Monday, December 12, 2005

Creating a Philippine Parliament

The adoptation of a parliamentary form of government is the emerging trend among governments around the world. As with the presidential system, it has its advantages and disadvantages. But ultimately, governmental success would be determined by how its officials govern the state.

Parliamentary Failure?
The legislature in the Philippines suffers crises in credibility and legitimacy. The people has grown weary of the unending inept yet amusing exchanges in the Congress floor - whose politicos compete for the longer media mileage and merely devote time in increasing political clout. This chronic disease, if one may call it that, has significantly reduced the credibility of the Congress as they earn the ire and distrust of the very people they serve.
Can this 'parliamentary dilemma' be remedied by a restructuring of the legislative system? What is proposed is the shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system, as the latter emerges as the current fad in the world systems. Restructuring the state organizations and redefining processes may perhaps be the answer to the socio-political ills. The parliamentary system is argued to be the institutional solution to the inefficient status quo. Although it has been repeatedly argued by esteemed scholars that institutions do essentially determine political outcomes, individual actions of actors would inevitably emerge as an equally strong independent variable in meeting certain political goals.
Numerous arguments have been presented on the merits of the adaptation of the parliamentary system as per its ability to determine and shape the fundamental qualities of the actors and processes working within it. For instance, a consequence of a governmental shift to parliamentary system would be the acquisition of value-systems indispensible in successful parliamentary governments. If we have a weak party system and there is no party discipline among the politicians, adoptation of a parliamentary system would eventually and consequently result to the 'improvement' so to speak of the political party system. As no hard empirical evidence has yet been produced, these are risks that a country must be willing to take - as the failure of such predictionss may well be the failure of the whole government.
Such claims do have the semblance of truth (as some would contend), but institutional prognostications, I believe, would be ultimately fatal if forcibly applied, as the government is doing now, in the Philippine system, as the internal structures of the institutions fails to give the assurance that undertaking such transition would result in efficient institutions. If such endeavor is failed to be attained, then what the outcome would be formations of merely half-baked systems that would offer no real solutions, or worse, would, instead of alleviating, prove that the cure is worse than the disease.

The Transactional Parliament
A compelling argument against the parliamentary system is the absence of checks and balances that the presidential system offers. In the presidential system, the existence of the executive branch assures neutralization of powers when necessary. Removal of this safeguard may in the end have dire consequences.
The idea of constitutional change in the Philippines emerged from a series of dealings and transacions between the politcal elites of the country. If the reqriting of the highest law in the land would be dictated by the transactional, power-seeking politicos, then there is a high propensity that your reforms are half-baked products that are merely created to prolong political power. What is feared is a transactional, weak parliament that are dominated by rent-seeking, traditional, transactional politicians.

Adopting a Parliamentary System: Veto Players
On the other hand, taking the framework of the Veto Player analysis, the creation of the parliamentary system may be the solution to the stagnancy of development reforms in the country. As Tsebelis would argue, the increase in the veto players in the system would result to increase in policy stability and decrease in policy change, while the decrease in the veto players would result to a decrease in politicy stability. By policy stability I mean the capacity to alter/change the status quo and institute reforms in the country - thus policy stability may be positive or negative depending on the need for reform in a country. Unquestionably, the Philippines needs reforms - policy change - or the opposite of policy stability.
What the current system is, in terms of policy determination and decision making, is a tripartite system - with the President, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. When coming up with policy reforms and decision, these three competing veto players are more often than not in disagreement. The conflictual relationship of the veto player, as what is happening currently in the country - results to an inability to institute necessary reforms. Thus, adopting parliamentary system would reduce the veto players from three to just one. If this is so, there would obviously be no conficts between the three offices, as they are non-existent - and only the single veto player - the parliament - would call the shots when crucial decisions are needed.

All Readings.
George Tsebelis.


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