Taking the measure of Congress

I am rushing to meet a deadline, and so will not comment on today’s events until tomorrow. However, I am posting this article, which I co-wrote with Teddyboy Locsin some years ago, because it focuses attention on Congress: of which, the Senate is now enjoying center stage, even as the House plots to abolish it.

The Philippine Congress
By Manuel L. Quezon III and Teodoro Locsin Jr.

THE story of the Filipino nation and people is inextricably intertwined with their love-hate relationship with their legislatures. Under Spain, moderate Filipino reformists pined for representation in the Spanish Cortes. When they threw off Spanish rule, they nonetheless modeled their bourgeois congress in Malolos after it.

Under America, we aspired, first, for representation in a lower house and then flexed our political muscles by adopting a bicameral legislature to counteract the American executive. These legislatures, we loved. Tyrant rulers from the Japanese to Ferdinand Marcos, who was also corrupt, and corrupt but genuinely democratic rulers have used rubberstamp national assemblies to decorate their regimes and advance their personal or partisan interests; these legislatures we hated. And that about accounts for all the legislatures we have had.

We have measured our democratic maturity by the transformation of a unicameral assembly under the Commonwealth into the bicameral Congress of our unfortunate Republic: legislatures we loved to deride yet sought to restore when they vanished because the redeeming few unquestionably patriotic leaders we have had came from there. Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Jose Diokno, to name just the most recent.

Conquerors and constitutions have come and gone, and yet the ultimate aspiration of the Filipino people remains the same: to express their nationhood by means of a legislature, which betrays instinctively correct sense of checks and balance and John Locke’s assertion that the first principle of political organization is that no man may be judge in his cause. Put simply no one can be trusted to be judge and jury or president and congress all in one.

The catalog of legislatures, for those who didn’t pay attention to their teachers in school, may be given short shrift.

Token representation in foreign legislatures, twice: in the Spanish Cortes (when liberal and anticlerical forces held brief sway in Spain) and in the United States Congress (where we could send resident commissioners to the lower house to talk but not vote from 1907 to 1946).

Appointive legislatures thrice: the Malolos Congress; the Philippine Commission from 1901 to 1916 (with an elective lower house, called the Assembly, from 1907-1916); during the Japanese occupation from 1943-44.

We have experienced unicameralism twice, under the Commonwealth from 1935 to 1941 and during martial law with the farcical Batasan Pambansa from 1978-86, where our politicians got the first and addictive taste of parliamentarism nonetheless; certainly its most flavorful feature which is the combination of the appropriation and the spending power. In other words, they could write their own shopping list and spend our money as they pleased though their pleasure was somewhat restrained by an overbearing president-for-life who used the prime minister out of parliament as his footstool.

And we have had bicameral legislatures thrice: from 1916-1935; from 1946 to 1972; and from 1987 to the present — where the lower house is aptly that and almost consistently ignored and derided, and the upper house is aptly uppity, self-serving, gratuitously obstructionist, and thickly larded.

The typical pork barrel in the House is some P65 million pesos yearly in projects, not all of which are funded and therefore never materialize. In the Senate it is P200 million, pretty well good as cash because the Budget department dares not cross them. It is easier to get a majority out of 24 senators to frustrate the president’s agenda than to achieve it among of 220 members of the House desperate for any crumbs that will ensure their election or that of their spouses or children. The senators are also entitled each to an indeterminate amount for nearly unlimited staff, so that each senator can recreate or pretend to recreate in his office the tenured staff support that exists for and must be shared by the entire House of Representatives’ in short, a cash cow and mangy dog. As we all know, neither surfeit or hunger are conducive to clear thought and rational act.

The common thread that binds these legislatures together, and ties them closely to our history, is the Filipino propensity to treat the executive power as suspiciously alien and prone to do harm, while holding our representatives in contempt as ever inclined to debasement while holding them up to the highest duty of checking executive abuse, which they cannot do without enjoying a measure of public support. Which, it must be said, they frequently do not deserve.

Thus Malolos congress was about the desire to trim down the powers of the dictator-president Aguinaldo; the Philippine Commission was rocked by the efforts of Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera to play a role as “people’s advocate,” a role that would be played in later years by Osmeña, then Quezon, Rodriguez as leaders and by Sumulong, Recto, and Aquino, Sr., as dissenters.

In her essay “origins of National Politics,” historian Ruby Paredes has this to say of Pardo de Tavera: “In Manila’s colonial politics, [he] was better suited than any other Filipino for the role of people’s advocate.” In response to the backpedaling of Taft’s successor, Governor-General Luke Wright, who tried to slow down the progress of Filipino participation in colonial affairs, and who consulted the Federalistas in government less and less, Paredes writes that De Tavera was “thrust into the center of the controversy, a position which, by virtue of personality and temperament, he held well. As the highest-ranking Filipino official, Pardo de Tavera’s statements were newsworthy and he used the media exposure to good effect. Described in later years as a man who was “not afraid to be quoted,” Pardo de Tavera indeed shirked none of the challenges of the Wright administration.”

In Pardo de Tavera’s own words, “I have not accepted American sovereignty for the pleasure of being under the dominion of a foreign nation, but because I thought that such a dominion was necessary to educate us in self-government.” De Tavera’s would be replaced by Sergio Osmeña who would then be replaced by Manuel L. Quezon.

In his day, Quezon was said to have been popular with the young. His political style was innovative. He was considered modern. The Free Press of the era described how Osmeña, in his office in the Ayuntamiento, entertained members of the press by offering them light wines and biscuits, in the best tradition of Spanish hospitality and taste. Quezon, in his office in the Intendencia, served sandwiches and beer to the members of the press. In many ways Quezon’s political style — garrulous, intimate, relaxed — was in itself an innovation.

By contrast, Osmeña was criticized for being aloof, detached, formal, which in itself was not bad, following, after all, the rules of decorum of the 19th century. The only problem was that this was already the 20th century. And while Osmeña harked back to the best things of the century that saw his birth, his exact contemporary Quezon knew that the times were changing, and that with the introduction of the New American Order — and its rambunctious governance — a change in leadership style was advantageous and inevitable. That is why he went to the best school for learning politics, American-style: The Congress of the United States.

Since Quezon’s generation had to secure their goal of national independence in a game whose rules were drawn up and whose play was refereed by Americans, the logical thing was for Filipinos to learn how to play American-style, and play it well. By the time he returned to the Philippines, in 1916, he had mastered American bluster and wheeling-and-dealing. He immediately set out to practice what he learned. In the process, he recast the political landscape. A piece of trivia, to illustrate the point: It was not until 1922 that English began to be used in the Philippine Legislature — the year that Quezon emerged as the No. 1 political leader. He had learned his lessons in the US Congress well.

