KITT vs KARR: Systems & Algorithms Matter

Kitt versus Karr

Back in the 1980’s there was an extremely popular TV show called Knight Rider. It featured a crime-fighter with a talking car named KITT, short for “Knight Industries Two-Thousand.” KITT was a high-tech Pontiac Trans Am with a highly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence system that allowed it to assist its driver, the crime-fighter Michael Knight on his missions.

In 2 episodes, it is revealed that KITT was not the first of his kind. Instead, there was a prototype that came before him: KARR – short for “Knight Automated Roving Robot.”

Both KITT and KARR looked almost exactly alike, except that while KITT’s front scanbar had red LED’s, KARR’s front scanbar’s LED’s were amber. (In the second episode where KARR appeared, he had a paint-job to make his underside silver-gray) Despite the similar looks, they were programmed differently to have different primary objectives.

KITT, being the improvement over KARR, was programmed with an algorithm that prioritized saving the lives of KITT’s human passengers and other innocent human beings over and above its own self-preservation.

KARR, on the other hand, had been programmed with an algorithm that prioritized self-preservation above everything else.

The resulting difference was huge, despite the two Artificial Intelligence-driven cars being similar. KITT was benevolent and good. Because of its algorithm which prioritized the protection and preservation of innocent human lives, it would do whatever it could to protect its driver Michael and other innocent human beings inside it or in the vicinity. KARR, on the other hand, was malevolent. Because it was programmed to prioritize only self-preservation, it cared nothing about human beings and would use them for its own selfish goals.

The first Knight Rider episode where KARR appeared and contrasted against KITT showed the importance of having the right algorithms and the right systems to be put in place.

Which brings me to my main point: Parliamentary Systems versus Presidential Systems and the fact that their algorithms are different.

To the untrained eye, Presidential Systems and Parliamentary Systems seem similar enough that some people make the mistake of assuming that choosing one system or another does not make any difference at all. This erroneous assumption is something that many people who come from an IT or computer science background or any background involving computer programming or algorithms are often able to avoid. Because we deal with algorithms and we compare them, we do understand that some algorithms are clearly better than others, and some systems which use better algorithms are better than systems which use not-so-good algorithms.

And this is now where we look at how the Algorithms in each system are different.

13161855_10156800701515524_3487502764450676857_o

Leader-search in the Presidential versus the Parliamentary System

In all presidential systems outside of the one used in the USA, Presidents are chosen by a direct national vote. That means that all votes from all around the country are counted together as one mass and whoever gets the most number of votes wins. The problem is that the people who are voting for the President aren’t always likely to have had direct experience or insight about the candidates’ working habits or their competence, and so what ends up getting played up are the candidates’ personality traits, their looks, their personal popularity, and their name-recall. Ultimately, this all gets reduced to a national popularity contest wherein the most popular and most liked candidate – not necessarily the most competent – is likely to become the president.

(In the USA, Presidents are chosen by the electorate voting for members of the Electoral College. Each state has a different number of Electoral College slots depending on their number of Congressional and Senate seats. States with very small populations have just 3 electoral college slots, while more populated ones have much more. Depending on which tandem wins in each state, the Electoral College slots will be filled by electors – members of parties fielding presidential and vice-presidential candidates – who pledged to vote for their respective parties’ tandems. If in a state with 3 electoral college slots, the Republican tandem won in the popular vote, then all of the electoral college slots are given to the electors pledged to vote for the Republican tandem. This adds an added layer, but it is this parliamentary-like layer – the electoral college – which has forcibly stabilized the US party system, forcing it to consolidate into only two parties, making it difficult for third parties to emerge.)

In short, in a Presidential System — A candidate’s popularity and/or name-recall determines whether he/she reaches the top. Full stop. The election is “one-dimensional.”

In the parliamentary system, on the other hand, the Prime Ministers aren’t chosen by a direct national vote. Instead, you have parties, and within the parties, the most competent people in the parties rise to the top and become the parties’ leaders. The contest then becomes that of having parties (not people) competing against other parties in order to get a majority of seats. The party leaders are chosen within their respective parties by party members who more-or-less would have had a much more direct experience and insight of the working habits and/or competence of their leaders. Parties, on the other hand, attract voters by talking about their platforms, policies, and proposed programmes and they explain to the voters why their respective platforms, policies, and proposals are better than those of their competitors.

Party members compete within their own parties to show who are the members who are most skillful at defending their party’s platforms and policies against attacks by other party members during parliamentary debates. As such, skilled debaters who defend the party gain brownie points in the eyes of their own colleagues and thus reach the top of their party.

In short, in a Parliamentary System — A candidate’s competence determines whether he becomes the leader of his own party, and his party’s platform and track record determines whether his party wins a majority of seats in parliament. The entire exercise is two dimensional. There is an X axis where parties compete against each other and there is a Y axis where party members compete against each other within their respective parties.

As you can see, the algorithms are different.

Presidential Systems have a one-dimensional sorting mechanism based purely on candidate popularity or name-recall. Unfortunately, candidate popularity or name-recall doesn’t necessarily correlate with ability and competence.

Parliamentary Systems have a two-dimensional sorting mechanism based on intra-party competition (intramurals) to determine which party member becomes the party leader of each party while elections provide the opportunity for inter-party competition (varsity) which party gets the most seats in parliament. Regardless of which party wins, chances are high that at the very least, the leader of the winning party is not incompetent. Besides, in a Parliamentary System, should it so happen that the majority party loses confidence in its own leader’s ability to govern effectively or competently, that leader can be very easily removed and replaced, thus changing who the Prime Minister is without stress, bloodshed, or rebellion.
Competition-within-the-Parliamentary-System-AP

Checks-and-Balances in the Presidential versus the Parliamentary System

The Presidential System works based on the principle of separating the executive and the legislative branches of government. Because of this, the Executive branch can block the Legislature’s desire to pass a particular piece of legislation or the Legislature can also block the executive’s ability to get certain things done. This separation of powers is how the Presidential System attempts to achieve “checks-and-balances” by pitting the legislative and the executive branches against each other, oftentimes leading to gridlock and shutdown. Much of the “checks-and-balances” involves after-the-fact prevention, so that after the legislature has thoroughly debated hundreds of issues relating to a bill that is to be passed into law which may have taken months or even years to debate, the President is fully capable of refusing to sign this bill into law, thus blocking its passing and wasting hundreds of man-hours spent researching, discussing, and debating the merits of a particular bill.

The Parliamentary System, on the other hand, works based on the principle of giving the reins of Government to the Majority Party (or coalition), while giving the ability to conduct real-time scrutiny and oversight to the Opposition Party (or coalition). The Majority party (or coalition) gets its leader taking on the position of Prime Minister, and senior members of the party or coalition get chosen to take on roles within the Cabinet to head the various Ministries based on their abilities and interests. However, the leading minority party which then takes on the role of the Official Loyal Opposition is also given official roles to play. The leader of the leading minority party becomes the Leader of the Opposition, and various senior members of the opposition party are given roles within the Shadow Cabinet to become Shadow Ministers who will follow around (or “shadow”) and constantly scrutinize their counterpart ministers from the Government, particularly during the weekly Question Time (or Question Period) which allows the Opposition to grill the Government on areas where it sees issues or problems.

Unlike in a Presidential System where “checks-and-balances” are usually done “after-the-fact”, in a Parliamentary System, the dynamics of checks-and-balances involving the Opposition’s Shadow Ministers scrutinizing the Government’s official ministers are done “in real-time.”

Shadow-Cabinet
The Longevity Algorithm in the Presidential versus the Parliamentary System

The Presidential System uses fixed terms. In the USA, presidents are allowed two consecutive 4 year terms. In the Philippines, we only have a single 6 year term. The problem with this algorithm is that if a lousy president is elected, 6 years is a long time – as what happened with Noynoy Aquino. A good leader like Fidel V. Ramos, unfortunately, is stuck to just one 6 year term even if his policies were so good that most people wanted him to continue in order to continue pushing through with reforms that would improve the economy.

Parliamentary Systems do not have fixed terms. In most countries with parliamentary systems, there is a 5 year time-limit for which a government may be in power. Within the 5 year limit, a government may decide to call for snap elections within the 3rd or 4 year if the Prime Minister and his team feel that their performance is positive and their likelihood of winning is high, and perhaps even gain more seats in the process. It is thus in the best interest of a party that is in power to keep on performing positively for their team to remain in office. If a party in power waits too long before calling an election, it will have no choice but to call for one when the 5 year limit is over. The risk, thus, is that if a party waits too long, its own popularity might not be that great by the time the elections happen. It is thus much more favorable for ruling parties to proactively decide to call for elections right after a decisive victory or a very positive achievement. Notice that the word used is “team.” This is because in this case, a government isn’t based solely on who the Prime Minister is. It is based on the composition of the team. In fact, while Presidential Systems’ administration often bear the names of the President (like the “Obama Administration” or the “Noynoy Aquino Administration”), in Parliamentary Systems, chances are higher that governments are referred to by the party in power (“The PAP Government in Singapore” or “The Tory Government in the UK”).

Decision-Making in the Presidential versus the Parliamentary System

Presidential Systems generally feature unilateral decision-making – a kind of “one-man decision-making” framework, where the President alone makes decisions, and is merely assisted by his secretaries. Decision-making responsibilities aren’t really shared, due to the principle of supremacy by which the President is above everyone else and all decisions of the executive branch ultimately fall to him and not to his party. In the Philippine context, as well as in numerous other presidential systems in Latin America, there is a situation known as hyperpresidentialism in which the President also has undue influence over the legislature usually in the form of Pork Barrel funds and the ability to make use of discretionary funding to be released or withheld depending on whether a legislator has indicated support or opposition towards the president’s agenda.

In the situation of the Philippines and other Presidential Systems, this creates a single point of failure so that in case a president is unduly influenced, bribed, or coerced into making specific decisions, the entire country has no choice but to go with such decisions because everything is controlled by just one person. Outside influences may cause the president to decide in one way and the president may then cause the legislature to go the same way. It is also perfectly possible for the president to block legislation through a veto if the president gets influenced, bribed, or coerced into doing so by certain vested interests.

Presidential-System-Single-Point-of-Failure1

In Parliamentary Systems, however, decision-making is shared. The Prime Minister is only first-among-equals and thus has only one vote and thus cannot force others to vote the way he wants them to. His only way to do so is to convince a majority of members of parliament – his own party-mates – to support a proposal he is pushing for based on the logical and factual merits of the proposal and get that majority voting for it.

As such, there is no way for any vested interests to influence one person to get him to cause the rest to go the same way. Even if a rich businessman convinces the Prime Minister to favor his own company and give him a government contract even when other better companies exist, the other members of parliament (yes, even if they are the Prime Minister’s own fellow party-mates) will obviously question why the Prime Minister is trying to push everyone else into agreeing with such a decision.  Noting that the Opposition plays an active role as the Opposition Shadow Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition will grill the Prime Minister to demand an explanation for such a questionable move.

In fact, if the unscrupulous rich businessman wants to bribe his way to get his business favored, he will need to bribe 50%+1 (at the very least) of all members of parliament to get them supporting his cause. And no member of parliament will want a small paltry sum if it means doing something so obviously wrong for which a scandal could destroy his own reputation. While a rich unscrupulous businessman could easily just bribe one person – the president – into granting him exclusive contracts, that same businessman would find it extremely expensive to bribe 50%+1 of all members of parliament, since he obviously cannot bribe the Prime Minister who only has one vote.

For this very reason, Parliamentary Systems are much less prone to meddling and corruption than Presidential Systems.

Parliamentary-System-Redundant-Array-no-single-point-of-failure1

Political Parties in Presidential Systems versus Parliamentary Systems

Many not-so-informed Filipinos (particularly members of the so-called “intellectual elite”) have a tendency to use the argument that “The Parliamentary System requires a good party system with disciplined parties for it to function properly. Look at the parties we have, they aren’t even real parties, so how can we expect to have a functioning parliamentary system if these are the kinds of parties we have right now?”

It’s just wrong thinking on their part, actually. Because they never cared to analyze the fact that the lousy parties that we have in the Philippines right now are the result of the lousy Philippine Presidential System we have. In fact, in a book entitled “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties & Party Systems in the Philippines”, Japanese political scientist Dr. Yuko Kasuya explained that there are several flaws (or “features”) of the current 1987 Constitution’s Philippine Presidential System which have totally weakened the party system. The fact that the Office of the President has the power of the purse over special funds for disbursement is one of these “features” which weakens the Philippine party system aside from the banning of a duly-elected president from running for re-election.

Back in the old days when Presidents were allowed to run for re-election, political parties were much stronger and were mostly just limited to two: the Nacionalista and the Liberal. The fact that an incumbent president who was elected as president (not someone elected as VP and took over from a president who died) could run for re-election actually meant that the other parties needed to consolidate rather than split the vote by having too many players. When the 1987 Constitution banned duly elected presidents from running for re-election, the presidential elections became a random free-for-all which caused the proliferation of candidates as well as parties.

It is precisely the features of the 1987 Constitution-defined Philippine Presidential System that has caused the party system to be weak. On the other hand, a shift to the Parliamentary System will force parties to immediately strengthen, particularly because of the need for constant debate around policies and decisions and the fact that parties inside parliament will not just concern themselves solely with legislative concerns but instead will need to take care of both executive and legislative concerns.

When some people say that “The Parliamentary System requires a good party system with disciplined parties for it to function properly. Look at the parties we have, they aren’t even real parties, so how can we expect to have a functioning parliamentary system if these are the kinds of parties we have right now?” they totally miss the point because they do not realize that the only way to fix the party system is precisely to shift over to a better system which rewards strong parties and punishes weak parties. The current  Philippine Presidential System is precisely why our party system sucks. By shifting over to a Parliamentary System, our parties will be forced to become disciplined as weak parties will not succeed in getting things done, while strong and disciplined parties will clearly succeed. Why stick with the current Philippine Presidential system which doesn’t really need parties anyway since our lousy system allows a presidential candidate from party A and a vice-presidential candidate from party B to win?

About the Author

orion

Orion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is also a semi-professional Stand-up Comedian who won first place in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition and is the January 2016 Comedy Central Comedian of the Month. He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

How does Federalism work?

Federalism-Melbourne

The Royal Exhibition Centre in Melbourne — site of the first Federal Parliament of Australia, a perfect example of a country that uses a Federal-Parliamentary System.

Of all the most important systemic and fundamental constitutional reforms that must be implemented in order to improve the Philippines, Federalism is the reform that has the most solid support among most ordinary Filipinos. Particularly in the Visayas-Mindanao and even in the Solid North, Bicol, and Muslim Mindanao regions, Federalism is widely appreciated and understood even by ordinary plebeians and proletarians to be of utmost urgency in order to fix the Philippines.

Sadly, there are members of the Philippine Elite who tend to be stubborn and uninformed. They are articulate and eloquent so they are able to pretend to be “in-the-know” by obfuscating the issues with their sophistry and casuistry and are dangerously able to convince other people to become just as ignorant and as anti-reform as they are. For instance, the Monsods – Christian and Winnie Monsod – have repeatedly over the years continued to keep mouthing a lie that some people have unfortunately mistaken to be true. This lie is that “Federalism will empower Warlords and Political Dynasties.”

winnie-christian

The Monsod couple: Picture it now, and see just how, the lies and deceit gained a little more power…

Give us a break, Monsods!

Feudalism is what empowers Warlords and Political Dynasties! Not Federalism!

And Feudalism results from having a lousy economic system that favors only a small narrow elite to the detriment of the majority of the people in society who remain poor and economically disadvantaged because the economic system does not create enough opportunities for upward socio-economic mobility. The current pro-oligarch 1987 Constitution and its anti-FDI restrictions which keep job-creating foreign investors and international companies out is largely to blame for why jobs are so scarce, poor and unemployed Filipinos are the norm, why comfortable Filipinos are so few, and why most ordinary Filipinos need to work abroad as OFW’s just to be able to earn decent wages for them to live decent lives. Warlords and Dynasties emerge when so many people are poor and only a few people usually from the same family are rich enough to run for office. Warlordism happens when most people are so poor that they are forced to ask assistance from the rich warlords in exchange for services and allegiance.

In short, Warlords and Dynasties are an economic issue, not a political one.

Do you know how autonomy works? Within the context of parents and kids, it works like this… If you want to be more “independent and autonomous” and retain your own earnings and do whatever you want, then you leave your parents’ home and you cannot ask allowances from them anymore. If you remain dependent on your parents, then you have to follow their rules. You cannot do whatever you want.

Check out this analogy:

familyanalogyUnder Federalism, regions will be forced to sink or swim. Warlord-types and political dynasties will no longer have the ability to pass the buck to the national government and blame it for why their region is poor. Under Federalism, a region will remain poor if its leaders are lousy and unable to set up pro-business economic policies that will create more than enough employment opportunities and economic opportunities for the people. “Warlords” will not be able to rely on monetary subsidies from the national government because Federalism will force them to be “on their own” in terms of their economic management. There will no longer be a mega-pork barrel like the PDAF under Federalism.

All that the national government (to be referred to under Federalism as “the federal government”) will directly handle is National Defense, National Law Enforcement, Foreign Affairs and National Diplomacy, the National Judiciary (Supreme Court), Minting Money and Coinage, Currency Management, and a few national regulations and coordination of a few other issues such as Education, Food and Drug certification and other similar issues at the national level.

Bringing in businesses, attracting investors – local and foreign, however, will be handled by the region-states. The direct implementation of Education policies will also be handled by the region-states. Essentially, the regions will be given the necessary powers to be able to handle all these concerns by themselves according to how they best see fit. A region may decide that they prefer to emphasize English language proficiency over that of Tagalog, partly because they don’t really use Tagalog as their local language and that English is more advantageous to them economically and in dealing with tourists. Whatever that is, a region may do what it thinks is best in terms of making them much more competitive economically.

Fed So in a nutshell, here’s how Federalism works:
 
Federalism will allow the achievement-oriented regions who choose good leaders to set up really good economic policies that will attract lots and lots of investors to come to their region. More investors and businesses coming in means more jobs for the people. This means more people earning salaries, which means more people paying income taxes. More companies in the region also means more corporate taxes. More income taxes + more corporate taxes, plus more consumption taxes when people spend means more tax revenue for the regional government, which means more funds for the government for improving the infrastructure, improving the salaries of government workers to have quality people and greater efficiency, improving education, improving schools, school equipment, teachers’ salaries, etc. The region will become rich. The leaders of the region can also decide on paying decent official salaries for themselves to avoid needing to go through the corruption “kick-back” route. Overall, the well-run region develops and people in that region live better lives.
 
The lousy regions with lousy leaders will be left behind — temporarily — because the lousy leaders make lousy economic policies and no new businesses and investors come in and economic activity is weak, tax collection is low, there are no infrastructure projects, etc, the people of those left-behind regions will complain “why are these other regions doing very well and prospering while we are stagnating?”
 
Then the people will observe that the progressive regions have good leaders and good pro-business policies, etc… They will demand these from their leaders and the leaders who do not comply will be voted out and replaced.  Or perhaps the people and the businesses will leave and transfer to the more progressive regions. In fact, regions will compete against each other to attract the best and brightest Filipinos to come and resettle in their areas. Their first order of business is to try to attract their own people who left for Metro Manila lego ago when opportunities were scarce. With Federalism, the different region-states will do their best to attract their own people to return to their hometowns, bringing skills, know-how, and money to invest and live there, and contribute to the local economy.
 
Under Federalism, regions will no longer receive dole-outs and subsidies from the national government so the lousy politicians will have nothing to steal and enrich themselves when the people (taxpayers) and companies/business leave and transfer to better regions as a result of their mismanagement. (This is the trade-off of the regions not sending most of their money to the national government and retaining most of their own earnings within their region.)
 
Ultimately the inter-regional competition forces the leaders and in the regions to shape up and learn the best practices of the best regions. If there are regions that are doing well, other regions will emulate the best practices that the successful regions are doing.
The leaders cannot be sitting pretty because they will no longer receive PDAF/pork barrel and other subsidies from the national government under Federalism. Under Federalism, the regions themselves must generate the income that they will use to fund their own operational costs.

Now this needs to be emphasized:
 
Federalism cannot be done alone as a single “reform.” There are two other reforms that need to accompany it in order for it to work properly.
Firstly, for Federalism to work well in the Philippines we need to allow foreign investors to easily come in. No more idiotic 60/40 and other nationally-defined restrictions in the Constitution. Delete them all!
 
Remove them from the Constitution, remove them from national legislation.
 
Let the federalized regions determine by themselves if they want to restrict FDI from coming in.
 
Chances are very high that the best-run regions will be very open to foreign direct investors. The ones who are serious about job creation will allow FDI to freely flow in and thus will zoom up economically, while the ones run by idiots will try to restrict FDI and they will end up stagnating and staying poor. The disparity will be glaring and the people in the poorer regions will complain: “Why can the other regions succeed? Why are our leaders so incapable of making the right economic choices?” And then they get them booted out and replaced.
 
Ultimately, good leaders will emerge even in the poorer regions later on. The people from the poorer regions will not tolerate mediocrity after getting so fed up with mediocrity and seeing that other regions are able to improve.

It’s just like why we Overseas Filipino Workers generally tend to be pro-reform. We are exposed to other countries. Especially those of us who work in Singapore and Malaysia. We see with our own eyes countries that are in the same climate-zone, countries that have people that are not too different from ourselves, countries that back in the 1950’s were poor just like the Philippines – in fact we had a lot more going for us back then…
 
We have seen that it is possible for these other countries to succeed and move up and we ask “What’s keeping the Philippines from progressing?” We observe, we learn. We see that they have set up systems that work and have set up policies that are pro-business and meritocratic. No, they aren’t perfect societies, but they are clearly much more successful than we are. So we demand these reforms. This is why we OFW’s overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Duterte. We saw that he was the only candidate who was pushing for the same things that made all these other countries successful. We OFW’s overwhelmingly rejected the representatives of the lousy status quo.
 
Which brings me to the next point… If we need to boot out lousy leaders quickly and reward good leaders, how do we do that?
 
That’s why the second reform in support of Federalism requires that we put parliamentary systems in place!
 
At the National (Federal level) and at the Regional/State level.
 
Yes, at the state/region level they will need to have “mini-parliaments” just like in all Federal-Parliamentary countries. Canada’s provinces have provincial parliaments. Australia’s and Malaysia’s states have state assemblies. All are run as normal parliamentary systems where they also have no confidence votes and the ability for parties to instantly boot out non-performing top leaders.

In such a situation, if a region-state has lousy leadership, then the people can lobby their local state representatives for each state-district to replace the Chief Minister/Premier of the state/region. Or they can lobby them to call for new elections.

Whatever happens, with parliamentary systems set up at the state/regional level, the citizens of each region/state can more easily punish lousy leaders and reward good leaders with a continuation in office.

(It is also true that Parliamentary Systems are – ceteris paribus – less prone to corruption.)

And at the local levels, towns/municipalities/cities, there should be a shift to the parliamentary-like “Council-Manager System” which is much more responsive and accountable. It’s a mini-version of the parliamentary system at the local level.

(Click here to watch the documentary on the Council-Manager System)

We need more and more people to understand why Federalism is important and why (a) removing the 60/40 and all other anti-FDI restrictions and (b) using parliamentary systems at ALL levels is the way to go.

We at the CoRRECT™ Movement do not believe in having people just simply saying yes to these reforms. We strongly insist that each and every Filipino learn and understand what all these reforms are all about and why they are necessary so that they can explain these reforms to their friends and family members and convince them of why we all need these reforms. People who learn the details about how these reforms work and why they are necessary are much more likely to be able defend them when the reforms are unfairly attacked by naysayers. So let’s all learn!

* * *

About the Author

orion

Orion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is also a semi-professional Stand-up Comedian who won first place in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition and is the January 2016 Comedy Central Comedian of the Month. He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

NEWSFLASH! Pinoy Showbiz heart-throb TOM RODRIGUEZ is a solid Constitutional Reform advocate!

Tom Rodriguez, the pro-Constitutional Reform advocate

If you didn’t already know, Bartolome Alberto Mott, whose nickname is “Tom” (from the ‘Tolome’ of his first name) and is better known to the entire Philippines as “Tom Rodriguez” is not just a pretty face. Yes, he’s a talented actor and is very convincing in the roles he plays, but he is also a very talented artist and editorial-style cartoonist and is an extremely intelligent person with an interest in “how to fix the Philippines.”

Tom is known to be very good at drawing. He was already featured on TV for having this special talent which he honed in college when he took up Digital Animation and dreamed to become the kind of artist who works in Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic. Sadly, the US economy wasn’t doing all too well at the time when he finished school so he needed to find alternative opportunities. Philippine Showbiz opened up to him after his stint as a contestant in Pinoy Big Brother.

But he never stopped drawing and creating all kinds of concept art or even little comic strips. Whenever he has free time, like whenever he is waiting for his turn to be called on set during shooting, he’s usually drawing, sketching, and doodling using his smartphone or tablet. With this kind of talent, Tom can be expected to later on become a kick-ass movie director similar to James Cameron whose conceptualization of what he wants as a director is best communicated through the storyboards he draws. (That was James Cameron who sketched “Rose” in Titanic)

But here’s where it gets better. Tom Rodriguez somehow stumbled upon this website – the CoRRECT™ Movement website – and it seems he couldn’t stop reading our articles which talk about solutions on how to improve the Philippines through 3 simple but “earth-shattering” constitutional reforms.

On the 8th of March, 2016, while waiting on-set to be called by the director during the shooting of a new upcoming series called “Magtanggol”, Tom started doodling and drawing some editorial cartoon sketches which zeroed in on the need for System Change and Constitutional Reform!

Take a look at these awesome sketches on the need for System Change via Constitutional Reform:

Just look at Tom Rodriguez’ sketches (he’s using the handle “akosimangtomas”) and look at the captions he placed in!

“The sad state of things :(:(:( just a little phone sketch while at work… kung may time din kayo katulad ko baka pwedeng pabisita narin mga kababayan sa https://correctphilippines.org/ #realchange #constitutionalreform”

And:

“Ang Kotse Ni Juan……………………………….bow. another digital phone sketch while at work. #sketch #philippines #cartoons #digitalart http://correctphilippines.org”

Look at the URL he mentioned. Look at his hashtags…

He’s actively pushing for Constitutional Reform and actively getting his instagram followers and fans to check out the CoRRECT™ Movement website!

But that’s not all!

He not only draws editorial-type cartoons well in order to drive a deep message that ordinary people can more easily understand, in the comments sections, he actually goes out of his way to explain why the country needs to reform the constitution. He explains why we need to change the system from the rotten presidential system towards the more efficient parliamentary system.

akosimangtomas@n.laaak kaya nga po ang buong sistema ang kailangang mabago. naniniwala ako na sa pagiimplement ng parliamentary system dito sa pilipinas, mawawala ang corruption na lumaganap na sa bansa. ang pagpapalit ng presidente ay halintulad sa pagpapalit ng driver ng sasakyan…pero paano na lang kung ung sasakyan na mismo ang sira? pipilitin pa rin ba nating imaneho?”

Translation:

akosimangtomas@n.laaak That’s why it’s the entire system that needs to be changed. I believe that if we implement a parliamentary system here in the Philippines, rampant corruption will go away. Merely changing the president is analogous to changing the driver of a vehicle… But what are we to do if it’s the vehicle that’s busted? Are we going to continue trying to drive it?”

Not only that, check this out:


This guy totally gets it!

Check out the captions and the comments once again. You’ll be amazed at how this guy explains why the current economic system in the Philippines prevents competition from happening thanks to being closed to bringing in foreign direct investors. He explained the botched Telstra deal where Telstra could have come in to provide competition to the existing duopoly of PLDT and Globe and force the both of them to improve their services and even bring their costs down. The guy is totally up to date!

