Sunday, December 10, 2006

Going The Parliamentary Way

"No! They just want to stay in power, that's why."
"Our congressmen know best. They know the law, they make it, so therefore, they know what's best for the country."
"I will never approve of a system where the people cannot elect the leader of the government themselves. It's not democratic!"
"Parliamentary, presidential or's all the same! The rich have the power and the poor have no say at all. It's all bullshit!"

I just stood there bemused as I listened to some of the common folk in Lianga express their views on the issue of constitutional change particularly on the proposal to change the present system of government from the presidential type to one based on the parliamentary model.

The few who did bravely voice their comments were aware that their opinions would matter little in the actual deliberations on this very crucial question of the day. Most if not all of them also freely admit that that they have not received adequate and unbiased information either from the government or from the media. And for all of them, who never had any direct experience living under a parliamentary democracy much less the occasion to study the workings of one, grasping fully the mechanics and processes inherent to parliamentarism can be an insurmountable task.

The advocates of constitutional change have cited the example of many countries in Europe and Asia who have had a long history of parliamentary governments and are vehement in their belief that a similar system implemented in the Philippines can be the key that will unlock political stability and economic progress for the country. On the other hand, staunch defenders of the presidential system and those leery of the "hidden agenda" of the politicians advocating charter change are as deeply convinced that the parliamentary system is merely another of those harebrained schemes that will simply lead to political chaos, anarchy and economic disaster.

To those in Lianga who are tensely awaiting the outcome of this on-going national debate, the question that is uppermost in their minds remains how credible and sincere are the motives of those politicians and individuals on both sides of the political controversy. In the absence of a credible and unbiased information campaign to educate the majority of the people on this issue, that is all they can really make a judgement on. That makes for a rather pathetic situation and not the ideal for what is supposedly a working democratic system where the people are supposed to be the final arbiters of political and constitutional change.

I have always been personally open to the idea of constitutional change and even to a shift to a parliamentary system of government. But only upon the most deliberate and open discussion and consultations with the greatest number of the Filipino people. That is why I, like so many Filipinos, was deeply insulted at the way the pro-administration representatives in Congress have sought to ram the idea of a constituent assembly down our collective throats. It smacks of legislative arrogance and tyranny of the most despicable kind.

If these are the people who will be in the Philippine parliament of the future and who will be in charge of directing the future course of this nation then the call by many sectors opposed to charter change for the Filipinos to take to the streets is call that we all should answer. The Filipino people are, in most cases, willing to accept change in all things and even in the area of politics and government. But it must be on their own terms and it must be for their own well being and welfare.

On the question of charter change, it does seem to be neither here nor there.

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