This was real politics. Not the languid acts of a “directing class,” a group of gentlemen leading the nation according to an aristocratic ethos. This was sweaty, rough, ruthless politics. The politics of the poker table, of rooms thick with cigar smoke. Of ward leaders and party machines. This was politics as modern as the inventions revolutionizing the age: wireless radio, airplanes. This was politics geared towards winning and winning, again and again, through the systematic demolition of one’s opponents and the depletion of their resources because every victory made the next one so much easier. Machine politics, Tammany Hall politics, this was the politics that gave Quezon a nickname among American friends. Tammany Hall sachems nicknamed him “Casey.” The politics of the speakeasy and the Jazz Age. The youth loved him.

But after the war, it was pass. In the United States alone, politics changed with the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt: the era of big local kingpins gave way to the power of the party with its national (no longer merely a group of local alliances) constituency and leadership. In the Philippines, the opposition called Young Philippines begun questioning Quezon’s Big Chief style even before the war. The Japanese Occupation, and the rise of alternative movements, such as the Huks, graphically revealed the limitations and abuses of the pre-war “tayo-tayo” system. Too many people insisted on being among the “tayo” of “tayo-tayo,” as to produce too many chiefs and too few Indians.

The prophets of the new politics, the politics of direct appeal to the public — and not just the voters anyone and anything, even those too young to vote in the hope they might persuade their elders. It was revolutionary in the French sense as calling for mass mobilization, indiscriminate recruitment and collective self-perpetuating ignorance.

This style would be exemplified by Ninoy Aquino first, because even the popular Ramon Magsaysay exhibited a certain restraint and decorum. The office then still made the man, while Marcos was already the maker of his own morals and by Ninoy Aquino’s it was clear that the man would be making the office whatever it became, even from opposition for Ninoy’s savage and unanswerable attacks on the ambitious Marcos largely inspired the latter to become more conspiratorial and illegal in his reaction. A style of presidential governance that would be carried over to all his successors.

Our legislatures have always been about two things: leadership and dissent: the former surreptitious, clandestine, working always behind the scenes because often for no good; the latter always out in the open, exuberant, eloquent, exaggerated, destructive.

Referring to the opposition in Congress during his time, Claro M. Recto observed that “After its catastrophic defeat in two consecutive elections it disintegrated completely and the members of that opposition are now suffering from acute leukemia, the red corpuscles in their blood being eaten up by leukocytes and have placed themselves under the wing or rather under the shadow of Malacañang for crumbs of patronage and for protection against persecution by their [party] opponents in their respective districts.

What Recto must have meant was anemia because leukemia is fatal and mercifully puts an early end to its victim but an anemic goes on and on, helpless and useless. And it is anemia that has characterized Philippine legislatures which have been worthless to their friends, harmless to their enemies and faithless to the public it is sworn to serve. On the other hand, a comparative Viagra has best characterized the executive, including such pallid administrations as that of Roxas. This serves to remind us that we must be thankful to the line of great dissenters who managed to single-handedly invigorate our politics. This line of dissenters — Juan Sumulong, Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tanada, Jose W. Diokno, Jovito Salonga, Ninoy Aquino — links our political past with the present. Each of these men served the cause of democracy well, which is basically getting the other side heard if not heeded.

Few today remember Don Juan Sumulong, except perhaps a few political genealogists who have noted that he is the maternal grandfather of Cory Aquino, thanks to whom a gaggle of his relatives with not a particle of resemblance to the original managed to get elected after Edsa. While the sudden crush of relations essentially harmless to our political life is yet another proof of how dynastic politics need not worry us because it is a problem with its own solution over time, what is important to remember is the original Juan Sumulong’s record as an oppositionist. It was breathtaking.

He was, together with Recto, one of the pillars of the Democrata party, the perennial opposition party during the 1920s. Under his leadership the Democratas twice nearly toppled the Nacionalista party from its perennial preeminence through shrewd alliances with one or the other of the factions that regularly split the NP. When finally the Nacionalistas managed to swallow the Democrata party, Sumulong chose to stand alone, bitterly criticizing the reunification of the Nacionalistas after the acceptance of the Tydings-MacDuffie Act. The Democratats having vanished, Sumulong warned that the creation of a monolithic, unchallenged administration party could only lead to dictatorship. He was wrong by only forty years.

During the Commonwealth, when even the great Recto was happy to be in the ranks of the dominant Nacionalistas, Wenceslao Q. Vinzons and a small group of young leaders — not all of whom stuck to their youthful idealism — spoke up in spirited opposition; later on he would give his life for his country during the war.

In the first two decades of independence, Recto once more played the role he relished and in which he was happiest: the great dissenter. He roused the dormant nationalism of a people grown pudgy with Coca-Cola culture, left an incalculable legacy of intellectual probity and strength. A legacy continued by Lorenzo Tanada, who, though he never pandered to the popular taste, was repeatedly returned by his people to the Senate until, on the eve of martial law, he chose to retire, only to work even more tirelessly against the dictatorship. A younger voice joined Tanada’s in the senate: Jose W. Diokno. He too scorned to flatter oligarchs for their support or pander to the popular taste in politics, and stood defiant to the end against a rising dictatorship. After the democratic restoration, Jovito Salonga stood up for principle, finally achieved, before the astonished eyes of the old man Tanada, who had been brought in a wheelchair into the Senate to witness the event, the removal of the US bases.

The fact that dissenters, espousing difficult causes, have successfully courted the mandate of the people speaks well of us. For while quality is hard to find, and perforce we must frequently settle for harmless mediocrity as the lesser evil, we as a people have shown that we recognize and reward quality when we see it.

Another crucial thing to understand about Congress is that it violates the physical law that nature abhors a vacuum. Indeed, US legislatures waxed powerful with wan presidents but in the Philippine Congress a political vacuum in the executive merely triggers an adjournment as congressmen make a beeline for the exit.

The 1935 Constitution envisioned a strong presidency in keeping with the personality of Quezon, so the presumed capacity of the legislature to check that power was inherent in the framework established. But capacity is one thing and inclination quite another.

To be sure, the legislature would increase its influence over national affairs vis-a-vis the executive in succeeding administrations but never enough to overshadow the powerful office which, ultimately, always called the shots. This was true even with regard to the power of the purse, which is the sole and defining prerogative of Congress, the lower house in particular.

Under Quezon, the president had virtual carte blanche to move funds around in the teeth of declared items of appropriation; starting with Quirino, who had Quezon’s authoritarian streak but none of his political agility, the Congress began reasserting its traditional prerogative to fix budgets and set expenditures. It even passed a law putting a cap on the national borrowings so that, when the comparable societies of Latin America would plunge periodically into bankruptcy the Philippine economy moved steadily — never spectacularly but always steadily.

When Marcos became president but before he made himself dictator, he perfected the juggling of congressional appropriations and the use of pork barrel funds as a means for congressional control. In short, it was a kind of judo where he used the very power of his office’s traditional opponent, against itself. In short, he was buying the politicians with their own money, if Congress may be said to own the taxes that people pay — which is pretty much how they treat them.