And again, he clearly reads our articles here on the CoRRECT™ Movement website. He quoted from my article about Marina Bay Sands and explained that in Singapore, MBS has become a cultural icon (much like the Sydney Opera House is to Sydney) even if MBS is actually mostly American-owned. At the very least, it has actually helped to create lots of jobs for local Singaporeans.

Read through how he explains the urgent need for Economic Constitutional Reform:

akosimangtomas@teamtomdencar_nyc case in point kris, what happened to Telstra’s attempt at setting up shop here…with 1 billion dollars us for 40% and any construction cost it might take to bring us affordable and fast internet connection speeds here in the philippines…they were willing to gamble because of an airspace right that their partner owned which would have made it feasable for them to do business even at a disadvantage due to the 40% restriction…but alas, local competition scared them away by tying things up in bogus suits killing any and all incentive left…it happens in ALL sectors…ALL aspects of life…and sadly, the filipino people as a whole end up suffering for it.

 

akosimangtomas@teamtomdencar_nyc aanother interesting case is Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Hotel…which generates so much work for Singaporeans, while in some ways standing in as a cultural icon for them…the interesting thing is that Marina Bay is 100% owned by a company in LA, and yet Singaporeans noted that not only were there jobs created for them, but the company brought in the technical expertise with them as well. We could benefit from similar things. More jobs here, less OFW’s…with that, no more absentee parents unable to guide their children. more jobs = better pay and more products = prices driven down and cost of living lowers.

 

akosimangtomas@teamtomdencar_nyc Our problems here in the country are akin to an interwoven tapestry…because we are all connected and we are all byproducts of the same broken machine…we just need to find that one thread that will unravel the whole tapestry(all the problems)…So far, while researching, this just might be the closest equivalent to that “special thread”

I rest my case, folks. Tom Rodriguez isn’t just a pretty face, a heart-throb, a matinee-idol… The guy really knows what he’s talking about and he’s willing to go out of his way to explain – in very easy to understand terms – just exactly why we need to pursue all these reforms.

Tom Rodriguez, dude, you totally rock!!!

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum is now a certified Tom Rodriguez fan. Orion is an IT Professional based in Singapore and is an accomplished and award-winning Stand-up Comedian during his free time outside of his IT day-job and his Constitutional Reform advocacy. Orion won First Prize in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition. He also won the August 2014 “Open for Steve-O Competition” that got him becoming the opening act for International Stunt-Comedian Steve-O from “Jack-Ass” in his Singapore tour.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Marina Bay Sands is One Big Foreign Direct Investment

Marina-Bay-Sands-3These days, when you think about Singapore, you imagine a photo of the “three buildings with a boat on top.” If you have friends who have been to Singapore, they prove that they visited it with a photo of them with Marina Bay Sands as the backdrop. For all intents and purposes, Singapore’s new de facto landmark is Marina Bay Sands.

But did you know that Marina Bay Sands is actually the result of Foreign Direct Investment?

Make no mistake, folks… Marina Bay Sands is majority-owned and operated by a foreign entity — an American company called “Las Vegas Sands Corporation.”

But Singaporeans and the Singapore Government have absolutely no issues with the fact that Singapore’s representative landmark is foreign-owned, because they are practical and business-minded and understand that Marina Bay Sands creates lots of jobs, other economic opportunities, and generates a lot of money that gets pumped into the Singapore economy, and a lot of tax revenues. Marina Bay Sands is a premier venue for international conventions, bringing in lots of attendees from all over the world to attend such events, and turning these attendees into tourists who pump a lot of money into the Singapore economy.

Overall, Singapore wins because of Marina Bay Sands because Singapore now has a nice landmark that tourists and visitors associate with the country, lots of jobs were created and Singapore earns a great deal of money from its operations. Singapore is more than happy to receive foreign direct investment for big projects such as this. In essence, Singapore did not need to spend money for this. Las Vegas Sands Corporation took the risk of spending all the money to make this impressive mega-structure.

Singaporeans don’t care that an American company owns Marina Bay Sands because Singapore benefits from it anyway!

This is a far cry from the barriotic-minded attitudes of many so-called “Nationalistic” Filipinos who make an oftentimes overreacting fuss about “national patrimony” when it comes to ownership by foreigners of corporations in the Philippines. Small-mindedness often takes over and prevails in the Philippines and the bigger picture never gets looked at. Instead of pragmatically looking at the fact that inviting in foreign direct investors and multinational corporations will create lots of jobs in such a short span of time for Filipinos based in the Philippines and that these MNCs will bring in technology, skills-training, and know-how that is quite often of a much higher level than what is available in the Philippines, these barriotic-minded “nationalists” (kuno) end up letting their irrationality and emotions take over and all they see is that “foreigners own the companies.” They don’t see the bigger picture in which employees and the wider society are benefiting from the employment generation and the skills and knowledge-transfer that occurs.

But let’s look at Singapore. Singapore’s prosperity is the direct result of Foreign Direct Investment. In fact its very existence as an entrepôt long before its independence in 1965 was the result of Foreign Direct Investment by the British East India Company. After Independence, the late founding Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew realized that the fastest way for Singapore to solve its unemployment problem and develop its economy was to bring in Foreign Direct Investors and Multinational Corporations.

As such, in Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”, he writes in pages 57-58:

“The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNC’s were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNC’s continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries.

MNC’s controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma.

Anyway, Singapore had no natural resources for MNC’s to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNC’s could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNC’s.”

(Paragraph formatting edited for ease of reading)

In the preceding excerpt, the late Lee Kuan Yew reveals that he was exposed to the prevailing anti-MNC and anti-FDI mindset that dominated among many Third World economists and ideologues. This is the same mindset that was promoted by Filipino Leftist ideologues such as Joma Sison, Renato Constantino, Alejandro Lichauco, and are continuously peddled by leftist groups such as IBON Foundation, NEPA (National Economic Protectionism Association), and the MAN (Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism), Bayad Muna, and the CPP-NPA-NDF and its numerous front orgs.

But these ideologues cared more about ideology and theory, not much about practicality and real world problem-solving. Lee Kuan Yew, being an extremely sharp thinker felt that such theories may have sounded cute on paper and could stir people’s emotions, but would have likely failed or at best taken a very long time to succeed. He couldn’t afford failure. In fact, his practical-mindedness made him consider the fact that setting up industries required technology, know-how, and financial resources which the local investors & businessmen and even the country’s government did not have.

The lag-time in waiting for local industrialists to emerge from the current pool of businessmen would have meant that many unemployed Singaporeans would have been jobless and poor for a long time. Since Lee needed pre-packaged “ready-to-run” solutions, he felt that bringing in MNCs and Foreign Direct Investors who already had the financial resources, the know-how and the technology to hit the ground running was Singapore’s best chance to immediately create jobs in the shortest possible time.

It helps greatly that the late Lee Kuan Yew and his friend and colleague the late Goh Keng Swee were both highly analytical and highly intelligent skeptics who had doubts when pure theories and ideologies were bandied about without any practical basis. So the anti-FDI and anti-MNC sentiments prevalent among many third world economists did not impress them.

In page 66 of LKY’s book “From Third World to First”, Lee explains:

“We did not have a large group of ready-made entrepreneurs such as Hong Kong gained in the Chinese industrialists and bankers who came fleeing from Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), and other cities when the communists took over.

Had we waited for our traders to learn to be industrialists we would have starved…

It is absurd for critics to suggest in the 1990’s that had we grown our own entrepreneurs, we would have been less at the mercy of the rootless MNC’s. Even with the experienced talent Hong Kong received in Chinese refugees, its manufacturing technology level is not in the same class as that of the MNC’s in Singapore.”

(Paragraph formatting edited for ease of reading)

As it turns out, Lee Kuan Yew had practical experience as a businessman – particularly during the Japanese occupation. This experience made him understand the requirements of running business operations and understanding certain processes.

This is unfortunately what many Filipino leftist ideologues lack. Most of them have never operated businesses, and many have never worked in real industry. In most cases, they tend to be ivory-tower academics (usually from non-practical fields such as literature), as in the case of Joma Sison. Not understanding how business or industry works, such ideologues are quite likely to talk purely about highfallutin’ concepts such as “sovereignty” or “national patrimony”, but they do not understand the practical concepts of how a manufacturing or other industrial operation must be set up nor do they understand the kind of financial capital, technological know-how and skills-requirements needed to make it work successfully.

Attracting Foreign Direct Investment is the route that Singapore took in solving its unemployment problems because it is the fastest way to get companies set up as MNCs already have existing technology, know-how, and even monetary resources at their disposal. Even Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamad also tapped Foreign Direct Investments and MNCs in order to solve their unemployment issues.

From page 308 of Mahathir’s memoirs “A Doctor in the House”, Mahathir writes:

“Nevertheless the increase in foreign investments helped to create jobs and so lowered the unemployment rate, which was high at the time. Our approach differed from those of Japan and Korea, where the preference was for acquiring foreign technology for investment by the locals.

We did not have local entrepreneurs with the money or the willingness to invest in industries they were not familiar with. It was only after many years that the Malaysians acquired the knowledge and industrial skills to invest in manufacturing.

Thus it was through FDI that we succeeded in converting our agricultural economy into an industrial economy and eventually solving our unemployment problem.”

(Paragraph formatting edited for ease of reading)

Dr. Mahathir, just like his contemporary Lee Kuan Yew, had also been a businessman during the Japanese occupation, and had developed a keen understanding of how businesses are run. The quote below, taken from page 334 of “A Doctor in the House” reveals how Mahathir had a similar insight with Lee Kuan Yew regarding the fact that the local businessmen in Malaysia (and Singapore) were mostly traders and most did not have the confidence to go into certain new fields in which they were unfamiliar. It was for this reason that it was necessary to invite Foreign Direct Investors and MNCs that had the expertise and the financial resources to set up operations in industries or fields that local businessman had hitherto not had any expertise in.

Here is the quote from page 334, Mahathir writes:

“Managing a manufacturing industry is very difficult and there was no substantial industry in Malaysia at that time that we could take our lessons from.

We went for foreign investments because we did not have locals who were willing to take the leap. Locals wanted to stay within their comfort zones. When there is no competition in the mix, it is easy to get away with low quality, bad management, dirty processes and inefficiency.

But in a competitive environment, you must always be on guard. You have to look for ways to improve your product and be more cost-efficient. If you do not, you can be very sure that your competitors will be doing exactly that. Tax protection may provide some comfort but it should not make things too easy and discourage effort. It should certainly not cultivate bad attitudes and habits.”

(Paragraph formatting edited for ease of reading)

It is therefore foolish for Filipino leftist ideologues and proponents of “National Industrialization” to mindlessly and irresponsibly champion protectionist state-sponsored industrialization when local expertise in properly and successfully executing the operations required in such industrialization is woefully inadequate or non-existent.

The problem of the Filipino leftist ideologues is that they care more about their ideology and dogma than they do about the actual welfare of the ordinary Filipino People. They do not care that their plan for “National Industrialization” is likely to fail because they never cared to understand the prerequisites (financial capital, know-how, technology, etc) necessary to make it succeed, nor do they even care that attempting to make “national industrialization” actually happen can and will take a very long time before majority of Filipinos can be gainfully employed. Filipino leftist ideologues unfortunately aren’t really all that interested in job creation. Their primary goal is in fulfilling their ideological mandate.

In stark contrast, Dr. Mahathir, in page 372 of his memoirs, insists that job creation is of utmost importance:

“Creating jobs, especially by implementing policies that encourage the creation of private sector work opportunities, is the proper role of government.

That was why when Malaysia invited foreign investment, we did not insist on immediately collecting taxes. We were prepared to forgo taxes if the investors created jobs for our people.

In our view, no one who was prepared to work should remain unemployed. In fact, the Government was so successful in creating jobs that there are now more than two million foreign workers in the country. We cannot ourselves meet the demand for labour that our economic development has generated.”

(Paragraph formatting edited for ease of reading)

Singapore and Malaysia are both the two most developed economies of the ASEAN region and both countries relied heavily on Foreign Direct Investments and bringing in Multinational Corporations as a means of creating thousands of jobs in a short span of time and training many local employees to learn new technologies and skills that they would not have learned had the foreign investors not come in.

The single biggest indicator of Singapore’s reliance upon Foreign Direct Investments for job creation and economic development is the fact that Singapore’s new modern landmark is none other than a Foreign Direct Investment itself: Marina Bay Sands.

The Philippines ought to learn from this and realize that there is nothing wrong with relying upon FDIs and MNCs when it comes to fighting unemployment and developing the economy. It is precisely because so many Filipinos and so-called “intellectuals” have not yet learned this insight that the Philippines continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the ASEAN region and continues to have a chronic dependence on sending OFWs to foreign countries, Singapore included.

The Philippines must immediately remove all of its outdated and barriotic 60/40 restrictions and other anti-FDI restrictions that keep Foreign Direct Investments low.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution NOW!

Here's how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

Here’s how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

(Singapore was not included in the graph above as its advanced First World status and extremely high FDI figures would dwarf all the other ASEAN countries as Singapore’s FDI in-flows are generally more than twice the highest FDI-inflows in the graph.)

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum is an IT Professional based in Singapore and is an accomplished and award-winning Stand-up Comedian during his free time outside of his IT day-job and his Constitutional Reform advocacy. Orion won First Prize in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition. He also won the August 2014 “Open for Steve-O Competition” that got him becoming the opening act for International Stunt-Comedian Steve-O from “Jack-Ass” in his Singapore tour.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Lee Kuan Yew on Filipinos and the Philippines

(As a tribute to the great Singaporean statesman, Singapore’s first Prime Minister and visionary “Third World to First” leader who passed away early morning of March 23, 2015 (Monday morning), the CoRRECT™ Movement would like to republish an old article written by its principal co-founder. We in the CoRRECT™ Movement maintain that in order for someone of Lee Kuan Yew’s caliber, character, and competence to ever emerge as the top leader of the Philippines, the Philippines must first have a Parliamentary System. Otherwise, if the Philippines insists on sticking with its defective and flawed Presidential System, then the Philippines will continue to be stuck with corrupt traditional politicians, actors and celebrities, and lazy hacienda-owning scions winning elections and doing nothing to fix the Philippines. Only a Parliamentary System can allow a competent Lee Kuan Yew or Mahathir-type of leader to emerge victorious in a Third World country like the Philippines, in the Singapore of the 1960’s or in the Malaysia of the 1980’s.

We invite all who read this article to please learn more about the Parliamentary System in order to understand better on why the way it works tends to produce better-quality leaders than Presidential Systems.

This article was originally published on the 10th of January 2011 in both Get Real Philippines and the old Antipinoy website.)

Lee Kuan Yew

***

One of the best ways for us Filipinos to realize the Truth about ourselves and our country is to find out how people from other countries observe us and our society. This is best done when the one observing and describing us is an extremely well-informed and highly intelligent non-Filipino who has had his own fair share of problems similar to the ones that the Philippines has gone through (or is currently going through), and had a hand in actual problem-solving for his own country’s originally Philippines-like issues.

An example of such a person is Singaporean Minister Mentor and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Hailed as the Father of Modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party were able to craft appropriate solutions for the issues and problems that were hounding Singapore early on in its history as a newly-independent Third World country with no natural resources, a huge number of uneducated people, and security problems resulting from the initial hostility of its neighbors towards it, among many other problems and managed to turn it into Southeast Asia’s oasis of prosperity and development and a First World hub within a region of  what were then  known as “Third World” countries.

The following excerpt which features Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s observations on the Philippines and of Filipinos should at least entice the readers of www.antipinoy.com to immediately pay a visit to the local Bookstore (those which specialize in real books – not school supplies!) and ask around for copies of the book from whence it came –  “From Third World to First.”

Far from just being a book about Lee Kuan Yew or Singapore’s history of development, “From Third World to First” is also a collection of invaluable lessons in economic development, policy-making, international diplomacy, statecraft, domestic politics, history & culture, behavioural and cultural reform,meritocracy, the principles of pragmatic idealism, and examples of ingenious out-of-the-box thinking. In it, Lee Kuan Yew himself also describes how he and his team of technocrats were able to reform the culture, mindset, and behavior of a people who in the 1950’s were still predisposed to spitting in public and other unhygienic behavior as a result of carefully-planned behavioural-modification policies and systems which have turned Singapore into one of the cleanest and most orderly societies in Asia as well as well as the World.

This book can no doubt serve as a helpful handbook for any would-be leader of any Third World country looking to move into the First World.

I truly encourage all Filipinos who work in government, have an interest in government, or are looking for lessons on how to craft solutions to the problems of the Philippines to please buy a copy of this book. I assure everyone that “From Third World to First” will not just be eye-opening and enlightening, it will also enable Filipinos to understand that finding solutions to our problems is very possible if only we adopted a can-do attitude, a bias for intense learning and analysis, a solid framework for critical analysis and big-picture thinking, as well as a grounding in practical & creative out-of-the-boxproblem-solving.

If Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party could do it, why can’t we?

* * *

(The following excerpt is taken from pages 299 – 305 from Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”, Chapter 18  “Building Ties with Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei”)

*

The Philippines was a world apart from us, running a different style of politics and government under an American military umbrella. It was not until January 1974 that I visited President Marcos in Manila. When my Singapore Airlines plane flew into Philippine airspace, a small squadron of Philippine Air Force jet fighters escorted it to Manila Airport. There Marcos received me in great style – the Filipino way. I was put up at the guest wing of Malacañang Palace in lavishly furnished rooms, valuable objects of art bought in Europe strewn all over. Our hosts were gracious, extravagant in hospitality, flamboyant. Over a thousand miles of water separated us. There was no friction and little trade. We played golf, talked about the future of ASEAN, and promised to keep in touch.

His foreign minister, Carlos P. Romulo, was a small man of about five feet some 20 years my senior, with a ready wit and a self-deprecating manner about his size and other limitations. Romulo had a good sense of humor, an eloquent tongue, and a sharp pen, and was an excellent dinner companion because he was a wonderful raconteur, with a vast repertoire of anecdotes and witticisms. He did not hide his great admiration for the Americans. One of his favourite stories was about his return to the Philippines with General MacArthur. As MacArthur waded ashore at Leyte, the water reached his knees but came up to Romulo’s chest and he had to swim ashore. His good standing with ASEAN leaders and with Americans increased the prestige of the Marcos administration. Marcos had in Romulo a man of honor and integrity who helped give a gloss of respectability to his regime as it fell into disrepute in the 1980s.

In Bali in 1976, at the first ASEAN summit held after the fall of Saigon, I found Marcos keen to push for greater economic cooperation in ASEAN. But we could not go faster than the others. To set the pace, Marcos and I agreed to implement a bilateral Philippines-Singapore across-the-board 10 percent reduction of existing tariffs on all products and to promote intra-ASEAN trade. We also agreed to lay a Philippines-Singapore submarine cable. I was to discover that for him, the communiqué was the accomplishment itself; its implementation was secondary, an extra to be discussed at another conference.

We met every two to three years. He once took me on a tour of his library at Malacañang, its shelves filled with bound volumes of newspapers reporting his activities over the years since he first stood for elections. There were encyclopedia-size volumes on the history and culture of the Philippines with his name as the author. His campaign medals as an anti-Japanese guerrilla leader were displayed in glass cupboards. He was the undisputed boss of all Filipinos. Imelda, his wife, had a penchant for luxury and opulence. When they visited Singapore before the Bali summit they came in stye in two DC8’s, his and hers.

Marcos did not consider China a threat for the immediate future, unlike Japan. He did not rule out the possibility of an aggressive Japan, if circumstances changed. He had memories of the horrors the Imperial Army had inflicted on Manila. We had strongly divergent views on the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia. While he, pro forma, condemned the Vietnamese occupation, he did not consider it a danger to the Philippines. There was the South China Sea separating them and the American navy guaranteed their security. As a result, Marcos was not active on the Cambodian question. Moreover, he was to become preoccupied with the deteriorating security in his country.

Marcos, ruling under martial law, had detained opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, reputed to be as charismatic and powerful a campaigner as he was. He freed Aquino and allowed him to go to the United States. As the economic situation in the Philippines deteriorated, Aquino announced his decision to return. Mrs. Marcos issued several veiled warnings. When the plane arrived at Manila Airport from Taipei in August 1983, he was shot as he descended from the aircraft. A whole posse of foreign correspondents with television camera crews accompanying him on the aircraft was not enough protection.

International outrage over the killing resulted in foreign banks stopping all loans to the Philippines, which owed over US$25 billion and could not pay the interest due. This brought Marcos to the crunch. He sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of US$300-500 million to meet the interest payments. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “We will never see that money back.” Moreover, I added, everyone knew that Marcos was seriously ill and under constant medication for a wasting disease. What was needed was a strong, healthy leader, not more loans.

Shortly afterward, in February 1984, Marcos met me in Brunei at the sultanate’s independence celebrations. He had undergone a dramatic physical change. Although less puffy than he had appeared on television, his complexion was dark as if he had been out in the sun. He was breathing hard as he spoke, his voice was soft, eyes bleary, and hair thinning. He looked most unhealthy. An ambulance with all the necessary equipment and a team of Filipino doctors were on standby outside his guest bungalow. Marcos spent much of the time giving me a most improbable story of how Aquino had been shot.

As soon as all our aides left, I went straight to the point, that no bank was going to lend him any money. They wanted to know who was going to succeed him if anything were to happen to him; all the bankers could see that he no longer looked healthy. Singapore banks had lent US$8 billion of the US$25 billion owing. The hard fact was they were not likely to get repayment for some 20 years. He countered that it would be only eight years. I said the bankers wanted to see a strong leader in the Philippines who could restore stability, and the Americans hoped the election in May would throw up someone who could be such a leader. I asked whom he would nominate for the election. He said Prime Minister Cesar Virata. I was blunt. Virata was a nonstarter, a first-class administrator but no political leader; further, his most politically astute colleague, defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, was out of favour. Marcos was silent, then he admitted that succession was the nub of the problem. If he could find a successor, there would be a solution. As I left, he said, “You are a true friend.” I did not understand him. It was a strange meeting.

With medical care, Marcos dragged on. Cesar Virata met me in Singapore in January the following year. He was completely guileless, a political innocent. He said that Mrs. Imelda Marcos was likely to be nominated as the presidential candidate. I asked how that could be when there were other weighty candidates, including Juan Ponce Enrile and Blas Ople, the labor minister. Virata replied it had to do with “flow of money; she would have more money than other candidates to pay for the votes needed for nomination by the party and to win the election. He added that if she were the candidate, the opposition would put up Mrs. Cory Aquino and work up the people’s feelings. He said the economy was going down with no political stability.

The denouement came in February 1986 when Marcos held presidential elections which he claimed he won. Cory Aquino, the opposition candidate, disputed this and launched a civil disobedience campaign. Defense Minister Juan Enrile defected and admitted election fraud had taken place, and the head of the Philippine constabulary, Lieutenant General Fidel Ramos, joined him. A massive show of “people power” in the streets of Manila led to a spectacular overthrow of a dictatorship. The final indignity was on 25 February 1986, when Marcos and his wife fled in U.S. Air Force helicopters from Malacañang Palace to Clark Air Base and were flown to Hawaii. This Hollywood-style melodrama could only have happened in the Philippines.

Mrs. Aquino was sworn in as president amid jubilation. I had hopes that this honest, God-fearing woman would help regain confidence for the Philippines and get the country back on track. I visited her that June, three months after the event. She was a sincere, devout Catholic who wanted to do her best for her country by carrying out what she believed her husband would have done had he been alive, namely, restore democracy to the Philippines. Democracy would then solve their economic and social problems. At dinner, Mrs. Aquino seated the chairman of the constitutional commission, Chief Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, next to me. I asked the learned lady what lessons her commission had learned from the experience of the last 40 years since independence in 1946 would guide her in drafting the constitution. She answered without hesitation, “We will not have any reservations or limitations on our democracy. We must make sure that no dictator can ever emerge to subvert the constitution.” Was there no incompatibility of the American-type separation of powers with the culture and habits of the Filipino people that had caused problems for the presidents before Marcos? Apparently none.

Endless attempted coups added to Mrs. Aquino’s problems. The army and the constabulary had been politicized. Before the ASEAN summit in December 1987, a coup was threatened. Without President Suharto’s firm support the summit would have been postponed and confidence in Aquino’s government undermined. The Philippine government agreed that the responsibility for security should be shared between them and the other ASEAN governments, in particular the Indonesian government. General Benny Moerdani, President Suharto’s trusted aide, took charge. He positioned an Indonesian warship in the middle of Manila Bay with helicopters and a commando team ready to rescue the ASEAN heads of government if there should be a coup attempt during the summit. I was included in their rescue plans. I wondered if such a rescue could work but decided to go along with the arrangements, hoping that the show of force would scare off the coup leaders. We were all confined to the Philippine Plaza Hotel by the seafront facing Manila Bay where we could see the Indonesian warship at anchor. The hotel was completely sealed off and guarded. The summit went off without any mishap. We all hoped that this show of united support for Mrs. Aquino’s government at a time when there were many attempts to destabilize it would calm the situation.

It made no difference. There were more coup attempts, discouraging investments badly needed to create jobs. This was a pity because they had so many able people, educated in the Philippines and the United States. Their workers were English-speaking, at least in Manila. There was no reason why the Philippines should not have been one of the more successful of the ASEAN countries. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the most developed, because America had been generous in rehabilitating the country after the war. Something was missing, a gel to hold society together. The people at the top, the elite mestizos, had the same detached attitude to the native peasants as the mestizos in their haciendas in Latin America had toward their peons. They were two different societies: Those at the top lived a life of extreme luxury and comfort while the peasants scraped a living, and in the Philippines it was a hard living. They had no land but worked on sugar and coconut plantations.They had many children because the church discouraged birth control. The result was increasing poverty.

It was obvious that the Philippines would never take off unless there was substantial aid from the United States. George Shultz, the secretary of state, was sympathetic and wanted to help but made clear to me that the United States would be better able to do something if ASEAN showed support by making its contribution. The United States was reluctant to go it alone and adopt the Philippines as its special problem. Shultz wanted ASEAN to play a more prominent role to make it easier for the president to get the necessary votes in Congress. I persuaded Shultz to get the aid project off the ground in 1988, before President Reagan’s second term of office ended. He did. There were two meetings for a Multilateral Assistance Initiative (Philippines Assistance Programme): The first in Tokyo in 1989 brought US$3.5 billion in pledges, and the second in Hong Kong in 1991, under the Bush administration, yielded US$14 billion in pledges. But instability in the Philippines did not abate. This made donors hesitant and delayed the implementation of projects.

Mrs. Aquino’s successor, Fidel Ramos, whom she had backed, was more practical and established greater stability. In November 1992, I visited him. In a speech to the 18th Philippine Business Conference, I said, “I do not believe democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy.” In private, President Ramos said he agreed with me that British parliamentary-type constitutions worked better because the majority party in the legislature was also the government. Publicly, Ramos had to differ.

He knew well the difficulties of trying to govern with strict American-style separation of powers. The senate had already defeated Mrs. Aquino’s proposal to retain the American bases. The Philippines had a rambunctious press but it did not check corruption. Individual press reporters could be bought, as could many judges. Something had gone seriously wrong. Millions of Filipino men and women had to leave their country for jobs abroad beneath their level of education. Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists, and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours. Hundreds of thousands of them have left for Hawaii and for the American mainland. It is a problem the solution to which has not been made easier by the workings of a Philippine version of the American constitution.

The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. They supported the winning presidential and congressional candidates with their considerable resources and reappeared in the political and social limelight after the 1998 election that returned President Joseph Estrada. General Fabian Ver, Marcos’s commander-in-chief who had been in charge of security when Aquino was assassinated, had fled the Philippines together with Marcos in 1986. When he died in Bangkok, the Estrada government gave the general military honors at his burial. One Filipino newspaper, Today, wrote on 22 November 1998, “Ver, Marcos and the rest of the official family plunged the country into two decades of lies, torture, and plunder. Over the next decade, Marcos’s cronies and immediate family would tiptoe back into the country, one by one – always to the public’s revulsion and disgust, though they showed that there was nothing that hidden money and thick hides could not withstand.” Some Filipinos write and speak with passion. If they could get their elite to share their sentiments and act, what could they not have achieved?

