The Explainer: Parliamentary and Unicameral sources

Some interesting maps in Wikipedia:

1. The British Empire at its height.
2. Nations under the parliamentary system.
3. Monarchies of the world.
4. World map with various forms of government.
5. Nations with a unicameral legislature.
6. Freedom House ratings: nations according to degree of freedom, and nations according to whether they are electorate democracies or not.

The BBC’s h2g2 has a good layman’s introduction to The British Parliamentary System, and this rather cheeky exposition: How Effective Is The British Parliament? The House of Commons, of course, has its own official educational website.They dynamics of parliamentary party politics are vividly described in “Burying Caesar: The Churchill-Chamberlain Rivalry” (Graham Stewart). The history of the Conservative Party itself is engrossingly covered in “An Appetite For Power” (John Ramsden, Ramsden).

The parliamentary system of Germany (as of 1999) is described in a publication of the Inter-parliamentary union:

1999 178 01-E-1

The Italian parliament has two informative sites, for the Italian Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (found via Nicola Lucchi, who explains the general election dynamics of his country).

On the Japanese Diet (parliament), provided one has access to a library, the writings of Mikitaka Masuyama are instructive.

For Malaysia and former PM Mahathir’s reducing the powers of the Supreme Court, see The country briefing on Malaysia. Rainer Heufers also surveys the Malaysian parliamentary experience under Dr. Mahathir, here:

(the US Library of Congress also has Portals to the World, which is a good way of accessing information organized according to country: the advantage of the links provided is that they were selected by experts).

The classic text on the merits of parliamentary government in contrast to the presidential system is Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution, which you can download and read in full.

A university lecture by Alistaire Cole (Comparative European Politics) from the University of Paris gives a modern overview, “The Role of Parliaments in Parliamentary Systems”:

Lecture Five The Role Of Parliaments In Parliamentary Systems

I’d like to point out “More Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain” (University of Texas Press) which has a particularly interesting essay, “The Rise and Fall of Party Government in Britain and the United States, 1945-1996.” The author, Samuel H. Beer, argues that both the United States and Britain faced a crisis in party government in the 1960’s: changes in society challenged the essentially closed nature of the two-party system. An irony pointed out in the article is that Americans in the 1940s and 1950s seriously discussed adopting some features of the British parliamentary system; the British in turn have seen their parliamentary system become, in effect, more presidential.(amazingly, I found the book at the fourth floor book dump at the main National Bookstore in Cubao for only Php 279.00!)

The urge to make parliamentary systems more presidential has also been seen in Israel, where direct election of the Prime Minister was tried thrice.

Among the exponents of parliamentary government in the past was the late Salvador Araneta, delegate to the 1934 and 1971 constitutional conventions, with his Bayanikasan Constitution (see Jarius Bondoc’s article, too).

Sadly, some of the most interesting sources on past debates are long out of print: Jose Romero’s Not So Long Ago (Alemar-Phoenix, 1977) describes debates during the 1934 Constitutional Convention and the unicameral National Assembly in practice. The memoirs of the late Arturo Tolentino, Voice of Dissent (Alemar-Phoenix, 1989) who served in the premartial law Congress and in the Batasan Pambansa, are particularly instructive.

Also see, “Parliamentary government (The Evolution of fundamental ideas in the 1973 Constitution)” (Augusto Caesar Espiritu) and his poignant diary of the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention, “How democracy was lost: A political diary of the Constitutional Convention of 1971-1972” (Augusto Caesar Espiritu). Espiritu’s diary is one of the most brutally honest political memoirs I’ve read.

The President’s Consultative Commission on Charter Change has an official website which includes its proposals and recommendations. The House of Representatives doesn’t devote space to the topic, and Sigaw ng Bayan’s site is difficult to navigate. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has compiled relevant documents on, starting with the 1987 Constitution, and the three main proposals from the President’s Commission, the People’s Initiative, and the House of Representatives. Particularly useful are the comparative matrices put together by PCIJ. Their blog also has extensive coverage of both pro and con sides of the debate.

Particular thanks to Joey Marino (a critic of the parliamentary system) who pointed out the provisions of the various draft proposals I cited in the show.

My guest on the show was Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr. He expressed some pretty strong views, and gave a sense of the feelings of his colleagues in the House of Representatives.