It got even easier when Marcos declared martial law and constituted himself as a government of one, combining the executive and legislative powers in his person, while adopting the Supreme Court as his new rubberstamp. He abolished all limits on appropriations and spending, basically giving himself the authority to spend on whatever he pleased and as much as he wanted — an authority he exercised to the hilt.

The bisection of the Congress into an upper and lower house only slowed but did little else to stop the growth of executive power to authoritarian dimensions. And the impetus was not a sense of senatorial duty to maintain the principle of checks and balance but personal ambition, with the Senate convinced that it was the School of Presidents where at least one graduate would be president in time.

The most logical thing of course was for the senators to conspire to enhance the office that one of them would inevitably achieve. But most senators were convinced that, while one of them would certainly be president, the rest of them perforce would not and therefore took care to keep that office within some sort of limit. And that was the only friction that the growth of presidential power experienced.

Some say that it was the country’s bad luck to have a straw man, Gil Puyat, at the helm of the Senate when martial law was declared. This is unfair to a decent individual because it was not the weakness of its titular head that paralyzed the Senate but the brazenness of the assault on democracy that froze the senators in their shoes and left them flaccid thereafter.

Although frequently outmaneuvered by the executive, an appropriate deference was always paid to the Senate. But never had the senatorial class been humiliated as it was with Marcos when he sent soldiers to simply nail its doors shut and then proceeded to arrest — not all the senators for he knew their quality or lack of it — but only two: Jose Diokno and Ninoy Aquino. It was a master psychological stroke, striking individual terror and collective insult to the rest of the chamber. The House of Representatives was simply not hear from again, though the Speaker of the House, Jose Laurel, went home to pack his bags in readiness to be taken away to detention. No one came for him. Another masterstroke.

Marcos then proceeded to threaten though mostly to cajole and corrupt the members of a sitting constitutional convention into drafting a new constitution that he had already written down and which imparted to him absolute power while granting to the legislature the handsomest perks for offices stripped of any real role in political life.

He promised that those who voted for the Palace-dictated constitution would be automatic members of the legislature it created in caricature. Yet, when the vast majority did just that, he abolished it with the most expressive show of contempt and called for elections to a new but still rubberstamp parliament.

Essentially Marcos wiped the floor with Congress, using it as a dishrag while he took upon himself the serious work of lawmaking, particularly for his, his wife’s and their cronies’ benefit. To this day, the republic’s finances continue to be compromised by the obligation to repay what they stole and wasted.

That left only the Supreme Court as the lone self-respecting institution separate from an executive with no sense of limits or of shame.

Although described by one US authority as “the least dangerous branch,” because it cannot act on its own initiative nor does it the physical power to effect change, the highest court can stop the other two branches dead in their legitimate tracks if it chose. They could ignore the Court, of course, but they would proceed thenceforth with little or no legitimacy — and legitimacy is what government is all about.

In the world’s most populous democracy, a chief executive had declared emergency government and given herself extraordinary powers — in effect, martial law — but the Indian Supreme Court ruled, in a decision dripping with legal erudition, that it was unconstitutional. Indira Gandhi backed off and restored democracy.

The Philippine Supreme Court did the opposite. It could have, at the very least, refused to rule on the issue of martial law, on the basis of the specious adage that when the guns speak, the laws fall silent — which was true but did not absolve the Court from doing its duty to issue a ruling. Instead, it went a step further and validated martial law. And it would do so repeatedly so that, as one jurist put it, martial law was erected stone by stone by the decisions of a craven Supreme Court. Marcos declared martial law but it was the Court that said it was right.

There had been signs that the Court would rule in that fashion, not least its complete lack of fortitude in upholding the president’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus after the Plaza Miranda bombing of which he was, at the time, believed to be the author. Like the proverbial first kiss on a first date, which has been compared to the first olive out of a tight bottle, once gotten, the rest follow first with increasing ease and then with total abandon.

Congress never recovered from the humiliation of its complete dissolution. To be sure, it redeemed itself, at least in appearance, in 1987 and again in 1989, when it convened to condemn a military coup still in progress. The 1989 coup attempt showed every sign of succeeding until the last minute. But no one doubts that, if a coup had succeeded, the Congress would have continued in session and legitimized the junta.

The year 2000 seems like a better one for the proposition of a revitalized Congress in the restored democracy. But the impeachment of a crook hailed before Congress with his hand still inside the cookie jar actually failed, although narrowly. It deserved no cigar and got none. The President fled the Palace but no thanks to Congress but rather to a big, noisy but not altogether representative popular uprising best remembered for its loud rock music. The fall of the President may have been caused less by real political pressure than a hearing not to mention a comprehension problem on his part that might have mistaken shrill song for screaming outrage.

This is not to say that Congress does only the bidding of whoever is president. That would miss important nuances in legislative acts. Congress can act on its own and display an admirable originality, a startling craftsmanship and an unexpected wisdom — all from 220 members who are brimming with ideas and insights that are bottled up by a firm tradition of legislative subservience. So that when the president shows either a complete indifference or only selective interest in a certain topic of legislation — in the latter case concerned only that there be legislation on a subject without any particularly strong idea what kind — Congress fulfills its hallowed purpose well: the making of laws which, by definition, should be in the public interest.

Congress also contains marked talent and wide erudition, which, on the individual basis, far outshine any to be found in the executive department. The present Congress has a superb draftsman in Antonio Roman, whose astringent legal writing style may be best described as succinct, penetrating and yet illuminating.

Among the solons who have contributed greatly to the qualities of coherence, clarity and constitutionality to legislation in the present Congress are, on the opposition side, the ciceronian epicure Ronaldo Zamora, the passionate Carlos Padilla, the nagging Muslim “Digs” Dilangalen (who grabbed the limelight in a singular and still ongoing defense of the deposed president’s innocence) and the penetrating, persistent, indefatigable and always prepared to an exasperating degree, Celso Lobregat.

The oldest congressman, Herminio Teves, speaks consistently with perspicacity, injecting any issue with that dose of common sense that seems always to elude the general public on any issue. But, once challenged by the executive, the Congress folds in obedience. This has been increasingly the case with every administration, regardless of the personality of the president.

The story of Congress, then, is about our legislatures being the personification of the Filipino mistrust of the executive power and the desire to curb its power, combined with our unsurprised discovery that each new congress never fits the bill. Yet we continue to want it, as a symbolic foil to the country’s real ruler in every aspect of the national life. The reason is that, if we cannot trust the Congress to come up with good laws or even check the executive, we trust the executive even less to make the laws himself — as Marcos did when he combined both powers in his person and robbed the country blind.

That Cory Aquino continued this arrangement through her first year and a half in power — ruling as a benevolent dictator with astonishing self-restraint and evident success, producing a remarkably fine yet comprehensive body of important legislation — elicited no public regret but rather a collective sigh of relief when she surrendered the power entirely back to a newly elected congress.

