What will our Prime Minister and Parliament be like?
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-09-04
JUST because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed last Friday the Sigaw ng Bayan People’s Initiative, it does not mean that the campaign for Charter Change is over. What the Comelec dismissal does is simply shift the venue. Charter Change or Cha Cha is still on the pipeline and we should not relax our guard at all.

After all is said and done, Cha Cha is really a pitch for the parliamentary system. Under the parliamentary system, the prime minister has the top post. Thus, it is time that we unmask what the prime minister and parliament will be like given our kind of patronage politics.

The pro-Cha Cha proponents brag about greater accountability and faster delivery of services under a parliamentary system. They entice support by claiming that the check and balance gridlock under the present presidential system will be eliminated by the merged function of both executive and legislative under a parliamentary setup. Rather, all matters will be led and administered by the prime minister, the new ‘capo di tutti capi’ as Mafia Dons are called.

The first point to consider is to whom the prime minister will feel accountable. Will it be to us the electorate or to the Members of Parliament (MPs) who will elect him. To gain an insight to that, one only has to look at the present House of Representatives and the relationship between the congressmen and the Speaker of the House.

Despite the surveys that attest to the fact that the majority of Filipinos want to know the truth about the 2004 elections, we have seen the active hand of our House of Representatives in suppressing the search for the truth. They did that last year and they did that again this year. On both occasions, public sentiment consistently favored an impeachment in order to ferret out the truth. Nothing best demonstrates the dysfunctional nature of our democracy under the control of these traditional politicians than this callous disregard for public good and sentiment.

Despite the fact that the majority of Filipinos find pork barrel allocations as irregular, despicable and a source of graft and corruption—our congressmen find it just impossible to give up the juicy enticement. They crave pork like an insatiable glutton.

Is it any wonder that Congress registers in public surveys as the least trusted government institution? Such has been the case since the time of President Cory Aquino. Congressmen have been portrayed as con-men in media, hogging headlines that scream about a range of unthinkable crimes from gun running, statutory rape, kidnapping, lascivious behavior and so forth.

Do these people have what it takes to inspire confidence and trust to perform both the legislative and executive functions of government? Sounds like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

If someone raped one of your two daughters, would you give him the other daughter and expect that this will make him abandon his wicked ways? If you can believe that, then you can believe that we will be better off in a parliamentary system.

In the parliamentary system, your congressmen today will also run the ministries once they become Members of Parliament or MPs. In effect, you not only gave them the full discretion to allocate their pork barrels but you also gave them the full reign of the whole apparatus (budget!) of government.

Who will put the brakes on them when they go on a plunder spree? Who will stop them from loading the ministry that they will run with supporters and leaders in their respective districts? Do you think the prime minister can and will do that? Don’t forget that the prime minister will be beholden to the MPs for his election—unlike the president who is directly accountable to the people. Knowing the dynamics of our patronage system, whoever sits as prime minister will not sit a day longer once he loses the goodwill of the MPs.

We are told the cock and bull story that under a parliamentary system there is no need for an impeachment because the parliamentary system has built-in mechanisms for recall and can hold elections anytime public dissatisfaction is reached over its performance.

Now that may be so in a parliament that is responsive to public opinion. Seeing how these congressmen scuttled the impeachment process twice, your chances that they will accede to public opinion are none and nil. Once you make the mistake of making them both the legislative and executive powers of government, you may never have another chance to rectify your monumental mistake.

In effect, allowing these traditional politicians to operate with greater powers and less check and balance is like enthroning the very men and women that you least trust to the highest seats of power. That is not just a case of something that does not make sense—it’s outright insane!

In our present setup, a good president can veto bad legislation. In a parliamentary system, the type of a prime minister we will get—the prime minister this type of MPs will elect—will likely just go along with bad legislation. Don’t forget that the prime minister will be one of the boys. In today’s setup, even if we have a conniving House of Representatives and Executive branch, we have the Senate to stand up for us and our Senate has done their nation well by being the main fiscalizer of today’s abuses of power.

Even the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court who had lately displayed a fair measure of independence with the High Court’s decisions on PP 1017, EO 464 and the Pre-emptive Calibrated Response policies of the Arroyo regime, may not be able to function anymore as an independent institution knowing how quid pro quo is transacted by traditional politicians. We must remember that to be appointed to the judiciary will now become the sole prerogative of Parliament, unlike in the presidential system where the president recommends and the legislative branch, through the Committee on Appointments, has the power to reject the appointment.

The same will apply to the military and all the other agencies of government.

Now, do you see salvation when all these shall have come to pass?

You may email William M. Esposo at: macesposo@yahoo.com

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo