IN her 2005 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposed the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution. Foremost among the proposed changes is the shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government from the present presidential-unitary system. Within a month, Arroyo issued Executive Order 453 creating a Consultative Commission (Con-Com) that will "bring the great debate on charter change to the people."

In December, the Commission submitted to Arroyo its final report containing recommendations for amendments to the Constitution. But as it turned out, the "great charter change debate" has caused a rift within the 55-member Con-Com itself, resulting in a minority report drafted by seven commissioners opposed to the proposed amendments by the majority. Other than the transitory provisions calling for term extensions of all elected officials until 2010, what has proved to be the most contentious proposal is the shift to a parliamentary-federal system.

Opponents of the proposal like Dr. Rene Azurin, the co-chair of the Con-Com’s committee on form of government, argue that a parliamentary system is no better than a presidential system, citing the following reasons:

  1. The parliamentary system concentrates power instead of dispersing it. Given that political power in this country is already overly concentrated (in less than 1% of the population), the obvious appropriate response should be to disseminate and spread power, not concentrate it even more (which a shift to a parliamentary system does).
  2. The parliamentary system institutionalizes ‘pork barrel’ politics. The aforementioned fusion of executive and legislative power in a parliamentary system effectively makes the entire national budget (except of course for debt servicing and certain fixed expenditures) one big ‘pork barrel’. 
  3. The parliamentary system enshrines ‘horse trading’ as a way of governance. The present ‘transactional’ decisions supposedly being made by the President to win the support of Congressmen is only a pale preview of the constant and recurring ‘transactional’ decision-making that is inherent in a parliamentary government.
  4. It is simply not true that it is ‘legislative gridlock’ that has held back the country’s economic progress. Our failure to keep economic pace with our neighbors is a consequence of protectionist economic policies, too much regulation, and, basically, too much government.
  5. The economic performance of a country is a function of its economic policies, resource endowments, and certain environmental conditions, NOT its form of government. For every country with a parliamentary government (Malaysia, Thailand) that is racing ahead of us economically, one can cite a country with a presidential system (South Korea, Taiwan) that is doing as well or better.

Majority of the Con-Com members, on the other hand, trumpet the many advantages of a parliamentary setup over the traditional presidential government. As cited by Dr. Jose Abueva, Con-Com chair, in a primer he was written on the need for such a shift, among the anticipated benefits to be derived from a parliamentary system are the following: 

  1. In a parliamentary government, Parliament exercises both legislative power and executive power. Parliament will therefore ensure the coordinated, efficient and effective exercise of legislative and executive powers — the making of laws and policies and their implementation.
  2. At the same time the majority party in Parliament is checked by the major opposition party, helped by other minority parties, and other centers of power in the community — the media, interest groups, and religious and civil society organizations. The major opposition party has a “shadow Cabinet” to check on the Cabinet and is prepared to take over when necessary.
  3. The Prime Minister and the Government (the governing party headed by the Prime Minister) assume collective responsibility and accountability to the Parliament and the people for governance.
  4. Parliamentary government is more likely to ensure the election of the head of government — the Prime Minister — for his leadership and experience in the party and in the public service, as known to party members.
  5. It will help prevent election of the head of government on the basis largely of wealth, personal popularity, or “win-ability,” not on proven competence and experience as a leader.
  6. It will be easier to change the head of government and the ruling party whenever it becomes necessary, by a vote of no confidence in Parliament — no need for impeachment, people power revolts, and military intervention.
  7. Parliamentary government will help us develop political parties that are democratic, disciplined, united, and effective in making and carrying out a program of government that can secure popular support. It will encourage the formation of a stable two-party system.

You can read more of Azurin’s and Abueva’s positions on this particular Con-Com proposal in the following articles:

Further readings on other Con-Com proposals can be accessed below:

14 Responses to ‘Great charter change debate’ within Con-Com

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lokalokang matino

January 4th, 2006 at 10:30 am

The way I see it, CHARTER CHANGE is not the answer, but PEOPLE CHANGE is the positive solution to our problems, No amount of changes in our constitution will move this country forward as long as corrupt people in government remains in power. Even if we revert back to the 1935 Constitution, our country wil still move on to be progressive nation if PEOPLE running the government are clean, disciplined and dedicated to serve. AS SIMPLE AS THAT!!!!!!!!!