*

President Noynoy Aquino and everyone in his cabinet and staff (all secretaries down to the director level) should all get copies of “From Third World to First” and read the book at least twice.

We in the CoRRECT™ Movement encourage all readers of this article to please purchase copies of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First.” The insights in the book can give Filipinos a good lesson on how things are best done based on the situation a country happens to be in.

* * *

Lee Kuan Yew’s Profile:

The late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (Hakka for 李光耀 – Lî Guang Yào in Mandarin) born “Harry Lee Kuan Yew” and known simply as “Harry” to close friends, family, and his late wife, was born in Singapore on September 16, 1923,  a third-generation descendant of immigrants from the Hakka dialect-group hailing from China’s Guangdong Province. He finished law at Cambridge University, England. In 1954, he formed the People’s Action Party, which won the first Singapore general election five years later. Though dominantly English-speaking and fluent in Malay, but originally unable to competently converse in Mandarin or other Chinese dialects, he decided at an advanced age to exert intense effort to learn Mandarin and later Hokkien, because he needed both for political campaigns at the grassroots level. He also changed his public persona from being a British-educated British-accented upper-class Anglophile named “Harry Lee” to being known in public and in the papers as “Lee Kuan Yew.”

Lee Kuan Yew  became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959, at the age of thirty-five and quickly developed Singapore’s economy through the aggressive invitation of foreign Multinational Corporations by avoiding economic protectionism and creating a business-friendly environment in order to concentrate on the immediate task of job creation for the ordinary citizens. In November 1990, he resigned the office to assume the advisory post of Senior Minister in the Singapore Cabinet and in 2004, took on the title of the “emeritus” role of  Minister Mentor when his successor as Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong (吳作棟)became Senior Minister after Goh resigned the premiership.

He died on Monday, 23 March 2015 after a battle with severe pneumonia.

* * *

Lee Hsien-Loong

Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien-Loong (李顯龍) now serves as Singapore’s Prime Minister after so many years of being given the most difficult and challenging of job assignments, proving himself academically superior to his peers at school, and needing to prove his worth purely through merit by rising up through the ranks in both the military and the civil service (he became a Brigadier-General), and not because he is the son of Lee Kuan Yew.

About the Author

orion photoOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Having experienced OFW-life himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.

He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement and is an accomplished stand-up comedian in Singapore in addition to having been originally known as one of the most popular television quiz show champions in RPN-9’s Battle of the Brains.

LKY

Tacloban Tragedy: A Painful Wake-up Call

Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan

Note: This was originally a status update from FB that went viral. We were able to  get permission to publish it from the lady who was able to speak with several survivors of Super-Typhoon Haiyan (local name: “Yolanda”) particularly the update of her own cousin who was in Tacloban when the disaster happened.

We’ve been instructed by her to edit some areas of the original post, in order to protect the witnesses who recounted their tales. But it is really important that we who were not there on the ground be able to read accounts like this. We’ve also modified some of the formatting and have italicized or set some of the text in bold where the original author sought to emphasize certain words or phrases.

The original Facebook status update was written on November 17, 2013, so please take note that “yesterday” refers to November 16 and calculate other time references accordingly.


     Krizette_FB

Dear friends,

Yesterday we met and talked to six survivors, not including my husband, who only had to survive the aftermath. In truth, for all the images we see here in Manila, all of them say that we cannot fully comprehend the extent of the devastation unless we see it with our own eyes — or smell the stench of death that sticks to clothes.

“The storm only lasted for 5 hours,” says my cousin. Her home, situated in front of Robinsons Place Tacloban and MS grocery, suffered minor damage. It was only after going out to survey the damage that she only fully understood the severity of the situation: Everywhere she looked she saw people walking dazed, frantic, and calling out for loved ones. She is a volunteer, so she walked to the city hall to help out the local government, saw bodies lying by the side. She and other volunteers, she says, repacked goods during that first couple of days. It was also understood that they would be given a pack each. “We saw it loaded in a truck, the truck drove away, and we never saw it again,” she remembers. “The volunteers were also not given anything.” 

Day One, she says, people waited patiently for help. By the end of Day Two, people became frantic. (Imagine finding your family members dead, your house completely damaged, no water and electricity, all compounded by no food.)

The first “looting” at Robinsons grocery was relatively peaceful, says another survivor who does not want to be named. People helped themselves and each other. “They were friendly, you can ask people where the baby food aisle is and they’d even help you go there,” says the survivor. People only took what they needed.

“It only became violent in days three and four, when people had been going for days without food or water and the bodies were still in the streets,” adds my cousin. Another grocery right beside Robinsons Mall, Market Savers, which is set up like Makro or S&R (warehouse style) stationed several armed men in the entrance protecting already-damaged goods. For 3 days, people ignored it. And then because starvation can make you do desperate things, on the fourth day, the guards were overpowered by a hungry, angry mob. Guns were reportedly fired, and some people got hurt.

“People have been neglected without nothing to eat for almost a week, their family missing, and you didn’t see any semblance of government,” says my cousin. Save for the organized criminals who attack the stores with guns and trucks, the ordinary looters only went in the stores days after inaction from the government, and only got what they needed. Another store, a corner mom and pop operation, was also looted, but the owners decided to just distribute the goods by “throwing” them from the second floor of the building. To be fair to the businessmen of the city, they gave away what they had. Another cousin of mine who owns gas stations gave away their gas before heading to Manila. My cousin also told a local official that somebody should go around with a megaphone to announce the schedule of the delivery of food, to calm the masses. “In one ear, out another, “ My cousin says, shaking her head ruefully.

There’s no use sugarcoating this: the government bungled the operations. The local government of Tacloban is ill-equipped; the national government’s attempts are half-hearted at best. I chatted on FB with the wife of the highest official of Tacloban and she believes the help did not come because of politics.” She laments, “They are so evil, they are so mean.” “They” refers to the national government. I shiver to think that President Aquino would intentionally neglect the people of Tacloban because it is a Romualdez bailiwick. But, guess what, I wouldn’t put it past him. Pakabili po siya ng empathy at sympathy, dahil wala po nun ang presidente natin.

Still, because it is human nature to move forward, you can see the first signs of life in Tacloban. Some stores are already opening — yesterday, too, some businessmen who are now in Manila met to discuss the economic future of the city, yet some will be forever boarded up. How can you recover when the chain of supply and demand is broken? The businessmen in the city lost their stocks, which amounts to millions. They have suppliers they are answerable to. Some of these goods were purchased on credit. In one fell swoop, all they worked hard for all their lives are gone, just like that. And then there are ordinary employees who now have no work and no means of income, because the offices will not be open in at least a couple of months. The scenario that looms for most: No house, no food, no money. There are those retirees who spent all their retirement money to finally purchase their own modest houses, and now they have nowhere to live. It’s hunger + helplessness + depression. Lesser people would have crumbled — but Warays aren’t getting sad, they’re getting mad.

Mr. President, people are not statistics. It only took one day—sorry, I meant five hours—for everything to change for them. Waraynons are naturally courageous and resilient, our ancestors after all were warriors, but we need help rising up from the rubble. You don’t think we’re even worthy of one day worth of your attention. You have not stayed even one full day to assess the damage.

Only 29 towns have been given relief—Leyte has more than 40 towns—7 days after the typhoon. The situation may be getting better, but not nearly fast enough for the millions of people at the mercy of a President who may care, but not nearly great enough.


The Wake-up Call

As you may already know, the issue of the national government’s unwillingness or inability to respond appropriately in providing relief to the victims of Supertyphoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) is all related to the low quality of leadership over at the Palace. This is all a result of the election in 2010 of a man who was not only ill-prepared to assume the responsibilities and duties of being the top decision-maker of the country, but was totally unwilling to even try to get himself up to speed.

This was thanks to the dynamics of the Philippine system of government and the way elections occur within a Presidential System. Aside from all the research done by world renowned political scientists which has revealed numerous problems of presidentialism such as gridlock, a tendency to make extensive use of discretionary pork barrel funding, and a tendency towards greater corruption, our Presidential System has unfortunately caused many ordinary Filipinos — including highly educated ones — to tend to vote based on personality and name-recall. Presidential Systems tend to make people care less about platforms, programmes, and principles, and care more about “the personality of the person we voting for” and look at markers like “who his parents were” or “what surname does he have.”

Had we instead had a true Parliamentary System (not the fake/bogus one we had under Marcos’ martial law era or the French-style “strong president” semi-presidential system Marcos shifted to in 1981 when martial law was lifted), the Philippines’ electoral dynamics would have been very different.

In Parliamentary Systems, people do not care only about voting for who their local district representative would be but also care about who the party leader is of the party that the local candidate they choose belongs to. As such, instead of looking only at one personality, voters are forced to look at two main people: the local representative who will represent their constituency, and the party leader who will become the prime minister should his party win a majority of all seats. Since a vote for the local representative means a vote for his party’s leader as well, voters tend to think from within a “big-picture” perspective, putting more importance on the the party affiliations of the local candidates they vote for, knowing fully-well that their local candidates’ party affiliation will likely determine who will ascend to the post of Prime Minister, and which party’s members will constitute the Cabinet.

(Let’s take the UK’s example. When a person votes for the local member of parliament in his own district/constituency, he looks at what parties the candidates belong to.

One candidate might be named “John Smith” who represents the Conservative Party while another candidate named “George Jones” may represent the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is currently headed by David Cameron, while the Labour Party is headed by Ed Milliband. If the voter personally likes John Smith, he also has to consider that voting for John Smith represents voting for David Cameron to continue on as Prime Minister. If he doesn’t particularly like David Cameron for whatever reason, then the voter must then take a step back and look at what “John Smith” has in common with David Cameron: being from the same party and having Conservative Political Leanings. Does the voter agree with those political leanings? Well, that’s what the voter will be forced to deal with. Ultimately, in parliamentary systems, voters care a lot more about party platforms and their manifestos simply because of this electoral dynamic.

More importantly, it’s not just about who is going to be the Prime Minister. It’s about who will become the ministers. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Labour Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers will all come from the Labour Party. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Conservative Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will all come from the Conservative Party.)

This change in electoral dynamics goes a long way in improving the way people vote. It also changes the way politicians will campaign during elections. Since Presidential Systems are more about the candidates’ personalities and “who they are”, that’s what candidates and politicians concentrate on selling and what they stand for takes a back-seat. But in Parliamentary Systems, where party affiliation is of greater importance, candidates campaign more about what their own parties stand for. There is less of the “epal” credit-grabbing meant to gain name-recall among the populace. Instead, candidates in parliamentary systems are much more likely to talk about the ideas and principles that their parties stand for and plan to achieve as well as the programs and projects their parties plan to implement.

There are many other major advantages to Parliamentary Systems, including the absence of gridlock as well as the ease of replacing non-performing leaders such as ministers or even the prime minister himself. In addition, the Opposition plays an official and active role in scrutinizing the incumbent government’s policies and implementation thereof so that each minister is “shadowed” (aka “followed around” in meetings) by an official opposition counterpart known as the “shadow minister.” Each minister, including the prime minister, is shadowed by a member of the Shadow Cabinet. The Minister for Education is “shadowed” by the Shadow Minister for Education, etc, and the Prime Minister himself is shadowed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Come question period (which is at least once a week in open parliament), the Shadow Ministers each grill their corresponding ministers in government regarding their decisions and their performance. The most exciting question period of the week occurs when the Leader of the Opposition grills the Prime Minister. This constant scrutiny by the Opposition Shadow Cabinet of the Cabinet Ministers keeps all of them on their toes and prevents them from engaging in corruption, since the opposition and its shadow ministers are always in constant surveillance – looking for any sign of wrongdoing by the government that it can exploit in order to discredit the government and use to further their cause in seeking to take over. This constant surveillance by the opposition is why parliamentary systems have been proven to be generally less prone to corruption than presidential systems.

Imagine if we had a parliamentary system in the Philippines. Noynoy, Dinky, and Mar Roxas would be hard pressed to make excuses they way they did in front of journalists. Unlike journalists who tend to ask neutral questions, the opposition shadow cabinet tends to feature opposition leaders who are out to probe, grill, and cross examine government ministers in the open parliament. No more palusots. No more lame excuses. No more tolerance of incompetence. Noynoy or any other vote-magnet puppet simply cannot survive Parliamentary Question Period.

Post-Disaster Economic Reconstruction

It is also necessary that when thinking about the reconstruction efforts of all the affected areas, we must understand that we will need a lot of Foreign Direct Investments as the quickest way to help out in creating the much-needed jobs that will get people who have lost their livelihoods back on their feet.

Look at this graph of ASEAN’s 2012 Foreign Direct Investment in-flows:

2012 FDI in ASEAN

The Philippines is lamentably at the bottom of the ASEAN pile as far as attracting FDIs goes (which explains the high unemployment rate) and the super-typhoon’s destruction has obviously made things much, much worse as far as unemployment is concerned. We have continued to experience a dearth in domestic job-creation such that more than 10 million Filipinos have been forced to find employment abroad as OFW’s and emigrants. Now, an estimated 4 million people are said to have been displaced. How many of them lost their livelihoods? (Now we can see just how badly we need rapid job creation to occur in the Philippines on a massive scale.)

Removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions as well as the 60/40 ownership limits in the Constitution (as well as laws) will go a long way in attracting more and more investors to set up in the Philippines and create much needed employment for our people. Bringing in FDIs by removing anti-FDI restrictions has worked everywhere it has been tried and it is the secret of Singapore’s success and ascent into First World status despite having been poorer than the Philippines more than half a century ago. Massive FDI-attraction was the jump-starting spark that got China out Maoist Communist economic lethargy to become a major capitalist powerhouse and the second largest economy in the world, and it is also the key ingredient in Indonesia’s rapid rise within the ASEAN region.

We’re all so happy to receive aid and assistance from other countries but we have to realize that aid is temporary. Asking for aid long-term is mendicancy and that is unsustainable. As such, once it’s time to rebuild the Philippines and all the areas hit by disaster, we will start needing to earn our keep. We will need to work to earn some money for ourselves. Whether we like it or not, Foreign Direct Investments create employment opportunities and these pay salaries. We’re not asking for alms: we’re working for a livelihood.

Does it really matter if the companies we work for are foreign-owned versus Filipino-owned? Think about it — more than 10 million Filipinos are working abroad for foreign employers anyway. Bringing foreign investors in allows rapid job creation to happen in the Philippines so that our people can be with their families and find jobs without having to depart for faraway shores.

But lastly, we also need to make sure that when job creation does happen, it happens in the regions, not in the already overcongested Metro Manila where far too many rural peasants have gone in search of work to end up becoming the capital city’s urban poor. That’s why we need Evolving Federalism (aka “Region-based Decentralization”). We need to empower the regions in order to have the necessary autonomy they need to create their own pro-business economic policies that would be more conducive to fostering economic development and attracting investors – both Filipino and foreign.

Ultimately, when all three reforms are done, the Philippines can truly get back on its feet and turn itself around so that it ceases to be Southeast Asia’s laggard. This is not just about  the reconstruction of the affected areas hit by the recent super-typhoon. This is about doing what we should started to do long ago in order to improve our country as the Philippines has continued to slide and get left behind by other ASEAN countries who used to look up to us.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) ought to be the wake-up call that gets all Filipinos uniting behind this most important reform advocacy. This is, after all, for the benefit of ourselves and our future generations. The selfish Oligarchs and the ignorant anti-reform forces have held us back for far too long. It’s time all Filipinos learned more about these necessary reforms and started pushing for them so that we can achieve our rightful place among the successful and competitive countries of the world. Now is the time to spread the word!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

correct icons small

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

The Coming Fall of the “Noynoy Project”

noynoy

The writing is on the wall: “P-Noy” is losing support. As a result of the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (aka “Haiyan”), Philippine President B.S. Aquino III has been exposed to the rest of the entire world as being irredeemably incompetent and even unconcerned about other people’s lives. He’s on his way out. The “Noynoy Project” is coming to a disastrous end.

The selfish Filipino oligarchs who propped up the obviously incompetent B.S. Aquino III to run for president on a purely name-recall “platform” to win the 2010 presidential elections with the intention of having their monopolistic interests looked after by Noynoy’s administration will eventually have to answer for their crime. Make no mistake, folks — pushing him to run for the highest office knowing fully well that Noynoy Aquino is a completely incapable and unempathetic individual was an act of evil and utter selfishness. They got him into a position of immense responsibility when all he really wanted to do was to play video games and spend time with his special nephew Josh. It is an unforgiveable crime. The evil oligarchs simply wanted Noynoy to do nothing that would create an inclusive economy that would promote competition, meritocracy, and provide upward mobility for hardworking Filipinos. Having the incompetent Noynoy doing nothing would mean protecting the rotten status quo that keeps the rich oligarchs rich, while preventing driven and hard-working individuals from moving up the ladder and later on engage in direct economic competition against the already entrenched old order of oligarchs.

special uncle

Noynoy’s only “job” (which he is doing, by the way) is to prevent the pro-oligarch and anti-poor 1987 Constitution from getting amended and improved. Every single time the president is asked about the need to fix the faulty constitution in order to attract more foreign investments to create jobs for ordinary Filipinos, his answer has always been “No.”

So yes, he’s fulfilling a role for the oligarchs and not much else. But what happens when crisis strikes?

Here’s what happens: Noynoy freezes. All the time!

In the Luneta Bus Hostage Crisis of August 23, 2010, he was totally absent even if the least he could have done was to briefly step in early on (within the first two hours of the bus hijacking) and announce that the National Government was taking over the resolution of that crisis. It was clearly beyond the capacity of the City of Manila to handle it since it involved coordinating with agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman and other agencies which are “above its pay-grade.” (Vice Mayor Isko Moreno even had to travel through traffic all the way from Manila City Hall to the Office of the Ombudsman in Commonwealth Avenue just to try to meet the hostage taker’s easy-to-meet demands of reinstatement to his old job. But Isko Moreno did not have the authority to get that reinstatement order signed in time.) The National Government could have simply assigned a competent high-ranking national-level official and given him/her the appropriate “blanket authority” to take care of handling the crisis in a timely and efficient manner. But see, that’s why it all went to hell and people got killed. Noynoy did not step in at all to delegate all the necessary authority to someone competent while it was still early.

The same thing has been happening with this recent Yolanda/Haiyan typhoon disaster. TV News coverage – both local and foreign – repeatedly exposes how the national government is too slow to respond to the requests of the local governments of Tacloban and other affected places. There’s essentially no sense of urgency on the part of Noynoy to do anything right or at least temporarily assign someone who is experienced and competent enough to be the overall crisis-coordinator with all the necessary blanket authority to by-pass any bureaucratic processes. When a victim who had been held at gunpoint by looters at some point complained about the anarchy, the looting, and the violence that has spontaneously ensued as a result of desperation, and suggested declaring a limited “martial law” for the affected areas, Noynoy responded by saying “But you did not die, right?” Worse, he even walked out of that meeting!

Benigno Aquino III, Mar Roxas

There will always be disasters and emergencies and leaders will always be called upon to provide true leadership and the ability to organize the country’s resources, armed services, and bureaucracy to do whatever needs to get done. We do not deserve to have leaders who snap at victims who merely suggest certain courses of action based on what they know. We shouldn’t have leaders who totally “lose it” and walk out of meetings just because they can’t handle the stress. Leaders are supposed to handle stress. If Noynoy can’t handle stress, then he has no business being a leader!

I vividly recall how the pro-Noynoy campaign tried to brush aside the obvious fact that Noynoy Aquino was the most incompetent among all the candidates for president: “He may not be very competent, but at least he has a good heart and he is not corrupt,” so they said.

Yeah right. Not corrupt? Well what about the Pork Barrel scam? Not corrupt? What about his act of bribing legislators using the Priority Development Assistance Fund to get a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ousted?

Let’s be honest. That whole point in misdirecting the gullible Filipino electorate’s attention away from Noynoy Aquino’s obvious lack of any leadership abilities or even any sign of personal achievement and talk about some non-existent quality (“incorruptibility”) was meant to get Filipinos forgetting about what was to happen when the incompetent Noynoy did win and thus defeated candidates way better than him.

Well, Filipinos, just look at who among last May 2010’s candidates for president is doing the greatest good right now: Richard Gordon – Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (and has always been with the Red Cross & Red Crescent Society even long before he got into politics). He’s been extremely active and on the scene in practically all disasters and emergencies, and the Philippine National Red Cross – under his leadership – has trained their personnel to be extremely competent in fulfilling their duties.

Noynoy Aquino has proven to be a total failure. His administration has done nothing other than to prop him up by releasing false reports of “economic growth” that even got foreign media fooled. What economic growth? There was no increase in productive capacity! Only an increase in consumption fueled by the desperation of more and more jobless, underemployed, or underpaid Filipinos forced to seek jobs in faraway countries so that as soon as they start earning salaries, they send remittances back. That is hardly the sign of a growing economy, especially if the real unemployment rate is likely to be somewhere along the lines of 30 to 40 percent of the total working-age population, but they make it look like our unemployment rates is only around 7%. What a lie!

But never mind. First things first: let’s go back to the typhoon victims.

Foreign volunteers have teared-up on TV when talking about the victims they saw and tried to help. A Turkish Chamber of Commerce leader who led the Turkish relief efforts delegation – Mr. Irfan Karabulut – was shown on GMA News tearing up and sobbing while he described the dire situation on the ground in Leyte.

Have we seen Noynoy Aquino cry or sob for Our People?

No. We’ve seen him smirk and smile! The guy is really abnormally incapable of any empathy towards fellow human beings. It’s not like we should be discriminating against people who have some kind of psychological disorder and can’t show empathy. We just simply shouldn’t have such a person as our country’s top leader!

No competence and no empathy and this guy is the Philippines’ leader?

Something has to be done at the systemic level. Our Presidential System whose winners emerge as a result of name-recall and popularity is at fault. After all, Noynoy won purely on the basis of his parents’ reputations. He won because people voted for his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and Noynoy got those votes win. We clearly need a better system.

Under a parliamentary system, Noynoy-types would hardly ever get a stab at becoming the top executive leader. And if someone like Noynoy ever did slip through, the system works in a way that a mishandled tragedy like the Bus Hostage Crisis that exposed his incompetence would have already gotten him thrown out and replaced. Immediately. No need for a long, drawn-out process of impeachment.

But we have a Presidential System so he’s still there, smirking and smiling and making excuses on Christiane Amanpour’s interview, talking about how he expected that the first responder in such an emergency would be the Local Government Units. Well, everyone knew that the Tacloban City local government was likely to be unable to function thanks to the overwhelming strength of that Typhoon, exacerbated by a Tsunami-like Storm Surge that is likely to have drowned and swept away lots of people.

How can anyone expect the Tacloban government to respond if they’re victims themselves? That’s why the National Government was supposed to step in immediately! All he did was to spew out excuses and cop-outs on Christiane Amanpour’s show, no different from how he made his first appearance in the news right after the Bus Hostage Massacre and used the hostage tragedy in Beslan, Northern Ossetia in Russia as an excuse to cover up his own ineptitude by saying “…but, as you know, even in Russia—they have resources and sophistication—when they had that theater hostage taking situation, the casualties were even more severe.”  What a freakin’ cop-out!

And Noynoy has even rubbed his bad habits off on Mar Roxas. Mar has recently been trying so hard to show his subservience to Noynoy, donning a yellow shirt instead of the national colors and reading off Noynoy’s cop-out script. Does Mar Roxas not remember how Noynoy’s inner circle screwed him over when they betrayed him and pushed for the Noynoy-Binay combination instead of what was supposed to be the Liberal Party’s solid Noynoy-Mar ticket?

Instead of sucking up to Noynoy, this disaster could have been Mar’s shining moment of stepping in as a real no-nonsense DILG Secretary, taking real control of the relief operations, taking initiative to disregard bureaucracy where Noynoy wouldn’t. But no… Even Mar Roxas talked about the need to fulfill certain bureaucratic procedures in front of CNN Reporter Andrew Stevens who retorted to Mar in exasperation “But surely you need to override bureaucracy in the light of this situation.”

This preoccupation with using “bureaucracy” as an excuse is part of the Noynoy script which has been used over and over again! When former Hong Kong Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang tried calling Noynoy several times, Noynoy and his staff said something about how the HK Chief Executive “did not follow the proper protocol.” For crying out loud, Noynoy, that was an emergency situation! Suspend all this B.S. about protocol, paperwork, and bureaucratic procedure in order to save lives! Protocol and bureaucratic procedure are both done for normal situations, but during emergencies? The priority is saving lives!

It’s the same muddling up of priorities over and over again. And the Wharton-educated Mar Roxas who worked several years in the USA is supposed to be way more intelligent, more experienced, and more practical-minded than the grossly incompetent, unempathetic, and totally clueless Noynoy Aquino. But no, Mar Roxas is sucking it up to his lazy and sub-standard boss by wearing yellow, drinking the Noynoy Kool-Aid and mouthing all types of useless excuses and cop-outs, and generally just making himself a tool within a wider cover-up operation.

Mar doesn’t seem to realize it, but he’s now being turned into some kind of a scapegoat in all of this. A recent Inquirer news report came out trying to make it look as if the conflict was between him versus Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, with Noynoy Aquino being presented as the peacemaking mediator who got both sides working together. Ultimately, Mar Roxas was merely following orders from Noynoy when asking the Mayor to declare that he could no longer function as Mayor. And now they’re trying to make it look like Noynoy is the good guy who’s bringing both together? Unbelievable how these people think they can fool the Filipino people!

The Noynoy Administration isn’t just incompetent. It’s evil!

People have talked about Noynoy going from Hero to Zero. His being totally unfit for the presidency has been exposed beyond reasonable doubt. He has single-handedly destroyed his family’s honor and now the Aquino-Cojuangco family’s good press has been totally eroded by his incompetence and ineptitude. Truth be told, Noynoy’s family and relatives knew the risks of making him president. But I guess they didn’t think he’d screw up big time and thus drag them down with him.

Noynoy is irretrievably on his way down and out. But before he gets thrown out, he can at least do the right thing and fix the flawed 1987 Constitution and regain the respect and honor he lost. He could at least try doing an F.W. De Klerk and fix the flawed status-quo.

Mandela_De_Klerk_309814b

Frederik Willem De Klerk was the last Apartheid Era leader of South Africa. Although he was a conservative member of the old white minority, he saw how Apartheid couldn’t be sustained anymore as his country continued to be ostracized in trade & economic relations, banned in many sporting events, and suffered from extremely negative press due to their institutionalized racism. He knew that the Apartheid era was coming to an end soon as it was losing support and relevance, so despite being the leader of the old order, he took the initiative to negotiate with the African National Congress and move to get Nelson Mandela freed. He presided over the dismantling of Apartheid, and the democratization of South Africa.

While De Klerk was from the same caste of people who had previously set-up the evil Apartheid system, instead of getting demonized, De Klerk is actually considered to be a hero as he was the one who helped to end it and paved the way for the equality of all South Africans and helped get Mandela becoming the next leader. He saw that Apartheid and the old order had to go, so he moved to get rid of it under his watch.

F.W. De Klerk got the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela in 1993 and in the election the year after, was named as Nelson Mandela’s deputy in what essentially became a unity government.

Despite being on the “way out”, Apartheid-era leader De Klerk became a hero and an acknowledged partner in the formation of the new South Africa.

Back to Noynoy Aquino…

The writing is pretty much on the wall:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

(Modern translation of the biblical phrase: “You’re going down, boy!”)