My closing statement:

We have experienced unicameralism several times within living memory. What we haven’t experienced, in its true sense, is parliamentary government. The two approaches, which can be debated on their own, have been joined at the hip. And it’s this joining at the hip that makes some view the proposal as freakish and dangerous, and others to view it as a reasonable, rational, solution to the many defects of our present system. My only question is, are we aware of how it will work? To my mind, no people previously accustomed to directly selecting the executive, has ever willingly given up that power, except as a prelude to a dictatorship. But we Filipinos have always surprised each other, and the world.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

30 thoughts on “The Explainer: Parliamentary and Unicameral sources

  1. Please continue the subject on parliaments and sytems of governments This time differentiate parliament from presidential system. Educate on how each system deals with the issue of checks and balance, the separation of taxing powers with the power to make war, the consent of congress for treaties and war, bicam vs. unicam, direct and indirect elections etc.
    The country will be asked to choose between the two system very soon and we need to see clearly what we have and what is being proposed do that we can make an educated choice.

  2. Hi Manolo, I’m Glenn Cando, a Filipino from Hawaii, USA and I watched the Explainer on ANC the other night, since I am a Political Science student here in the University of Hawaii at Manoa, my view on the issue of Parliamentary system in the Philippines is that it won’t work effectively since the system itself is not deffective but the leaders itself, the people who run the system, of course if you lack political will to do reforms in our country, every form of government that we want to impose to the Philippines, even Communism will fail if the leaders are not putting aside personal interests from the nation’s interests. Again, its not the system that is defective, its the leaders. For me, lets just leave the Presidential system and adopt a semi-federal system on the local governments. Like, give the provinces more power to spend what they like to develop their own province, strip off the pork barrel from Congress, let them do their primary job — make effective laws, and maybe increase the number of senators, maybe 1 province should have 1 senator and maybe Metro Manila should have at least 5 Senators from NCR since they are the most populated region in the nation. From this stand point, every province is equally represented in the upper chamber unlike the present system on 24 members that are elected nationally.

  3. Glenn, thank you.

    My personal views are as follows: the priority should be Federalism, because that more essential and dynamic reform in turn suggests to us what form the government should take.

    The presidential system is best to my mind, but we need run-off elections since a multiparty-system does not make for initial majorities (plurality presidents does not work). Federalism also restricts a president to broader policy, foreign affairs, defense, etc.

    Second, a Federal structure suggests a bicameral Congress, a House with districts and a Senate elected by region, with additional seats for Filipinos overseas, such as in the Italian Senate.

    Third, I’m not against a nationally-elected Senate but that would require restoring block voting, which was an essential part of the Senate when it was established on a nationally-elected basis.

  4. mb, i don’t know if we could cram that all into one show. what would you suggest as a flow, or series of shows?

  5. It’s good to see the ball rolling. I think the majority agree that amendments to the constitution are in order. I think mlq3 makes very valid observations. I am sure many more will be forthcoming.

  6. mlq,

    a series would be good. Tackle them one by one or two by two as the case may be.

    Once we know what each system has then maybe we can look at how a federal or autonomous system can fit into either proposed type of government.

    And finally how we can improve the present type without necessarily changing it completely like a run-off election vs. changing it completely.

    a series is needed so that we can all make an educated choice.

  7. I agree with what Glenn Cando said. That any system won’t work if the leaders and the people that run the systems don’t have the political will to institute the reforms.

    This has been the very basic argument against changing the Consititution. The focus of change now should rather be on the Electoral Reforms. With a credible election, we can elect the leaders we truly want, not what Glorified-Garcified mobs want.

    I know it sounds too simple. But this is the very heart of democracy – the Elections. Some will argue that the voters can still be bought anyway by crooked politicians. Right. But that is not a reason for not trying hard to really have clean elections.

    Sooner or later, when the public realizes that because of honest, clean elections more and more good people are winning electoral seats and delivering better progress to the communities they serve, these vote-buying practices will gradually diminish (not totally eliminated). It’s a long term process. But I believe we should get back to the basics.

  8. Hello Manolo, I watched your show “explainer” and I think that, the show is one of the most BORING shows I have ever watched. MOnotonous tome of your voice, masyadong intellectual ang dating, hindi makamasa! Ako po ay isang taong may interes sa pulitika at pang-gobyerno at nais ko sanang ipahayag na kapag ang isang pilipino na nagsasalita sa medya, sana ay mag-tagalog ito at hindi parang ang maliliit ay lalong maghangga sa kanya but in reality, that person doesnt really understand waht that offial was saying. Please put your heart into what your saying. Frankly, your show is a boring lecture of some sort!!!! I’m sorry to say. I hope you take this as a constructive one. And yes, you take a grain of salt with it. Thanks.