Indeed congress, like the famous definition of democracy as the worst form of government except for all the others, may be described in the public perception as democracy’s worst institution except for the other two.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

34 thoughts on “Taking the measure of Congress

  1. It looks like Gloria is taking some pages from Marcos’ notebook, she’s just introducing some variations.

    The proposed changes, might even work well or better for Filipinos, who knows. Given a different setting and timing, the majority of Filipinos might even support the changes that are being presented. Personally, I have always been supportive with going with new things and might even support and try out a unicameral legislature.

    The problem with the current proposals is the “strong perception” that is going to be used by GMA just to prolong her hold in power, not the sold “for the good of country” reason. What are the facts? Her support for cha-cha only started when she was almost thrown out of the palace in July. In addition, the proposed implementation is so rushed that no better deliberation and study was conducted. Once more, the saying “haste makes waste” has been proven true. The Abueva con-com recommendations were thrown away!

  2. The article reinforces my perception that both the Presidential office and the Senate chambers are obstacles to better overall governance.

    Listening to Honasan on ANC tonight (especially when he discussed the continuum from RAM, through Oakwood and to today’s disgruntled young officers), it also seemed clear that their core complaints have remained the same regardless of who was sitting in Malacanang.

    So, maybe a change in governmental structure is valid? Maybe the structure and the political system which has grown around it are more of a problem than any individual President or group of Senators?

    How can change be implemented? Which changes are beneficial? That’s surely up for debate. And yet, the act of debate is the first place to start. So let’s debate.

    And that’s the important part — the recognition that things could be improved and that an all-out airing of points of view is a great starting point. Whether or not GMA steps down or fulfills her term; when exactly she bought into the argument that changes are both desired and (probably, hopefully) helpful; whether or not Lakas and/or the LGUs are today’s dominant forces pushing for real action leading towards change…all of these things are secondary.

    Many types of people and groups of various stripes and colors have called for major political reforms for a long time. And here’s the opportunity staring them in the face…right here and right now. I would think that all of these people and groups would prefer to take advantage of the chance and would capitalize on it.

    On the other hand, everyone can get sidetracked and complain about which personalities are presently, temporarily, sitting in those historically flawed offices.

    To date, those offices continue to exist, the players keep changing…and the same old problems remain. And that’s why I support fundamental change vs yet another round of musical chairs. And since so many groups — from the far left to the far right (and most everything in-between) — keep saying they want true change, why not get down to the basics and stop the recent waste of personality assassination/destruction?

    To borrow a silly analogy which has been in vogue — it’s not the driver(s) making the problem, it’s that the vehicle is a lemon, a junk heap. This old car has sputtered and choked long enough…

  3. geo, i think you miss the point of the article. the substance of the article is checks and balances; that if temptations are inherent in the legislative and executive, it is keeping the two separate -and the legislative further divided- that prevents their concentration in the hands of a single person or a cabal that can’t be changed.

    the whole problem is that a debate cannot take place properly if the results of the debate are predetermined -in other words, if the two sides debating are going to be subjected to judging (i.e. a referendum) but the results are already in before the voting even starts -or if the debate results in a fraudulent question being posed.

  4. This is very enlightening going back to history. The stronger reason we should not abolish the bicameral legislature since this present administration has the propensity to use congress for its lust for power (giving P45 billion of funds to kill the impeachment complaint). The Senate maybe looked upon as nuisance but it serves to check the overreaching arms of President Arroyo to silence everybody on electoral fraud.

    6 years is too short for a good president but it is too long for one who is making mockery of the basic right of every Filipino to determine its true president.

  5. The same problem as when the President Arroyo railroaded the power of the senate to sit as court to convict or exonerate the Presidency in electoral fraud because she influenced Congress with P45 billion pork barrel of taxpayers money to kill the impeachment complaint.

  6. Gone is the meaningful respect of law as Carlos P Garcia have shown to us. President Arroyo keeps on repeating her loud proclamation of her “respect of the law” when she already greased the pockets of congressmen who did her bidding.

  7. Here comes ChaCha. President Arroyo once again shown her “respect of the law” to have her party dominated and pork-barrel-induced congress to rubber stamp chacha with even more flavor, no election until 2010.

  8. In such a quarrelsome society like ours (our civic clubs, golf clubs, barangay associations and sports associations are always embroiled in divisive disputes), a bicameral legislature represents gridlock. However, if mistrust ranks so high in our society that another layer of checks and balances takes precedence over a more efficient means of governance, then we deserve a bicameral system.

    Should we opt for bicameral, I certainly hope that the means of electing the upper house via national polls would be amended. It denies representation for many regions and is heavily biased in favor of entertainment and media personalities (who mainly reside in Metro Manila, which is the seat of media). Besides favoring celebrities, national polls are much more expensive and require the backing of vested interests (which could mean anyting from religious organizations to crime and gambling organizations to business and corporate groups). The huge expenses involved usually lead to graft and corruption and/or dictation by those vested interests.

  9. carl, a senate elected at large was designed to rely on block voting to give parties a chance, and strengthen the ability of parties to determine candidacies, which might afford unkown and not wealthy candidates to have a chance. when block voting was removed, celebrity politics emerged. if no limitation is to be placed on electing senators, then i do think it’s sensible to elect senators by region.

  10. In a unicameral system one party governs while other party acts as the check & balance.
    In the present system.The lower house has an opposition.The upper house has another opposition..
    The concept of check & balance has created more gridlock that the much need Laws we need.
    The Since the Presidency is a national position & envolves major money to get elected so there is the Senate who watches over the exsecutive.But also the Senators is a national position & they too need big amount to be elected.How can they be an effective check & balance when:
    1) They have open ambitions to be president
    2) They obiosly have agendas & interest to protect
    So who checks & balance them?

    It is no wounder that sooner or later we arrived to a gridlock.
    Since money is the source of all evil & it takes serious amounts to be elected to National positions.
    Certainly check & balance is needed because of the very nature of money needed to be elected.A a unicameral system will no longer limit parlament to millionaries.

    It seems to me making a systen simple makes it also easier to pin point responsabilities.
    The more you complicate a sytem for differwnt reasons.The more you open it to mysterios things to happen.
    Is not our present experience of checks & balance another form of confussion?
    To tell you the truth I find myself more confussed & i’m more convinced that the real bottom line boils down to “agenda & interest”.
    I find it difficult to beleave,Senators can do their role effectivly.Between protecting their “interest” alone & add to that their “egos”.There will be so little left to benifit the people.
    Democracy as you read it from a book or in how it is supposed to be may be attractive.
    But it is only as good as people show respect to it.
    To make democracy work it seems to be it’s better not to create to much space that politicians will use for their own needs.
    Too many cooks spoil the brothe.

  11. Joey, on previous posts, you dismiss the opposition as being weak and ineffective… On this post, you fear that the opposition can be too effective… Which is which?

  12. mlq3,

    No, I understand what you and Locsin were saying. I just looked at your info differently than you two did.

    The actual need for the “checks and balances” was due to the inordinate power either the President or Senators have been able to wield. The “temptations” you talked about would best be eliminated…by simply not having those two bodies exist in the first place. The Prez and the Senators typically get their positions via their “personality” rather than because of some political platform…and therefore they are not directly responsible to anyone or any group…especially a political group/party which wields its own “internal” power. This type of political party I am referring to, in turn, must derive it’s own power from the local populations voting for their local offices (and for their representatives on the national scene).

    The unicameral parliamentary system, it should thus be noted, HAS its own form of checks and balances…and each political position held requires support from both the party and the local population. “Personality politics” doesn’t thrive in this environment…and it typically doesn’t produce free-wheeling, non-accountable individual players who can succumb to temptation and do whatever they want.

    THAT’s the conclusion I reached (or more accurately — your article reinforced my thinking).

    Meanwhile, I note your cynicism about debating the possibility of constitutional reforms (you know, reforms that everyone in the political spectrum have been screaming for over the past many years…and decades). Your objection, I guess, is that you are convinced that the general public’s votes in a referendum will be manipulated.

    Now I understand the roots of that cynicism are pretty historical, but I think you and many others mostly base your doubts on the perception that the present administration (and Comelec) have and will use their position to commit electoral fraud…and render any plebescite useless.

    Your proof? Why the Graci tapes, of course. Understood.

    Just one question, though: How’s Legarda’s recount going? If fraud was committed, it will be revealed in the recount, no?

    OK…make it two questions…let me add: why is the recount getting so little media coverage?

    Seems to be that Legarda’s protest might be the best way to “settle the issue of legitimacy”…and everyone can then get a little more serious about making a thorough review of the options available in instituting positive changes and in correcting existing shortcomings in the constitution.

  13. Manolo, a gridlock for me is when things get stolled endlessly.When there are so many Laws that need to be passed but it does not happen because there is a continous intramurals between beteen the upper, lower & exsecutive.
    Only a political analist will be facinated.But the people who would like to see results will never see anything.

    cvj, I have no fear about an opposition being effective.In my earlier entry I took the position of the advantage of a unicameral system where there will always be a check & balance system because it will be one party governs & the others in effect does the check & balance.
    I alreaady wrote Manolo once that that it was not being completely honest that the unicameral system did not have a check & balance syetem.In anything where there are 2 & above people involved there will forever be a check & balance always.
    The bicameral system has a checks & balance proportionate to the risk in the system because of of nationaly elected post & the amounts it takes to me elected.
    Let’s not be “attached to a form” that can be manipulated by man.I’m more for substance & results.

    What I’m after are effective systems that work.Unlike what we have now.
    So we have a check & balance,but do we have results from investigations?
    Is our Congress a “working” or a “quareling” group of people.
    I don’t see how check & balance relates in moving the country forward.In our present bicameral system.
    In the Cory Constitution the vote for unicameral lost by one vote.
    Opposition is always healthy for a democracy.But pls. naman let it be an opposition of substance!
    Fancy words & theory are just part of the picture.It’s the reults that count.

  14. geo, to say personality politics has no place in a parliamentary system is to ignore the way parliaments have functioned, particularly in places where parties weren’t stronger than the purse strings of those funding them. the history of parliamentary governments is one of colossal greed, corruption, and so on, since its origins were simply replacing the absolute powers of a king with the absolute powers of a larger band of aristocrats. the parliaments of modern-day italy, and of japan, have been fabulously corrupt. and for parliaments in principle, i am not against them totally if they are bicameral -which most are. people are people, and people handed power are subject to the same temptations -except there are fewer limits to a unicameral parliament’s abusing its powers than to say a bicameral parliament or a republic.

    my proof for suspecting a plebiscite might be manipulated have nothing to do with the garci tapes. in general, fewer people turn out for constitutional referendums; and in such a referendum, the advantage lies with the officials most interested in pushing for it, skepticism with the comelec is based on allegations of widespread disenfranchisement in the last elections, which isn’t in the garci tapes; just as my opposition to the president isn’t based on what the tapes contained, but how she handled the whole controversy. she mounted a cover up, which makes her having won (and i’ve said i still believe she won) absolutely irrelevant now.

    the kind of debate we will have is best described by those who participated in the president’s consultative commission -they were appointed, debated, talked, and then were surprised when the final draft of their report reflected none of the consensus reached in their discussions, and was submitted without their having been given a chance to review it. and even if we assume the proposals as they will be adopted are worth examining, the whole thing is being so rushed that even if its passed, not by reason of reasonable debate, but by simply because of a stampede, it won’t have public credibility. because as it goes into effect, the public will be shocked by the reality of what they weren;t given a chance to understand.

    as rep. jaraulla told us on dong puno, the government amendments means the president has the option of handing some powers to parliament, but she won’t necessarily have to, although if she doesn’t, parliament can impeach her -but the the president can simply dissolve parliament.

  15. mlq3,

    You characterized the history of the Philippines’ bicameral status thusly: “where the lower house is aptly that and almost consistently ignored and derided, and the upper house is aptly uppity, self-serving, gratuitously obstructionist, and thickly larded.” Seems to me that you hit the nail on the head with that description.

    Senators (like the President) are typically winners via their “personality” and their cash (or access to cash). The cost of running for these positions is extremely high…never mind the huge amounts of pork barrel and discretionary funds the winners end up getting their hands on. Once they get into power, these officials have a lot of leeway on how they conduct themselves.

    Lower house members (and LGU office-holders) are more likely the most representative officials (or at least they should be). The cost for running for such a seat, which is by definition limited to a geographical area and population, is significantly smaller. Locally elected representatives are (or at least should be) much more accountable to their local constituents, while their policies (and the effects thereof) can be directly measured and evaluated by the local voting populace. But, to date, this group of officials have much less impact on how decisions are made or implemented.

    Yet you seemingly want to maintain this bicameral presidential system, is that right? Even though the formula has been widely deemed a failure since its “rebirth” in 1986/7. Even though you used the following description: “our unfortunate Republic”. That’s the part I don’t understand.

    Meanwhile, you have tried to counter the proposal that parliaments are less prone to “personality” politics (and by extension, self-interest) by evoking Italy and Japan’s tumultuous political history. (It should be noted that both of those countries have BI-cameral parliaments.) Now I agree that ANY structure is always somehow prone to manipulation, but the idea is to find ways to discourage and limit the possibility. Direct accountability to a local constituency and accountability to a party and its platform/policies are two good ways to discourage and limit the possibility of a single personality becoming a loose cannon and pursuing his own personal agenda. Conversely, the present system’s Presidential and Senatorial positions have attracted (and catapulted) selfish individuals to the heights of almost unbridled personal power and control.