Many of the people who used to be so supportive of him have suddenly gone silent on social media. All over social media, in taxi cabs, in open public spaces, the vast majority of people hate Noynoy & his administration for their incompetence in handling the Rescue & Disaster Relief Operations. The only few remaining ones who continue to support Noynoy look like a bunch of lunatics. Noynoy is truly on his way out. He has destroyed his clan’s name and whatever respect his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino used to get has gotten replaced by hatred and contempt all on Noynoy’s account.

He no longer has a political career. It’s over.

But instead of just simply giving up just like that, Noynoy can do an F.W. De Klerk and make sure that his eventual exit turns him into a respected figure – a transformative agent of reform. That’s something he can do to turn his life around.

2012 FDI in ASEANLook at how low the Philippines’ FDI-inflows are. They’re pathetic. And that’s because many would-be foreign investors get turned off by Constitutional Restrictions that explicitly discourage majority foreign-owned businesses from coming into the Philippines. When we start needing to rebuild and recover after this disaster is over, we won’t be able to do it alone and we’ll clearly need a lot of foreign direct investments to help create jobs for all those displaced people who lost everything.

To facilitate this post-disaster reconstruction, Noynoy must CoRRECT™ the flaws of the 1987 Constitution. The three things he needs to facilitate in order to earn the respect of all future generations are:

1) Economic Liberalization: Remove all the anti-FDI Restrictions in the Constitution in order that foreign investors can easily come in and create jobs for Filipinos. Local investors will never be enough given the massive devastation and loss of infrastructure resulting from the killer-typhoon. If we’re so happy to receive foreign aid, well, people will be much happier to stand on their own and work for a living, never mind that their employer is a foreign company. We’re doing it already anyway: OFW’s slave away working for foreigners in foreign lands. Well, how about opening up the economy to foreign companies so that our people won’t have to be OFW’s and instead can work for foreign companies while still based in the Philippines and be close to their loved ones?

2) Evolving Federalism: Set up the gradual region-based decentralization to eventually move towards regional autonomy to economically empower the regions and provinces to decongest the overcrowded National Capital Region. When regions are given the ability to determine their own economic policies, chances are they will more likely come up with more business-friendly policies since they are closer on the ground to the people in their areas. Most OFW’s come from the regions and provinces after all. Why not get the regions empowered to attract investors on their own and set their own tax policies and do whatever they see fit in bringing in more jobs?

3) Shift to the Parliamentary System: Shift to a system of government where incompetents do not emerge and in case they do, it is easy to remove and replace them with better people. In a Parliamentary System, competent statesmen like Richard Gordon, Gibo Teodoro, and others have better chances of becoming Prime Minister. In a Parliamentary System, transparency is higher while corruption is lower (assuming ceteris paribus, that is). It is no wonder that Parliamentary Systems by and large dominate the top ranks of global competitiveness, least corruption, highest GDP per capita, most economic freedom, best human development, etc. Elections are less expensive and are much more focused on platforms and parties rather than on candidates personalities and their surnames.

Noynoy has no choice. He has already lost the respect of the people. Outside the Philippines, he is seen to be an “empty suit” who simply rode on his dead parents’ reputations and cannot deliver. He has been exposed as an incompetent puppet and proxy of the evil oligarchy, and he has even used the disaster to get back at political opponents like Tacloban’s Romualdez family who come from the political opposition.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t regain respect and honor. He just needs to make the necessary reforms happen soon.

To President Noynoy Aquino: Your days are numbered. You are on the way out. But before you go, please make sure you do what you can to fix the flaws of your mother’s 1987 Constitution. If you do that, Noynoy, at least you can end your term on a positive note. Who knows, if you do get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform, you can earn your place as a real hero and regain the respect and honor that many of your administration’s wrong decisions have caused you and your family to lose.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

correct icons small

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

The Parable of the Mountain Bike

mountainbike1

Once upon a time, there was an American Peace Corps volunteer named Sam. Sam was a nice, good-natured 29 year old White Anglo-Saxon American guy who stood tall at 6 ft 7′ and enjoyed playing basketball. Sam also loved riding around in his Mountain Bike, which he christened “The American Way.” In one of his assignments, Sam was made to go to a remote village in the the Philippines, and he was made to stay with one family which had a 6 year old boy named Felipe. Sam never left behind his mountain bike “The American Way”, and he thus brought it along with him. See, “The American Way” was a specially-crafted and customized bike, built specifically for Sam’s huge build and height. It was built with all his preferences into account, so that Sam was practically the only person who could maximize its comfort and features.

Sam was indeed a nice guy. He blended in well with the Filipino family, he learned Tagalog, and he taught them English. He helped out in the chores, and he and Felipe developed a strong friendship. Felipe always referred to Sam as “Uncle”, since his parents taught him to refer to older people as “Tito.” Of course, in English, Felipe used “Uncle…”

To Felipe’s eyes, Sam, was the ideal person. Felipe often told his Tatay and Nanay, “when I grow up, I want to be just like Uncle Sam.” 

Sam taught Felipe lots of things. He taught Felipe how to play basketball, and caused Felipe to become so enamored with the sport, despite the fact that excelling in basketball usually favored tall people, not short ones. He also showed Felipe all his mountain bike stunts, and made Felipe want to learn more about riding a bike. Everytime Sam rode the bike, he told Felipe how nice it was to have a mountain bike, and how free one was to go wherever he wanted. Time went by, and Felipe really wanted to try riding the bike named “The American Way.” Well, since Sam needed it in his job, he always brought it along with him. Felipe never got the chance to try it out. Sam somehow sensed it… Sam knew he needed to do something…

After two years of staying with Felipe’s family, Sam was now due to return to the USA. On the day Sam was about to be fetched to be brought to the airport, Sam said that he was leaving behind his mountain bike, “The American Way” as a gift to Felipe. Felipe was overjoyed… Sam hugged Felipe and they both tearfully said their goodbyes.

Felipe was sad to see his “Uncle Sam” go. But yet, he was also happy that he now had this GIFT of the “American Way” for him to ride and enjoy.

8 year old Felipe tried out the huge mountain bike… He could hardly reach the pedals, nor could his hands reach the handlebars… He constantly fell and scratched his knees. “Hmmmm, maybe tomorrow, I’ll try again”, he thought…

Next door neighbors were getting concerned about the short 8 year old Felipe’s attempts to ride the huge mountain bike that was custom-built for a 6 ft 7 White adult. They told him, “Felipe, we think you need to use a smaller bicycle with trainers first…” Stubbornly, Felipe did not heed their advice. He continued on attempting to use “The American Way” mountain bike, and responded to them that “This was a gift my Uncle Sam gave me! I’m going to use it whether you like it or not!”

In the meantime, some neighbors’ children were able to buy cheap second hand, smaller bicycles fitted with trainers, and thus the neighbors’ little kids learned to bike. They had trainers (the pair of little tires at the back used for beginners) and later on, the trainers would be slightly raised, until they learned balance. Felipe took no notice of these little kids who were his peers… After all, the little bicycles they used were all cheap, lousy, locally-made bicycles, while his, “The American Way”, was a special, top-of-the-line, imported, “made in the USA” Mountain Bike which originally cost more than the whole rural village’s entire monthly income combined. (2,500 USD for a rather “specially made” mountain bike… Certainly so much more than the rural village’s monthly income combined…)

Day in, day out, little Felipe continued to fall off the huge mountain bike. It was unfortunately unadjustable due to the fact that it was specifically tailor-made for Sam’s huge build. The farthest that Felipe could go was just a few meters before losing control and then falling on the side… Years passed, and Felipe still continued in the same “move a few meters, wobble, then fall” cycle.

He never learned to bike properly. Even in adolescence, he was never tall enough to properly reach the pedals and sit on the mountain bike comfortably and go anywhere with it. He’d always continue to move a few meters, lose control, fall on the side, and get scratched and bruised.

Young Felipe never learned to bike properly, yet his next door neighbors, the ones who used cheaper, second hand, small bikes with trainers, had all been able to upgrade their bikes as the years went by… As it happened, the little kids who started off with trainer-bikes learned to bike properly, took off the trainers, and they then used their biking skills later on to make money… Some used their biking skills to deliver mail, newspapers, and the like… Those who delivered mail and others, made enough money which they saved to upgrade their bikes…

Young Felipe now saw what was happening… Here he was, the “kid with the most expensive mountain bike in town”, yet he never learned to bike properly, while the other kids with the smaller cheapo-bikes were able to learn properly and later on upgrade…

“The American Way”, the great mountain bike that Felipe’s “Uncle Sam” gave to him as a gift had let him down… It was far too big… It was far too heavy… He couldn’t sit on it properly, as its proportions were made for a 6 foot 7 grown Caucasian, while Felipe was a very short young boy…

His parents, his neighbors, his friends, all told him that using the gargantuan mountain bike that was too big for him wasn’t going to work. Many years passed with the same sad results…

But poor young Felipe, now at 15 years old, still defiantly retorted back to them, “My Uncle Sam gave me this wonderful mountain bike which was christened ‘The American Way…’ I will continue to use it whether you like it or not…”

mountainbike2

* * *

This parable was first “published” on June 14, 2001 in the original Get Real Philippines website of Benign0 back when the site was still a freely-hosted Geocities site in the early stages of the author’s close friendship and collaboration with Benign0. Sadly, some disagreements a decade later caused the two to part ways (The author proposed Constitutional Reform as a means of fixing the Philippines since he still has hope that the Philippines can be fixed, while Benign0 felt content to criticize the Philippines from a distance and took pains not to propose solutions to fix it since the latter unfortunately tends to think that the “Philippines is hopeless.”)

The Parable of the Mountain Bike caught the attention of the celebrated blogger-turned-author “Bob Ong” who then contacted the author sometime after its publication and asked permission to feature it in his first book which bears the name “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” The Parable gained a certain popularity among students and was used a lot for school reports by many Filipino kids.

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes the Philippine situation the way he analyzes IT systems: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement and spearheads the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

* * *

Extra reading on the US Federal Government Shutdown:

1. The Shutdown is the Constitution’s Fault by Dylan Matthews (Washington Post)

2. Government Shutdown: Is it George Washington’s Fault? by Peter Gier (CS Monitor)

3. The Founding Fathers’ Fiscal Crisis Mistake by Peter Singer (Project Syndicate)

4. Why a Government Shutdown Couldn’t Happen in Canada by Bert Archer (Random House of Canada)

5. How Australia dealt with the One Gov’t Shutdown they experienced by Max Fisher (Washington Post)

6. Why Other Countries Don’t Have Shutdowns by Joshua Keating (Slate)

7. Why Other Countries Don’t Shut Down their Governments by Peter Weber (The  Week)

* * *

You might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1. Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

3. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

6. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

US Government Shutdown: The Presidential System Sucks

110106_capitol_hill_ap_328

The recent US Federal Government Shutdown has further proven to everyone around the World that the Presidential System is an extremely unreliable, buggy, flawed, and faulty system of government whose proneness to gridlock has turned it into a major embarrassment. In the Philippines, the proneness to gridlock of the Philippine Presidential System is precisely what spawned the Pork Barrel as a “solution” to avoid gridlock. We all know how that turned out… Isn’t it obvious that the Presidential System sucks?

First of all, the US Presidential System is all about gridlock: Gridlock between the Executive branch versus the Legislative branch, and within the Legislative branch – between the Upper Chamber (Senate) and the Lower Chamber (House of Representatives). This recent Federal Government Shutdown is a prime example of how gridlock happened between the Democrat-led Senate and the Republican-led House. And this gridlock is not about a law not getting passed. It’s about the US federal budget not getting approved. Without a budget and the funding government needs to keep running, the result is The Shutdown.

Everyone with a brain knows that Gridlock is bad. It’s a stalemate that means nothing happens. Some people even call it “deadlock.” Well, many Americans unfortunately tend to think that “gridlock is good.” Hard as it may be to understand, these Americans (and the American-wannabe Pinoys who emulate them) subscribe to the misguided view that gridlock is a positive feature because it was “meant to prevent bad leaders from doing much harm.” Yeah right.

It’s a rather lame idea because the fixation that these proponents of the gridlock-prone Presidential System have is on “preventing bad leaders from doing any harm”, when ultimately, their system also prevents good leaders from doing any good. Not only that, as the recent events have shown, it has resulted in the Shutdown. In a nutshell, the idea behind the defense of gridlock is based on the assumption that all leaders are up to no good. Quite unfortunately, many Americans (and many Filipinos who worship America and its system of government) seem not to have heard about how the Parliamentary System works. Instead of a system whose inherent susceptibility to gridlock is supposed to stifle a “bad leader” from doing harm, the Parliamentary System is premised on preventing bad leaders from emerging in the first place. In fact, the system works such that in the off chance that a bad leader does emerge, the so-called bad leader can be very easily removed and replaced legally without any difficulty whatsoever.

Is it any wonder that the USA is often bested by other First World Countries who use Parliamentary Systems in many performance indices?

Why is the USA never on top at number one?

This is not to say that the USA is not a rich country. It is a rich country. But it could have been richer and better-run. It could have performed way better than it currently performs on many international performance indices like the Economic Freedom Index, Transparency and Resistance to Corruption (Corruption Perceptions Index), GDP per Capita, Property Rights Index, Human Development Index, the Global Competitiveness Index, and many others.

Now let’s not forget what it is that actually helps make the USA rich and have a relatively self-driven population that is out to succeed despite its lousy and flawed gridlock-prone system of government: the USA is the World’s Largest Immigrant Nation.

Yup. That’s right. The USA has the largest immigrant-dominated population in the entire world. Majority of its people are themselves immigrants or at least descended from immigrants, and it continues to attract a lot of first generation new immigrants. And immigrants, particularly voluntary immigrants, are people who made the decision to be self-reliant and self-driven towards achieving economic independence for themselves and for their own families. They made their decision to be self-reliant even before leaving their original home countries to move to the USA.

(Another mitigating factor for why the USA, despite using the faultily-designed Presidential System, is still able to prevent the failures that have characterized Presidential Systems everywhere else is because their presidential system uses the Electoral College which helps to stabilize their electoral processes in lessening the number of contending candidates for the presidency. In countries in Latin America or in the Philippines which do not use the Electoral College, the high number of candidates often destabilizes the election results particularly in countries that do not use run-off elections in order to force the emergence of a majority president. This topic is discussed in “Problems of Presidentialism” by the late Dr. Fred Riggs.)

So even if the USA has a system that was rigged to “sabotage itself” through gridlock and get the least amount of work or “new policies” done, the fact that majority of Americans (who are mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants) are still rather conscious of the need to be self-reliant mitigates the ill-effects of this institutionalized gridlock because the general psyche of voluntary immigrants is to “fend for themselves” anyway.

The Need for Good Governance in Developing Non-Immigrant Societies

On the other hand, in countries that are not immigrant nations, good governance is much more of a necessity. And ensuring that a country gets more-or-less the best kinds of leaders they can have generally means a better direction for them. Parliamentary Systems are meant to promote good governance. Of course they can’t guarantee it, but when compared to Presidential Systems, ceteris paribus, they obviously fare better in producing better-quality leaders. At the very least, the ideal scenario is that in such a society, excellent governance can and will emerge that will educate, train, and enable the people to become much more self-reliant so that ultimately, they’ll fend for themselves, be responsible to themselves as private individuals and not be too reliant on government.

In immigrant societies,  voluntary immigrants made a conscious decision to be self-reliant even before setting foot into their intended destinations. They don’t really need to be taught to be self-reliant. Even with a government whose wings are clipped, self-reliant people (which is what immigrants normally are) can still succeed despite having an emasculated government as these people are self-motivated, driven, and out to achieve by themselves and for themselves. (However, it certainly does not harm when immigrant societies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Singapore do have governments that are run well and are not clipped by gridlock. They certainly wouldn’t have to be sabotaged by a government shutdown like the one that has just recently hit the USA)

In non-immigrant societies, the people need to be molded and trained to become more attuned to the necessity of self-reliance. Why? Because the people there – “the natives” -have been in their home countries ever since. They’re “furniture that came with the house.” They didn’t decide to be there the way immigrants to new lands did. The people in non-immigrant societies need to be led to make the right moves towards success by good leaders. Good government (particularly good government whose ideas are based on Classical Liberal principles) can play this role of teaching the people to rely on themselves through education and creating an environment where hard work is rewarded and laziness is not rewarded. A gridlock-prone system, alas, will not allow this because it was designed to sabotage itself and clip its own wings. It’s very much like having the handbrake on while stepping on the accelerator.

As the Philippines is clearly not an immigrant society, it is quite obvious that our country desperately needs good governance and a system that prevents bad leaders from emerging in the first place, as well as hopefully enables good leaders to step up to the plate and train, mold, and enable a vast majority of the people to become successful, self-reliant, achievement-oriented citizens who can stand on their own economically. This is what a Parliamentary System is more likely to do than a Presidential System since Parliamentary Systems cause competent leaders to emerge, while Presidential Systems are more likely to cause “winnable” and “popular” (but not necessarily competent) leaders to emerge. The absence of gridlock in Parliamentary Systems means that shutdowns like the one hitting the USA are generally absent and leaders are empowered to do what they need to do in order to do the right things and pursue much-needed reforms.

(Australia is the only Parliamentary country to have formally had one and only one shutdown and it was very promptly resolved within a few hours thanks to the flexibility of the parliamentary system. Ironically, the reason why Australia had a shutdown in 1976 is a result of Australia’s decision to copy the USA in creating a relatively powerful elected Senate – emulating the US Senate – which ended up in gridlock against Australia’s slightly more powerful House of Representatives. Unlike Australia which had only one shutdown ever which happened in 1975 and it was only for a few hours, the USA has had a total of 17 government shutdowns, the last one was 17 years ago as of this writing and each of them lasted for days or even weeks! Shutdowns are unfortunately a “feature” of the US System. While the stability of Presidential Systems would be akin to operating systems that crash regularly, Parliamentary Systems are – to IT professionals’ and computer scientists’ eyes – reminiscent of heavy duty fault tolerant and crash resistant operating systems.)

Sadly, with the Philippines using a Presidential System, our country is likely to be forced into two extremes: Either a highly corrupted Pork Barrel-dependent system that uses such funds to prevent Gridlock or an extremely gridlock-prone system (if Pork Barrel is abolished but the Presidential System remains) which is prone to impasses, coups d’etat (like in Latin America) and government shutdowns no different from what the USA is experiencing at the time of this writing.

The choice is clear: The Presidential System must go. The Philippines has had its Pork Barrel scam which is ultimately traceable to the presidential system’s gridlock-prone separation of powers, while the US Federal Government Shutdown shows another ugly side of how gridlock can turn out. Surely, the benefits of shifting over to the Parliamentary System is becoming more and more easy to understand, and the urgency of making such a shift has become very obvious. Americans, your Founding Fathers were not infallible. The Presidential System they came up with is not perfect and how it works is essentially responsible for the gridlock inherent in the US system which in turn caused this US Government Shutdown. If you want to stay on using your gridlock-prone & susceptible to shutdowns system, go ahead and continue using it, but please don’t push it on others.

Filipinos, if we are serious in wanting to truly improve our society, it’s time to shift to the Parliamentary System!

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes the Philippine situation the way he analyzes IT systems: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement and spearheads the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

* * *

Extra reading on the US Federal Government Shutdown:

1. The Shutdown is the Constitution’s Fault by Dylan Matthews (Washington Post)

2. Government Shutdown: Is it George Washington’s Fault? by Peter Gier (CS Monitor)

3. The Founding Fathers’ Fiscal Crisis Mistake by Peter Singer (Project Syndicate)

4. Why a Government Shutdown Couldn’t Happen in Canada by Bert Archer (Random House of Canada)

5. How Australia dealt with the One Gov’t Shutdown they experienced by Max Fisher (Washington Post)

6. Why Other Countries Don’t Have Shutdowns by Joshua Keating (Slate)

7. Why Other Countries Don’t Shut Down their Governments by Peter Weber (The  Week)

* * *

You might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1.  Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

3. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

6. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

 

Infographic: Solutions to the Root Causes of the Pork Barrel

Baboy-Barrel

Many Filipinos want to get rid of the Pork Barrel. But as mentioned in a previous article, it is necessary to understand the root causes of this “contraption” in order to come up with a truly effective solution.

We at the CoRRECT™ Movement have come up with an infographic that aims to educate netizens in a step-by-step manner exactly how the Pork Barrel came to be and what solutions are necessary to address those root causes in order to totally eradicate the corruption-prone pork barrel as it exists.

Please feel free to pass this infographic around to as many people as possible in order to promote a much deeper understanding of the issue among a wider population.

Nápoles & Pork Barrel: It’s the Lousy System

Jeane Napoles

There’s been a lot of anger expressed regarding Janet Nápoles, her daughter Jeane, their lavish lifestyles, and the Pork Barrel scam that funded it all. Everyone seems to be screaming about the need to abolish the Pork Barrel, which today bears the official name “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

But before jumping into the “abolish the Pork Barrel” bandwagon, it is necessary for Filipinos to first understand why the Pork Barrel system exists, and why it was institutionalized the way it has been in the Philippines. Understanding this will allow us to see if merely abolishing the Pork Barrel fund will actually work, or whether it is actually part of a wider set of systemic problems that stem from a common set of root causes.

1987 Constitution Kicks FedEx Out

fedex

Perfect timing. Just what we needed for the Constitutional Reform campaign…

The Court of Appeals just recently reiterated its decision uphold the 1987 Constitution to ban FedEx from operating in the Philippines because its operations were deemed to be  “detrimental to the interest of local competitors and of the Philippine economy as a whole.” The CA based its decision on Article XII Section 11 of the Constitution, which provides that “operation of a public utility shall be granted to Filipino citizens or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines.”

Painful as it is for so many Filipinos (particularly those in the nursing profession who are looking to apply for nursing positions in the USA as FedEx is the only accredited courier for the US nursing sector’s document handling) who rely on FedEx to send or receive important documents or parcels abroad, the Court of Appeals has  proven to be a perfect tool in proving just how flawed the 1987 Constitution is and just what role the Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions play in actively discouraging MNCs and Foreign Direct Investors from coming into the country or kicking them out.

For a long time, a lot of not-so-informed people used to defend the anti-FDI restrictions in the Constitution by saying that “the Constitutional restrictions against foreign investors aren’t the main reason why MNCs and Foreign Direct Investments”, saying that “Red Tape and Corruption are the key reason for why MNCs choose not to come to the Philippines.” Well, unfortunately for these people, there are obvious examples of countries who are considered to be worse on the red-tape and the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking than the Philippines who are actually doing way better as far as attracting Foreign Direct Investments are concerned.

2012 FDI in ASEAN

Thanks to the anti-FDI restrictions in the Constitution, MNCs are few and FDI inflows are the lowest in the Philippines

Take Indonesia and Vietnam, for instance. Both those countries continue to beat the Philippines in terms of bringing FDI in, but a simple look into the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking for the year 2012 will reveal that the Philippines is considered to be “cleaner” or “less corrupt” than both Indonesia and Vietnam who are both considered to have worse corruption perception indices. Obviously, the argument that Corruption keeps MNCs away doesn’t hold water: Indonesia and Vietnam outperform the Philippines in FDI inflows by such high multiples that it is obvious that something else is making them more attractive to FDI: their Constitution’s and laws’ openness to foreign investors.

CPI ranking

The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International shows that the Philippines is seen to be less corrupt than both Indonesia & Vietnam

This recent bit of news is just what we Constitutional Reform advocates needed to prove the DIRECT effect that the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI provisions have on Multinational Companies in the Philippines.

Because honestly, it’s not just that FedEx is being kicked out of the Philippines. FedEx is an extremely well-known company all around the world whose recent “expulsion” from the Philippines by the Court of Appeals will reverberate around the world scare away all other would-be MNCs and would-be foreign investors from ever considering the Philippines as a viable investment location.

If you think about it, most of the Constitution’s anti-FDI provision’s effects in discouraging MNCs tend to be indirect. Aside from the “Red Tape” and “Corruption” bogeyman excuses many point to as the causes for low FDIs, the other cause often mentioned is the high cost of electricity in the Philippines. Well, how did cost of electricity get that high anyway? Simple: Low power generating capacity caused by the dearth of investments in the power generation sector. Had the Philippines been more open to foreign direct investment in such public utilities, then we wouldn’t have to deal with such high costs in the first place.

Just the same, the FedEx case is a perfect example of the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions having a direct effect on discouraging multinational corporations from coming into the Philippines or kicking existing ones out.

FedEx is a company that thousands of other companies, local and foreign, rely on. With the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions, FedEx is clearly not going to be the only foreign-owned courier service to get kicked out from the Philippines. UPS and DHL are probably in the pipeline. Other MNCs who hear about this case – and this case is clearly going to be very well known around the world – are going to take note of how the Court of Appeals interpreted the Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions. It’s just a matter of time before these MNCs currently in the Philippiens all decide to leave while they can, while those merely thinking of investing in the Philippines may just decide to avoid the Philippines altogether.

Let’s not forget what happens when an MNC closes shop or is forced out of a country: lots of people lose jobs. With a high profile company like FedEx getting kicked out of the Philippines, a lot of other MNCs might just follow suit. What’ll happen to their employees?

It’s quite ironic that the news of FedEx’s expulsion from the Philippines by the Court of Appeals had to happen on the day of Noynoy Aquino’s disappointing State of the Nation Address. Perhaps it’s about time Noynoy decided to study the issue of Constitutional Reform in greater detail, if he truly wants to leave a positive legacy for his name over in the history books.

And by the way, Abi Valte and Edwin Lacierda, please take note… If you two “spokespersons” do not want to be exposed as being ignorant about economics, it’s high time the both of you refrained from saying anything against the need for Constitutional Reform and go tell your boss Noynoy to start reading up on it so he can learn to do the right thing. Wagging the dog and fooling the Public with window dressing and SONA videos just ain’t gonna cut it.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

* * * *

If you liked this, you might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1. Exposing Esposo

2. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

3. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

4. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

5. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

6. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

7. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

Benign0 is just as clueless as “Benigno”

benign0-benigno - smaller

Yes, you read it right.

We’re talking about Benign0 (the “Get Real Philippines” guy who uses the “Jimi Hendrix” avatar on the left) being just as clueless as his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III. Why so?

Because just like his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III, benign0 is rabidly against Constitutional Reform, and just recently came out with a new article that highlights his total lack of insight and analytical ability when he attacks the notion of removing the blanket anti-Foreign Direct Investment restrictions found in the 1987 Constitution which actively discourage Multinational Corporations (aka “MNC’s”) and Foreign Direct Investments (aka “FDI”) from coming into the Philippines.

Check this screenshot out:

bobonign0

Oh wow. Really, benign0? Do you really think that your namesake’s point was “before you sell your building you need to fix its rotten floors first lest the new owner’s furniture fall through it?” Or did you not realize that your namesake is just simply clueless, doesn’t know anything about economics, and is simply out to protect the monopolistic vested interests of fellow members of the oligarch class that he was born into?

Wait a minute, benign0, did you not see the blatant error that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III made? It’s this one here:

tanganign0

Did you not notice the error,  benign0?

Did your “critical thinking faculties” fail you when you could not see that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III committed a major logical blunder when he introduced a fallacy in the form of a “red-herring?”

Perhaps you do not get it despite me pointing out to you in red what the fallacious snippet was…

You see,  benign0, it seems like you – just like your clueless namesake Benigno S. Aquino III aka “Noynoy” – are incapable of understanding the difference between:

(1) Business/Corporate Ownership by foreigners
(2) Land/Real Estate Property Ownership by foreigners

As it turns out, your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III was trying to mislead the Filipino Public that the whole “60/40” and “anti-Foreign Investor restrictions” issues are related to the whole Land Ownership issue. They are not.

One is about whether or not Foreigners are to be allowed to own businesses or perhaps limiting them to a small minority share of entire businesses, while the other one is about allowing Foreigners to own land. They’re totally different issues altogether.

