BANTAY GOBYERNO 067
By Ike Señeres
“FIXING OUR DEMOCRACY”
We copied our democratic system from the United States of America (US), but it seems that we had copied wrongly, even if all we had to do was to copy. For instance, the President and the Vice President in the US would always be elected together, meaning to say that they would always come from the same political party. That way, these two top officials would always have the same agenda, and they would never have to fight each other in the political arena. The Vice President in the US is also concurrently the Senate President, and that way, he is in the best position to bring forward the agenda of the President in the Senate, a situation that enables the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch to work very well together. You might wonder how and why the Vice President could become the Senate President even if he is not a Senator, but that is how the American system works.
Because of the big differences in the number of Congressmen that would represent the American States depending on the size of their voting populations. The Americans decided to have two Senators each the States regardless of the size of their voting populations, and somehow that became the equalizing factor among them, so to speak. When the time came however to copy the composition and structure of the American Senate in order to have our own version, we decided to elect our own Senators nationally (at large), thus defeating the purpose of equalizing representation. Even if we do not have the equivalent of American States here in the Philippines, we do have regions here, and had we decided to elect our Senators regionally (and not at large), we would have achieved the purpose of equalization just the same.
Based on the logic that the appropriator of funds should also be the auditor, the government auditing organization of the US is merely a committee of the US Congress, unlike here in the Philippines where the Commission on Audit (COA) is a separate commission, and a Constitutional Commission at that, independent from both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. Because of this unique arrangement, the Philippine Congress is often placed in an awkward situation, as it is audited by an external entity when in fact it should be the one doing the auditing, being the appropriator of funds. Considering the fact that the Philippine Congress has its own Ethics Committees and other monitoring mechanisms, would it not be possible that many scams would have been detected and prevented had it been discovered from the inside?
As I understand it, the ideology of a political party should be different from its platform and more so its programs should be different from its platform. In theory, the ideology of a political party should never ever change, even if its platform could change every now and then, perhaps during each and every election. Understandably, the programs of a political party could change all the time, but what is important is that these programs are implemented, reported and monitored in an open and transparent manner. Unlike in the US where there are only two political parties that are officially recognized, we have a multiple party system here that practically breeds a free-for-all situation that is difficult to control. In the US, the political parties are funded by the federal government, and perhaps it would also be a good idea to fund our political parties here.
It should really be the ideologies, platforms and programs of political parties that should differentiate one party from another. Unfortunately however, it is very difficult to differentiate the political parties over here from one another, because the lines over here are drawn between persons, and not between ideas. As it should happen, political parties are supposed to produce the leaders who would push their ideologies. As it is actually happening here however, parties are formed by persons who almost always would have no ideologies to push, thus our system here would have the tendency to foster the so-called cults of personalities. Perhaps this is also the reason why political dynasties would tend to prosper here; dynasties that would tend to promote their own family interests rather than the broader national interests.
There are many groups that are now advocating a shift to the parliamentary system or a federal system, as the case may be. While I think that these may be good ideas to consider, I think that first things first, we should fix our democracy first before we decide to shift to another political system. For one, it is obvious that if we could not have a robust multi-party system, no other new political system would work, because if the political parties are bad or weak, the new political system would still be bad or weak. On that note, I would say that the real strength of political parties is its members who truly believe in their own ideologies. Simply put, these members are driven by their ideological persuasions, and not by their personal ambitions.
One way to find out whether a political party is genuine or not is to observe whether or not it is behaving according to the norm or not. As I am observing it now, no local political party is planning to hold primaries or conventions. Instead, we hear about prospective candidates being “anointed” to run based on the personal preferences of party leaders, rather than based on the results of primaries and conventions. Again I say that we copied the political party system from the Americans, but we copied wrongly, even if all we had to do was to copy. Perhaps it is too much to expect our electorate to become mature, if our political parties do not mature ahead of the electorate.
We also copied the pork barrel system from the Americans, but we also copied it wrongly and that is why it also went awry. The Americans invented the pork barrel system in order to provide funds to local projects that the US Congress “could not see”. As it was invented by the Americans, certain projects could be funded by the pork barrel by way of a development fund that could be tapped as a chargeable account, meaning to say that the money was not physically transferred to the account of a lawmaker. Over here however, the funds were practically handed over to the pockets of the lawmakers, leaving it up to them to spend the money anyway they like, certainly beyond where the Philippine Congress “could see”.
As it is supposed to be, political parties are supposed to have a large membership base that could be validated all the way to the municipal level. In theory, these members are supposed to be ideologically driven, very much like the cadre of the communist parties that could be found down to the smallest village. As we know it over here however, the only political parties that we could see or feel are the usual politicians and their loyal followers. Let us no longer ask whether these people are ideologically driven, because we might just be in for a big disappointment. Much as we have many ideas about how to change our political system, perhaps we should focus first on fixing our democracy by correcting what we copied wrongly.
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