    In addition to localized elections and accountability, and to further buttress the positives of party politics, an electoral process must be fine-tuned so that it supports and compliments the philosophy behind the political structure. And that’s the part that Italy and Japan have been struggling to get right. But as they are slowly evolving into a better system (and overcoming the typical inertia/resistance of the status quo), the Philippines has the advantage of learning from their mistakes and leapfrogging to the latest “world class”, “state of the art” electoral system. Leading edge…the Philippines…shocking concept, I know…especially for those who believe that Filipinos are somehow inferior. But it’s precisely this type of leapfrogging that “emerging players” can do to make them “global competitors”.

    Now I can completely understand your argument (if I have it right) that these kinds of significant changes require careful review, debate and evaluation. I agree. And the process should include analyses of a variety of solutions (not just status quo vs unicameral parliamentarism). I agree. So we might not be that far apart after all.

    So where is the real split in our opinion? Seems that you don’t like the speed of the reforms…nor who is proposing the changes. Maybe that’s the root problem/difference.

    The reason for a speedy review right now comes down to real-life politics. With the country split into many factions, and with the country facing destructive and continuous political strife which negatively affects everyone, the many who want change are pushing hard for a quick change. Coup, snap elections, transitional governments and constitutional change are all on the table…and are all basically rush-rush solutions. In this context, those promoting a unicameral parliament want to succeed before a different program does. That’s politics. That’s reality.

    And you don’t like and/or trust this group, do you? You believe that those promoting this change are only doing so because it benefits them. And you think that they want – and can — ram through a change that the population will be fooled into buying. And that the Comelec will probably work in cahoots with this group to ensure such a solution. THAT’S the problem, isn’t it? It’s not that one of the proposals for a great debate is unicameral parliamentarism…it’s that you don’t like the who’s and how’s. Well, that’s what I’m guessing, at least.

    But then it’s politics…not rational and intellectual analysis…that’s getting in the way. And rejecting viable proposals is not necessarily in the best interest of the general population, is it? In effect, you may be shooting the messenger…in spite of the validity of the content of the message.

    Why do I think you are actually being prejudiced by political biases? Let me illustrate by re-phrasing your position about the players (as I understand it):

    *GMA won the election.
    *But she cheated (or else why would she have something to cover up?).
    *And Comelec allegedly helped (or tried to help) via “widespread disenfranchisement” of the voters.
    *But this conclusion isn’t based on the Garci tapes.


    Then just what are you basing your conclusions on? Other than the Garci tapes (and the reactions of various parties once they came out), what else do you have to go on?

    If GMA cheated, if Garci and her played footsie, if Comelec manipulated the elections, well then Lakas, the LGUs and GMA are only pushing for a unicameral parliament in order to protect/promote their illegitimate and evil schemes…isn’t that how the argument really goes?

    And so I asked — what is the status of Legarda’s protest (and why is that story getting such little attention from the countries luminaries)? Because if Garci and GMA were caught red-handed, a recount will prove it. If no anomalies are found, on the other hand, then the tapes are fakes and GMA wasn’t covering up for her fraud. Seems like the recount is a pretty important event, no?

    Anyway, my whole point is this:

    Rejecting a very good proposal for positive change (which everyone seemingly wants) because the messenger is playing politics in a volatile political environment really isn’t a good reason to reject the notion. Especially since the proponents of this particular solution are distrusted because of an alleged wrongdoing…an alleged wrongdoing which can be shown to be accurate or not via a procedure (the re-count)…a procedure that no one is paying much attention to. So I guess everyone should just ignore the hard facts emerging, should just stick to their political bias…and should reject any good ideas that come from someone they don’t like? Hmmmmm……

    The bottom line is that the present system is a flop, it has hurt much more than helped, and it needs to be changed. If politics is going to weigh heavily in the search for a solution, then one shouldn’t complain that the political majority is the instigator. If the solution should be politics-free (you know, for the national interest), then people should look at the proposal rather than the promoter…pick the best proposal…and vote on it by plebiscite. Those who want to vote, vote. A conclusion will thus be reached. And we can all get back to trying to build a productive life.

    Is that really such a bad thing?

  16. geo, i do think the presidential system is more compatible with our culture, and that a bicameral system, even in a parliamentary setup, is preferable to unicameralism.

    the bigger failures since 1987 have been the coups, which derailed the economic momentum from edsa, and yes, weaknesses in the constitution: for example, the multiparty system which virtually guarantees no president can obtain a majority, instead of a plurality. a president with a plurality is a president almost guaranteed to fail, because he lacks a credible majority. i too, believe, either we must restore block voting, which encourages people to vote for senators based on their party slates, and failing that, then we should consider a senate elected according to senatorial districts.

    The Indonesians, who also favored the presidential system, when studying how to make the transition to democracy, studied the Philippines. They apparently vowed to avoid, at all costs, the current system that dooms presidents to minority rule: hence their provision for run-off elections. more expensive in the short term, more conducive to stability in the long term.

    The two are less divisive and more easily accomplished changes, than the overhaul proposed by the President’s people. Have you asked them to explain how their system would work? Its’ so confusing, that its chief proponent, Rep. Jaraulla, ends up stumped for an explanation. Was their system achieved after a proper consultation? Ask the appointees of the President to her consultative commission. They debated, then discovered all along Jose Abueva had his draft, and that was the one submitted to the President, even though a different draft was voted upon and approved.

    If it costs less to run and win office, will you steal less? Why, if there are no checks and balances on you other than your partymates. The proposed draft also subordinates the courts, including the Supreme Court, to parliament. What incentive is there, then, for the unicameral legislature to be responsive or responsible? There are no penalties for party switching, which even FVR wanted: so you may lose a district or two, but win over another district or two, and who can make you fall from power? There is no institution -not the courts, not the ceremonial president- who can apply the brakes if things get out of hand.

    There’s no reason to give the proponents of the administration proposals the benefit of the doubt, because they haven’t given any reason to inspire confidence. Ordinarily, a constituent assembly makes sense for specific revisions, including a shift from bicameral to unicameral, or those changes i’d prefer: but the changes are so many, so thorough, so vast, that one wonders whether in the timeframe given, either the proponents or the public can come to grasp with it.

    And also: if we go parliamentary, then do it now, else do it in 2010 when the terms run out, and continue with the present until then. But instead, we will have a confusing hybrid. A confusing system cannot accomplish the efficiencies the change in the system is supposed to result in.

    The Garci tape gave the President three options: ignore and deny it, period; independently investigate it, and let the chips fall where they may; or engage in a coverup because who knows where an investigation might lead. Ignoring it at least maintains a facade of innocence; investigating it at least maintains confidence in institutions and the public; covering it up only indicates guilt, and the coverup can be worse than the crime (say she cheated, but would have still won; covering up makes the term untenable, just as what happend to Nixon who achieved a historic landslide but because of the coverup had to resign in disgrace).

    And a recount? The President herself refuses one. The Supreme Court refuses one. The only recount affects the VP and would only change the VP. Considerations that there’s been ample time to clean up the cheating aside.