Charter Change is an excuse of the illegal Malacanang occupant, to cover up a lot of deeds and misdeeds. The composite of the misleading CON-COM should have declined the task. It’s clearer than sunlight that gloria-THE CHEAT, LIAR, ARRO-GANT is using them, but alas, they accepted anyway, when you acceed to the whims and wishes of a cheat, liar and thief, what are you?

Yesterday on page 4 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, there was a paid ad by the CON-COM members titled “WHAT IS REALLY IMMORAL?”
They asked, “BUT WHAT REALLY IS IMMORAL?”
” It is immoral and unacceptable if we do not change the system of governance that prevents us from effectively addressing:”
– “the pervasive poverty, unemployment, low income,and
homelessness of our people;”
-” the widening social inequality, injustice,criminality,rebellion,and
now terrorism as a local and global threat;”
– “our severely inadequate public services and infrastructure;”
– “our weak rule of law, and lack of public accountability in
government,the political parties, the private sector and the media
and;”
– “the widespread graft and corruption in the government and
the private sector.”
These are the issues they believed cannot be implemented/addressed
with the present system. Ang sagot ko sa kanila, HELLO!!!, IT IS THE PEOPLE RUNNING THIS GOVERNMENT, STUPID!!!

The paid ad is so much an insult to our intellegence, the issues raised are doable. To Mr. Abueva and Company, Do you think your countrymen are that DUMB and STUPID to accept your justification for doing the job?

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arkangel1a

January 4th, 2006 at 11:14 am

well i always believed that a Constitution reflects the aspirations, dreams, hopes and ideals of a people. it summarizes for all to see who we are as a nation, and how we look towards the future.

so, yes, i believe we need charter change for the following reasons:

1. our charter tells us what our rights are, but doesn’t tell us what we need to give back to the state. we hold no responsibility for our actions!

2. how many of us has actually read and understood the 1987 constiution. its ssssuuucchhh a lengthly document that only lawyers can grasp. i take issue with that. /we/ should be able to understand it without going to our lawyer.

3. that said, the Consitution shouldn’t include every single bit of “national policy”. take education for example. i’m not saying it shouldn’t be the policy of any government not to make it the highest priority in the budget— but what if some day, we won’t need to make it the highest priority because its already high enough for our needs? i’m just saying such details should be left to the finance managers, the congress— its why we have budget hearings for right? to determine what should be fiscally right for us!

and similarly with “economic provision

4. i take issue with the fact that every bit of “special” interest can have a seat in congress. have an issue with drugs, start a movement. into labor. ofw, senior citizen, etc, go right ahead. i’m just saying, isn’t that what we have congressmen and senators and their staff for? that we pay them to filter out those special interest— what takes priority what is important in the long run for /all/ our interest, not just a small minority. it just adds to the complexity, to the bloatedness and pork.

5. term limits. people argue that after the dad runs out of terms, the wife or son or daughter takes over. political dynasties. why do we have them is it because of the term limits? no. its because of two things: people elect them to office and the good people don’t run against them. should we dictate to people who to vote for? answer: we need political party reform— that allows even those without money to mount a campaign by raising them legitimately and to have the infrastructure to carry out that campaign. our political parites must include not just politicians but everyone who believes in the party’s goal. it shouldn’t be pure name game! easier said then done. but thats the right way to go— long term wise.

there are ssssoooo many more reasons why the constitution should be changed. our reason simply shouldn’t be because we want a parliamentary government. though i’m very in favour of federalism the way these guys want it happen… just isn’t right. the con-con majority and minority report for me is pure crap. doesn’t address the needs of people— you and me. it fall short on vision. it doesn’t really help except for the fact that yeah, we’re all talking about charter change now. every bit of knowledge that goes to people’s hands is good. thats its only value and benefit for people that i can see.

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airnel

January 5th, 2006 at 3:38 pm

Tama si Luka na sabihin nasa sa mga tao ang kahihinatnan ng isang pamahalaan. Ngunit di rin natin masisisi yung mga pangkat na nagsusulong ng pagbabago ng uri at pamamaraan ng pamahalaan dahil nga naman kung bago ang pamamaraan ay baka sakaling sumibol doon ang pagbabago. Sabagay nasubukan na natin sa ilalim ng Saligang Batas ng 1973 yung sistemang parlamentaryo yun nga lang tila di naging mabisa dahil yung mga kabig ni Dating Pangulong Marcos ang nakinabang.