What matters primarily to MNC’s and Foreign Direct Investors is whether the country in question freely allows or restricts foreign entities to own businesses in the country. As we all know, countries that are more open to allowing majority ownership of corporations and businesses or even allow up to 100% ownership by foreigners are more likely to be able to attract foreign direct investors than those countries that are more closed. That is obvious.

Allowing land ownership to foreigners on the other hand, is merely a secondary or “extra” feature that can help bring in more investors. It is possible for countries to allow 100% corporate ownership by foreigners, but ban the ownership of land by foreigners. China and Vietnam are countries that allow foreigners to own up to 100% of companies, but prohibit everybody – both foreigners and local citizens – from owning any free-hold real estate property.

President Benigno S. Aquino III  aka “Noynoy” simply couldn’t make the distinction between the two. He either didn’t know anything about the topic and made an erroneous statement showing his sheer ignorance and inability to distinguish between the two issues of “corporate ownership” versus “land ownership” or he was actively trying to distract the public by using the “land ownership issue” as a kind of smokescreen distraction to throw everyone off the real issue.

How could you miss that, benign0?

Weren’t you supposed to be intelligent? Aren’t you supposed to engage in critical thinking?

Looks to me like you were following “the other Benigno.” Don’t you remember Obi-wan’s famous words, eh benign0?

* * *

Here’s how it works, Ladies and Gentlemen:

For benign0, the Philippines should not even attempt to try to emulate the tried and tested best practices of Singapore’s “Third World to First” strategy in trying to create massive employment opportunities for their people by removing all sorts of anti-FDI restrictions and actively inviting as many Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investors to set up local operations in order to hire as many local employees as possible, thus easing (and eventually eliminating) the persistent unemployment problem. GRP’s webmaster benign0 seems to have actively ignored (or perhaps forgotten) that Singapore was not the only country that actively employed the “actively invite MNC’s and FDI’s in by removing anti-FDI restrictions” strategy.

Let’s see… Aside from Singapore, here are examples of countries who actively dismantled anti-FDI restrictions in order to bring in massive MNC-and-FDI inflows that caused rapid job creation for their people, resulting in the step-by-step reduction of poverty and many of the other issues that result from poverty:

1) Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamad

2) China under Deng Xiaoping (邓小平)

3) India under Narasimha Rao

4) Vietnam under the current “Communist” Party of Vietnam

5) Indonesia under  Susilo Bambang Yudhyono

6) Cambodia under the late Norodom Sihanouk

Singapore started the ball-rolling.

It was Singapore that went against the grain of most people in the “Developmental Economics” field which had long since been dominated by Marxists and other ideologically-fixated proponents of the “closed economy”-centric and autarky-based “national industries” model of development which erroneously held the zero-sum theory that “economics means that if one makes money, someone else loses money” as opposed to the win-win theory that economics involves a free exchange of value wherein both parties have a net gain as a result of the exchange than prior to when the exchange occurred.

Thanks to the aggressive policy of bringing in MNC’s into Singapore and getting them to create so many jobs, the Singaporean public now gained a huge purchasing power and people who previously had little or no income now had incomes that would allow them to feed themselves and pay for their most basic needs.

It is no wonder that the rest of the ASEAN region and many in the wider Asian Region are emulating Singapore’s “bring-MNC’s-in” approach by removing anti-FDI restrictions in their laws and economic policies.

Let us review how things turned out on the FDI-inflows front in ASEAN back in the period of 2010-2011:

ASEAN with Singapore

Alright. Let’s look at those values so that we all have a good sense of comparison:

Singapore   113,000,000
Indonesia    32,000,000
Malaysia     21,000,000
Thailand     17,000,000
Vietnam      15,400,000
Philippines   3,500,000

As you can all see from the graph, Singapore is pretty much “off-the-charts.”

I colored it GREEN just to show that it is the leading country in the pack. The laggard is colored RED. Poor laggard. Poor us. We’re the unfortunate laggard: the “runt of the litter.”

And we’re the laggard because we are the weakest as far as FDI inflows are concerned. Oh wait a minute! Yes, that also corresponds with the fact that among all these countries listed in the graph, we also happen to be the country with the worst incidence of unemployment and underemployment. Oops!

And First World Singapore is the country that happens to have the highest FDI inflows. Hmmm… Is this a coincidence? Or is this clearly connected?

Well obviously it is connected! Attracting FDI’s and MNC’s to come to Singapore was precisely the reason why Singapore became a First World country in just around 30 years in the first place. Malaysia, for the longest time, also had the second best FDI-inflows, and that’s why Malaysia had also been one of the more dynamic and better countries in the region, seen as being second to Singapore, often “stealing opportunities” from Singapore by touting itself as a half-priced Singapore. It just so happens that Indonesia decided to really work hard at getting more FDI’s flowing in because their leadership is dead serious on job creation and real economic development.

Ok. Since Singapore is already a First World country and it pretty much is in the league of the Big Boys (the Western Countries plus Japan — oh wait… It bested Japan to become the richest country in Asia based on GDP per capita!), so to be fair, let’s compare ourselves among other third worlders. Let’s take Singapore out of the picture:

Asean minus Singapore

Geez, we’re looking really really bad here!

In the first graph where Singapore was around, the inclusion of the First World country, its FDI-attraction figures totally dwarfed everyone else’s, so in a way, the Philippines kind of didn’t look that bad since “everyone else was dwarfed by Singapore.”

But looking at this second graph, with Indonesia taking top spot (in GREEN) our status as the worst country in the region as far as unemployment and FDI-inflows is concerned should wake everyone up.

It should wake benign0 up, since it was he who said:

loser-benign0Thus spake the clueless one.

“Reliance on foreign capital and foreign commercial activity is an obsolete concept embraced by losers.”

Now that was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read coming from benign0

Clearly, benign0 just doesn’t get it.

He simply hasn’t read up on economics and economic history enough to realize that it is actually the AUTARKY-based “Import Substitution”, “Closed Economy” and “National Industries” economic model that is obsolete. It has already been proven time and time again to be the slower and more-prone-to-failure approach to economic development.

He simply hasn’t realized that it is the Open Market concept of freely allowing FDI’s and MNC’s to freely flow in that has worked the best and the fastest in transforming poorer countries to become richer countries.

benign0 also forgets that the country he emigrated to – Australia – is the result of a huge Foreign Direct Investment venture by the British Empire. Worse, he ignorantly forgets that many industries in Australia were started by British foreign direct investors and Australia’s mining industry was actually jumpstarted by foreign companies. Ho boy.

The guy needs to do some research (which, by the way he never does which is why he always loses to me in debates during the few chances that I have the time to engage that slacker), but of course, he is lazy to read. He hasn’t even read Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First” which he bought, and if he read it, he would have realized that the cornerstone of Singapore’s rapid rise to First World status was its openness to foreign direct investments.

Would you believe this was in Singapore?

Would you believe this was in Singapore back when it was still “Third World” — …Akala mo siguro nasa Pinas, ano?

(Take time to notice how the photo of Singapore back when it was still “Third World” looks very much like a scene from the rural Philippines. Well, obviously, just looking below, one can see just how Singapore got built up into a First World international hub of business all thanks to Foreign Direct Investments.)

Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore icon, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Benign0 doesn’t realize that Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s new representative landmark, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Singapore is just one case in point, but in Western Europe, the old perennial laggard Ireland too became one among the fastest growing economies in the world at the time that the Asian Tigers (yes, including Singapore) were getting a whole lot of attention, giving it the monicker the “Celtic Tiger.”

How did Ireland do it? Simple: It did what Singapore did…

It allowed FDI and MNC’s to come in and create lots of jobs for their people!

In the end, FDI and MNC-attraction was the key in all these examples of fast-growing “former laggards” who got their acts together.

Even  benign0‘s ignorance of Philippine Economic history gets highlighted as he clearly doesn’t even realize that the very reason for why the Philippines was “second only to Japan” back in the 1950’s and 1960’s was because of the post-war reconstruction programmes that the Americans helped us out with. True, they sent us aid. They paid “rent” for the US military bases on Philippine soil back then. But most importantly, they sent in hundreds, even thousands of American investors and corporations to invest in the Philippines to create jobs.

Luckily, despite all the existing anti-FDI legislation that had been existing as well as the anti-FDI public utilities and natural resource provisions in the 1935 Constitution, the Philippines inserted a new amendment into the 1935 Constitution that allowed all American citizens and American entities to enjoy the same economic rights guaranteed to Filipino citizens and Filipino entities. This was known as the Parity Rights Amendment. As such, many American companies did not have to deal with whatever 60/40 rules existed in legislation in certain sectors. Whatever Filipinos could own, Americans could own too. There were just so many Americans and American companies in the Philippines at the time so that a lot of employment was generated by the massive hiring that American companies did.

Alright. So now it’s clear.

benign0 simply doens’t know what he’s talking about. (As usual. He comments about a lot of stuff he hasn’t done any research on)

Rather than actively looking for solutions that could make the Philippines a better place, he’d simply prefer to just yak and yak about how “Filipinos are destined to be losers” or how “Filipinos will never succeed” or how “Foreign Investments are a shortcut to success.”

That last idea is the whole point of why we are fighting for the removal of all those anti-FDI Constitutional restrictions! Yes indeed, Foreign DIRECT Investments are a shortcut to success! There’s nothing wrong with taking shortcuts that work and have no side-effects.

Why take the long and painful route of forcing autarky upon ourselves through the use of a closed economy when we can take the tried and tested faster way of rapidly creating massive employment for millions of Filipinos simply by removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions that shoo MNC’s and foreign investors away?

(I mean, come on, everyone else is using the short-cut route already! Everyone else in the ASEAN region is going with the MNC-attraction strategy. Why should we make things harder for ourselves than it should be?)

Is benign0 a masochist? Or does he just want Filipinos to continue to suffer when in fact bringing FDI’s in is one way of creating jobs and training opportunities that can jumpstart economic development?

As it turns out, it looks like benign0 just really prefers to see Filipinos continue to fail, because that justifies to him that his decision to leave the Philippines back in 2000 to emigrate over to Sydney was “the right one.” After all, should the Philippines improve itself after he left, it could make him and his wife Ilda think that they jumped the gun and quit.

How can benign0 actively go against Constitutional Reform (particularly economic liberalization as discussed in this article) when it is obviously the key missing ingredient in the Philippines’ quest to move up the value chain and get rid of its massive unemployment, poverty, overdependence on OFW Remittances, and its host of so many other social issues derived from all those I’ve just mentioned?

Oh well. The obvious conclusion anyone can get from reading this article is simply that the benign0 from GRP is just as clueless as the other Benigno (Aquino III) from Hacienda Luisita.

benign0-benigno - smaller

Nancy Binay – Don’t hate the player, hate the game!

nancy

Nancy Binay is joining in the Senatorial Race because she can and because she has the necessary name-recall in order to win.

She’s joining the race because she has exactly what the current Philippine system of government favors in order to win a seat in the Senate: A well-known parent (Vice-President Jejomar Binay) and the right surname – Binay.

And that’s not her fault, honestly. It’s the system’s fault!

As the saying goes, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game!”

Think about it folks. We have a lousy presidential system with a Senate composed of 24 “nationally-elected” Senators of whom 12 are elected every 3 years for 6 years each

Why do we not have a system where we divide the country into “autonomized” regions (in federalized fashion) and then have those regions elect their own respective senators to represent each of them?

See, folks, there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that forces voters to have to vote for 12 people at a single time.

There is actually no fight in this system between parties, and hence, there is no real talk about common platforms or party manifestos or party stands. This is a fight of individual candidates against other individual senatorial candidates even among those who are supposed to be from the same “slate.”

(This is in contrast to the  USA, for instance, where in each state, there is a battle between the Senatorial candidate of the Republicans for the state seat versus the Senatorial candidate of the Democrats for that same state and it becomes a contest between two parties representing different platforms. Australia has a similar concept of a Senate whose senators represent states.)

There is, in real Truth, no fight between Rissa Hontiveros versus Nancy Binay. The fight of Rissa is against other members of her own slate as well as members of the other team in order to get into the magic 12. In effect, Rissa and Nancy are competing against everyone else so that they get into the magic 12. It doesn’t matter which team, be it Team PNoy or UNA. Rissa is competing against 11 people from her “own team” (Team PNoy) and 12 people from the other main team (UNA), and whoever else are independents. Nancy is doing the same: competing against the rest of the UNA slate and against all the Team PNoy and independent candidates.

Take note that this particular race — the Senatorial Race — is one of the most name-recall and popularity-driven of all elections in the Philippines, even more so than the actual Presidential Elections. The thing about this is that the Senate Race was envisioned by those eminent fools who created the Philippine Senate to be a kind of “launchpad” for future would-be presidential aspirants. Those who win as Senators to get into the magic 12 will later be eligible to run as Presidential Candidates because they now have “nationwide” reach. That’s why this system is so rotten: it produces 12 new mini-presidents every election (24 in total at any given time, when including 12 incumbent senators whose terms are yet to expire in the next 3 years) who are not answerable to specific constituencies and instead think that the entire country is their constituency. 

(Ever wonder why the Philippine Senate wastes  its time on issues like sex-scandals like the Hayden-Katrina sex-scandal or exposés like the old “Brunei Beauties” scandal? Well, that’s because they do not have specific constituents writing them letters, unlike in the USA where people from each of the states write their respective senators about problems specific to their own states.)

Even the way City or Municipal Councilors are elected is the same way! You can have candidates for councilor essentially removing the posters of their own fellow candidates for councilor coming from the same party/team slate.

Case in point: a friend of mine who ran for councilor of a town in the Province of Rizal recounted to me how certain fellow candidates from the same party/team were removing his campaign posters because even if they were from the same party, they were actually competing against each other for limited slots.

*

Think again, Folks. In a system where Filipinos need to elect 12 candidates at any given time, you are not likely to really know 12 people you would want to vote for. Chances are, you’ll want to really passionately vote for maybe 3 or 4 candidates at most. But the system says you need to vote for 12 candidates on the ballot

So, ok, you select your 3 or 4 favorite senatorial candidates, and since you still have a remaining 8 or 9 more to go, you then think of who are the other candidates you remember in order to complete your list of 12 names. See? That’s name-recall!

In that situation, those who are easily remembered get their names selected on the ballot. And you’ll be more likely to choose just whomever it is you can remember as long as you don’t think he/she is “that bad.”

Get my drift, people?

The “vote 12 senators at one time” system favors candidates who are popular or enjoy name recall. That’s how it works. And that’s why Lito Lapid became a Senator. That’s why Tito Sotto became a Senator. That’s why Erap became a Senator long ago. That’s how Honasan became a Senator. That’s how Trillanes became a Senator. That’s how Noynoy became a Senator. And that’s how Nancy Binay has a shot at becoming a Senator.

That’s why so many clowns, idiots, and slackers end up as Senators. They’re winnable and have name-recall.

In this system, you don’t have to be the “first choice” of voters. You just have to be among those chosen on the most number of ballots. It doesn’t matter if you’re at number 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 of everyone’s mind when they were chosing whom to vote for. As long as you’re selected on the ballots of so many people and get into the top 12, you’re in!

If you happen to appear on the most number of ballots, even if you are nobody’s First, Second, Third, or whatever choice, you will get top spot (the safest spot).

And guess why candidates running for the Senate aren’t really that “friendly with each other” even when they’re from the same “slate” (or party or team or coalition)? It’s because they’re all competing against each other! There are no parties in the Senate, folks. No real parties. Notice how senatorial candidates do not even have unified stands. They are, in essence, all independents! Each candidate stands for his/her own “platform.”

Observe, for instance, how the current Senate of the 15th Congress of the Philippines features members of the same party on opposite sides of the Senate! Take the Senate’s Nacionalista party members: Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, and Sonny Trillanes are in the Minority, while Bongbong Marcos and Manny Villar are in the Majority. How is this possible? Look at the Senate’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD members:  Joker Arroyo is with the Minority, while the two actors Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid are with the Majority.

This is impossible in a true functioning system. Your membership in a party is supposed to determine whether you go minority or majority. In a Real System, if your party wins majority, then you’re in the majority and you’re expected to vote the way the majority would vote. If your party is in the minority, then you’re in the minority and that’s how you’re supposed to vote on most issues..

Well, the Senate is not about parties. It’s all about individual candidates who merely pretend to be members of parties, where all the parties merely act as a means of pooling resources together for shared electoral campaign advertising, printing, and campaign sortie costs. The electoral system’s lousy algorithm is what makes them act the way they act: parties mean nothing after the elections. 

Told ya, folks! …Ours is a totally “effed-up” system!

 *

So all those who think that Nancy should not be running ought to really think about it carefully.

Rather than oppose Nancy Binay’s running, you ought to campaign to get rid of this lousy system that allows Nancy Binay to win in a contest where all she needs is to say who her daddy is and remind the whole world what her surname is.

It’s time to shift to the Parliamentary System!

(Note: In a parliamentary system, the Government – aka “Majority” or “Administration” – must constantly debate against the Opposition in order to get their decisions accepted by the wider parliament. The Government must always fend off criticisms coming from the Opposition during Question time. Only competent people shine in a parliamentary system while incompetent and lazy slackers get relegated to the back-benches and often get weeded out due to the highly competitive nature of that system. The dynamics of debate and constant “on your toes” scrutiny does not exist in the Presidential System.)

We must scrap the current Senate system we have until we have a Region-based Federal system with Regionally-elected Senators who will make up a Senate that represents regional constituencies that, according to the way a Parliamentary System works, should be weaker than the lower-house!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution! NOW!

* * *

(Note: A recent brouhaha occurred when there was a small group of readers who did not understand context of this article’s title. The title is taken straight from a popular American colloquial expression “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”, often rendered in the African-American style as “Don’t hate the playah, hate the game”, which actually simply means that “the person you are looking at as being bad is only bad because the system/environment makes him/her so.” Unfortunately, several people didn’t get that, and erroneously mistook this article to be “pro-Binay.” Totally wrong of them. This article basically goes deeper than symptoms. Nancy Binay is only a symptom of the real disease and that disease is our failed system. Fix the system and there will be no Nancy Binays or Kris Aquinos and other incompetent candidates running next time. 

It’s that simple.)

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

 

Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

Chicken-or-the-Egg-smallerPeople often wonder about what determines the success of a society. Is it the culture or is it the system? Quite recently, as the debate on Constitutional Reform progresses and as more and more people realize that the current Philippine System – both economic and political – is dysfunctional and flawed, one opposing view that keeps coming up insists that it is not the system that needs changing, but the culture. While I am an advocate of Constitutional Reform and System Shifting, I have also long since proclaimed the fact that Filipino Culture is deeply dysfunctional, flawed, and needs a major overhaul. The question is: How do we overhaul Filipino Culture?

* * *

Differences in culture

Ever since I was in High School, I have been reading extensively about other countries, observing and finding out about other cultures, and in those observations as well as the research I’ve continued to do just to satisfy my own curiosity, I realized one main thing: That some cultures are more predisposed towards success than others.

My lola is half-Leb, but I was sent to Chinese schools anyway

I was born and grew up in Metro Manila and despite not being of pure Chinese ethnicity, studied in the Jesuit-run Xavier School (光啓學校) in San Juan which is known to have a predominantly ethnic Chinese or mixed-Chinese descent student population where Mandarin was taught as part of its curriculum. Incidentally, the most recent “immigrant” ancestor I had was my Lebanese great-grandfather, Elias Jureidini – my father’s mother’s father who had married into a Mestizo-Criollo Ilonggo family. On the other hand, all of my other ancestors were either native “Indios” or culturally Hispanicized and assimilated “Mestizos de Sangley” (Chinese-Mestizos – mother’s side) who, despite their unmistakably Chinese facial features, had no identification whatsoever with Chinese culture. During the summer before I got into the 6th grade, my family moved to Cebu (as my father is Cebuano) and I transferred to Xavier’s “Cebu branch” (which also had a predominantly ethnic Chinese or partly-Chinese student population), a school that used to be known as “Sacred Heart School for Boys” (聖心男校) , which later changed its name to “Sacred Heart School – Jesuit” when it accepted girls long after I graduated, and just recently, it has now become known as the “Ateneo de Cebu.” Due to this close contact with Filipino-Chinese friends and classmates, I observed a lot of key behavioral differences that showed just how the ethnic Chinese differ culturally from most fellow Filipinos. These ranged from such things as frugality and handling money, attitude towards studies, attitude towards achievement, self-discipline, and many more. One weekend, I visited a Tsinoy friend and classmate who lived in the Cebu Downtown area with whom I was working together on a joint class project. His home was the typical shop-house where they lived upstairs and their store was downstairs. I was slightly shocked to see him handling the cash-register while his father dealt with customers. I never imagined that his parents would make him work during the weekends. But there it was. He was being given direct training at such a young age on how business worked. If anything, I now saw the secret of his quick math skills. This experience of observing Chinese culture first hand was taken many steps further when I, together with some schoolmates were sent on a Mandarin-language study tour in Taiwan one summer in order to spend a little over a month at the St. Ignatius High School (徐匯高級中學) in the Luzhou district (蘆洲區) of Taipei. We Filipino students (many of whom were Fil-Chi) were a bit shocked at the rather “repressive” environment and hard-driving system that was in place for the Taiwanese Junior-Grade High School students who all had to live on campus. While we visitors had it relatively easy, the Taiwanese students from the first 3 years of High School were essentially living in a Catholic version of the highly disciplinarian Shaolin Monastery with elements taken from Military Academies! Instead of Buddhist Shaolin Masters, the “slave-driving” Shifus (師傅) were mostly Taiwanese Jesuit Priests, Jesuit Brothers and the teachers under them. (It is said by my close Ilonggo Tsinoy friends that a similar Shaolin-Military style system is in place at the Iloilo Central Commercial High School, fondly known as “Hua-Shong” – 華商 , the alma mater of such famous people as singer-businessman José Mari Chan & basketball star & former presidential brother-in-law James Yap.)

Discipline at the Shaolin Monastery

At St. Ignatius High School, a sort of reveille would wake all of them up early in the morning, around 6am, got them doing early calisthenics, then breakfast, and then they all had a supervised common study period before they did their everyday flag ceremony where they’d have two anthems play. They would first sing the Kuomintang’s (國民黨) solemn anthem entitled the “Three Principles of the People– (三民主 – San Min Zhu Yi) and after that, they’d all salute the Kuomintang banner of the Republic of China while a faster, unsung military march called the “National Flag Anthem” (國旗 – Guo Qi Ge) was played for the actual flag raising. Only after all those morning rituals would they start their classes for the day at around 8am. Every afternoon, we all couldn’t help but notice that the Taiwanese students all seemed to have P.E. or military training (depending on their year level). Then afterwards, they’d have some free time, dinner, and then right after dinner, they’d have supervised study & do-your-homework periods.

Supervised evening study at St. Ignatius High School

We visitors from the Philippines were shocked once again to see how the Taiwanese students were all literally forced to study their day’s lessons at their classrooms (several such classrooms were close to our dorm rooms) until around 9:45pm, and during those study periods, there were teachers or proctors who made sure no one dozed off. Occasionally, we’d gasp in horror when we’d see some students brought out to the corridors and spanked in the derrière with a ruler by the supervising teacher or proctor for the slightest infraction – usually dozing off. We had it easy. We never had to go through any of that! We also took note of the fact that the Taiwanese school system had classes 6 days a week (they had Saturday afternoons off when they’d return to their families to spend the weekends) and they had six full years of high school. Three years of Junior-Grade High School, and another three years of Senior-Grade High School. After that, they’d have to do two years of full-time military service before ever stepping into University. Whew! My Fil-Chi friends and classmates who were with me at the study tour were so thankful they were all born Filipinos and they’d exclaim in Cebuano almost every single day that they were so lucky their grandparents decided on choosing the Philippines as an immigrant destination to escape the poverty of Fujian Province in the early 1900’s instead of staying in China and then getting forced to flee to Taiwan with the KMT when the Communists won. Indeed, while it was true that the Filipino-Chinese themselves have done extremely well in the Philippines when compared to the relatively complacent and extremely fun-loving native Pinoys, the Taiwanese, who themselves are mostly of the same predominantly Hokkien-Fujianese stock as most Filipino-Chinese, were clearly more driven and hard-driving than the Tsinoys. In fact, in recent years, many Filipino-Chinese have not only gotten so assimilated and Filipinized (not necessarily a bad thing), so that they’ve been losing their heritage, language ability, and even the recognition of the traditional cultural values, some of them have even adopted some of the slothful traits of many “huaná” (番仔), the Hokkien term used to refer to native Filipinos. Having observed the Taiwanese example first hand, I do not at all wonder why Taiwan’s economy is one of the most competitive in the world, and why Taiwan has been responsible for coming up with some of the world’s most successful technology companies such as Acer, Asus, MSI, Trend Micro and many more. That highly disciplined military boot-camp cum Shaolin-style traditional Chinese educational system they all had to go through in Taiwan explains why they ended up with a culture that seems hard-wired for success.

Harbin’s No. 3 Middle School (哈尔滨市第三中学)

Fast forward to 2004 when I went to Harbin, China to spend a year there, I saw a very similar situation where the academic competition was extreme especially at the Number 3 Middle School of Harbin (哈爾濱市第三中學) where I taught a few classes of English while doing a sabbatical from working in the IT industry to beef up on my Mandarin Chinese skills. Every single one of the students was conscious about how good jobs were scarce and how they all needed to compete against hundreds of millions of other people by the time they got out into the work-force. For them, their only ticket to a good life was to get a good job, and the only way to get a good job was to qualify for a good university (and if possible, get a scholarship abroad), and one of the best ways to qualify for a good university was to finish at number 3 Middle School, which was one of Harbin’s top schools which also figured among one of the top schools in Northern China. For the longest time, among themselves, the Chinese (whichever side of the Taiwan strait they come from) have had an extremely strong sense of Meritocracy, causing José Rizal himself to mention what might seem to be a minor detail about Chinese culture in an excerpt taken from Chapter XIV of Noli Me Tángere, entitled “Tasio, el loco o el filósofo” (or “Tasio, the madman or the philosopher”) which happens to be extremely relevant to these times. In the excerpt, Tasio the Philosopher addresses the visiting Doña Teodora Viña (emphasis is mine):

Noli’s Chapter XIV complained that most Filipinos were anti-progress & anti-intellectual

Original:

“Ya sabe usted, Señora, que no soy partidario de la monarquía hereditaria. Por las gotas de sangre china que mi madre me ha dado, pienso un poco como los chinos: honro al padre por el hijo, pero no al hijo por el padre. Que cada uno reciba el premio o el castigo por sus obras, pero no por las de los otros.”

English translation:

“You already know, Madame, that I am not an advocate of hereditary monarchy. Due to the drops of Chinese blood that my mother has given me, I think a bit like the Chinese: I honor the father because of his son, but not the son because of his father. That each one receive the reward or punishment for his own deeds, but not for those of others.”

As everyone can see, even Rizal himself had made it a point to make explicit mention of the meritocratic culture of the Chinese “Sangley” community who had been distinguishing themselves through hard work as traders and businessmen, many of whom had intermarried with native Filipina women and produced the hybrid, mixed-heritage, assimilated “Mestizo de Sangley” caste of Spanish-speaking Filipinos from whence most business-minded, educated, wealthy, hard-working, knowledgeable, and enlightened Filipinos like Rizal, Mabini, Aguinaldo, and many more came from. (The word “Sangley” is derived from the Cantonese dialectal pronunciation of 生理 “Sang-lei”, pronounced “Seng-li” or “Seng-di” in Hokkien or “Sheng-li” in Mandarin which means “business”) Filipinos may ask what makes a culture strong or success-oriented, and I will say with conviction that it is not a random coincidence that the Chinese are more predisposed towards economic and all other forms of success than most ordinary Filipinos are.