    I do not believe in the change the car argument. Whether you drive a Volvo or a jalopy, if you’re a rotten driver you will wreck the car. Indeed, the whole crisis is an attempt for self-correction except when every attempt at correction is foiled, then you have the problems we have now.

  17. geo, i don’t think we differ all that much, incidentally, except perhaps i’m more fearful than you. fvr was actually right: if you want to change, then go whole hog now. no ifs and buts. but his option has been ruled out -which, eminently reasonable as it was, says something about those who did the rejecting -his partymates. the ones pushing the more confused -and confusing- proposals which are so, because they have to keep accomodating the president.

  18. cvj. so what do you mean by effective? Is effective same as result oriented where people can see things working?

  19. In considering what is ‘effective’, context is important. Regardless of whether the Senate has been grandstanding or obstructionist in the past, in this particular issue of Charter Change, if they are able to oppose the Lakas-CMD’s initiative, then i consider them effective. This time around, it’s not about the efficiency or speed of passing laws.

  20. mlq3,

    First of all, thanks for taking the time and having the decency to make such thorough responses to my comments. I appreciate it…especially since I’m challenging the logic you are using. You are a gentleman.

    To start with, I acknowledge that we may well agree on a core issue. Though you, on the one hand, want to defend the Presidential Bicameral system…you also have shown that reforms may well be desirable (party/bloc voting and the benefits of majority vs plurality winners, for ex). So maybe we both agree that potential improvements should be studied…and eventually debated in open fora…and ultimately implemented through the majority will of the population.

    On the face of it, though, we disagree on the pros and cons of Unicameral Parliamentarism. (To be honest, though, I’m still not convinced that your main objection is rooted in the perception that this system is inferior. More on this later.) You focus on the idea that the checks and balances of Presidentialism are critical and may not be replicated if the executive and legislative functions are merged/unified. Whereas my issue is that (in the Phils, at least) overly strong Presidential and Senatorial offices have produced powerful, self-interested politicians with little accountability to the electorate.

    But maybe we can turn our disagreements into an agreement. The way I see it, you are for maintaining a system wherein deeply flawed branches (read: strong “personalities” from different branches) can intermittently fight other flawed branches (ditto) and create a stalemate of sorts. Yech. Tough to progress that way. The neutrality reached by competing megalomaniacs — who aren’t really pushing for comprehensive policy remedies — isn’t really where we all want the country to be, is it?

    My suggestion/view is to decentralize power and to bring it closer to the people; to the voters. It’s the voters — in a Parliamentary system built around firm party platforms/politics — who are the ultimate check and balance. REAL People Power can be derived from:

    * The localization of (low-cost) elections;
    * The politician’s direct accountability to a specific geographical populace;
    * The need to stay true to a specific pre-defined set of policies;
    * The ability for new elections to be demanded if and when (and not until) confidence is lost.

    mlq3, so maybe we both want the same thing — limits on the ones who are governing. You want politicians vs politicians and I want people vs politicians. (Said another way: You want some of the evil politicians you know vs some of the evil politicians you know…while I want all the good people vs all the evil politicians? LOL!)

    To be serious, I’d prefer seeing the country being kept on the straight and narrow via voter participation and vigilance rather than hoping Pimentel, Enrile, GMA and Erap will do so. But OK, that’s a matter of taste…and debate.

    Which brings us back to what are seemingly the underlying causes of your opposition to the chacha proposals emanating from the administration and Lakas — the messengers…and your perception of them.

    The problem you cite is that the proposal calling for a major overhaul is too choppy, unclear, patchworked. And the process (so far) has been marked by changes in direction and conflicting opinions. But isn’t that to be expected? Let the debate be brought to the people (via Congress first), but expect a bumpy ride along the way. That’s part of the necessary process. Of course not everything is perfectly defined and resolved yet…but there will be plenty of chefs getting to add their own ingredients. The final proof will be in the stew that is served to the public.

    Name any political party or group or branch in this country which could just easily come up with a broad solution/improvement plan and pass it through without a hiccup. Impossible. So again…forget about the messenger (or their still imperfect proposal), and focus on the opportunity to actually create real momentum for a true change.

    (By the way, I must reject your rejection (heh) of the car argument. If the car is so good…how come almost all of the drivers keep failing again and again? And saying that “the coups were the bigger problem” is being pretty selective — you just can’t disregard all the other political upheavals and their major contribution to the whole mess.)

    So you see, I still think you are rejecting the messenger and not the message. And I still think the roots of your mistrust has to do with the issue of electoral fraud.

    You are for change…you might even be swayed to a Parliamentary, Unicameral or whatever solution…but you want it thought out well…and by many. It’s THIS particular group advocating for a change that’s the rub. And it’s the perception of this group (that they aided GMA in her cover-up of electoral misdoings) that makes their advocacies unpalatable.

    And at the very bottom of all of this, you think GMA did, in fact, cheat. And I think it’s clouding your vision, that you’re missing the boat, that you are falling prey to the swirl of politics…rather than grasping the moment and helping to lead the nation to a better future. Sounds preachy of me, I know. But it’s the reason I’m writing.

    Granted, your reason for believing that GMA cheated is HOW she handled the Garci tapes (rather than the tapes’ contents themselves)…but you still think she cheated. And this whole issue is preventing you from supporting an aggressive chacha movement (or maybe even seriously contemplating it).

    That’s why I brought up the Legarda appeal. Although not being “officially” tallied, both the Legarda and Noli camps repeatedly stated that they are noting (and recording) the Presidential tallies at the same time as the VP recount. And yet the media is barely and rarely giving us any updates. Strange.

    Anyway, if fraud is found, GMA is cooked. If not, let’s see people remove the clouds of suspicion built on recriminations…and take up the enormous challenge of instituting improved political reforms.

    Or, as I have done, forget about all of this BS and just focus on pushing the political “reset” button and starting all over again with a (hopefully) improved, rational, well-tailored political system. The key is to do so using debate and votes…and not by some of the other methods being bandied about nowadays.

  21. Geo, given the current quality of our politicians, there is no guarantee that proposed legislation will turn out to be good so your description of a system “..wherein deeply flawed branches…can intermittently fight other flawed branches..” can and does serve to stalemate bad ideas. One megalomaniac canceling out the other is not an ideal set-up, but it’s certainly better than to be under a ‘one ring to rule them all’ situation.

    As for ‘localization’ resulting in low-cost elections, if cost and direct accountability to the local constituency is the overriding concern, why stop at voting in terms of parliamentary districts? Why not we just elect our Barangay Captain and let him/her elect the next higher level of leaders? Same logic with better price performance.

    The recurring problem with our present system which a unicameral parliamentary system will most likely make worse is the tendency of its members to conspire against the general public. That’s why we cannot just delegate our votes to one set of representatives. For now, the Filipino voters still need to intervene at the national level. In the future, when our legislature behaves better, then perhaps we can entrust them with more voting rights. This is where episodes like the summary dismissal of the GMA impeachment attempt (and the past attempt by the NPC to impeach Davide) become relevant markers.