Sa nangyayari sa ating bansa, tila ba isa itong taong lumalaki na minsan may pagkamasumpungin kaya madalas nasasaktan o dili kaya nadadapa. Kung darating ang pagbabago hayaan ang pagbabago yun nga lang marami sa nasa poder ng kapangyarihan ang di umalis sa nakagawiang karumaldumal na pamomolitika. Ang mga karaniwang mamamayan din sa kanilang di magagandang asal na nagiging hadlang sa pansariling pagsisikap at pag-unlad ay dapat din baguhin.

Tama nga na nasa Diyos ang Awa nasa tao ang Gawa. Bago natin tingnan ang uling sa mukha ng kapwa mo pansinin mo muna ang puwing sa mga mata mo.

Yun lang po!!

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Bruce in Iloilo

January 7th, 2006 at 9:31 pm

I thought that the minority’s criticism of a parliamentary system was spot on — we do not need more centralized power.

Their criticism of the federal system AS PROPOSED was also roughly accurate. The problem is that the federal system proposed is poorly thought-out and ahistorical. The Philippines already have provinces, many of them bigger then most countries, all of which have established bureaucracies and political systems. They are ready to step in now and to do the job. Why not turn over power to them? Why create out of thin air brand new bureaucracies? Because the national government doesn’t want to share power.

True federalists would have proposed immediately, historically rooted, workable federalism.

I was disappointed when the minority wrote, “In contrast, the proposed ‘federalization’ of the Philippine Republic is aimed at artificially forcing the break-up of an already **small unitary unit** into even smaller units.” (emphasis added). There is nothing “small” about the Philippines. The Philippines is one of the largest countries in the world (number 12) and among the most importan 25 to 50, especially given its membership in the Anglosphere and the number of OFWs. In fact, the Philippines is larger then EVERY SINGLE European country, Russia exempted, if Russia is European. Further the Philippines population is growing, unlike most of the other more important countries (Europe, Japan, Russia, etc.) and its influence will only increase over time.

The Philippines is one of the largest and most diverse countries in the world. And we are scattered across scores of islands and thousands of kilometers. Most of the countries of our size, especially democracies, are federal and have strong provincial governments. It is foolish for the Philippines to continue to put all its eggs in the Manila basket. We need to free up the political leadership of this country, free up the innate human ingenuity and entreprenaurship, by allowing local governments to takle this country’s political problems. It is flat-out stupid not to tap into this incredible resource that is Filipino people.

The country also needs printed ballots with party names to lessen the power of name recognition and therefore the dynasties.

We need term limits to continue — now that they are beginning to really bite, the polticians are moving to overthrow them.

Primaries — so that politicians in Manila do not choose our political leaders leaving us with a short list, aka GMA v. FPJ. Who chose FPJ anyway? A small cabral who thought they could right his coattails. The people should choose the party candidates. You can even have the people register by party, if they want to, and restrict primaries only to registered members.

More elections for more offices more often — with elections everry 5 years the average Filipino will only vote, what, 8 times. In most places in the US there is an election for some office every year, sometimes two if there is a primary. Because everyone is used to them they are cheap and easy and harder to corrupt (no election is corruption-free). The people also have a way to express their views, demonstrating disapproval by voting out a party in local races. If there were elections this year, do you really think all those politicians would have stuck with GMA? Look at the damage that Nixon and Clinton did to their respective parties because of their scandals.

More elections also means more chances for a crusading anti-corruption politician to make advances. He can make his name for himself by ending corruption and move up the ladder. Corruption shrinks when honest people are elected but ALSO when cynical politicians can advance their own carreers fighting corruption.

Lastly, it is appalling the elitist tone of many of these reforms, especially the requirement to have a college degree. What, a Filipino Bill Gates is not good enough to be president? And why shouldn’t any Filipino citizen be allowed to run for the Parliament?

