Now that the House, by an overwhelming 93 percent vote of all its members, has passed on third reading the bill calling for a “hybrid” Constitutional Convention, I shall briefly explain in this column what I would propose to that Convention for their serious consideration.
First: let us go back to the two-party, presidential system of government.
I know that many of our congressmen prefer a parliamentary system where executive and legislative powers reside in them, with the president of their choice performing merely ceremonial functions.
That will not be acceptable to the common man, who look at their right to vote for a president every six years, about the only power they hold in their hands.
Neither will that be acceptable to the supporters of Vice-President Sara, and the millions of Duterte loyalists without whose support, our current president would probably not have made it to the top last May 10, 2022.
Going parliamentary now courts political disaster.
This is not to put finis to a parliamentary system.
In time, we could evolve into a system closer to the French government model, where a popularly elected president has ample powers, and who appoints, with the consent of parliament, a prime minister whose powers are similar to a COO in a corporate set-up.
That would require time for the electorate to develop into a mature polity, and for political parties to differentiate each other by standing up for certain principles, if not ideology.
In the Third Republic after the Pacific War, which adopted the 1936 Constitution written during the Commonwealth period by the greatest minds of the 20th century, we had a two-party presidential system with the Nacionalistas and Liberals battling it out every four years.
These days, under the 1987 Constitution, we have a hybrid: a presidency with full powers and a legislature with a multiplicity of parties owned by oligarchs and a bastardized party-list where the rich pretend to be marginalized.
Elections should be preceded by conventions, where the party through its duly qualified electors choose who should be its official candidates.
Party conventions in choosing “who ought to lead” rather than “who can win,” shall winnow the chaff from the grain.
Convention delegates, possessed with their own local mandates, are not likely to choose among themselves matinee idols or charlatans to lord it over them in high positions.
Second: a vote for an executive post—that is, president, governor, city and municipal mayors—should automatically be a vote for their vice-president, governor and mayor.
Third: I proposed in earlier articles that we should elect senators by administrative regions instead of by national vote. Only the president and automatically his vice-president, should require a national vote.
This is to ensure equal representation, where the less densely populated ethno-linguistic tribes will have a chance to become senators of the realm, instead of a concentration of senators coming from the NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
That would promote the federalist aspiration without adopting the system.
At two senators each, we will have 34 senators, where there is certainty that a Muslim, an Igorot, a Zamboangueno, a Waray, etc., will be in the upper chamber.
This would also promote a more equitable distribution of financial resources in the budget allowing the less developed regions to prosper faster.
Congressmen shall still be elected by legislative district, at present numbering 243.
There would be a provincial governor, or a city mayor of a highly urbanized or chartered city, whose vice-gubernatorial candidate automatically wins with him.
The municipal mayor and his vice-mayor are also elected every six years.
Thus the term of office will be six years, instead of the present three. We hold elections too often, and this has been shown to promote corruption and family dynastic rule.
All told, the voter will every six years write in his ballot just a few choices — for president, for two senators, one congressman, one governor or city mayor, and a municipal mayor.
Five names in highly urbanized cities; six for component cities and municipalities under the provincial governor, all of which which could be easily handwritten in ballots even, rather than automated.
Fourth: I likewise propose that we abolish elective positions for party-list representatives; the provincial board members; and the city or municipal councilors.
Legitimate marginalized sectors can vie for the Senate in their respective regions.
They can concentrate their political strength in these parts. As for the contractors, the wheeler-dealers, the siblings, spouses and offspring of the dynasts, good riddance.
Run for other positions if you must.
In lieu of local legislators to a board or council, all the municipal mayors will comprise the provincial legislature.
Acting like a board of directors, they could be divided into two groups, each serving three years, in the case of huge provinces with many towns, like Cebu, Pangasinan, Bohol, etc.
The number of barangays per city or municipality should be proportionately rationalized to population and land area.
An anomaly is seen right here in NCR, where Manila, with six legislative districts, has 897 barangays, while Quezon City, with a larger population, has only 142.
There are barangays in Manila so small that they only have 300 voters, and comprise only three or four short streets.
In any case, most municipalities have only a dozen to 15 barangays on the average, so their elected barangay captains can sit in the council.
In large cities or municipalities, they can take turns at three or even two years each in the council.
Barangay elections should be held every six years as well, in the middle of the terms of the national and local officials.
While these proposals may seem contrary to the tripartite separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, they make for greater efficiency, less personnel and maintenance expenses, with the direct stakeholders making policies that will benefit all.
Pre-Hispanic tribes had similar templates of government, where heads of villages, now known as barangays, comprised the council of policy advisers of the datu or rajah.
We have far too many elected officials who parade themselves as “honorables” even if their work for the people are neither cost-effective nor service-efficient, dishonorable even.
The cost of electing them to office, maintaining them in office, on top of their unjustified and often abused perks and pork, is too staggering.
The money saved can be better used to hire more teachers, police and peace-keeping forces, medical practitioners and barangay health workers, and other vital front-line service employees.
On top of which, government can pay them higher wages from the savings.
Fifth: campaigns should be subsidized by government for the two major party candidates, such as free air time in television and broadcast, print and social media space.
And we can revert to the system where poll inspectors named by the two parties are paid by the government.
Independent candidates can name poll watchers whose emoluments they need to shoulder themselves.
Thus, the importance of oligarch financing in the campaign of candidates will be minimized. Laws can be passed to govern the amount of personal and corporate contributions to party campaigns, which can likewise be tax deductible, thus promoting transparency.
Sixth: though probably well-intentioned, term limits for positions lower than the presidency has contributed to family dynasties, where the unqualified kin are used to perpetuate power.
We should lift them, except for the president with a fixed tenure of six years.
Party conventions will in due time prevent the perpetuation of family dynasties, or allow a performing official to continue serving his constituency.
For far too long have we been electing many so-called public servants, but the quality of governance has not improved.
What we have reaped instead is a babel of political histrionics.
Less officials to elect and less election cycles will mean not only less expenses, but even better and more effective government. Right-sizing does not mean re-engineering the appointive bureaucracy alone. It should start with right-sizing elective officialdom.
I realize that I may be shooting for the moon with these proposals.
These could be quite unpopular with our current crop of politicians, some of whom I have served or helped, under the present system.
But through the years, I have seen for myself how decrepit the present political system is, that it now demands a thorough and even radical overhaul.
I am not for a federal system as our economy cannot sustain it, and devolution of power can be effected even without federalizing.
Neither is a parliamentary system attuned to our majority of yet immature voters, who can easily be either bought or fooled.
Allowing a parliament with members controlled by oligarchs, or who bought their way to their position to decide the fate of the nation would be disastrous.
In the end, those who contend that economic provisions alone restrict our progress and development as a nation must remember that investors will put their money into countries with a mature or maturing democracy, armed with a codified body of laws that ensure stability, predictability, transparency and accountability.
The 1987 Constitution has not given us that, despite all 36 years of its effectivity.