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Are Filipinos ready for Charter Change?

and an undisciplined party system on top of the


persistent problems of poverty, population explosion
http://www.philstar.com/philstar/News200504159801 and widening budget deficit, is ripe for change, said
.htm Abueva, who was secretary in the Constitutional
Convention (Con-con) in 1971.
Not too many Filipinos are aware of the real issues
behind the clamor to amend the Constitution, let "It is a "challenging information effort" to educate
alone have a full grasp of the specific and Filipinos of what good a shift in government style will
accompanying revisions in the 1987 Constitution do for the country," he said.
being firmed up and debated on by lawmakers.
Finding a cure
A recent survey conducted by an independent think-
thank group, IBON Foundation, showed that a A parliamentary form can "cure" the country’s
significant number of Filipinos are still either "undisciplined" political party system, Abueva said.
undecided or unaware of the issue, with only 33.6 But it will not be enough to bring about progress in
percent of respondents saying they are aware of the this poverty-stricken country. It is by transforming
issue. This was slightly up though from the 32.9 the highly centralized unitary-presidential to a
percent recorded in a similar survey conducted parliamentary-federal system that bold reforms will
previously. be pursued and attained, he said.

Majority of Filipinos are also not too eager to amend By changing the system, government will be closer
the Constitution by next year to allow a shift to a to the people and political parties will be transformed
parliamentary form of government, according to the progressively, he added. "Political parties will
survey conducted last June 30 to July 9. become strong, stable, disciplined and program-
oriented organizations to mobilize the participation of
Some 44.5 percent of Filipinos are actually not in citizens in the affairs of government," the CMFP
favor of Charter Change. This was higher than the proposal on Charter change said.
38.1 percent who disagreed with the propoal in the
previous IBON survey conducted last April. The Even as majority of lawmakers in both chambers of
number of those who support Constitutional Congress are presently pro-administration, this does
amendments also fell from 29 percent in April to not automatically translate into full backing of Mrs.
21.83 percent in the recent survey. Arroyo’s proposed legislations, it noted.

IBON partly attributed Filipinos’ continued opposition Political bickering and constant party switching have
to Charter change to the perceived motives of been known to hinder work at Congress in the past.
politicians to consolidate greater political power. Under the current system, the executive must also
engage in lengthy debates and lobbying with the two
Most of the respondents in the IBON survey also chambers of Congress before a bill can be passed.
wanted President Arroyo to focus her attention on
improving living conditions as well as curb corruption "Under the present political party system, GMA has
during her first 100 days in office. the huge majority in the House and a comfortable
majority in the Senate but it does not mean she has
The political party system particularly comes under the support of the legislature," Abueva said.
fire for being "immature," said IBON research
director Antonio Tujan Jr. "Thus, under a He said the country’s political system will be
parliamentary system, the coalitional party can transformed because political parties will be
degenerate into an authoritarian majority." competing with each other in attracting support from
the people.
The common argument among lawmakers and
analysts is whether the Philippines is mature enough "Parliament will consist of 100 more seats (in the
politically to depart from the present presidential House) than those regularly elected by districts. But
form of government. The question now is: Should it should not exceed 300 because it is expensive. The
political maturity come first before Charter change? 100 will be reserved for distribution to the political
parties according to the total votes they get
According to a political analyst and leading nationwide. What does this mean? It is a big
proponent of Charter Change, political maturity incentive for the parties. Get more votes so that they
follows the makeover of a system. "(Political) can get a bigger share in the 100 seats," Abueva
maturity comes with the change of institution," Dr. explained.
Jose Abueva, chairman of the advisory committee of
the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines It is through the reformed political parties that the
(CMFP), said. national government and local governments will be
more accountable to the people, Abueva said.
In an interview with philstar.com, Abueva pointed out
that the basic problems of governance and public And the President could be the "transforming" rather
administration are rooted in the nation’s "obsolete" than a "reforming" president that she can be if her
political system that obstructs lasting solutions to push to revise the 1987 Constitution to
poverty and underdevelopment. accommodate her proposed change in government
takes place, Abueva pointed out.
Philippine politics, which is beset with divisiveness
"At least now, there is general awareness on the part
of our leaders (in Congress). They realize that our The CMFP proposal
(present presidential) system is flawed," the former
president of the state-owned University of the According to Abueva, there are two main compelling
Philippines said, citing the prolonged applause Mrs. reasons why the Philippines needs to adopt a
Arroyo received from legislators during her state-of- different form of government: a defective
the-nation address last month when she called for presidential system and a dysfunctional political
revising the country’s Charter next year to allow for a party system.
parliamentary form of government.
The parliamentary-federal system being proposed by
Past leaders and the political elite," Abueva said, the CMFP will see the national government only
have continued the practice of our colonial masters responsible for national security and defense, foreign
and have allowed Manila to remain centralized. The relations, currency and monetary policy, citizenship,
unitary-presidential structure in the Philippines dates human rights, customs and immigration issues,
back to American colonial rule. among other functions of a federal government. All
other socio-economic functions and government
"They did not have the imagination to break away services that impact directly on the lives of the
from the past. Being creative means changing the people will be the responsibility of ten regional
form of government," Abueva stressed. governments or States and their local governments.

