CORRUPTION in the country is said to have reached “serious levels.” Recently, a Hong Kong-based consultancy group named the Philippines as the second most corrupt country in Asia; the government’s own Ombudsman reported that massive corruption has cost the government a total P1.2 trillion (US$48 billion) in the last five years.

There are those, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who say that a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government will lead to better governance.

But, for others, it remains arguable whether or not charter change will effectively address the problem of corruption in the country. At a recent roundtable discussion, two well-respected scholars offered different views.

Dr. Jose Abueva, political scientist and Consultative Commission chair, said an accountable and transparent leadership can be achieved under a parliamentary system of government.

But Dr. Clarita Carlos, also a political science professor, said she doubts if charter change will solve the problem of corruption.

The two spoke at a forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, organized by Transparency International-Philippines and the Center for People Empowerment in Governance.

According to Abueva, the present political system, which he described as an “elitist, highly centralized unitary system,” has failed to address corruption. He stressed the need for the creation of federal states, a step that should immediately follow the adoption of a parliamentary system.

“When you have concentrated power, that’s also a source of corruption,” Abueva said. “But if you can break up power, and decentralize power, bring government closer to the people, then we will have a better chance of effectively watching the performance of powerful people in local areas.”

Abueva also said that crucial to reducing corruption is transforming the country’s current political parties, which today are “oriented to personalities and patronage,” into solid, platform-based parties.

“What is necessary for accountability in governance is to have political parties that are accountable. You cannot have individual politicians that are accountable. In other countries, in mature democracies, it’s really the political party that assumes accountability for performance or lack of performance. It is when you have functioning political parties that people will know whom to hold responsible and accountable for corruption,” Abueva said.

A parliamentary government, he explained, will develop parties that are more program-oriented, democratic, disciplined, united, and effective in making and carrying out a program of government.

Under the ConCom’s proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, members chosen by political parties shall constitute 30 percent of the total members of Parliament.

Abueva said that under such a set-up, the people will be able “to choose not only the candidates for the Parliament but also the political party they want to govern the country and the regional and local governments.”

UP political science professor Clarita Carlos, meanwhile, agreed that the nature of political parties affects the level of corruption in the country.

But, unlike Abueva, Carlos doubts that charter change will address the problem of corruption. She said “institutional changes” that the present charter-change initiatives are proposing, “are not directly correlated with lowering levels and scope of corruption.”

“Is there a relationship between charter change and level of corruption? Will institutional changes engender behavior changes?” Carlos asked. “Institutional changes via charter change is viewed as a faster track than changes in the individual’s beliefs, values, orientations and attitudes which may take anywhere from two to three generations.”

Carlos said there are various factors that contribute to the incidence of corruption. She referred to some of these factors, including the implications of committing wrongdoing, as theorized by several scholars:

  • Corruption levels change in relation to the level of economic development. Early stages of economic development allow for more opportunities for corruption as countries transition from colonial status to self government.
  • Rapid modernization will increase corruption in underdeveloped economies.
  • Only when market forces are well developed and society is governed by rational calculations of costs and returns will corruption decrease.
  • As corruption increases, the capacity of public investigation and prosecution may be strained.
  • As the number of corrupt people increases, the moral feelings of guilt by breaking rules decreases.
  • When many others engage in corruption, the loss of reputation when discovered is likely to decrease.
  • Corruption decreases as the expected probability of getting caught increases.
  • Punishment for corruption declines as more officials become corrupt because it is “cheaper” to be discovered by a corrupt officials than a non-corrupt senior.

“We’re looking at a phenomenon which is not only multi-variable but which is thoroughly complex,” Carlos said, adding that it will be “simplistic” to say that changing the charter can solve corruption.

On one hand, Carlos said, under a federal system, there will be an increase in the frequency of “intimate relationships and interactions” between private individuals and public officials. These interactions, she said, “fertilize” the environment for corrupt behavior.

At the same time, Carlos explained, a federal system will encourage competition among states which, in turn, will result in more efficient industries, greater productivity, more jobs, increased economic growth, and political stability.