  9. Phil….Yes, vote buying can be eliminated and this will result to a more qualified and honest elected officials. I have never heard of vote buying in USA. We have almost similar form of government except for a few minor things like electoral college, states instead of provinces. But basically, same President, Congress and Supreme Court.

    One thing to eliminate at once is the PORK BARREL. Senator”a and congressmen’s job is to MAKE LAWS.

    Distribute the money during actual collection like what they have in states…Federal tax, provincial/state tax and city/town tax. Every level has its alloted money at the outset…no need for PORK BARREL.

  10. another thing…to give more opportunities to poor and deserving/qualified candidates, everyone may apply for government funds during election. every taxtpayer have a choice to donate a certain amount for election expenses when they file the tax returns.

  11. Vote buying in the U.S. is carried out in much subtler ways than it is done here. It doesn’t happen at the precinct level. It happens way before election day. But when Republicans promise to cut taxes, they’re actually buying votes at government expense. That’s why Republicans always manage to raise much more campaign contributions. The U.S. system of democracy is suited only for them. It isn’t a good example to follow.

    As for changing the people before amending the system, that’s a chicken and egg situation that will only lead to procrastination and eventually doing nothing.

  12. ay naku naman, carl! ano ga namang iyang mga republicans na iyan? do not get me started with this republicans, ay ina ko! ang “lagay system” ay buhay na buhay dine sa amerika ang tawag nila duon ay political contributions na kung saan magagaling ang mga republicans.

  13. baka sa tingin ninyo naglalagayan dahil nga sa mga political contributions. pero sa tinagal tagal kong naboto dito ni isa wala pa akong nabalitang binigyan ang mga mismung botante. baka ‘yung mga politikal activists ang mga sinasabi ninyung nilalagyan. adi maglagay na sila maski magkano sa mga activists pero amg mga botanteng gaya namin wala kaming pakilaalam sa lagayan. kung sino ang gusto namin, siya naming iboboto. walang goons ang guns na katatakutan dito

  14. hindi pungkit matayog ang pinag-uusapan ay hindi na ito makamasa o kaya ito’y pang-intelektwal. ang katotohanan ay bihira kasi ang nagtatangka ng ganitong uri ng programa na maglalatag ng impormasyon batay sa kasaysayan natin at ng mundo. maaaring hindi para sa lahat ang format ng The Explainer pero ito ay para sa mga gustong matuto at makaunawa, anumang sektor ang kanilang pinagmulan. Maraming matatalino na hindi man lang makabili ng Encyclopedia Britannica. Maraming mayayaman na hitik ng libro ang kanilang library pero di naman hinuhugot ito para pag-aralan.

  15. About continuing the topic,
    It may not be immediately next week,but I suggest that this topic be discussed again not just because it is bitin.

    Maybe it can be inserted in other topics such as elections and the electoral process.

  16. Political contributions practiced by the republicans?

    I forgot what party was Mark Jimenes accused of giving political contributions to,was it not the Democrats?

  17. “The President’s Consultative Commission on Charter Change has an official website which includes its proposals and recommendations. The House of Representatives doesn’t devote space to the topic, …”

    Like I said in the previous post.


    What a waste of resources!

  18. Those OFW’s are afraid to go back to the Philippines because they know that our country is still suffering from deep poverty. Such poverty is complicated by an incompetent presidency! Why incompetent presidency? Because Mrs. Arroyo can’t even prove in an honest way that her presidency is a legitimate one….. Also, her regime doesn’t work enough to stop the senseless human-rights’ violations committed by suspected police officers or soldiers. The judiciary in our country is too weak to probe on such human-rights’ violations. What the Filipinos have right now is a “low-intensity martial rule” that curtails certain civil liberties, so that those who are in power that have “credibility problems” can remain in political power as long as they want to…..


    Democracy is natural, universal and moral for all human beings of this world. The Muslim-dominated countries in the Middle East region deserve democracy. Terrorism is immoral. The UK, the U.S.A. and Israel should support the peaceful and lawful democratization of this whole world. All the Muslim-dominated countries in the Middle East region should respect and recognize Israel’s sovereignty. All the Muslim-dominated countries in the Middle East region should respect and recognize the right of Israel to exist as a nation in this world.