The scroll reads “天道酬勤” – “Tiandào Chóu Tsín” -“Heaven favors the Diligent”

The Filipino-Chinese are much more predisposed towards economic success than most Filipinos because from a young age, many of them are brought up to regard hard work and self-discipline, not luck, talent, hereditary brilliance, or innate ability, as the determinant of success. At an early age, many of them are introduced into their family businesses to help out and learn the ropes during the weekends and summer breaks so that they learn and internalize simple business concepts, improve their mathematical and accounting skills while handling the cashbox, learn the intrinsic values of self-discipline, and recognize that money does not grow on trees. In their homes, their parents or grandparents hang decorative Chinese calligraphy scrolls with proverbs or sayings that extol the virtues of hard work, diligence, perseverance, continuous learning, and many more. Even the families of Filipino-Chinese Taipans Henry Sy and John Gokongwei, to name just two examples, did not spare their children the obligation to earn their allowance by doing work at their stores, rotating them into different parts of their businesses, familiarizing each one with inventory maintenance, merchandizing, delivery management, accounting, etc, with the intention of instilling both a strong work ethic and to train them to turn business management into their second nature while still at a young age. Chinese Culture is much more predisposed towards success because the Chinese have set up formidable child-rearing and positive reinforcement systems that cultivate their young to exhibit the very traits and behavioral patterns necessary in order to be successful in business or whatever field of endeavor they so choose. Many of them set up the right role models of whom to emulate, and they continuously, consistently, and constantly repeat proverbs or sayings that remind themselves of what to strive to become and what to avoid becoming. They set up the appropriate behavioral rewards and reinforcements as well as punishments and disincentives so that as much as possible, their children learn the right values and behaviors and avoid the wrong ones. In short, the “secret” of the Chinese is that they have set up a System of how to bring their children up in order to instill the highly success-oriented aspects of Chinese Culture in them.

* * *

What exactly is Culture?

Culture, just like talent, must be cultivated

After years and years of observing different cultures, collective behaviors, collective achievements (or lack thereof), and looking at the systems of up-bringing or cultivation that either gave rise to, further augmented, or dampened the competitiveness of the different people who possess these traits, I’ve realized that cultures do not randomly emerge. More importantly, successful cultures do not arise as a result of historical accident. Successful cultures are cultivated. In fact, if we were to look at the etymology of the word Culture, we find that its original Latin “Cultura” stems from the word “Colere” which means “to cultivate.” Cultures, therefore, emerge partly because they are either unconsciously cultivated by some external force such as the physical environments or climates in which they were spawned, or they can also be consciously cultivated by the very people who comprise or lead the groups in which people belong so that a culture’s development may be cultivated towards a particular direction, either counterbalancing the debilitating tendencies that a particular environment may cause, or by appropriately responding to the challenges that certain environments may exert. When we check the American Heritage Dictionary, we find that Culture is defined as thus:

Culture (kŭl’chər) noun

1.
a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture. d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.
3.
a. Development of the intellect through training or education. b. Enlightenment resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training. 5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors. 6. The cultivation of soil; tillage. 7. The breeding of animals or growing of plants, especially to produce improved stock. 8. Biology.
a. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium. b. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.
*
 

The very first definition clearly defines “Culture” to be a set or System of behavioral patterns, beliefs, values, priorities, traits, etc.

Dr. B.F. Skinner

One of the most instrumental researchers in the development of culture, its ability to be shaped and modified as seen fit, and its relation to behavior, values, and many of the other trappings of what we all call culture, was the founder of Operant Conditioning, the late Dr. Burrhus Frederic Skinner. In Chapter 7 “The Evolution of a Culture” of Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B.F. Skinner states:

“…those who observe cultures do not see ideas or values. They see how people live, how they raise their children, how they gather or cultivate food, what kinds of dwellings they live in, what they wear, what games they play, how they treat each other, how they govern themselves, and so on. These are the customs, the customary behaviors, of a people. To explain them we must turn to the contingencies which generate them.

Some contingencies are part of the physical environment, but they usually work in combination with social contingencies, and the latter are naturally emphasized by those who study cultures. The social contingencies, or the behaviors they generate, are the “ideas” of a culture; the reinforcers that appear in the contingencies are its “values.”

A person is not only exposed to the contingencies that constitute a culture, he helps to maintain them, and to the extent that the contingencies induce him to do so the culture is self-perpetuating…”

Furthermore, he states at the end of Chapter 7:

“The social environment is what is called a culture. It shapes and maintains the behavior of those who live in it. A given culture evolves as new practices arise, possibly for irrelevant reasons, and are selected by their contribution to the strength of the culture as it “competes” with the physical environment and with other cultures. A major step is the emergence of practices which induce members to work for the survival of their culture. Such practices cannot be traced to personal goods, even when used for the good of others, since the survival of a culture beyond the lifetime of the individual cannot serve as a source of conditioned reinforcers. Other people may survive the person they induce to act for their good, and the culture whose survival is at issue is often identified with them or their organizations, but evolution of a culture introduces an additional kind of good or value. A culture which for any reason induces its members to work for its survival is more likely to survive. It is a matter of the good of the culture, not of the individual. Explicit design promotes that good by accelerating the evolutionary process, and since a science and a technology of behavior make for better design, they are important “mutations” in the evolution of a culture. If there is any purpose or direction in the evolution of a culture, it has to do with bringing people under the control of more and more of the consequences of their behavior.”

Moving on to the idea of designing or modifying a particular “culture”, in Chapter 8 “The Design of a Culture” of Beyond Freedom & Dignity, B.F. Skinner goes on to state:

“Many people are engaged in the design and redesign of cultural practices. They make changes in the things they use and the way they use them. They invent better mousetraps and computers and discover better ways of raising children, paying wages, collecting taxes, and helping people with problems…”

He goes on to say:

“A programmed sequence of contingencies may be needed. The technology has been most successful where behavior can be fairly easily specified and where appropriate contingencies can be constructed – for example, in child care, schools, and the management of retardates and institutionalized psychotics. The same principles are being applied, however, in the preparation of instructional materials at all educational levels, in psychotherapy beyond simple management, in rehabilitation, in industrial management, in urban design, and in many other fields of human behavior. There are many varieties of “behavior modification” and many different formulations, but they all agree on the essential point: behavior can be changed by changing the conditions of which it is a function.”

It is extremely important that Filipinos who wish to understand the “culture change versus system change” debate realize that Culture is by itself a System. Culture is a system of mores, values, behavior, and social consequences dependent on behavior. It is a system of thought patterns. It is a system of priorities. It is a system of how things are done. To change the culture of a particular people, it is necessary to change the underlying system or systems that cause the culture in question to be the way it is. Doing so when a system deals with human beings requires that the appropriate rewards (positive reinforcements) versus punishments (aversive consequences) be put in place in order to induce the desired behavior and avoid the unwanted behavior.

* * *

Systems that determine or influence Behavior & Culture

Human behavior and the underlying values, preferences, priorities, and manner of thought – collectively lumped into that system of social norms shared by a group of people known as “culture” – is often the result of several levels of system influences. Rather than stating that an individual person’s behavior is necessarily the result of only one particular system, it is best to recognize how several different systems work together to probabilistically determine or at least highly influence a person’s behavior and subsequently, the culture to which he belongs. Here is a listing of all 5 systems and their attributes:

1. Natural Environment & Eco-System
– Affects people collectivelyCannot be changed – Is represented by the influences of Climate, Terrain, Geography, Land Altitude, Land Fertility, Weather, other natural factors peculiar to the location where people live. – (you may superficially and temporarily “alter” climate by using air-conditioning, or do other “superficial changes” but it requires effort, energy, and technology)
– (you may migrate to a different territory to get away from the original environment)
 
 
2. Societal System
– Affects people collectivelyCan be changed
– System of Government, System of Laws, System of Law & Policy Enforcement, System of Education
3. Sub-Community Group and Family System
– Affects people collectivelyCan be changed
– Upbringing, Nurture, Family Values, Values of the Small Community
4. Personal System
– Affects people individuallyCan be changed
– Personal Beliefs, Personal Values, Personal Principles, Personal Decisions
5. Hereditary & Genetic System
– Affects people individually at the cellular/DNA levelCannot be changed within one’s lifetime
– Genetic Inheritance, genetic predisposition, behavioral tendencies / Temperament caused by genetic influence, innate abilities / talents

*

By understanding how these 5 different systems all influence human behavior, we also can better understand at which levels the challenges, advantages, disadvantages, and even dysfunctions are to be found as far as behavior and culture are concerned. It is in this way that it also becomes much easier to determine how to improve the competitiveness and survivability of a particular individual or group of people with respect to inducing the emergence of desired winning behaviors and thus to ultimately establish winning cultures on the collective levels of the wider society, the sub-community group, and the family. It is also necessary to understand that these different systems are all arranged from macro to micro, in order to more easily understand why it is possible for there to be “exceptions to the rule.”

For instance, certain societies within a particular environment may develop a particular predisposition to act in a certain way due to said environment. However, some societies may develop their own societal system that causes the people within that society (or country) to defy the natural tendencies as induced by the environment and thus behave differently. This is best seen within the context of how Singapore, despite being in the tropics where numerous societies within tropical regions are often expected to have national cultures that are usually uncompetitive & slothful, Singapore shines as an exception to the rule due to the manner in which its societal system was set up in order to defy the environmental influences of being in the tropics. Likewise, within a particular society having a collective culture, some sub-groups or families may defy the stereotypes because within their own small groups or family-units, collective systems are set up in such a way as to cause the members of said groups or families to behave differently from the mainstream. This is how the Filipino-Chinese, Mestizo-Sangleys (often known in modern times as “the Filipino Upper Classes”), and Mestizos-Criollos (often called “Tisoys”) do not always conform to national stereotypes due to differences in how these groups raise their children within their family-settings so that they end up exhibiting certain traits and behaviors that are oftentimes advantageous over the mainstream (such as fiscal consciousness, frugality, etc). This also explains how Ilocanos are stereotyped to be extremely frugal, despite the general tendency of most mainstream Filipinos to be spendthrift, even though many Ilocanos have already migrated to other areas and no longer live in the relatively barren and infertile homeland of Ilocandia which was responsible for shaping their frugal nature. Likewise, if and when a person is born into a dysfunctional family where there is chaos and disorder and no proper parental guidance nor family role model to aspire to, this model also explains how it is possible for an individual person to decide to defy his family’s dysfunctional system and still turn out successful due to extreme willpower and a strong, well-developed personal system. More importantly, it should also be recognized that well-developed collective systems (systems at the societal and small group & family level) can even drive people to succeed despite their lack of genetic endowments. As it is, in the Confucian-influenced East Asian cultures of the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, as well as others bearing similar influences, one’s genetic predispositions are – within their cultural paradigms – said to count for little or are often seen as irrelevant, as their paradigm for achieving success rests more with hard work and effort. As such, genetic endowments are seen merely as a bonus in such cultures. Each and every person is expected to work his or her hardest to succeed, despite whatever hereditary background they may have, be they the children of street-cleaners or PhD’s in Physics. For such Confucian cultures, “genius”, which in Mandarin is “Tian Tsai” (天才) – literally Heavenly (天) Gift (才), is not an excuse to slack off and take it easy, and instead, so much more is expected of a genius or extraordinarily-gifted person. (This also has echoes in the Protestant Ethic)

Vertical:”持之以恆” (Chi Zhi Yi Heng) “Perseverance”; Horizontal:”學無正境” (Xue Wu Zhengjing) “Learning has no limits”

From the perspective of many East Asian cultures’ paradigms, failure is not the result of one’s innate deficiencies but is rather a result of not having worked hard enough. This paradigm is most observed with the kinds of ancient classical proverbs that the Chinese have (which are often hung as decorative calligraphic scrolls) and are often shared with other cultures of the Sinosphere, including Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Rather than exalting innate abilities or in-born intelligence, ancient Chinese proverbs or key words exalt perseverance (持之以恆), hard work (功夫 – “Kung Fu”, which in the West is thought to mean “Martial Arts”), continuous improvement (改善 – “Gaishan” in Mandarin, “Kaizen” in Japanese), continuous learning (學無正竟), and of course, the all-important virtue of discipline (訓練). It must be realized that culture change by itself can never happen unless a corresponding system change is made. This is simply because of the numerous systems that influence and probabilistically determine human behavior and ultimately, human culture. Before we can change culture, we need to know what the different systems are and how they influence behavior: 1. Natural Environment & Eco-System

The Natural Environment and Eco-System in which a group of people first form their cultural identity has a profound effect on how such people may behave, think, and see the world.

the late Arnold J. Toynbee

British Historian Arnold J. Toynbee, in his book “A Study of History” explained in his Challenge and Response Theory that human societies are often subjected to various challenges which if responded to properly, can allow the societies to rise above the challenge and succeed. Such challenges, at the environmental level includes such aspects as climate, terrain, quality of land, and others which may pertain to the abundance or scarcity of sources of food or food production ability. Difficult environments such as cold climate or difficult terrain, for instance, pose as challenges to the groups of people living in such environments. Not responding appropriately to such challenges results in extinction or suffering, while responding to the challenges properly results in improved chances of survival. A culture that is competitive and easily able to respond to challenges is termed a “hard culture.” Wherever the environment is easy, chances are very high that the people living in such an environment tend to become lax and complacent. Such a culture is termed a “soft culture.”

In “A Study of History”, Toynbee writes:

“Civilizations come to birth in environments that are unusually difficult and not unusually easy.”

In describing the development of Chinese Civilization, Toynbee adds:

“The Sinic Civilization was nurtured in the north of China, where the climate was severe, and swamps and regular floods made agriculture difficult, and so it became a “hard” society.”

From the Age of Enlightenment came an older, similar idea which emphasized the role of environment & ecosystem, most particularly of the aspect of Climate, on how different cultures tend to behave differently.

Charles de Secondat, best known as “le Baron de Montesquieu”

Charles de Secondat, le Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, known to the world simply as “Montesquieu” wrote extensively about the role of the Environment & Eco-System, with an apparent emphasis on Climate, in determining the behavior and culture of people. He described colder climates as being more likely to force people to become more frugal, forward-looking, self-disciplined, and less emotional.

On the other hand, he described warmer climates as being more lax and tolerant of mistakes, based on the short term, frivolous/flippant, and emotional.

In one excerpt, Montesquieu writes:

Original:

“On a donc plus de vigueur dans les climats froids… Cette force plus grande doit produire bien des effets: par exemple, plus de confiance en soi-même, c’est-à-dire plus de courage; plus de connaissance de sa supériorité, c’est-à-dire moins de désir de la vengeance; plus d’opinion de sa sûreté, c’est-à-dire plus de franchise, moins de soupçons, de politique et de ruses.

J’ai vu les opéras d’Angleterre et d’Italie ; ce sont les mêmes pièces et les mêmes acteurs: mais la même musique produit des effets si différents sur les deux nations, l’une est si calme, et l’autre si transportée, que cela paroît inconcevable.

Vous trouverez dans les climats du nord des peuples qui ont peu de vices, assez de vertus… Approchez des pays du midi vous croirez vous éloigner de la morale même: des passions plus vives multiplieront les crimes ; chacun cherchera à prendre sur les autres tous les avantages qui peuvent favoriser ces mêmes passions.”

English Translation:

“The people have more vigor in cold climates… This superiority of strength must produce various effects: for example, a greater self-confidence, that is to say – more courage; a greater sense of superiority, in other words, less desire for vengeance; a greater sense of security, i.e., more frankness, less suspicion, politicking, and scheming…

I have seen the operas of England and Italy, they are the same pieces and the same performers: and yet the same music produces effects so different upon the two nations; one is so calm, and the other so transported that it seemed inconceivable.

You will find in the climates of the North – people who have few vices, many virtues… If you approach the South you will believe yourselves entirely removed from the verge of morality: the deepest passions cause a multitude of crimes; each one will seek to take advantage of all the others who can promote these same passions.”

The good Baron’s observations regarding the differences that often characterize the Cold versus Warm dichotomy when looking at the fates of different societies continue to be a recurring theme when correlations are made between the richer temperate countries versus the often poorer tropical countries of the world. It is also not surprising that Montesquieu thus observed that societies from colder climates can prosper even with democratic or libertarian systems, while societies from warmer climates need to have strict, disciplinarian, and somewhat coercive systems in place for such societies to prosper.

Lee Kuan Yew

In “Lee Kuan Yew, the Man and his Ideas”, the Elder Statesman – who also subscribes to Montesquieu’s Climate Theory – mentions his own observations on the differences between some cultures based on their climatic environments:

“On my first visit to Germany in 1956, we had to stop in Frankfurt on our way to London. We had [earlier] stopped in Rome. This languid Italian voice over the loudspeaker said something … And there were Italian workers trundling trolleys at the airport. It was so relaxed, the atmosphere and the pace of work. Then the next stop was Frankfurt. And immediately, the climate was a bit cooler and chillier. And a voice came across the loudspeaker: “Achtung! Achtung!” The chaps were the same, porters, but bigger-sized and trundling away. These were people who were defeated and completely destroyed and they were rebuilding. I could sense the goal, the dynamism.

…I also visited Switzerland when I was a student in ’47, ’48, on holiday. I came down by train from Paris to Geneva. Paris was black bread, dirty, after the war. I arrived at Geneva that morning, sleeping overnight. It was marvelous. Clean, beautiful, swept streets, nice buildings, marvelous white pillowcases and sheets, white bread after dark dirty bread and abundant food and so on. But hardworking, punctilious, the way they did your bed and cleaned up your rooms. It told me something about why some people succeed and some people don’t. Switzerland has a small population. If they didn’t have those qualities, they would have been overrun …”

(Personally, I think that the key difference between Paris and Geneva – both being linguistically and culturally French-speaking is that Paris is predominantly Catholic (as well as agnostic), while Geneva is predominantly Calvinist-Protestant, and is therefore heavily-influenced by the Protestant Ethic.)

The tropics can make you just want to relax and laze around

Even Lee Kuan Yew wrote that if the system of Singapore were not based on an extremely competitive meritocracy, then the tropical climate would make Singaporeans grow soft and complacent, and in the end, the effects would mean slipping back into “Third Worldism” and mass poverty.

In a speech to a group of Trade Unionists in Adelaide during a visit to Australia, Lee Kuan Yew explained:

“The Chinaman who came out to Southeast Asia was a very hard working, thrifty person. I mean he faced tremendous strides because he faced floods, pestilence, famine…, [but] we are getting soft. You know, all sunshine and bananas growing on trees and coconuts falling down by themselves – this affects people. To a certain extent, you can try and counter it… Up to a point we can strive to lessen the burden… This is a problem all migrants face. You are part of one culture, one civilization and culture. But it is a different climate.”

We can also see how other challenges posed by the Eco-System can cause people to respond in ways that make them more predisposed towards certain types of behavior, hopefully those more conducive to success.

The Ilocanos, for instance, are known to be very frugal and hardworking people and quite often, the somewhat barren or infertile nature of the land in Ilocandia is cited as the reason for this. Incidentally, they are also some of the most orderly of Filipinos. A visit to the Ilocano countryside or to Ilocano cities such as Vigan or Laoag reveals an extremely clean and orderly (almost obsessive-compulsive) environment, eliciting analogies with the Japanese: orderly and always ensuring that their surroundings are very neat.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, was Basque

The Fujianese or “Hokkien” (福建) Chinese are seen to be like the Ilocanos of Southern China (Fujian is barren and hilly) – extremely frugal and hardworking, especially when compared to the Cantonese whose culture is said to have flourished in the lush farmlands and plains of Guangdong (廣東) Province.

The Basques of Spain also have the same rugged and relatively infertile terrain as the Ilocanos and the Fujianese, and it is for this reason that they are considered to be the most hardworking of Spaniards, and among all the immigrants from Spain who went to Latin America, they quickly became the earlier landowners and industrialists and dominated agriculture and early industry. It also comes to no surprise that many of the surnames of some of the richest families in the Philippines such as Abóitiz, Araneta, Ayala, Elizalde, Larrazabal, or Ortigas just to name a few are Basque.

Ultimately, there’s not much we can do about our natural environment other than migrate to another location with a different environment. Or we can temporarily change the temperature and humidity of our enclosed surroundings through air-conditioning, but that’s just about it. We thus just have to work on what we can change: our collective social systems and personal systems.

2. Societal System

The same thinker from the Age of Enlightenment who talked about Climate and the Eco-System’s effects on human behavior, Montesquieu, also mentioned that the manner in which a society is run (its “System of Governance”) also helps to shape culture. More importantly, Montesquieu did not dismiss the possibility of people from warmer countries becoming disciplined, frugal, forward-looking, and more logical, because as long as the societal system (including the system of government) is carefully-designed to constantly provide the right incentives to promote the desired behaviors to emerge among the people as well as appropriate disincentives that would prevent the emergence of undesirable ones, then the people from such warmer countries can learn to exhibit the same or similar “winning culture” that has often been observed among civilizations from colder climates.

As it turns out, while the Baron de Montesquieu did in fact observe that the Eco-System – climate, geography, and other aspects of the environment – affect the temperaments and customs of a group of people, he did not believe in rigid determinism. As such, he did not believe that the effects of the environment and the resulting cultural inclinations (especially the dysfunctional ones) could not be resisted and mitigated.

Modern French now spells it as “lois” (“laws”) instead of “loix” for the plural of “loi” (“law”)

For him, it was necessary that the laws put in place, the policies pursued, the manner in which they were implemented and enforced, and even the form of government adopted and set up by the people would have to take careful account of all these different factors. Thus, as an example, instead of copying the form of government that was specifically set up for another society having an extremely different set of cultural and historical circumstances, Montesquieu advocated taking careful stock of the cultural and behavioral inclinations as well as the environmental influences on society in order to accommodate whatever positive traits proved useful, and actively and ruthlessly counteracting all the cultural and behavioral dysfunctions of the people as well as the negative effects the environment influenced upon the people.

In talking about the need to ruthlessly counteract the effects of the environment on people’s behavior, in his magnus opus “De l’esprit des lois” (The Spirit of Laws), the Baron of Montesquieu writes that sometimes, if the country’s environment causes people to be too lazy or unwilling to work, there is no choice but to use coercion just to get things done:

Original:

“Il y a des pays où la chaleur énerve le corps, et affoiblit si fort le courage, que les hommes ne sont portés à un devoir pénible que par la crainte du châtiment: l’esclavage y choque donc moins la raison…

English translation:

“There are some countries where the heat irritates the body, and weakens one’s drive so strongly, such that men can only be made to perform hard work only by the fear of punishment: slavery thus becomes less shocking to one’s reason…”

Lee Kuan Yew himself also saw this and realized that tropical Singapore needed “behavioral modification” and “social-engineering” systems that were a clever mix of proper incentives and disincentives which practically bordered on “coercion” in order to motivate people to work hard. As such, despite huge monetary reserves, Singapore never went on the same type of dole-out distribution spree that characterized many prosperous Western countries who believed in socialistic welfarism.

CPF contributions pay for Singapore’s public housing projects

Moreover, instead of a Ponzi-scheme social security system, he set up the Central Provident Fund which operated like a high-interest bank account, where employees would be deducted a particular percentage of their income each month, to be matched by their employer. Upon reaching retirement age, retirees are not exactly going to be drawing from an inexhaustible pool of retirement pension payments. They would be dispensed cash against their own CPF accounts which they had built up over their years of working. The Central Provident Fund was also the instrument used to fund the home-ownership drive of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, where instead of coming up with a “free housing” scheme, Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party preferred that people pay for their houses in order to give them a real sense of achievement and value. (Consistent with Singapore’s “no dole-out” policy)

On the other hand, the low income-tax rates which were computed only after CPF contributions were deducted ensured that Singaporeans would see most of the fruits of their own labor going to themselves and not to some “black hole.” This way, earning was not unduly penalized. This system effectively fostered frugality and gave more motivation for people to earn more. In a tropical environment of abundance lacking the urgencies of deadlines and seasonal changes in temperate climates, it made sense to set up a system of rewards and penalties that would encourage people to earn and save more in order to counteract the tropical tendency to be spendthrift and hedonistic. Moreover, he needed to use such techniques of reward & punishment and caning & fines (“$ingapore is a fine city”) in order to reform Singaporeans to become more orderly and hygienic and abandon such previously common but abominable traits such as spitting just anywhere including indoors as well as urinating inside elevators!

3. Sub-community Group and Family System

It is important for people to realize that the reason why the Jewish Diaspora, Overseas Chinese, the Lebanese diaspora, the Armenian diaspora, the Sindhi diaspora, and many others are hugely successful ethnicities is not because their cultures emerged as having the right traits of success by chance. Instead, the real fact is that many of these successful groups ended up with their “Winning Cultures” often as the result of their sub-community systems and strong and effective systems of family upbringing which molded their behaviors while they were still young.

Dr. Eric Kandel – Jewish polyhistor, intellectual & Nobel Laureate for research on the human brain – studied at a Yeshivah (Jewish seminary), majored in History, Medicine, then Neuroscience

Lee Kuan Yew, for instance, wrote that he learned that part of the reason for the dominance of Jews in many fields of endeavor, such as the sciences, arts, business, etc is that their culture was shaped by how they were brought up strictly to strive for excellence (especially in numerous intellectual fields) by disciplinarian parents within their family setting. In the book “Lee Kuan Yew, the Man and his Ideas”, Minister Mentor Lee writes:

“From the 10th to 11th century in Europe, among the Ashkenazim, the practice developed of the rabbi becoming the most desirable son-in-law because he is usually the brightest of the flock. …So he becomes the richest and wealthiest. He marries young, is successful, probably bright. He has large numbers of children and the brightest of the children will become the rabbi and so it goes on.”

To become a rabbi, one had to go through intense study. There was the study of Hebrew, Aramaic (some texts such as the Targums are in Aramaic, not in Hebrew), and yes, the texts of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), the Talmud, and many more. They had to study Jewish jurisprudence and learn to be superior at logic and many more. Every single family wanted their sons to become rabbis. Since all their boys needed to study certain religious texts for their Bar Mitzvah anyway, everyone was encouraged to at least aim to study to become a rabbi. And the best among them would indeed become rabbis. Those who did not become rabbis still benefitted from the intense focus and discipline they underwent in their religious instruction so that as merchants, bankers, physicians, and other experts, they had the necessary traits to prosper. Even those who did not study to become rabbis all looked up to rabbis and got their children to aspire accordingly. The pattern got repeated over and over again.

With the Chinese, just replace the word “Rabbi” with “Mandarin Magistrate.” And replace “study the Torah, Bible, and other texts” with “study the Analects of Confucius, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, The Three Kingdoms, and all the other Chinese classics.”

Mandarin “Scholar-Official”

Practically every Chinese family (except those barred such as sons of actors and prostitutes) hoped to have a son become a Mandarin Magistrate. It was their ticket to the big-time. As much as they could, they pushed their sons to study hard so that when they were ready, they could take the Imperial Civil Service exams that would turn them into mandarins. Rich merchants (most often failed Mandarin-wannabes who became traders) presented their daughters to newly-minted mandarins (and back then, they also had polygamy) for marriage. In short, almost everyone wanted to become a mandarin, and even those who didn’t make it actually benefited in their new trades from the training, discipline, and intense study they had gone through.

Lee Kuan Yew figures once again as he also showed how a certain culture of “eugenics” emerged due to the competitive nature of old Chinese society:

“…You read Hóng Lóu Mèng (紅樓夢), A Dream of the Red Chamber, or you read Jīn Píng Méi (金瓶梅The Plum in the Golden Vase), and you’ll find Chinese society in the 16th, 17th century described. So the successful merchant or the mandarin, he gets the pick of all the rich men’s daughters and the prettiest village girls and has probably five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten different wives and concubines and many children. And the poor labourer who’s dumb and slow, he’s neutered. It’s like the lion or the stag that’s outside the flock. He has no harems, so he does not pass his genes down. So, in that way, a smarter population emerges.

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, Minister Mentor Lee said:

“If you have a culture that doesn’t place much value in learning and scholarship and thrift and hard work and deferment of present enjoyment for future gain, the going will be much slower.”