The daunting task for the Arroyo administration is This is true in countries like Malaysia, India, Canada,
ensuring that the public is well informed of what Australia and Federal Republic of Germany, the CMFP
Charter change is all about in the first place to pave noted.
the way for support from Filipinos, majority of whom
are living in poverty. The 10 proposed states under a federal form are
Northern Luzon-Cordillera, Central Luzon, Metro
"That is a tall order," Abueva admitted when asked Manila, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, West Visayas-
how the President would be able to convince the Palawan, East Visayas, North and West Mindanao,
people that changing the form of government would Bangsamoro and Central and South Mindanao.
prove to be beneficial to them.
Under the parliament, the executive and legislative
He, however, said Mrs. Arroyo can "persuade" the powers are combined. The leader of the majority
people if she continues to provide basic services to party or coalition is elected as Prime Minister by
them. parliament as well as members of the Cabinet.

Abueva expressed confidence that the President can According to the CMFP proposal, parliament shall be
make it happen, citing a well enough performance in bicameral. Members of the "House of the People" will
office for three and a half years before she got a new be elected in the parliamentary districts and by
six-year term in the May 10 elections. "proportional representation" of the political parties.

"GMA, in her first three and a half years in office was The CMFP argued that while some supporters of
able to demonstrate that the government can deliver parliamentary government want to have a
services which are mandated by law and to which unicameral legislature, another house in the
money has been appropriated. Kulang (It was not parliament is needed "to represent and promote the
enough) but there is delivery and she can persuade rights and interest of the States."
the people where the money will go because she’s
trying to demonstrate all the time that she is trying This will ensure the states’ or regional governments’
to help like in housing, social welfare etc.," he autonomy, powers, functions and resources vis-à-vis
explained. the federal government, it said.

And having a vice president popular to the masses "The members of the House and States - much
by her side could also do the trick. smaller in number - shall be chosen by the State
Assemblies," it said. "Every state or regional
"It should not be difficult for her to convince the government shall have an elective State Assembly
people with (Vice President) Noli de Castro helping, that also combines executive and legislative power."
that is why she is using Noli as a way to make her
communicate to the public," Abueva said. The regional government elects the leader of the
majority party or coalition as the State Governor who
The CFMP, which advocates Charter change through then forms a State Cabinet "made up mostly of
constitutional convention, has been developing its members of the State Assembly.
draft on constitutional reforms for over three years. It
conducts research and consults with local political A voter, Abueva said, will vote for a member of the
leaders and scholars from different universities parliament in his district and the national party of
across the country. choice. He will also vote for a member of the State
Assembly and the party of his choice.
A constitutional convention means that people would
have to elect who will amend the Constitution. The CMFP is also proposing a special article in the
Another way of amending the Charter though is to Constitution that will acquaint political parties on
transform Congress into a constitutional assembly. their roles as members of the system. Another
proposal is the inclusion of a "bill of duties and instead of Federal Form using Presidential w/ 2
obligations" of Filipino citizens. "This will be Congress [House and senate] like USA (my own
accompanied by a reform in the electoral system," opinion).
Abueva said.

GMA as Prime Minister?

If the Charter is revised before the 2007 polls, Mrs.


Arroyo can be prime minister, owing to the six-year
mandate she was given in the May 10 elections,
Abueva said.

"Certainly she cannot be deprived of her right


because she was elected to a six-year term. So she
can continue to be head of government and head of
state but only until 2010," he said, referring to the
expiration of Mrs. Arroyo’s term, adding that

Parliament has a term of only five years.

If the shift to parliamentary-federal form is


established by 2007, a new prime minister will be
elected in 2010 after Mrs. Arroyo’s term ends,
Abueva explained. "But it can also be provided that
the President’s term be extended for two years but
not as prime minister, just a member of parliament,"
he said, noting this can be provided for in the
transitory provision in the constitutional revision.

"Wholesale changes" will be introduced in the


Charter, Abueva said as two articles will be affected:
the presidency and Congress. "When two whole
articles are changed, it is already a revision. An
amendment is like just changing the term of a
president," he said.

Parliamentary vs Bi-cameral-Presidencial
Pros
- No Actor/Bogus president
- Fast Law enactment
- No need to wait for 6 years to replace a PM. A
parliamentarian invoking a 'No vote of confidence'
supported by majority votes is sufficient [hence, no
need to go to street and stage people power revolt]

Cons
- Traditional Politicians rules [hmm better than a
bogus president]

Federal Govt vs Republic


Pros
- Country's wealth evenly distributed
- Every region has their own mini-presidents (e.g.
Governor) and enforcemnt of local laws applicable for
the region
- Central Govt to handle Finances, Foreign Affairs and
external defence.

Cons
- Less wealthy regions will have greater tendencies
to breakaway from the federation of states w/c
means war [most likely bangsamoro region].
Example is Indonesia [Aceh and Timor]

Note that its better to go with Federal State using


Parliamentary form of Government [like Malaysia]