Sunday, December 30, 2007
In my belief, that institutional reform needed to strengthen Philippine democracy is the parliamentarian shift from the presidential form of government. Parliamentary is defined as the form of democracy wherein the executive authority rises from and has responsibility over legislative authority. Our current system is presidential, wherein executive and legislative branches are elected separately, with neither branch having the capacity to limit the term of the other.
The presidential form of government is historically seen as less capable of solving the problems of our country since the authority is divided between the executive and the legislative (not to mention the third branch that’s judiciary, whose elements do not get elected). This division results in legislative gridlock, support for majority rule, creation of narrow policies and debate over political controversies. Since our presidential system separates law-making from the executive, senators and representatives become less interested in providing national policy unlike in a parliamentary system. Hence, our presidential system presents additional difficulties for a reform management and weakens the ability of the president’s political leadership to commit itself to reform policies and to implement the same against political resistance. The presidential system in this democracy has a detrimental effect on its ability. Among defective democracies like ours, a presidential system of government is more frequent whereas most consolidated democracies are parliamentary system. Presidential systems can be expected to be more resolute and less decisive than parliamentary systems since a powerful president possesses an additional veto privilege whose support is required to change the status quo.
Meanwhile, if the institutional reform of parliamentary shift is permitted, it can provide better conditions than the presidential system for a successful democratization and the consolidation of democracy. The most positive effects of a parliamentary system for strengthening Philippine democracy arise in the party system, with further effects for the whole representation structure including the private and non-government sectors and the civil society. Since a parliamentary system needs stable party structures for the generation of political options, political leadership, and power seizures, its strategic position is quite different from the party members in presidential systems. In contrast with the presidential system, parties in a parliamentary system have to focus more on program alternatives than on the personal virtues of individual leaders and their peculiar choices. Parties also have to seek a closer connection to the citizens’ preferences in order to present possible alternatives. This in turn requires closer links to interest groups and civil society and induces a more vibrant representation system. To overcome weak representation structures, parliamentary government provides more appropriate incentives than presidential system.
Establishing a parliamentary system of government can be seen as institutionally reforming since it is likely to influence the major defects of Philippine democracy positively. It could be combined with a strategy to increase executive power in order to address problems of state weakness that are particularly widespread in our developing nation. Therefore, introducing a parliamentary model in the Philippines should be a priority strategy particularly for volatile democratic rule such as the presidential model in our country.