A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
September 15, 2013
Our citizens are assuming leadership in reforming our political system. As never before they are demanding the accountability and the immediate punishment of our corrupt leaders in and out of the government. Because many more citizens now know that our corrupt and wasteful legislators, administrators, and some NGO operators have been enriching themselves with billions of pesos of presidential and congressional pork barrel and discretionary funds otherwise intended for legitimate public projects and the people as beneficiaries.
In rallies around the country and in the traditional and social media more and more people are pressing their demands to abolish the congressional and presidential pork barrel, and to prosecute and punish the guilty leaders whoever they may be. As soon as possible, in order to end the political culture and practice of corruption with impunity.
For in our traditional political system—of family dynasties, and so-called separation of powers and checks and balance among the executive, the legislative, and judicial branches—more and more citizens realize that it pays to steal public funds because the guilty ones usually get away with it. As leaders and people usually forgive and forget.
In response, President Aquino III has pledged to abolish the congressional pork barrel with the support of the Senate President and the Speaker and some legislators. Senate hearings are ongoing, as are investigations by the NBI and the Department of Justice, and charges before the Ombudsman and the courts. The Supreme Court is responding to a demand to declare the pork barrel unconstitutional. The media are doing a good job of focusing on the pork barrel scam, the alleged culprits, and other revelations. In turn people are keeping their vigil and their agitation for concrete action now by the President, Congress, and the Judiciary.
Our political oligarchy, family dynasties, and patronage politics. Unfortunately, most people have long believed that the mere election of good and honest leaders, and now the abolition of congressional and presidential pork barrel, are all that are needed to reform our corrupt and ineffective politics and governance. This is because in our transitional society caught between political tradition and modernity we are still used to focus on personalities and personal relations, and not on the institutions of politics and governance. Unlike in our more progressive neighbors in the rest of Asia.
Our 1987 Constitution merely restored our obsolete and dysfunctional “Presidential Government” and our “Centralized Unitary System.” Most of our political leaders have been favored by our old and obsolete institutions that sustain their family dynasties and their patronage of their mostly poor, insecure, and dependent supporters nationwide. The congressional and presidential pork barrel sustains the politics of patronage and the family dynasties in our Presidential Government and centralized Unitary System.
Unfortunately, after the EDSA “People Power” Revolt in 1986 that promised “justice, freedom, and democracy,” our political leaders and constitutional framers simply restored in the 1987 Constitution our old and familiar institutions of Presidential Government with its paralyzing “separation of powers” and “checks and balance” among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. They also restored our highly centralized Unitary System where the National Government controls most governmental powers, authority, funding, and resources at the expense of our local governments and communities, despite the promise of local autonomy and the passage of Local Government Code of 1991.
The 1987 Constitution calls for the abolition of political dynasties and other reforms but leaves it to Congress and the President to enact the implementing laws, which they have mostly refused to do.
Until now President Aquino III and other leaders are resisting Charter change to reform our obsolete and corrupt political institutions. Since the 1990s Charter change advocates and some legislators have been advocating changing our Presidential Government with a Parliamentary Government as in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, the UK, Germany, and Australia among many other progressive countries.
And they have also been advocating the change from our highly centralized Unitary System to a system of genuine regional and local autonomy in transition to a Federal Republic. Fortunately, in pursuance of his “daang matuwid,” President Aquino III is strongly supporting the creation of a genuinely autonomous Bangsamoro in the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro—for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. The new rebellion of the Misuari faction of the MNLF underscores the validity and urgency of the reform towards the Bangsamoro, to replace the failed ARRM.
We hope the realization of the Bangsamoro by 2016 will also lead to genuine regional and local autonomy in the rest of the country through Charter change to reform our highly centralized Unitary System.
Our citizens as political leaders should seize the momentum by pushing for fundamental and lasting changes in our corrupt and dysfunctional political system. The goals are to establish a new “Parliamentary Government” to replace our corrupt, ineffective, and unaccountable “Presidential Government”; and to establish new autonomous regions and local governments in transition to a future Federal Republic.
Our Charter change advocates in the Congress and civil society should lead the way for sustained good governance that will lead us to the often forgotten vision in the 1987 Constitution : “to build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice and freedom, love, equality and peace.”
Meanwhile, let our people as leaders learn the importance and urgency in reforming our political institutions “from our traditional Presidential Government towards a new Parliamentary Government,” and from our failed centralized “Unitary Government” to the new “autonomous regions and local governments” in transition to “a future Federal Republic.” We have so much to learn and learn fast.
According to David L. Balangue: “We ordinary citizens can do our part in fighting corruption by not forgetting and not forgiving corrupt officials and not stopping until they are put behind bars, not after 5, 10 or 20 years, but in mere months! The Rules of Court have timelines on the expedient resolution of these cases. We the people should insist that these rules be strictly observed for justice to be served and be truly an effective deterrent to corruption.” [Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 14, 2013]
Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), the President of our Centrist Democratic Party—Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for a constitutional convention and proposing the urgent shift to a parliamentary government and a federal republic.
We need the leadership of our citizens and civic leaders to persuade the House of Representatives and the Senate to approve the resolution and appropriate the needed funds.
Let’s Change Our Slow, Corrupt, Ineffective,
and Unaccountable Political System, Now!