For the case of the Lebanese, and the Lebanese Diaspora (the Lebanese are ultimately the surviving heirs of the ancient Phoenician-Punic maritime civilization who invented the original alphabet which influenced the Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic scripts), many of them are Christians (Latin America is dominated by Lebanese Christian émigrés – like Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, listed as Forbes’ richest man in the world – surpassing Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and internationally, there are other famous names like Carlos Ghosn of Nissan and Renault, former CEO of Ford Jacques Nasser, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb) and for a very long time, the culture was similar to the Jewish one. (In fact, the Syriac-based names of the months in the Lebanese Christian calendar are not too different from the Hebrew names of the months in the Jewish calendar.)

Carlos Slim y Helú, the world’s richest man, is of pure Lebanese descent

Most Lebanese were traditionally brought up in very strict family environments by disciplinarian fathers, and instead of rabbis, the Lebanese Christians had priests (Maronite Catholic, Orthodox, etc). Because of the unique ancient eastern traditions of the Lebanese Christians, even those Christian groups under Roman Catholic jurisdiction such as the Maronites, Melkite Greek Catholics, and several other groups, married men are permitted to become priests. (The only real restriction is that marriage must happen before Holy Orders. Moreover to become a bishop, one must be celibate, so those who have plans to move up the ranks must stay celibate, or in the case of the Orthodox, an ecclesiastically-sanctioned divorce is obtained permit a married priest’s promotion to the episcopacy.)

In short, in the pre-modern days, many Lebanese Christians were brought up in a competitive religious educational environment not too different from the Jewish rabbinical tradition of scholarship and many of them were expected to give prestige to their families by joining the priesthood. If they planned to raise their own families, they had the option to delay taking up Holy Orders in order to get married before going through the Sacrament that would turn them into priests. Being a priest was not only well respected, it was something that almost every male aspired to become or at least emulate because there was no strict “celibacy trade-off.” Such a tradition of high aspirations and high collective expectations permeated throughout Lebanese society, resulting in the relatively high success rates of many Lebanese émigrés and their descendants.

We also see how some groups of people, undergo collective “spiritual conversions” or changes in their belief systems. Max Weber, in his extremely famous work “Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus” (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism), explained that the belief-systems and value-systems of many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, were ultimately responsible for their relative economic success. By simply going through a major paradigm shift that made them think of work not as a chore or “necessary evil”, but rather as a “means to praise, honor, and glorify God“, and that “wealth is not evil, but a sign of God’s grace“, Calvinists and most other Protestants on the average ended up more prosperous than Catholics because they did not disdain work nor wealth.

Max Weber, the sociologist who described the Protestant Ethic

Such conversion required a constant “reminding” of the value system that was adopted. Thus, a system of reminders or “rituals” or “practices” (such as regular worship services) needed to be put in place so that the individual members of the group do not forget nor lose sight of the newer paradigm they have adopted. In that manner, new converts do not regress back to their pre-conversion state.

This level is referred to as the “Sub-Community Group” and “Family” level because in addition to raising children within the family setting, there is also the fact that minority groups, often as immigrants, tend to congregate within a small common group of fellow immigrants from the same ethnic community. In such a setting, they may reinforce each other and their children to retain whatever good traits their ethnic background may have. When groups of families regularly congregate around certain cultural or religious centers that help maintain a specific identity, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or other centers, common collective behaviors and customs and traits emerge which may be reinforced or enhanced by the religious systems and discipline espoused by their groups.

One peculiar example that stands out in the Philippine setting is that the Philippine classical music scene’s choral and operatic sector is currently dominated by highly-talented and extremely sought-after Filipino opera singers and choral conductors who happen to come from mainline Protestant backgrounds. (“Mainline” includes UCCP, Baptists, Methodists/IEMELIF, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc.) At the very least, the relatively large number of mainline Protestants who enjoy some of the most respected reputations within Philippine classical music’s voice category is clearly disproportionate to their small overall share of the total Philippine population which continues to have an overwhelmingly Catholic majority.

Maestros Joel Navarro & Eudy Palaruan – both conducted the Ateneo Glee Club

Case in point: World class and internationally-acclaimed Filipino opera stars like soprano María Rachelle Gerodías, baritone Andrew Fernando, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz (all three of them also happen to be products of UST’s Conservatory of Music), internationally-acclaimed Filipino choral maestro, math genius and music professor Dr. Joel Navarro, and famous counter-tenor, choral conductor, and keyboard virtuoso Eudenice Palaruan (who used to direct the now-defunct San Miguel Chorale and whose choral arrangement of the Capiznon folksong “Pasigin” and a few other Filipino songs are extremely popular among most serious choral groups including choirs in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia) all come from mainline Protestant backgrounds. Continuing the list are the celebrated late baritone Gamaliel Viray, the famous “Dequadin Tenor” Nolyn Cabahug and his sister soprano Lisa Cabahug, soprano Ailene Cura, mezzo-soprano and choral conductor Jai Sabas-Aracama, pianist & choir conductor Fidel Calalang, Jr., pianist & choir director Carminda Regala, and the late baritone and choral conductor Elmo Makil.

(The late Prof. Makil is also famous for his arrangement of the Itneg War Chant “Iddem dem Mallida” which like Eudy Palaruan’s arrangement of “Pasigin” is another favorite choral piece within the Singapore choral community, even being used by Singapore’s Anderson Junior College Choir as a choral competition piece in Italy).

Incidentally, Rachelle Gerodías – who has also made her name as the soprano “gold standard” in both the Singapore and Malaysia opera scene – confirmed that the same situation applies to South Korea as most if not all the Korean opera singers she has met also come from Protestant backgrounds. Rachelle also added that aside from the emphasis on polyphonic choral music as used for Sunday worship services dating back to the time of the devout Protestant Baroque composers Johann Sebastian Bach (famous among both Catholics and Protestants for the hymn “Jesus bleibet meine Freude”) and George Frederic Händel (famous for “Joy to the World” and the Messiah Oratorio), she also clearly hints at what Max Weber calls the Protestant Ethic when she says:

Ma. Rachelle Gerodías, Soprano Diva

“…I think what really made a big difference between Catholic and Protestant musicians and singers is the discipline and the religious or spiritual practice. Most singers in Protestant churches are encouraged to join the choir and sing every Sunday. If you are gifted with a beautiful voice, it is recognized as a talent from God that you must use and develop because that is the will of God.”

Based on the famous diva’s words, it appears that the overall “system” or paradigm of mainline Protestant spiritual belief and religious practice actively supports the development of highly talented classical singers. The spiritual belief motivates those with talents in music to further develop such talents, while the religious practice of Sunday worship molds many of them towards the direction of classical singing.

In contrast to the emphasis on classical-style choral singing that is integral to the Sunday worship services of mainline Protestant churches in the Philippines, post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism as practiced in the Philippines had unfortunately drastically reduced or even practically eliminated the traditional emphasis on polyphonic classical-style choral singing or even unison Gregorian chants and switched to a significantly less elaborate form of musical expression for the newer “Novus Ordo Missae.” (“New Order of the Mass”)

Hopefully, with a lot of the positive examples provided on how certain minorities – ethnic or religious – are able to outperform other groups, mainstream Filipino families and groups can pick up a tip or two on how to make the next generation of Filipinos become much more competitive, achievement-oriented, and successful.

Despite being abroad, many Filipino emigrés were crazy about the garbage shown on Wowowee

Moving on to how Filipino migrant communities in other countries fare, we unfortunately find that among many small Filipino communities abroad, Pinoy migrants who hold get-togethers with fellow Pinoys often congregate around a television set that has The Filipino Channel (TFC) in order to watch Wowowee (back when it was around) and get their kids learning to dance to the Ocho-ocho, Spaghetti Song, and other sexually-explicit and unfit-for-public-broadcast crass embarrassments to Filipino identity that very often get criticized by non-Filipinos. Those immigrant Filipino communities are just small microcosms of what goes on in the teeming squatter colonies and shanty-towns all throughout the country, where birthday parties of little girls aged 5, 6, 7, or older are celebrated with the same sexually-explicit songs and dances popularized on the noontime shows. Worse, from noontime, the go-go dancers have even been migrated to prime time.

With a “system of entertainment” that encourages sexually-explicit dance moves at such a young age and rewards those who fit the go-go dancer mold with fame & fortune (the rumor circulating is that the go-go dancers on the various noontime and primetime variety shows earn good money and are given their own cars), it is not surprising at all that from being known as a nation of domestic helpers, the Philippines has now overtaken Thailand to be a major source of prostitutes and “hospitality-providers” to Singapore & Malaysia. Those at the top of the pyramid of the go-go dancing “industry” get accepted into the TV variety shows and earn big bucks and get free cars. Those who don’t make it capitalize on the “go-go dancing skills” they picked up while aspiring to get into the TV variety shows by becoming go-go dancers in girlie-bars or progress into “modeling” (notice the quotes) and “escort services” or outright prostitution.

It would have been preferable if what got retained were the good Filipino values and the ugly & embarrassing garbage, discarded.

Compared to the Responsible Parenthood Bill (fmrly known as the RH Bill), promoting the go-go dancer culture on prime-time TV is truly evil. CBCP, do your job, denounce this!

Personally, while I accept that the CBCP has the right to teach Catholics the official Vatican line, it does not have the right to impose Catholic-only dogma on the secular government. The issue is that instead of denouncing the go-go dancing phenomenon promoted on Filipino TV variety shows, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines continues to waste its time on a losing battle by imposing specifically Catholic-only anti-contraception dogma on the secular government which happens to represent the rights of non-Catholics (Protestants, Muslims, and others) who have no opposition to modern contraceptive methods. The CBCP clearly needs to refocus away from attacking the Responsible Parenthood Bill, and instead put more effort on actively denouncing the extremely sexually-suggestive (and even explicit!) noontime and primetime variety show go-go dancer phenomenon, otherwise, the Philippines will continue on its downward spiral towards a totally failed state.

(An American friend and his family in Singapore have a Filipina maid who requested for a subscription to The Filipino Channel. He told me not long ago that when he came home for lunch one day, he was horrified to find his little kids watching a bunch of go-go dancers gyrating on a noontime TV show as the maid was having her daily dose of Wowowee using the common living room TV set! Immediately afterwards, he had a small TV installed in the tiny maid’s room and got the cable company to deactivate The Filipino Channel from the living room’s set top box and activated TFC only for the maid’s room. What a major embarrassment for the Philippines!)

4. Personal System

Some people are more hard-working than others even if they are in a group or family of sloths. Some people do 180 degree turns in how they manage their lives, despite the people around them. These behavioral and mindset shifts are often the results of the personal system that a single individual may set up for him/herself. No doubt, such changes at the personal system involve whole lot of self-discipline and self-control.

Does a person reward himself after he does well on an exam by treating himself to ice-cream? Or does he treat himself to ice-cream regardless of whether he does well, passes, or fails? Does he deny himself certain indulgences like playing video games if he hasn’t accomplished his work yet? Or does he play video games regardless of whether he has accomplished his work or not? Does he reward himself with a brand new luxury car (or two) if, as CEO of the company he just recently took charge of, was able to turn it around for the better? Or does he buy it/them anyway, never mind that he hasn’t done anything at all to deserve such a reward?

One’s personal system is ultimately what determines a person’s behavior as it is the final arbiter of whether a person is likely to be open or closed to outside influences that may be advantageous or disadvantageous. It is the Personal System that is targeted by authors of self-help and motivational books that often aim to change the world “one person at a time.”

The key challenge is usually that while a person may decide that he wants to improve himself, he may encounter difficulties if the other collective systems that influence him are not too cooperative. A drug-addict who wishes to go clean will find it almost impossible to do if his own family is dysfunctional and are themselves drug addicts, unless he leaves his home to escape the dysfunctional family system.

While extremely self-motivated individuals can improve themselves on their own without requiring a support group to help them out, such people are extremely rare. Most human beings need other human beings to remind them and point out their faults or achievements. That is also why human beings often need other people to serve as their teachers and mentors, rather than going purely along the “self-taught” route. This too, is why support-groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous often work better than having single individuals try to solve their own alcoholism or addiction problems because people need other people to tell each other what they refuse to see or remind each other or things they may forget or ignore.

It is for this reason that most of the time, for real profound change to happen in an individual’s personal system, a change needs to happen in the collective systems that influence people as well. That means that change is most effective when it is done collectively, hitting not just a single individual’s personal system, but also the sub-community systems, family systems as well as the entire societal system at the very top. That’s because it is easier for people to remind each other of what values they must hold themselves to, what behaviors they must exhibit, as well as praise and reward good behavior or castigate and punish bad behavior, as it is not always practical for a single person to reward or punish himself.

5. Hereditary & Genetic System

People’s behavior tends to be influenced by genetics. Studies on identical twins separated at birth and raised by different families has revealed the extreme similarities in temperament and personality of such twins so that psychologists have confirmed that nature does have a profound influence on a person’s behavioral or personality tendencies.

Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about our genes. We are what we are born with. All we can do, however, is to try our best to take advantage of whatever good traits our genes have given us, and work as hard as we can to fight against our unfortunately genetically-embedded negative tendencies.

Since I would prefer to delve more on the importance of culture and culture-change, making mention of the genetic level and how the hereditary system influences behavior helps for us to know what our inherent strengths and weaknesses are in order that we may modify our behaviors to take advantage of such strengths and avoid or suppress the weaknesses.

* * *

How the different Systems determine Culture & ultimately Destiny

Now that the different systems have been discussed, it is important to note that only three out of the five systems can easily be altered and modified through human means by way of policy-changes and proper enforcement of said policies. These are the Societal System, the Sub-Community & Family System, and the Personal System. Due to the collective nature of both the Societal System and the Sub-community & Family System, they are best lumped together under the description “Collective System.” Through this, we can see how the systems work in order to change not just human behavior on the individual or collective scale, but also how these can become more embedded to become individual Characters or collective Cultures. Personal Systems clearly induce specific individuals to behave in a particular way through the priorities and value-systems that individuals set for themselves. If they adhere to a particular belief-system or paradigm, they are likely to encourage themselves to behave in a certain way and avoid other types of behavior. A person who personally believes that mediocrity is acceptable and that there is no need to stress himself out by working hard will clearly act it out: he will be mediocre and he will not work hard. Either he coasts along barely passing, or ends up failing in many of his endeavors.

Dr. Fareed Zakaria, PhD

Others who, for instance, may personally adhere to Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic that working hard is a means to “glorify God” and believe strongly that their purpose in life is to “glorify God” have a higher likelihood of working hard and succeeding. In similar fashion, people who adhere to the Confucian Ethic of hard work and self-discipline have been observed by eminent socio-political analyst, author, and CNN host Dr. Fareed Zakaria to exhibit the same success-oriented traits that Max Weber described to be present in the Protestant Ethic. In addition to setting up a personal philosophy or personal belief-system, more disciplined and self-directed people are likely to even set up strict consequences of reward and punishment for themselves, denying certain pleasures unless tasks that they set for themselves are accomplished, and rewarding themselves only when they achieve success. As they continue to follow their own personal system of pursuing certain behaviors and avoiding others and continue to reinforce these through a combination of self-reward versus self-denial, they may cause those behaviors that they continue to do to become habits. With much more repetition, the habits become more ingrained and embedded, becoming part of one’s character. If the character that one develops for himself is one that is more predisposed towards success, then chances are higher that he would become successful. Sadly, it is easier to mold human behavior at the personal level when young and when under the appropriate tutelage of parents. Once grown-up, people oftentimes have habits and personal paradigms that die hard and sometimes, even if they change their paradigms, their habits are so ingrained and their characters so fixed that changing their own characters by themselves is next to impossible. Since it is far easier for human beings to check on others, shaping behavior collectively is actually much easier. Collective systems, like societal systems such as a political system or a system of governance, or a specific educational system developed at the state level, or religious systems propagated within particular religious communities through their church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, as well as systems of family upbringing can mold behavior at a much more sustainable and much higher level of effectiveness. Collective Systems, through the effective balance of consequences, tend to induce behavior more easily because people follow others whom they observe to be “winning” and avoid emulating those whom they observe to be “losing.” In other words, it is not always necessary for a person to be punished in order to discourage undesired behavior or rewarded to encourage good behavior, because in collective contexts, this can be done vicariously. One merely needs to observe that another person whose behavior has been undesirable is promptly punished in order for one to conclude that such behavior must be avoided. Setting up examples of model behavior and praising them as well as presenting examples of unwanted behavior and shaming or punishing them thus tends to work more effectively because of the influence of peer pressure in addition to the actual use of enforcement. As groups of people continue to behave desirably through constant reinforcement, that collective behavior becomes a custom. As that custom and the underlying value behind the custom get more embedded in the group’s collective consciousness, they become a part of the group’s collective Culture. And when a group’s collective Culture causes them to succeed in one or more areas of endeavor, then the collective destiny as determined by that culture is one of Success.

* * *

What behaviors should be emulated vs. avoided?

It is necessary to note that what is considered “desirable” versus “undesirable” behavior often varies across groups. Filipino Society has been described by many foreigners and Filipino academics alike to be extremely anti-Intellectual, so that people who tend to be more intellectual than others either get ostracized or invite jealousy, rather than praise and adulation. There may also be some groups where cheating is tolerated and worse, tolerating or even assisting in cheating is seen as a sign of camaraderie. In such cases, the peer pressure system works so that the one who does not cheat nor allows others to cheat is deemed an outcast. (And this is clearly an example where the peer pressure undermines the competitiveness of the group) How then do we determine what types of behavior should be considered desirable or undesirable? Montesquieu did mention that colder countries do tend to produce more frank and honest people. Why is frankness and honesty more likely to develop in colder areas?

If by winter, you don’t have shelter or clothing, you die. No food stored, you die. No firewood collected, you die.

Here’s the answer: The Natural Environment as well as the Climate are tyrannical, unforgiving, and inflexible task masters. They set definite deadlines which cannot be stretched. A community of people living in the cold temperate zone have no choice but to be honest with each other regarding task assignments or simple things like food supply levels. If the leader asks one of the members of the community to handle the supplies of food, any dishonesty on the part of the member will translate into suffering or death for one or more members of the community. Worst case, dishonesty results in the death of the entire community, including the dishonest member. If a community leader assigns a member to start planting crops on a particular day, if that member procrastinates and doesn’t start planting on the day he’s told to, he can’t fudge and cover it up by saying “yes” when asked “have you started planting the crops I told you to plant?” He has no choice but to be honest because dishonesty will result in the entire community’s suffering. Transparency, honesty, integrity, punctuality, frankness, and self-discipline are oftentimes naturally-developed in temperate zones because of Winter. If you are late in planting by a day or two and are at least honest about the lapse, crisis may still be easily averted by immediate corrective action. But doing cover-ups and making excuses, on the other hand, results in pain, suffering, and perhaps death by the coming Winter. The cold climate can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It is a ruthless taskmaster. This largely explains the difference in timeliness and punctuality as well as openness, frankness, and honesty, and self-discipline that contrasts cultures from colder versus warmer climates. We should definitely rank countries based on all the competitive indices available, including GDP per capita, Human Development, lower incidences of corruption, etc and take a good look at the kinds of traits and behaviors that are exhibited by their people. The problem with the Philippines is that as a tropical country, our climate and general environment are rather tolerant of mediocrity. Failure does not necessarily result in annihilation, unlike in countries with much harsher, colder climates. Our climate and environment unfortunately do not give us direct feedback on whether what we do or do not do is wrong.

The Philippines is at 113th place under the World Bank ranking with $1,745 per person per year (2009)

However, we can see just how mediocre the Philippines is whenever we compare ourselves against other countries in terms of per-capita economic output, our level of human development, and even simply at how we are regarded by other people around the world. The way forward, therefore, is to emulate the winning traits, winning behaviors, and winning cultural inclinations of the people from the most successful countries in the world. We also need to sift out whatever behaviors some of them may already be exhibiting due to success, as some First World countries whose people used to be extremely hard-working and self-disciplined have, due to their societies’ wealth, comfort, and First World status, have started to become less hard-working and have grown “soft.” We especially need to learn from Singapore, which – though tropical just like us – has adopted a Societal System that seeks to induce Singaporeans and all the people living in Singapore to behave, act, and think competitively and competently like the people from the most advanced countries in the World which are mostly found in temperate climates. Since tropical environments do not by default induce people living in such climates to save, Singapore set up a collective system that would cause people to save: a forced savings scheme (the Central Provident Fund) as well as many other schemes that would actively reward and encourage it. Ultimately, the Philippines needs to set up effective Societal Systems, ranging from an appropriate System of Government, appropriate laws and policies, appropriate rewards and punishments, an appropriate state-prescribed Educational System that increases our overall economic competitiveness, as well setting up other appropriate systems at the societal level that all seek to induce Filipinos to collectively stop behaving like children and force us to mature and learn to be more responsible. Moreover, these societal systems must be set up to further encourage sub-communities (like churches, religious groups, etc) and families to further improve their sub-community systems and family systems to cause Filipinos to get our collective acts together. Simply telling people to “shape up” will not work. Systems must explicitly be set up in order to actively enforce behavioral and cultural reform (or overhaul) at the collective level. Obviously, this effort of reforming the Filipino should start at the highest level if this is going to be a wide-scale collective effort. That highest level is at the System of Government as it is at this highest societal level from which everything else emanates: far-reaching policies on education, economic management, finance, commerce, environmental management, infrastructure, law enforcement, etc are all dependent on the Government.

Does the current system of government allow the best, brightest, most competent, most dynamic, and most hard-working to end up in Malacañang Palace?

If the System of Government continues to allow unqualified and incompetent people to reach the top and call the shots simply because the system is set up to favor popularity, name-recall, winnability, and celebrity status, then we can all expect that the quality of everything else will suffer. But if a better system of government were set up so that only the best, most analytical, most brilliant, most capable minds, most competent, most hard-working, and most action-oriented are able to emerge on top, then such a system of government would also induce the entire populace to behave accordingly: a competent, intelligent, and hardworking leader assigns only other competent, intelligent, and hardworking people to work in his team. Because of such a system of meritocracy, people will aspire to be the best, most brilliant, and most capable in order to achieve success. It is therefore important for everyone to note that the quest to reform and improve Filipino Behavior and Culture requires reforming the System of Government. To reject efforts and calls to reform the system of government by stating that culture must first be reformed is to miss the point: Massive cultural reform requires system reform, and the highest level for implementing this lies in reforming the System of Government.

* * *

System of Government must be appropriate to the Culture & Environment

Lee Kuan Yew commented on how the Philippines was erroneously approaching its developmental problems by blindly and mindlessly adopting wholesale a concept of governance which Montesquieu himself wrote to be more suited to cold countries (where the people are more likely to be more self-disciplined and more calm and less rambunctious) than to warm countries, in his book “From Third World to First”, he wrote:

Cecilia Muñoz-Palma

“At dinner, Mrs. Aquino seated the chairman of the constitutional commission, Chief Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, next to me. I asked the learned lady what lessons her commission had learned from the experience of the last 40 years since independence in 1946 would guide her in drafting the constitution. She answered without hesitation, “We will not have any reservations or limitations on our democracy. We must make sure that no dictator can ever emerge to subvert the constitution.”

Immediately after, he thought to himself:

Was there no incompatibility of the American-type separation of powers with the culture and habits of the Filipino people that had caused problems for the presidents before Marcos?

That last part was the real clincher: “Was there no incompatibility of the American-type separation of powers with the culture and habits of the Filipino people that had caused problems for the presidents before Marcos? Quite obvious to Lee Kuan Yew which was totally ignored by the late Pres. Cory Aquino and by Chief Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma was the Montesquieuan Principle that a country needed to adopt a form of government that took into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the people’s culture, behavior, inclinations, and tendencies, so that said system of government could more appropriately operate & hopefully succeed without encountering funny little surprises.

Frontiersman Daniel Boone: The US System was designed with people like him in mind

One of the main points that most Filipino leaders and ordinary citizens missed (and still continue to miss!) is the fact that the US Presidential System and its Paradigm of revolving around “Freedom and Liberty” was originally designed with the rugged, self-disciplined, self-directed, self-motivated, independent-minded immigrant (or son of immigrants), and predominantly Protestant Anglo-Saxon (therefore “Northern European”) Frontiersman who had rebelled against his former mother country of Britain clearly in mind. It was a system that had been designed not for the predominantly Catholic, supposed to be docile & obedient, Hispanic-influenced indigenous and non-immigrant Austronesian that is the Filipino. This problem is analogous to having a short Filipino boy riding a mountain bike that was custom-built for a huge 6 ft 7 inch tall white American adult. (This is a point that journalist and historian Stanley Karnow often repeats in his book “In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines.”) Alas, as Filipinos were far too enamored by the form of the American System, little real thinking was put into analyzing the substance of how to best adopt a system suited to the Philippines. Instead of studying the systems of other predominantly Catholic countries as the drafters of the Malolos Constitution had done (where they patterned it after the Constitution of Spain and several other predominantly Catholic countries, thus adopting a Spanish-style Parliamentary form of Government), the guiding principle for designing the 1987 system of government was for the Philippine System to “out-do”, “out-democratize”, or “out-Americanize” the United States of America.

(Digression: Incidentally, the structure of the modern-day Italian system closely resembles the proposed form of government prescribed by the Malolos Constitution. The Head of State of the First Philippine Republic was the largely ceremonial “Presidente de la República.” In Italy, their ceremonial Head of State is the “Presidente della Repubblica.” The more actively-governing prime minister of the Malolos Republic’s title in Spanish was “Presidente del Consejo de Ministros.” In present-day Italy, the Italian prime minister’s title is “Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri.”)

Instead of making use of an Electoral College through which the USA enforces the “republican ideals” of representative government which the majority of the US Founding Fathers preferred as opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s deviant ideals of “direct democracy”, the Philippine Presidential System of 1987 became one which prescribed nationwide voting-at-large for the President, separate from the Vice-President, as well as Senators. Had Montesquieu been alive today, he would be cursing at Filipinos for the blasphemy which we had decided upon in 1987, which many Filipinos – including some people who should know better – have continually refused to correct. As the good Baron would have predicted, funny little surprises did occur. Thanks to the stubborn “Democratism” that Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ and majority of his fellow members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission had insisted upon, the presidential elections of 1992 turned out to be a near-disaster at the Presidential level, as they forgot to insert a provision requiring a run-off election which would ideally pit the top two candidates from the first round in case the electoral contest with more than 2 candidates did not yield a majority winner. The president who emerged, Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, won only 23.58% of the entire vote, while his closest opponent, Miriam Defensor-Santiago got 19.72%. There were a total of 7 major candidates, and the emerging winner had less than 25% of the entire vote. In another country like France, Mrs. Santiago and Mr. Ramos would have been forced to slug it out in a second round, thereby forcing the emergence of a president with Majority Mandate, as all the other supporters of the remaining candidates would have had to choose between the top two. Why had they not even seen something as simple as this when so many other countries in Latin America or France that have multi-party Presidential systems featured run-off second rounds? Moreover, why had they not learned from the USA which had at least fused the selection of President and Vice-President, so that ballots do not feature separate individual candidacies, and instead force voters to choose a tandem? In other words, in the USA, you cannot mix and match. You either vote for Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin. You cannot choose Obama-Palin because US ballots feature tandem-pairs. On the Vice-Presidential level, it was a real disaster. Competent candidates like the late former Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan or former Cebu Governor Lito Osmeña were electorally no match for veteran action star and “heart-throb” Joseph Estrada. Moreover, at the Senatorial level which was a nationwide contest just like the Presidential and Vice-Presidential races, the top scorer was none other than Eat Bulaga host and slapstick comedy actor Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. The “funny little surprises” were all too easy to spot.