12 Responses to Will parliamentary shift help end corruption?



May 31st, 2006 at 4:56 pm

A shift to parlamentary/ Federal system is a structural change in governance.
I think the administration has said time & again that the shift is needed in order to make goverment more responsive to the needs of the people in term of delivering services.
The shift to the system is needed in order to get away from the gridlocks of a bicameral system.
The issue of corruption is another story.
A system or any system is as good as the people running it.
There is no legislation on earth that can correct corruption.Because corruption has to to w/ bad habits & attitudes of people.
I think that connecting the addresing of corruption & the shift to a parlamentary system are two different things.
Corruption is a issue that must be continously addressed whatever the system of goverment.
A system of goverment is a structure.A simplified system can make it easiesr to localize problems & responsibilities.In a way it simplifies things.
1. When Singapore or other countries modernized.Can it be said that corruption levels went up?
In the Philippines scenario, corruption has much to do w/ our culture; pakikisama, hiya, utang na loob, kung makalusot attitude or even using other people faults to justify ones lazyness to do better.
It seems to me that some people are denying that it’s all about attitudes.
Development & oppurtunity will give less reason for individulas to try to get away w/ things that are corrupt.
2. I think we are just making excuses & say that rapid development is insted negative.Corruption has always exsisted at whatever level of development.Because human nature is weak & given an oppurtunity will try to get away w/ a corrupt act.
At the end of the day it all boils down to the implementation of the law unless as our culture is, the “palakasan system” must be controlled.

I think it is wrong to mix the issue of corruption w/ system of goverment
I think corruption is more evident when the sytem of goverment breaks down & when power is concentrated w/ the few – “imperial Manila”.

I think if we are really serious in addressing corruption lets also look at our cultural traits; “pakikisama” for right or wrong, if not one will be allienated etc…
Lets also look for improving our educational system.


Juan Makabayan

May 31st, 2006 at 7:21 pm

Will the shift help end corruption?

No. Given the circumstances and the people behind it, the shift will gear-up corruption.



May 31st, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Juan, we first have to understand how deeply rooted corruption is in our country.In a way since the system will be less complicated it can help lessen corruption.Since in a way corruptio is more likely to happen in a complicated scenario.
Like I already said a change in a system is a structural change.One way of addressing corruption is simplifying things.Since power & responsibility will be dicentralized.Localaizing responsibility will be faster.
But above all let’s not build the illussion that a system change is a “cure all”.
At the end of the day the real change that we need that can’t be legislated is a change in attitude & mind-set.
Juan, I think there is nothing anyone can say & do to convince those who have made up their minds already.
It will always boil down to mind-set & attitudes
It’s easier to pass a board exsam to change peoples way of thinking & looking at things.



May 31st, 2006 at 8:39 pm

I really don’t know why they always equate charter change to solving corruption. Sa pagpapatuloy ba ng Presidential at Unitary system mawawala ba ito? Nabawasan man lang ba sa tagal na nating nasa ilalim ng ganitong sistema?

Hindi nila matanggap na maraming Pilipino sa probinsya ang gustong humiwalay sa anino ng Imperial Manila kaya maraming sang ayon sa Parliamentary Federal System. Sa sistemang ito mas nailalapit sa mga tao ang serbisyo dahil hindi na umaasa sa budget galing sa National government na nararanasan natin ngayon sa pagiging Unitary. Pagkatiwalaan lang natin ang kakayahan ng mga Pilipino sa lalawigan na magpatakbo ng sarili nilang politika, pagtakda ng sarling buwis, pag ayos sa mga likas na yaman, etc. Matagal na tayong nasa Unitary, kahit sino pa ang umupong Presidente, hangga’t ang Malakanyang ay nasa Manila tutunganga na lang ang mga kapwa nating Pinoy sa probinsya habang naghihintay humupa ang gulo sa Manila at maituloy ang serbisyo mula sa mga nagbabangayang politiko.



