Filipinos debate switch to parliamentary rule

  • AseanPlus News
  • Wednesday, 08 Jan 2003

MANILA: In a bid to consolidate their troubled democracy, Filipinos are debating a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system to make their political leaders more accountable and hasten the pace of much-needed reforms. 

“After decades of experience, this shift will be absolutely good for the Philippines because of the continued conflict and gridlock between the president and the legislature as well as within the legislature itself,” said Jose Abueva, political science professor at the University of the Philippines. 


Many key reforms have not been initiated or are languishing in the legislature because of the gridlock. 


Under the country’s constitution, first adopted nearly 70 years ago under American colonial rule, government power is highly centralised in the president, the legislature and the national bureaucracy. 


The presidential system was retained when the constitution was last changed in 1987. 


“It should be changed to a parliamentary government where the impasse can be overcome by fusing the powers of the president and the legislature in a new parliament headed by a prime minister and his cabinet,” Abueva told AFP. 

“We would like to adopt the federal-parliamentary systems of, for example, Germany, India, Canada, Australia, Spain or Malaysia,” he added. 

Abueva, who helped frame constitutional changes in 1973, cautioned that further amendments to implement a new style of government should not be rushed by Congress. 


“Rather than Congress, a constitutional convention should make these changes. This is for genuine reforms to be adopted because Congress has vested interests,” he cautioned. 


After years of iron-clad rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Filipinos are highly sensitive to any moves to amend the constitution for fear their democracy – among the most vibrant in Asia – may be eroded. 

But national surveys show growing dissatisfaction with the way democracy works in the Philippines, which is grappling with mass poverty, unemployment, corruption, injustice, violence, criminality and rebellion with continually inadequate education, health and social services. 

“Virtually all government institutions are defective and wanting in the people’s assessment and so are our electoral system and political parties,” Abueva lamented. – AFP  

  • Another perspective from The Philippine Daily Inquirer, a partner of Asia News Network. 

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