Thirty-two years since his death in 1989, Ferdinand Marcos still haunts us to this day.
You see, the late strongman pretty much had a lot to do with the 1987 Constitution without actually participating in the Commission which framed it.
No matter how noble the intention of that Constitution was in imposing a term limit to potential dictators like him from gaining absolute powers, we would like to think that that it was more of a knee-jerk reaction and a band-aid solution that had no place in our contemporary setup.
While one could argue that a presidential misfit could only ruin the country for six years, term limits, on the other hand, could retard a nation’s development, preventing continuity of sound policies by an upright Chief Executive.
So, our presidential system, from the looks of it, could actually be the reason why we are not taking off as we should be as a nation.
The way a political pundit sees it, the term limits imposed by the 1987 Constitution to positions under the Executive branch perpetuated the now-maligned political dynasties. Children of political kingpins are encouraged to run for positions when their parents have reached the maximum term limits. The reason behind is to perpetuate, allegedly, whatever good the parent has done to his or her fiefdom.
This system, as we’ve seen through the years, has left the nation at the mercy of the successor who usually is from the opposition. He could decide to continue his predecessor’s efforts or scrap the previous administration’s development programs altogether by forging new policies — all for the sake of one’s ego and legacy.
Our system of checks and balances, according to an observer, is self-defeating. While the idea behind it is undoubtedly good, he says, the implementation is Kafkaesque.
“Too much is buried under layers upon layers of unnecessarily complex bureaucracy that by the time things are seemingly resolved, it’s election season again,” he points out.
A very good example of this is the impeachment process which undergoes so much drama and fanfare. The Constitution also provides immunity from suit to the chief executive, which is also self-defeating. Erring leaders are rarely held accountable, a manifestation, we would like to believe, of a dysfunctional system.
That is why we can’t understand why President Duterte’s much-ballyhooed endorsement of a Federal-parliamentary system at the start of his tenure encountered rough sailing in Congress.
The problems in a presidential setup would be nowhere in a parliamentary form of government. Once the prime minister is deemed a liability to the interests of his party, his party mates themselves are, if not forced, inclined to issue a “vote of no confidence” to replace the prime minister with a better one.
Fears that such a system would only encourage the padrino system may have a basis, but it forces parties to shape up lest they risk losing all of their positions come the general elections.
While the presidential system grants so much responsibility and power to one person that encourages cult fanaticism, the parliamentary system is more focused on the party and the ideas it represents.
The former worships the president as a messianic figure that is a panacea to all our ills as a nation. The latter, on the other hand, forces party members to self-audit or they lose their House seat.
We would like to think therefore that any government system that hinges its success upon the benevolence of its leaders is doomed to fail. Somehow good leaders turn bad, swallowed by the system that encourages them to be bad.
It’s not good enough to put upright leaders in position. There must also be a system that forces them to be good. As we have so many times experienced, immunity from suit will not guarantee that.
It’s probably high time that we change the setup that has tied us down to being a basket case in Asia. Corruption will always be there. But at least implementing a system that will effectively kick out abusive officials will be a good starting point.