  22. thanks cvj,i really don’t remember our congress for passing laws w/ speed & efficiency.
    what if an initaitive can offer us solution to our problems.is it correct to opose it?
    Should it not be the case that anyone who opposes can also offer a better solution?
    So, what solution is being offered from those opposing?
    what are the merits to their opposing?
    the change will obviosly affect the senate.
    so where is the line between the senate fighting for it’s survival & national interest?
    it seems that effectiveness is only another word for creating “roadblocks”.even if the opposing party has nothing better to present.
    it seems that we are just looking for the thrill of a fight & lossing focus of everything else.how can that be effctive?
    if i express some impatience it’s only because we are a poor country.we don’t have the luxury of “playing” to much politics.the more we do so.the more we lose precious opputunity.

  23. I don’t want to buttin into mlq3’s and geo’s ongoing debate, but I also have noted the invisible coverage on Loren’s protest. I have written a short blog entry about it back in early december, and until now, it’s still the same!

    Is there anybody who have taken a closer look?

  24. Geo, I tend to agree w/ your thoughts. I’m also perplexed too as to how one system that is being used in many progressive nation be inferior to a system that is not delivering.
    It’s almost like dismissing a person as useless & worthless w/o giving the person to prove himself.
    It seems to me the only institution in a democracy that is indespensable is the judiciary.Because at the end of the day everything must boil down to what the law says.
    Personaly, for me the Senate is a despensable Institution.
    I can’t see how the Senate has contributed to the Nations progress.
    All that is obvious is the the senate is a “power block”.The opearative word is all about the “power” w/o accountability.
    The Senate in theory is not what it is in reality.
    Where is the line between check & balancing & using those same powers for selfish ends?
    I can’t imagine a constitution that will support egos.

  25. joey, apologies for the delayed response (been playing ‘patintero’ with spam karma:-)

    One possible alternative approach as far as Charter Change is concerned is proposed by Fr. Bernas in his Inquirer column the other day:


    Each House can propose its ammendments and refer it to the other. His suggestion to start with overhauling the Comelec is something everyone can agree on…

    As to the value of the Senate, it was because of the 12 Senators (including Erap) that we finally got rid of the US Bases. I was one of those who erroneously believed in a ‘phased pullout’, but i realized later that
    the atmosphere was really different with the American military gone. Now a generation of Filipinos is growing up without having them around. I’m confident we will see the dividends when they take their place in adult society. (Panira nga lang ang VFA, but at least not as bad.) Sometimes even a group of flawed individuals can display collective wisdom.

  26. My apologies for not responding more quickly to some posts which were directed to me. Real life rudely interrupted my virtual life…..

    1. To cvj:

    You obviously believe that a Unicam means that it will be easier for a singular group of politicians to all conspire together and cheat the public. My cheap and easy response could be: “So? That’s what they are all doing anyway — both today and yesterday”. But the more concrete answer is: “With the out-of-power party breathing down the necks of the ruling party, are the two groups really all that likely to get along and hapily connive together?”.

    You also wrote: “Why not we just elect our Barangay Captain and let him/her elect the next higher level of leaders? Same logic with better price performance.” Actually, you just decribed the logic behind the USA’s electoral college process for electing their President.

    Regardless, the key point is that you are using a farcical, unrealistic, unproposed theoretical scenario to counter the proposal that it’s a good idea to give more power to the general public via reduced costs of Juan dela Cruz running for office…and having more direct accountability to the other Juans.

    Lastly, you wrote: “In the future, when our legislature behaves better…”. And pray tell, when — and within what context — do you expect that to occur? Will it be by Divine Intervention? A change of collective heart? Luck?

    Or is change better obtained through legislative and popular reform…through a radical decentralization of power…via a system which inherently demands local, direct accountability to the electorate?

    2. To Jon Mariano — I took a look at your blog. Glad you agree that the whole Legarda story is strangely silent. I’ve mentioned this very same thing in a few other blogs…but no one in media seems to want to respond…or to comment on it. I just don’t get it.

    3. To joey — I think the essence of our similarities is that we both want to measure by results…and to correct failures. Practical solutions trump emotional biases everytime in our book. The past is much less important than the future. Results, results, results. Demand them. Reward good ones. Reform (or scrap) systems that produce bad ones. Are we both from the Technocrats’ camp — which supremely values meritocracy, rationalism and quality?

    The Global Game is increasingly based on those values…one eventually has to choose whether he is in or out. If the system fails, change it. Fast. Period.

    Have I identified you/your predispositions correctly? If so, we are indeed allies in the war of ideas. And if so, good luck to us…it’s an uphill battle, I fear.

  27. Geo,

    I’m sorry but as far as i’m concerned, “So?” is not a satisfactory response, although it’s useful as it reveals the point where our respective value judgements diverge. For you (and Joey), it seems that ‘gridlock’ is the overriding problem. While i concede that checks and balances between two houses of Congress may slow down useful legislation, it also serves to block unwise or self-serving initiatives. I agree with Patricio Abinales when he writes in http://www.mindanews.com/2006/01/25vws-diaz.html that:

    “…For all its good features, it is to be gravely doubted if the parliamentary system will cure our sick society unless there is a significant change in our leaders, of our leaders and in their leadership…But if our present leaders will change and those who cannot change are changed, there is no need to change the system.”

    You also seem to agree in the above assessment that a parliamentary system is unlikely to change the quality of our leaders. If that’s the case, then what’s the point? Divine intervention and luck might help, but I’m hoping for a change of collective heart, spurred on by a vigilant and enlightened electorate. Meanwhile, from an economic standpoint, the political system must make it as costly as possible for potential bribers to do their job.

    As for the Barangay Captain example, the US electoral college is not an apt analogy because in that system, the college members are constrained (by law or tradition) to voting for whomsoever presidential candidate the voters choose. Rather, i picked up the example from watching JV Bautista explain a similar model in a TV show back in the 80′ (so apologies to JV if i get the exact details wrong). In that model, the Barangay Captains will then elect the next higher level, probably the municipal councilors, who in turn will elect the provincial level. The process culminates in electing the supreme leadership. Far from being farcical, the barangay elections model, actually adheres to the logic of, ‘low-cost’, ‘localization’ and ‘direct accountability’. How can you get more low cost than having a barangay level election? What’s more directly accountable than being able to walk over to my representative’s doorstep and tell him what i think? What it doesn’t give you, however, is an assurance that the leadership positions go to the person(s) i choose which i think is of value for the exactly the reason that you have dismissed above.

    As for the technocrats’ fixation with ‘practical results’, we must not mistake ‘perceived movement’ for ‘actual movement’, much less value it for it’s own sake.

  28. good day!!!!
    may i ask for your opinion?
    is unicameral congress is better than bicameral assembly?
    please support your answers…
    thank you and GOD BLESS!!!!!

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