Change the system

"A presidential form is not compatible with a multiplicity of parties as a two-party system which was what the wise men who framed our 1935 Constitution decided upon."

We keep blaming our elected and their appointed officials for whatever ails this country. We criticize, even make fun of, some of their pronouncements as well as their actions. That of course is our right. In some cases, it is our duty, whether because we are part of the media, or because we are citizens and taxpayers who deserve to be served properly.

But in the case of our country, it is not just about the quality of our leaders. It is the political system. That system sucks. And because leaders adapt to the system within which they operate, even those who entered politics with so much idealism eventually bend their character and their principles in order to survive within that system.

The fault is in our present Constitution. The 1935 Constitution, steered by several wise men which included the venerable Don Claro M. Recto, although written under the auspices of the American occupation through the Jones Law, provided for a political system which in many respects are more suited to us Filipinos than the current 1987 Constitution.

Whatever their lack of differentiating ideologies or platforms, the two-party system served our democracy better than the present multi-party set-up which in reality is nothing else than party-less politics.

As I keep writing in this space, and even in previous publications where I wrote a column, our so-called political parties are nothing more than flags of convenience—the convenience of personalities with ambitions of getting elected, whether in local or national office. Even worse, these parties are “owned” or were “owned” by businessmen with interests to protect.

Take the recent brawls for the speakership of the House. The balance of power was tilted not only by the President’s 15-21 Magellan formula, as insisted upon by his daughter, the city mayor of Davao, but by the “owners” of the political parties coalesced together in support of the administration. Who owns the Nacionalista Party (NP)? The National Unity Party (NUP)? The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC)? The Lakas-NUCD? Even party-list FoC’s such as Manny Pacquiao-trademarked but Mikee Romero-owned 1-Pacman?

The PDP-Laban, which was organized as the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino by the likes of Nene Pimentel and the revered Lorenzo Tanada, has degenerated from a small but progressive-minded party into an umbrella for all shades of political turncoats. Simply because their chief financier, when he was mayor of the country’s richest city, put up his own coalition when he got elected vice-president and wanted to be president.

The party, by a fluke, became the adopted standard of President Duterte, when it “lent” a certificate of candidacy to the still-undecided mayor as a Comelec deadline loomed. That party of convenience has elected the president its chairman. In truth, though, he does not interfere in running the affairs of the PDP-Laban.

As for the Liberal Party founded by Presidents Roxas, Quirino and followers like the Atienzas of Manila and Jose Avelino of Samar, everyone but a few who used to crowd it have now deserted and moved to other parties not identified with the “yellow” brand.

The 1987 Constitution, written by a hand-picked 49 men and women while Cory was still presiding over a “revolutionary” government, initially fashioned a multi-party system under a parliamentary form of government. But when the commissioners voted upon the form of government, they strangely decided upon a presidential form by a margin of one solitary vote. They did not bother to correct the fundamental error—that a presidential form is not compatible with a multiplicity of parties as a two-party system which was what the wise men who framed our 1935 Constitution decided upon.

Thus we have hundreds of political parties, some local, some regional, and less than a dozen national parties. Add to that the party-list system, of which about the only ones which have a defining ideology are the progressive parties such as Bayan Muna and Gabriela. These are unfortunately labelled by the ultra-right as communist fronts, forgetting that our legislators have long ago repealed the Anti-Subversion Law, precisely to get the “leftists” to participate in the legal, parliamentary discourse.

Speaking of which, this writer joins the protest against the warnings issued by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. against actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin, even Catriona Gray, for coming out in defense of the rights of women detainees.

Red-tagging should have no place in a free society, where no thoughts are supposed to be illegal. Only when so-called leftists take arms and commit violence against society and government should they be deemed public enemies. Defense Secretary Del Lorenzana did right when he admonished Parlade to shut up if he has no proof about what he accuses people of.

If time proscribes amending or even revising the present Cory constitution, then we submit that the next leadership of this country should initiate it as soon as he gets elected.

Bring back the two-party system, and along with it the right of the parties to name their precinct inspectors on election day, paid by the government. Independent candidates, while allowed, should finance their own precinct watchers.

A vote for the president must be counted automatically as a vote for his vice-presidential running mate. The same should go for the governor and the mayor along with their “vices”. Teamwork, rather than clashing interests, should be the modus vivendi.

Senators should be elected by region instead of nationally. At two senators per region, regardless of population, we will have 34 senators. That would allow the poorer regions a bigger voice, and better share of the expenditure budget. “Imperial” Manila will be a thing of the past.

Dissolve the provincial boards, and let the municipal mayors comprise the policy-making body for a province. Dissolve likewise the city and municipal councils, right-size the number of barangay and let their chairmen take turns at passing ordinances.

Let’s give our elected officials a term of six years, not the present shortened term of three years where they think of nothing except re-election or breeding dynasties.

The fewer elective officials, the better government will run. The cost savings alone will be sizable and better used for social services.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Change the system , Constitution
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