  19. “Second, a Federal structure suggests a bicameral Congress, a House with districts and a Senate elected by region, with additional seats for Filipinos overseas, such as in the Italian Senate.

    Third, I’m not against a nationally-elected Senate but that would require restoring block voting, which was an essential part of the Senate when it was established on a nationally-elected basis. ”

    Why not make a show on federalism vis a vis the super regions,the bangsamoro and the other tribes in mindanao.

    and a show about the senate and why they are elected nationally and why not locally.

  20. hindi yan ang gusto kong ihayag kaibigang toots ople, ang aking suhestiyon ay maging simple at sana ay miintindihan ng karamihan ang pinaguusapan. ingles tayo ng ingles niintindihan ba ng uring kababayan natin ito? nakapanood ka ba ng the explainer episode? sabihin mo sa akin kung mali ang aking obserbasyon, “boring”. parang lecture na hindi ko maintindihan. I might just be speaking for myself but, if possible the show’s producers can make it more interesting. like guests, or inputs from ordinary filipino-interviews of what they know about the change of government. Is this too much to ask? mister toots ople sir?! simple,understandable and interesting show. thats all I ask in behalf of the viewing public. Its like bringing back the ages. You have to capture your audience interest. Now, is this program rating? I dpont have a clue. Do you? Are you one of the producers of the show, you sound like?! Please, this is a constructive opinion. Thank you.

  21. You have said it yourself, maraming matatalino na cant afford to buy an encyclopedia, or maraming tao na sagana sa supply ng libro but they dont bother to read it. All the more that the show should be interesting. Shouldnt it be? Effective journalism always has the target population in mind, to inform, to educate and to be resnposible. Talk is really cheap nowadays. I just hope the show gives justice to the statement, “responsible and credible and interesting information dessimination”. Thank you.

  22. wouldn’t a regionally elected senate lose their independence as they would be dependent on the pork barrel?

    what is block voting? how does it work?

  23. Kung tayo’y maging federal, paano ang hatian ng pambansang pagkakautang?

    Pag aking tiningtingnan ang world map tapos ini-imagine ko ang mga federal states ng Pilipinas, tapos titingnan ko ang mapa ng China sa malapit tapos ang US, and ulo ko’y umiiling. Tama si Nick Joaquin.

  24. aaron, gagap ko na ang ibig mong sabihin at ‘wag na nating pagtalunan ang The Explainer. pero para sa iyong kaalaman, babae po ako (hehehe) at hindi mister, pangalawa, hindi ako producer ng show (pero sa tingin ko may mga nag-aabang na nito). tiyak kong nababasa ito ni mlq3 at batid niya ang iyong sentimyento tungkol sa kaniyang show. salamat!

  25. i am for parliamentary.. but the party-system in this country scares me… what do the parties stand for? there are liberals who are conservatives! what irony

  26. mister karl garcia, where are you from mosieur? Do you hear yourself when you said hindi lahat ng pilipino nakakapagsalita or understand tagalog? majority ng pinoy mahirap at ang tanging yaman nila ay ang makapagsalita ng tagalog. I am not advocating tagalog to be the medium of the show, I certainly object to that. Like what I was telling toots ople, make the show understandable and interesting. I think I will rest my case now. I guess I have explained myself too much on this. By the way, Karl, which social class do you belong? You dont seem to feel the pulse of the masses or identify with the “masses?” maybe?!!! Just checking.

  27. Manolo, I caught some parts of your show on the Parliamentary system. Hats off to you for keeping the discussion as objective as possible, especially since you’re vocal in the One Voice campaign. However, I still think the One Voice ad tends to confuse the subject by saying that Filipinos lose the chance to vote for a President. That’s not really the point, di ba?

  28. thanks ruben.

    re: the point on Filipinos losing the chance, it’s important, in that people should know that in a parliamentary system the selection of leader is done by parliament unlike the presidential system. i have been surprised to hear from some supporters of the parliamentary system that they didn’t know that. others are of the impression that we would adopt the french system, which provides for direct election of a president. still others think the parliamentary system would abolish the presidency altogether.

    there are those who oppose charter change specifically on the grounds that they have always voted for a president, and having that vote is important to them.

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