Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The presidential system of government is one in which the principle of the division of powers is strictly applied. An executive branch exists and presides independently from, is not accountable to, and cannot dismiss under certain context the legislative branch. This separation of powers is a guarantee of the independence and separate election of assemblies and executives. The congress, the president and the Supreme Court being independent institutions, overlapping of officials in these government branches is avoided although one another’s power may be constrained mutually. To illustrate: the Congress may legislate although the law may be vetoed by the president, which veto may in turn be superseded by a two-thirds majority of the bicameral house. Similarly, the president may render senior executive and judicial appointments, although these appointments will still have to be confirmed by the congress’ upper house, the senate. In his book The Spirit of the Laws (1748), The Baron de Montesquieu launched the doctrine of division of powers, the separation of authority among three branches of government called the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
All presidential systems across the globe have similar features like the president being incapable of proposing bills. The legislative branch takes care of the lawmaking although the president has the power to veto legislative acts. The president is supported by cabinet members who serve at his/her pleasure in implementing the policies of the other two branches. Before these presidentially-nominated cabinet members or government judges can serve, presidential systems require them to pass legislative approval. Relatedly, a president has the authority over cabinet members, military or anybody else consisting the executive branch, but has no capability to influence judges’ decisions. Also, there is a fixed term for the rule of the president, the election of whom is elected at scheduled occasions. This fixed term may be shortened in the president is removed for having violated the law. Finally, the president has the power to pardon and commute convicts since this head of state rules independently from the legislative branch.
Normative Effects or Results: As such, a network of checks and balances among the divided branches is embedded in such a system that ensures the prevention of the rise of the president into a monarch or a dictator. This check and balance, in practical terms, will be dependent on the fragile balance between the president’s authority and popularity on the first hand and the political composition of the assembly on the second hand.
As a result of separating law-making power from executive power, a presidential system provides inherent tensions that contribute to the protection of rights and liberties of the democracy. This strain of struggle between the executive and the legislative branches of government aggravate the possibilities of a presidential system’s ineffectiveness and unmanageability. Meanwhile, the proposition of one branch and the subsequent disposition of the other branch may be simplistically dismissed as institutional deadlock or power sharing, especially if the ruling administration belongs to the same party as that of the congress.
III. Actual present situation: government analysis (is it in line with what the outcome of having a presidential government should be)
History and background of the Philippines in terms of government
True to the definition of a presidential system of government, the Republic of the Philippines has a presidential structure of government, the branches of which—the executive, the legislative and the judiciary—are coequal. The Executive branch is composed of the President and the vice President, both of whom are elected to their office via direct popular voting and are eligible for a six-year service. In order to help administer various particular government functions, the President appoints cabinet members who stand as department secretaries. Meanwhile, the legislative branch that is accountable for drafting bills into laws is composed of a bicameral house, the upper house (which, again, is synonymously termed senate) and the lower house, or the house of representatives. The upper house is led by the senate president whereas the lower house, by the speaker. Finally, the judiciary branch is composed of the network of courts, the highest being the supreme court and led by the chief justice.
Problem points and areas of improvement
While more than half a century has passed since the presidential form of government took effect, the current system has failed to deliver to the Filipino people in terms of economic and social development. An international history canon, in fact, commented that “Although the Filipino constitution set up a democratic government, a wealthy elite controlled politics and the economy.” Filipino historian Renato Constantino noted that the failure was due to the fact that the current system is a colonial inheritance with an imperializing motive. “Some of the myths that were deeply ingrained in the Filipino consciousness were:…that the Americans came…to give the Filipinos democracy, …that they trained Filipinos in self-government to prepare them for independence, and that after granting the country its independence they allowed the Filipinos to enjoy special relations with the United States which were beneficial to the young Republic.” The failures’ reasons are as follows:
There is a venomous power struggle between the separated executive and the legislative branches of government. The upper-house senators are nationally elected like the president and as such, competition for power is intense, manifested in the consistent gridlock and conflict among them and far too numerous investigations in the congress. As a result, lawmaking and the necessary reforms are somehow delayed and thwarted. The centralization of power in the current system gives the Filipinos a hard time at addressing problems and responding to challenges effectively and efficiently due to the clashes between the two, other times among all three, branches of government. Such was the problem of centralization of power and the attendant difficulty that Constantino was compelled to say,
“But the establishment of local governments did not mean any great measure of local autonomy. The local government system remained under the close supervision and direction of the Executive Bureau, an office under the governor general. Administration was so highly centralized that the governor general’s authority reached into the smallest town by virtue of his power over the tenure of office of even the elected officials…The Americans retained the administrative units that the Spaniards had created, keeping them as before under the control of a strong central government and without much leeway for initiative in the solution of local problems.”
The impeachment of a president-gone-wrong is complicated, making the required change of an unjust government difficult to alter or abolish. This is obvious in the case of the current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Relatedly, the government structure is unstable because without impeachment, the president may be booted out of office via people power and military participation in political affairs. This is best exemplified by Gloria’s predecessor, former President Joseph Estrada.
This system is also volatile because the president can maneuver an extension of his/her office by means of constitutional amendment, such as in the case of Manuel L. Quezon, or by martial rule, such as in the case of Ferdinand Marcos. Not only is the presidential system volatile but also is the set of political parties in it weak, unstable, and undemocratic. Due to this, the leaders elected from political parties cannot be held answerable to the democracy that voted for them and for whose welfare they exist. Power is diffused in the parties and leadership is not concentrated so there is a difficulty as to the responsibility of good governance.
Also, the candidates for President and the Senate get elected not for their political leadership but only because the influence of the media and film makes them popular and winnable. Moreover, national elections involving these two branches cost much, consequently corrupting the system because of the lack of automation which should have hastened the results of countrywide polls.