May 31st, 2006 at 9:46 pm

Dang, do we really need scholars debating and explaining that shifting from one form of government to another will solve corruption?

Here’s my solution:


Let’s see if this does not deter people from stealing and exploiting the nation. Can you imagine if People Power killed the thieves who made the Philippines a miserable place? I swear, that’s all we need. The first step to discipline the nation is to start executing.



May 31st, 2006 at 11:55 pm

Dang, I’m getting into rye train of thoughts but not that radical yet. Yes, crime and punishment should always go together to fight corruption, not the system of government. today, the nos smoking ban in most public places is effect in Ontario. And why do people abide the ban? Maximum fine of 5 grand and they are not joking, especially when there are children in the vicinity. no, not yet that radical, but let’s start enforcing the punishment part of the law and the system of government will just work in itself. But I still support a True Parliamentary system, but in the end it is up for the People themselve to decide, not mine..



June 1st, 2006 at 8:33 am

Inquirer’s Business page columnist Honesto General says the claim that a parliamentary form of government would wipe out corruption in the Philippines is one big hoax.

His empirical data to back his point?

In a survey by an international polling firm, the 21 most corrupt countries in the whole wide world are: Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Congo, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Laos, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Niger, Sudan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

All these countries are under some form or other of the parliamentary system.

Ditto with the claim made by Palace apologists, sycophants, mercenaries, spin doctors and hacks that “elections in a parliamentary system are much less expensive because the candidate for prime minister does not have to campaign nationwide.”

Wrong, General says.

Tony Blair campaigned all over the United Kingdom to carve a solid majority for his New Labor Party. More recently, Angela Merkel campaigned all over Germany to become the first woman chancellor.

If Erap were running under a parliamentary system in 1998, he would have had to campaign hard for his candidates in the Partido ng Masang Filipino all over the islands. To improve their chances of winning, he would have had to provide them with enough campaign funds.

His party would have won 40 percent of the seats. Afterwards, Erap would have had to forge a coalition with some of the smaller parties to amass a majority vote. Only then would Erap get elected prime minister.

If government is interested, General is willing to lend them a documentary showing Hitler hitting three cities a day, every day, in a campaign that won for the Nazi party 30 percent of the seats, making it the largest party in the Reichstag in 1932.

Goebellian Raul Lambino might be interested.


Juan Makabayan

June 1st, 2006 at 12:45 pm


Are you assuming that they are not doing ala Hitler yet?



June 1st, 2006 at 4:56 pm

who is the first one ur gonna execute then?



June 3rd, 2006 at 8:03 am

There is no categorical answer that the shift to parliamentary will do us a whale of good economically and politically and least of all stop crime. Besides, so much depend entirely on who will manage the system or screw it up. Solita Collas-Monsod explains it better in her PDI column Presidential vs Parliamentary System in this link:



June 21st, 2006 at 10:12 am

Mga gulo ang solusyon sa sakit natin. Get a good leader or leaders to cure the disease…this is first and foremost….all others will follow as an effect. We cannot rely on ourselves, the people, to do this things, otherwise there will be chaos and disorder. We need someone to follow who will lead us to the goal…from there, we start to make results, good ones. Simple solution…who will lead? Can he lead? Will he lead? Whatever system of government we plan to have without a good leader first…we will go nowhere…bad things will continue. Why? Because there is no good leadership at hand. Look at Singapore…someone good led them. USA…yes, George Washington led them. Other countries too are being led by good leaders. We can have any form of government we want but without a good leader…what then? Same old story…sick country!



June 21st, 2006 at 10:20 am

Mr. Lee of Singapore was here before and he tried to tell us a good ‘idea’ about bringing our country to progress. What happened? He was mocked by our politicians. We wait for a good leader. Decisive. Dedicated. Honest. Doer. Willing. Educated. For God’s sake is there anyone in this country of ours? I believe there are a great number. Let’s find him/her. Time is not on our side. Our population is growing at a fast rate. We need to act NOW ! or it will never happen in the next many generations to come for us Pilipinos.

Comment Form