our senators elected by region rather than a nationwide popularity contest?
Think about it.