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floyd

January 9th, 2006 at 11:37 pm

sa totoo lang walang kwenta lahat ng mga kalokohang con-com o parliamentary B.S. na yan kasi hindi naman naiintindihan ng simpleng tao ang konstitusyon kaya kahit sino pwedeng ipakulong kahit sino pwedeng maloko! tayo lang ang bansang hindi naiintindihan ang ating sariling konstitusyon.

kaya tingnan mo yang si GMA nakaupo pa rin kasi yung mga tao sinu-surrender ang rights nilang makialam sa mga lawyers na sarili lang ang iniisip.

ang batas ay ang lakas ng tao. yan ay karapatan ng mamamayan. pero dahil hindi nila ito maintindihan dahil english ito at ang mga nakakaintindi lang eh ang mga may matatataas na pinagaralan eh walang kwenta ang konstitusyon natin.

dapat pinag-uusapan sa kalye ang batas.

dapat alam ng simpleng tao ang batas.

pero napapansin nyo ba na kahit sa loob ng klasrum limited din ang mga nakakaalam ng batas?

kasi mas gusto ng mga nasa taas na konti lang ang nakakaalam ng batas.

para makontrol nila ang utak ng tao.

alienated tayo sa sarili nating mga karapatan.

kaya walang kwenta yang debate na yan to begin with.

sayang…

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koj

January 10th, 2006 at 1:44 am

floyd
‘di ata tama na sabihing gusto ng taas na konti lng nakakaalam ng batas. siguro mas tama kung sasabihing mas konti ang may gusto o interesadong pag-aralan ang ating batas. wala namang pumipigil sa bawat sarili natin na pag-aralan ito.
sa tingin mo, ano kaya ang nararapat pang gawin ng gobyerno para lalong maintindihan ng tao ang batas? siguro hindi rin tama kung ipilit nila sa tao-kung ayaw naman ng taong intindihin ito.

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eyesWideopen2

January 10th, 2006 at 1:46 am

:) tama ka floyd. naniniwala akong kaya english ang konstitusyon o batas ay para hindi maintindihan ng karaniwang tao. bagkus, palagi etong pinagdedebatehan ng mga abogado. kasi nga hindi maiintindihan ng karaniwang tao.

one lawyer would say, “hindi yan ang nasa batas”
another lawyer would claim “ano ka hilo? nasa batas yan no!”

kaya tuloy ang sabi ng korte “teka lang ha… tingnan ko sa biblia”

😛

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floyd

January 10th, 2006 at 3:17 am

koj> “‘di ata tama na sabihing gusto ng taas na konti lng nakakaalam ng batas. siguro mas tama kung sasabihing mas konti ang may gusto o interesadong pag-aralan ang ating batas. wala namang pumipigil sa bawat sarili natin na pag-aralan ito.
sa tingin mo, ano kaya ang nararapat pang gawin ng gobyerno para lalong maintindihan ng tao ang batas? siguro hindi rin tama kung ipilit nila sa tao-kung ayaw naman ng taong intindihin ito.”

-obserbasyon ko lang yun koj at palagay ko may point din naman ako at medyo tama lang ang oberbasyon ko kasi wala naman talagang nakakaalam ng batas kasi hindi yun nakasalin sa kanyang salita. it all boils down to accessibility. sabihin natin na accessible nga siya pero the point is hindi parin naiintindihan yung naaaccess. pagaaralan muna nila magbasa ng english intindihin ang grammar at sentence structure. pero kung nakasalin na ito sa tagalog o sa bisaya o sa hiligaynon tingin mo tatamarin ba ang mga pinoy magaral ng batas?

nung sinabi mong hindi rin tama ipilit sa isang tao kung yaw naman nyang intindihin ito. tama ka dun pero paano kung duon nakasalalay ang kanyang survival at nang hindi siya namamanipulate ng mga taong mas nakakaalam ng batas diba dapat lang pagaralan nya yun? eh ni hindi man lang nga tinuturo sa mga eskwelahan ang mga rights natin bilang mga pilipino. tuloy sunod sunod ang problema ng mga simpleng mamamayan hanggang dun sa pinakataas na mga empleyado may mga empleyado parin ngayon hindi alam ang labor law. haaay… ganun talaga ang sitwayson ngayon.

sa tingin ko dapat ibigay ng gobyerno ang batas sa mga tao. pag-usapan ito isalin sa ating sariling wika. i-introduce sa mga kabataan elementary pa lang dapat alam na nila kung ano ang rights of the child o ang child abuse simple lang naman eh.

“Kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw may dahilan”

gets? APIR! hehehe

^_^

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floyd

January 10th, 2006 at 3:20 am

eyeswideopen2> matagal nang problema yan… nuon pang panahon ng amerikano yan… yung benevolence bolshet nilang nalalaman ay sus!
hehehe basta ganun napansin mo? walang pakialam ang tao kasi sa hirap nang buhay kahit mag-aral magbasa ng english walang panahon. experiment ka minsan tanungin mo isang law student bakit english ang constitution natin tingnan mo explanation nya ibibigay sayo ang batas hehehe labo talaga pero nakakatawa. hehehe

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koj

January 10th, 2006 at 5:55 am

floyd,
naisalin din naman sa ating wika ang 1987 constitution. eto ang link sa wikipedia http://wikisource.org/wiki/Ang_1987_Saligang_Batas_ng_Pilipinas

tinuturo din naman ito sa paaralan sa unang taon ng kolehiyo. maaring sa pribadong paaralan ay sa high-school nag-umpisa. kung bakit hindi ito itinuturo ng maaga ay siguradong may dahilan ngunit hindi para ito ay hindi maunawaan, bagkus sa tingin ko, ay para maihanda ang tao sa pag-intindi nito na nasa tamang panahon at isipan. pwede ring maihanay ang panahon ng pagturo sa pagkakaroon ng tao ng karapatang bomoto.

at sana naman hindi lang sa paaralan natatapos ang pag-aaral. karamihan ng bagay napapag-aralan, kelangan lang ng ‘kusa.’ at gaya ng sinabi mo, kung gusto (ng tao na pag-aralan) may paraan, kung ayaw may dahilan (di tinuro sa paaralan, kasalanan ng gobyerno, mahirap alang pambili ng libro).

Apir (he he he).

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floyd

January 10th, 2006 at 9:42 pm

koj> hwow salamat koj. ang tanong ilan lang ang nakakaalam ng batas??? tama ka sa puntong pagkukusa pero pano ka makakapagkusa kung hindi naman ito available at hindi mo rin kayang intindihin? ang pag-aaral ng batas ay nangangailangan ng isang klase ng lebel ng pag-iintindi.
tama ka ng sinabi mo na siguro nga hinahanda ang isip pero bakit ang bibliya kahit sa sunday skul ng nursery eh available? hindi ba mas mahirap intindihin ang bibliya kaysa sa batas?

pero ewan ko baka lang nga mali ako at tama ka.
matanong ko lang kailan sinalin ang konstitusyon sa tagalog at kung may salin din ba ito sa ibang lenggwahe sa bung bansa at kung saan saan ito napapagaralan at ilan ang nakakaalam nito.

palagay ko dun palang alam na natin ang sagot bakit andaming kalokohang nagaganap sa gobyerno.

isang point lang na hindi ko maalis sa isip ko.

naiintindihan ng tao ang importansya ng relihiyon at edukasyon at ng diyos.

bakit hindi ang konstitusyon?

nagsisimula dapat sa bahay ang pagbabago ng isip.

sa pamilya.

APIR din hehehe

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Urgie F.

January 29th, 2006 at 9:31 am

As the regime of Glue Arroyo iis rocked with scandal that never ends, the trapo politicians again says: the Constitution or the system is wrong. It not the Constitution that needs not to be changed, but the present occupant of Malacanang and her alipores in Congress.

As long as the same faces running the government no matter how much change the Charter it will be the same. Before we ever talking about Cha-Cha we should examine first ourselves.. do we really believe that Cha-Cha is the solution!!.. who are these people occupying the Congress to amend the present constitution, they are all crook, vested interest and even money-driven too. The main problem is with people who run the government.. NOT THE CONSTITUTION. It will worse under parliamentary system becasue there no longer check and balance. It also deprive the constitutional rights of the Filipino people to chose oor elect their own leader particularly the President. The proposal of Abueva ‘s ConCom is lutung makaw… majority of them are tuta of Glue Arroyo. Besides, as long Arroyo still in Malacanang her lying, cheating and thieving rule every angles of her administation. OUST GLUE ARROYO AND HER ALIPORES IN CONGRESS. NO CHA-CHA.

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » People’s initiative: Pro and con from 2 former Con-Com members

April 7th, 2006 at 1:15 am

[…] Below is Azurin’s essay. His writings on why a parliamentary system is no better than a presidential system can be accessed here. Sigaw ng bayan? O sigaw ng politiko? by René B. Azurin […]

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