Fr. Bernas, SJ & his colleagues did not follow Montesquieu’s advice when designing the current faulty system

Fr. Bernas, SJ and the people who designed the 1987 Constitution unfortunately did not take into consideration the happy-go-lucky, flippant, frivolous, childish, undisciplined, rambunctious, personality-oriented, popularity-centric and what Montesquieu would have called “warm-climate” tendencies of Filipinos. They blindly and mindlessly assumed that if the Philippines adopted the Freedom-and-Liberty paradigm that was originally designed for the predominantly Protestant Anglo-Saxon and Northern European immigrants (from cold countries!) who had rebelled against Britain, then the Philippines would automatically enjoy the same prosperity and success that was present in the USA. By further tweaking it in order to “out-democratize” the USA and thus “be more American than the Americans”, Bernas and his companions sealed the fate of the Philippines as a chaotic, unstable, coup-prone, rambunctious and anarchic failed state. These people had failed to analyze the fact that the higher level of education and political consciousness of Americans in looking more at issues and not mere personalities, the superior economic performance of the American economy – thus enabling Americans to more easily live fulfilling lives, as well as its specific cultural context allowed the American Presidential System – though obviously containing many flaws – to work adequately for Americans. In fact, these people simply failed to realize that certain key features of the American system such as the use of the Electoral College as well as the practice of both main parties (Republicans and Democrats) to practice strict party discipline through intra-party caucuses and primaries prevented the same problems that are present in the Philippines from emerging in the USA. Moreover, the leaders who do emerge from the US presidential elections have a minimum level of qualifications and competence and American voters often choose on the basis of relevant issues such as platform and programs of government. In the Philippines, on the other hand, presidential elections are purely popularity and name-recall contests so that the emerging winners are not necessarily the most suitable candidates for the job of leading the country. As early as the 1990’s, fearless crusaders like Mrs. Carmen Pedrosa, Dr. Pepe Abueva, and even Butch Abad were already mentioning that the 1987 Constitution was inherently flawed and its corresponding presidential system of government prone to gridlock, prone to higher levels of corruption, and much slower to get things done. Still, blindness, stubbornness, mindlessness, emotionalism, small-mindedness, irrationality, and the refusal to do the appropriate research and analysis continued to prevent the much needed changes from happening as uninformed members of media, politicians who did not care to study and analyze issues carefully, as well as many uninformed members of the public chose to reject what was an honest call for reforms. They misguidedly (and some, maliciously) kept branding the call for reforms as an underhanded means to cause the incumbent to stay in power.

Would it make sense to wear these in the hot & humid Philippine climate?

For the longest time, it was almost as if Fr. Bernas and his colleagues – through their insistence on using an “extra-democratized” form of the American Presidential System (originally designed for a predominantly Protestant country with a predominantly Northern European-descended population in a temperate climate) – had been forcing Filipinos to wear fur coats originally designed for use during cold Minnesota winters in the sweltering heat and humidity of the Philippines. Bernas and company unfortunately took the text of the American System, but not the full American context. Talk about inappropriate. The only real hope for the Philippines is for Filipinos to realize that we unfortunately do not belong to the same context as the Americans, and to use the “text” and system of government that was designed for a people with a different historical context, different cultural inclinations, a very different personality and work ethic, and a different level of economic and intellectual development is totally disastrous. By adopting a form of government and system of governance that is much more flexible and appropriate to the Philippine context, Filipinos will find that self-government need not be too much of a burden. Should we really continue to use a system that does not work for us? It’s high time we made the change.

* * *

Conclusion & Recommendations:

This rather lengthy “quasi-dissertation” has clearly covered many points and has sought to carefully explain, beyond reasonable doubt, the causal relationship between system and culture. It is thus important to present a few solid feasible recommendations to the readers at the various levels of fixable systems involved: Societal System:

There is no doubt that Constitutional Reform must be pursued in order to set up a more flexible, stable, accountable, platform-centric, and supremely more appropriate system that would support a more meritocratic framework of allowing the more competent and deserving members of society to rise to the top of the leadership hierarchy. Instead of promoting pure popularity and winnability, shifting to a parliamentary system which better promotes platforms, programs, competence, intelligence, and achievement as opposed to the winnability-focus found in the flawed Philippine presidential system will send an extremely strong signal to the entire Filipino populace that the country’s priorities have changed and improved and people will respond accordingly through the appropriate behavior.

It is also necessary that in choosing the model of such system, care is taken to ensure that the model of governance adopted is one which is more likely to be consistent and cognizant of the cultural context of the Filipino People. An extremely flawed and distorted version of the American-style Presidential System has continually been tried and it has clearly failed Filipinos. It is high time to reject it and replace it with something better and more appropriate to our context.

Moreover, at the societal system, the leadership structure – once such system reform takes place -should definitely seek to set up a system of education that molds Filipinos to become highly-disciplined, focused, hardworking, analytical, studious, logical, rational, highly-informed, inquisitive, and intellectually-precocious. Perhaps a lax and liberal atmosphere patterned after the mainstream liberal American educational system may not be the best one given that the Philippine tropical environment is not conducive to molding a highly-competitive citizenry. Numerous European countries (despite being temperate and cold) and Asian countries (take a good look at the Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and Singaporean educational systems!) have systems that are highly competitive and disciplinarian, which is then reflected in their superior international academic rankings.

A highly competitive educational system is the basis of a competitive society

At every level and every area in society, the government should strongly promote merit-based competition. Even “Conditional Cash Transfers” should not end up like simple dole-outs to beggars and instead should best be implemented with competitive requirements such as, perhaps, turning the CCT into an incentive scheme for poor families to promote scholastic excellence among their children: only families who produce honor students among their children are eligible to receive CCT’s. In fact, an even better scheme might involve giving much higher CCT allotments to families whose children graduate as class valedictorian, salutatorian, honorable places, and other special graduation distinctions.

In short, government should use every single opportunity to promote excellence in any given field as a prerequisite to receiving any “favors” or financial assistance. A society that creates such a system where “there is no such thing as a free lunch” can easily find itself almost instantly changing the priorities and cultural preferences of the people. Through such a major shift in philosophy and practice, mendicancy will automatically get drastically reduced and everyone will learn to recognize the value of everything.

Sub-Community & Family System:

Small communities like church groups, parishes, Islamic Majlis councils, civic groups, community clubs, village associations, barangay groups, and the like need to organize themselves around actively motivating their members and the families that comprise them to become successful and competent members of the wider society.

(I also emphasize greatly that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference should definitely shift its attention away from their losing stance on the Responsible Parenthood Bill, formerly known as the RH Bill – which unfortunately erodes the CBCP’s support base and credibility – and instead focus more on denouncing the go-go dancer phenomenon found in noontime and primetime TV variety shows which invariably promote prostitution as a “viable occupation.” That is the greater social cancer that afflicts the Philippines.)

Singapore’s government reaches out to the Malays through the Community self-help group Mendaki

Singapore has successfully made use of this paradigm of organizing the various ethnic groups’ associations, clan associations, old-country home-town groups, religious groups (church, mosque, temple, gurdwara, etc), small political constituencies, town halls, and more that comprise Singapore in order to promote policies that lead towards the direction of excellence and real economic and societal progress. These initiatives range from simple educational-support, actively giving due public praise and recognition to scholastic, intellectual, musical, athletic, and other achievements to students who excel, organizing review-groups, as well as providing tutorial and assistance to those encountering difficulty. Awards are even given at these small-community levels to parents whose children excel in school, thus giving incentives for parents to ensure that their children study hard. Moreover, adult members of communities themselves receive recognition for their own career excellence.

Because of the strong culture of meritocracy and achievement fostered at the wider societal system through the Government’s active promotion of excellence which permeates down to the Sub-community system via the small community groups, Singapore’s family systems are likewise geared towards excellence. Parents from all ethnic and religious communities actively discipline and encourage their own children to study hard, excel in whatever they do, and cultivate their talents in different fields of endeavor.

Lee Kuan Yew, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria, explained how Singapore co-opted the family unit as part of its “implementing arm” in bringing Singapore forward:

“We have focused on basics in Singapore. We used the family to push economic growth, factoring the ambitions of a person and his family into our planning. We have tried, for example, to improve the lot of children through education.

The government can create a setting in which people can live happily and succeed and express themselves, but finally it is what people do with their lives that determines economic success or failure. Again, we were fortunate we had this cultural backdrop, the belief in thrift, hard work, filial piety and loyalty in the extended family, and, most of all, the respect for scholarship and learning.”

Truth be told, the collective solidarity that exists within the traditional setting of the Filipino family is a good starting point which connects us with our Asian neighbors as well as our related Mediterranean (Latin/Hispanic) adoptive siblings and cousins.

Granted, thrift might not be a strong point of some Filipino families – not yet at least, but filial piety, loyalty in the extended family? These are intrinsic values in Filipino Culture just as much as they are among the Chinese, Malays, and Indians of Singapore. If enlightened Filipino leaders are able to properly harness the natural family-orientation of Filipinos in order to bring about much needed reforms in society the same way Singapore did, there is no reason that the Philippines cannot achieve similar results. (Now that also requires that the political system allows competent and enlightened Filipino leaders to emerge at the top in the first place, which is why “system of government” is important!)

How can we improve the Filipino Family System in order to develop our children if the parents are forced to work abroad as OFW’s because there are too few local jobs?

Unfortunately, the Filipino Family System cannot be improved unless parents are in the Philippines together with their children. If one or two parents are forced to work abroad because they are unable to find decent-paying local job opportunities, the Family System weakens and the children suffer. Instead of sending Filipinos to work in foreign companies in foreign countries as OFW’s, causing them to be unable to provide effective parental guidance to their children, and often indulging them by sending undeserved gifts in order to make up for their absence, we need to bring the foreign companies to the Philippines to give local jobs to locally-based Filipinos.

Therefore, part and parcel of the need to improve the Family System is to bring about Constitutional Reform with the ultimate aim of creating massive local employment opportunities by removing the misguided protectionist provisions which have discouraged foreign investors from creating jobs for Filipinos.

Personal System:

Thanks to the emphasis on excellence and meritocracy at all wider collective spheres, people will have no choice but to adopt the emphasis on excellence and meritocracy as part of their own personal systems and philosophies. Under such a paradigm, sloppiness and laziness will cause them to become the outcasts.

Currently, Filipino society is unfortunately wired in such a way so that people who wish to excel need to have extremely strong personal systems with “deviant” tendencies or strong personalities who do not care about what others think of them in order to defy the general tendency of Philippine society towards laxity, mediocrity, moral turpitude, and anti-intellectualism. The strong crab-mentality and “pakikisama” tendency causes many Filipinos, especially many Filipino males, to merely seek to fit in with the mediocre crowd rather than excel and stand-out due to the risk of ostracism. This peer pressure culture of pakikisama in the Philippine context of the urban & rural poor may even be such that young little girls who are exposed to the sexually-suggestive music of Lito Camo and the sexually-explicit gyrating dance-moves of the Sexbomb Dancers are forced to fit in with the rest of their young peers and join in the dancing or risk ostracism. Those young little girls who know better not to join in such dancing end up becoming social outcasts among the peers they grow up with within their communities.

Pakikisama-Peer Pressure: If these are the friends you grew up with, you risk alienation if you are studying to become a PhD because you won’t have time to join them in drinking & card games

This problem of pakikisama and peer pressure towards all the wrong things is unfortunately why many of Philippine Society’s most competent and most excellent members are often forced to put up façades of ordinariness just to blend in with the wider crowd. It’s either that, or those who really do excel in certain fields that are not considered “mainstream” start out as deviants in one way or another, not caring about how others see them.

As it is, focusing on the personal system as a means to achieve societal change is important. But personal systems of different individuals often respond to stimuli formed within the collective context of their own families, communities, and the wider society as determined by those at the top of it. If the collective systems in the wider context of Philippine society continue to promote mediocrity and incompetence, then people whose personal systems incline towards achievement and excellence risk social alienation.

How can we create a successful society if being excellent and successful means risking social alienation?

How can we create an intellectually-precocious society if being intellectually-precocious is seen as weird?

How can we create a meritocratic and hard-working society if our systems reward popularity, not merit?

Do you want to be modern like KL (top)? Or do you want to stay as-is (below)?

It is for this reason that reforming all the Collective Systems at the Societal, Sub-Community, and Family level are extremely important. The rewards or punishments provided at the collective levels, no doubt influence or even determine the kind of Personal Systems that most individuals maintain. Ultimately, we must realize that if our aim is to come up with a society that is competent and excellence-based – one that can get out of our unfortunate failed state of Third Worldism and transform ourselves into a prosperous and well-run society, then we cannot simply hope to change the Philippines one Filipino at a time. It has been proven that other societies can leapfrog their mediocrities and states of economic stagnation to change their societies collectively through effective top-down reform caused through the pursuit of correct and appropriate government policies that permeate downwards to other societal levels, smaller communities, down to families, and down to the individual personal level. Do we really want to improve our culture collectively so that instead of mediocrity, we all fight for excellence and a better life? If yes, then that entails changing our collective culture, not just our individual characters, changing our collective customs, not just our individual habits, and ultimately changing our behavior, both collective & individual. Luckily, we now know how all that can be done:

To change our collective culture, we must change all our systems.

* * *

* * * *

Click here to visit a related article

* * * *

If you liked this, you might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

2. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

3. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

4. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

5. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

6. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

7. The Parable of the Mountain Bike

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

9. Lee Kuan Yew on Filipinos and the Philippines

* * *

Why is this site called antipinoy.com? Click here!

It’s all about Competition

sgp

Competition forces you to shape up, or ship out!

It is well-known that the concept of healthy and fair competition has the effect of an “invisible hand” that essentially results in benefits and improvements for everyone.

We CoRRECTors and other advocates of Constitutional Reform do not subscribe to the idea that human beings have to be saints so that things will get better. Humans are fallible and make mistakes. Instead, it is clear that when people have to compete, that’s when people improve: because competition forces people to shape up or ship out. Whenever there is healthy competition, unscrupulous behavior ensures that one’s competitors will eventually win. When there is competition, lousy service and lousy products lose out as consumers prefer to buy the better products & services.

CoRRECT™ – Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation is really all about Competition, Competitiveness, Competence, and Choice.

Let us review the Three Point Agenda:

1) Economic Liberalization

Companies compete against other Companies for Employees

With economic liberalization, we allow more investors into the economy, whether they be foreign or local. It is very possible to have local players comprised of talented local Filipino technology gurus (who unfortunately do not have their own cash) who are supported and funded by foreign venture capitalists’ seed money.

We will have more foreign investors and foreign companies coming in – instead of having to send Filipinos abroad to work for foreign companies in foreign lands – so that Filipinos can earn and learn (foreign multinationals often have good skills and personnel training programs) while being with their families, and not needing to work as migrant workers and OFW’s abroad.

With more economic players, there is more competition. Companies will compete against each other and will thus be forced to provide better goods and better services to the end consumer. Simple Law of Supply and Demand: Companies will be forced to compete against each other in hiring the best employees, dangling higher wages or benefits just to attract applicants to choose to work for them and not for a competitor.

Filipino workers will see that more jobs also means higher wages, with the highest wages going to the most competitive, skilled, and hardworking workers. Many workers will thus seek to improve themselves and compete against others, by learning new skills, and making themselves more attractive to employers in order to command higher wages.

Compare a situation that has an abundance of competition versus a situation that has a lack of it.

Without competition, you end up with lethargy & laziness. You end up with Despair. People feel resigned to the fact that no matter what they do, they’ll continue to earn low wages and they can’t find alternatives. And when they try to go into business, they also realize they don’t have much capital to begin with (and with the 60/40 constitutional provisions, generous foreign venture capitalists and angel investors are nowhere to be found) and even if they do, they may find that while there are many people, only a few have jobs that pay them enough to allow them to afford whatever it is they’re selling.

Clearly, competition is better. Economic Liberalization ensures competition, and economic competition improves our economic lives as wages improve.

The Philippines’ OFW problem is really nothing but a serious manifestation of the obvious lack of competition in the economy and lack of companies and jobs, forcing Filipinos overseas either as overseas workers, or as full-fledged emigrants.

When jobs are scarce in a country, people are forced to look for jobs overseas.

2) Region-based Decentralization (Evolving Federalism) 

Regions Competing Against Other Regions in attracting Investors

With Region-based Decentralization, the regions will be empowered to make their own economic and business-related decisions so that they themselves can decide how they want to attract investors to come over and set up companies in the regions.

Instead of a centralized unitary single monolithic entity such as Imperial Manila, we end up with empowered autonomous Regions who can compete with each other in trying to best attract investors and businesses. Whether it be by providing lower taxes or creating better policies, or it could even be by simply improving the efficiency of their own regional bureaucracies, the simple point here is that by making the empowered Regions compete with each other, they are forced to improve themselves in order to attract economic opportunities and businesses because in turn, the more businesses go to regions, the higher their revenues, the better the region’s infrastructure, and the more respectable the region’s leaders become.

If certain regions succeed in making themselves richer by successfully attracting so many investors and multinational companies as well as national companies originally headquartered in Manila, since they are autonomized and empowered to keep a bigger share of the tax revenue that they collect and are also empowered to make their own regional decisions, they may even decide to raise the salaries of their own government employees and leaders, thus making it unnecessary to resort to graft and scraping little kickbacks just to decently raise families. Regions will compete against each other and thus try to lessen their inefficiencies, lessen corruption, lower taxes, improve infrastructure, etc.

Competition clearly improves things, not just in a corporation versus corporation type of competition but also in a region versus region type of competition.

3) Parliamentary System

Parties competing against other parties to provide better results

In the current Presidential System, there is no real competition based on competence and platform. Instead, the competition is based on name-recall and popularity: both of which are irrelevant when it comes to delivering results.

But in a Parliamentary System, real competition that makes sense happens.

It’s a competition of Party versus Party (as opposed to personality versus personality).

In parliamentary systems, there is intra-party competition where the best members move up to the top, the best one becoming party leader. Parties also compete against each other on the basis of platform and performance

Notice also that in Parliamentary Systems, party leaders (who are in the running to become Prime Minister if their respective parties win majority of all seats or if their parties form coalitions where they have the most seats within the coalition) campaign using the pronoun “We.” They speak more collectively about their party’s platforms and their party’s past performance by always referring to “Our Party” or “My Party” unlike in Presidential Systems where presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” all the time.

Parties will be forced to compete against other parties by presenting their platforms to the public and showing that their platforms are more responsive to the needs of the people. More importantly, parties will be forced to compete against each other by choosing the best members among themselves to be the senior members of the party, the best of whom will be the party leader.

In a Parliamentary System, unlike in a presidential system, the Prime Minister and his majority bloc are always in competition against the Leader of the Opposition and his minority bloc. Active Debates ensue. The Leader of the Opposition tries to show that the Prime Minister does not know what he is talking about. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, must always be on his toes to show that indeed, he does know what he is talking about and has the facts to prove his point…

In a parliamentary system, there is an intense system of competition where the Majority’s “Government Cabinet” is always being challenged by the Minority’s “Shadow Cabinet.”

In a Parliamentary System, the competition between the Opposition versus Government during parliamentary debates ensures that the Government is on its toes

The Minister of Finance from the Government Majority is always on his toes and must always prove himself as the Shadow Minister from the Opposition Minority always challenges him and questions his decisions. In fact, since every single decision that the Minister of Finance makes within the Ministry of Finance regarding budget and other concerns is always done in the presence of the Opposition Shadow Minister of Finance, everything is above board, everything is transparent.

In a Parliamentary System, the Majority Government faces off in a highly competitive confrontational seating arrangement against the Minority Opposition

In fact, even the seating lay-out of a Parliamentary System (particularly the Westminster and Spanish systems) force the Majority and the Minority to face-off against each other in a face-to-face debate. The Government side sits on one side of the parliament hall directly facing the Opposition who are on the other side. Compare that with the Philippine legislative chambers’ seating lay-outs where all members of the House of Representatives and even the Senate all face the front where the presiding officer (Senate President or Speaker of the House) is seated.

There is no real sense of “competition” between the two sides. As such, this obvious issue of the physical seating lay-out in the legislature is also why there is a very poorly-developed sense of party cohesion in the Philippine setting. If the Philippines shifted over to a Parliamentary System where the seating lay-out features direct face-to-face confrontation between Majority versus Minority, this institutionalized competition between both sides will actually force the development of an improved party system: It will force parties with similar philosophies and platforms to coalesce or merge and prevent the proliferation of too many fractured mini-parties, while it will cause parties with very different ideas to become distinct as far as their platforms and policy proposals in concerned.

Most of all, forcing Majority and Minority to face-off in debates as a result of such a seating layout fosters the kind of greater competition that results in higher transparency and lower corruption.

In such a system, you don’t need to hope and pray that your government’s leaders are extremely honest people. Instead, the competition between the Minority Opposition and the Majority Government keeps them honest, as the Minority-Opposition essentially keeps close watch over the Government’s dealings and decisions. The Majority-Government, on the other hand, will try its best to ensure that it is able to deliver on its promises and thus enable it to gain the trust and confidence of the voting public for the next general elections.

In the presidential system, the decisions made by presidents and their cabinets often tend to be done behind closed doors, without any observation or scrutiny unlike in a Parliamentary System where the intense competition between Majority Government and Minority Opposition blocs forces the opposition to scrutinize the Government in the minutest detail.

Knowing this, it is thus no wonder that countries using parliamentary systems dominate the top ranks of Transparency International’s CPI listing (Corruption Perceptions Index) of the Least Corrupt Countries of the world, while presidentialist countries (and semi-presidentialists and dictatorships) dominate the bottom tiers.

In a Parliamentary System, there is Competition everywhere. There is Competition among parties and competition within parties.

Among parties, the parties try to outdo each other by executing policies better and producing better results than their opponents, and presenting better planned projects, better planned policies, and better platforms and manifestos to the general public.

Within parties, party members compete against each other to show who embodies the party’s principles and who is worthy to move up the ranks and eventually take on important roles within the party and within government in case the party wins a majority and forms the government.

A lousy debater who cannot articulate his thoughts properly, cannot think on his toes, has poor knowledge of history, poor knowledge of geopolitics, poor knowledge of policy, poor knowledge of economics, etc can never rise up the ranks in a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system, the higher you go, the more exposed you will be to heated debates and intense scrutiny by the opposing side.

Not everyone in a party can do this. And certainly, because of this, not everyone aspires to become a party leader (and therefore only a select few ever really aspire to become Prime Minister).

Becoming a Prime Minister, a deputy prime minister, a minister, or some other senior member is clearly not for the faint-hearted and especially not for the weak-minded. To be a Prime Minister, you must be better at debates than your own party mates. You must be the “go-to-guy” or “go-to-gal” that everyone relies on when there is a difficult question. You must know all the relevant facts and figures in order to support your statements and often, you will not have notes or teleprompters helping you out when you extemporaneously respond to questions during debates and Question Time. There is no such thing as “Teka muna, tanungin ko muna advisers ko” in parliamentary debates.

The parliamentary system is all about healthy competition. It’s the kind of competition within parties that ensures that the best and most competent member in a party becomes its leader.

Competition between Minority bloc versus Majority bloc ensures that Corruption is kept very low as scrutiny of government is very intense.

Competition between Parties ensures that parties come up with solid platforms and solid plans of action.

Clearly, competition forces the best in everyone in a parliamentary system.

Sadly, the Philippines is presidential, that’s why we continue to be mired in mediocrity.

 

In Summary…

CoRRECT™ is all about COMPETITION.

1) Economic Liberalization:

Competition among corporations and companies creates more jobs, increases wages for employees, and creates better goods and services for consumers/clients/customers.

*

*

2) Evolving Federalism:

Competition among regions ensures that regions try to outdo each other in attracting investors, coming up with better policies, streamlining their bureaucracies, improving their infrastructure, etc.

*

*

3) Parliamentary System:

Competition among political parties and blocs ensures that the public ends up with better parties, higher quality politicians, competent leaders, and the direct competition between Opposition Shadow Cabinet versus Government Cabinet means greater scrutiny of decision-making & budget concerns, thus drastically reducing/minimizing corruption and influence peddling.

* * *

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

 

It’s the Economy, Student!

The PhD President: Respected by leaders of developed and progressive countries; envied and villified by small-minded, rumor-mongering, TFC-watching and ABiaS-CBN-brainwashed Pinoys

By Dr. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PhD

 [I wrote this article on and off in my spare time during my house recuperation, re-hospitalization and hospital detention from October to December 2011.]

The economy I turned over

Countless studies have shown that rapid increases in average incomes reduce poverty. Policy research, notes economist Stephan Klasen, has shown that “poverty reduction will be fastest in countries where average income growth is highest.”

When I stepped down from the Presidency in June 2010, I was able to turn over to the next Administration a new Philippines with a 7.9 percent growth rate. That growth rate capped 38 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth despite escalating global oil and food prices, two world recessions, Central and West Asian wars, mega-storms and virulent global epidemics. Our country had just weathered with flying colors the worst planet-wide economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1930. As two-thirds of the world’s economies contracted, we were one of the few that managed positive growth.

If you look around you in our cities as you drive by the office towers that have changed the skyline, if you look around you in our provinces as you drive over the roads, bridges and RORO ports where we made massive investments, that is the face of change that occurred during my administration.

By the time I left the Presidency, nearly nine out of 10 Filipinos had access to health insurance, more than 100,000 new classrooms had been built, 9 million jobs had been created.

We built roads and bridges, ports and airports, irrigation and education facilities where they were sorely needed. To millions of the poor, we provided free or subsidized rice, discounted fuel and electricity, or conditional cash transfers and we advanced land reform for farmers and indigenous communities.

No amount of black propaganda can erase the tangible improvements enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of families liberated from want during my decade at the helm of the nation. But these accomplishments have simply been part of the continuum of history. The gains I achieved were built on the efforts of previous leaders. Each successive government must build on the successes and progress of the previous ones: advance the programs that work, leave behind those that don’t.

I am confident that I left this nation much stronger than when I came into office. When I stepped down, I called on everyone to unite behind our new leaders. I was optimistic and I was hopeful about our future.

However, the evidence is mounting that my optimism was misplaced. Our growth in the 3rd quarter of 2011 was only 3.2 percent, well below all the forecasts that had already been successively downgraded. The momentum inherited by President Aquino from my administration is slowing down, and despite his initial brief honeymoon period, he has simply not replaced my legacy with new ideas and actions of his own.

The politics of division

In the last year and a half, I have noted with sadness the increasing vacuum of leadership, vision, energy and execution in managing our economic affairs. The gains achieved by previous administrations – mine included – are being squandered in an obsessive pursuit of political warfare meant to blacken the past and conceal the dark corners of the present dispensation. Rather than building on our nation’s achievements, this regime has extolled itself as the sole harbinger of all that is good. And the Filipino people are paying for this obsession–in slumping growth, under-achieving government, escalating crime and conflict, and the excesses of a presidential clique that enjoys fancy cars and gun culture.

Vilification covering up the vacuum of vision is the latest manifestation of the weak state that our generation of Filipinos has inherited. The symptoms of this weak state are a large gap between rich and poor — a gap that has been exploited for political ends — and a political system based on patronage and, ultimately, corruption to support that patronage. Recently, politics has seen the use of black propaganda and character assassination as tools of the trade. The operative word in all of this is “politics” – too much politics.

I know that the President has to be a politician, like everybody else in our elected leadership, whether Administration or Opposition, and we must all co-exist within this system. But what really matters is what kind of politics we espouse, not how much. The enemy to beat is ourselves: when we spread division rather than unity; when we put ego above country and sensationalism above rationality; when we make everyday politics replace long-term vision in our country’s hour of need.

Everyday we draw nearer to what may be our country’s hour of greatest need, because an increasingly ominous global environment is aggravating our self-inflicted weakness. The leadership’s palpable deficiencies in vision and execution are hurting our economy at a time when the rest of the world faces the ever more real threat of a double-dip recession, one that we may have escaped the first time during my term, but might not be able to avoid again.

Our dream of growth

In order to avoid such a grim outcome, we must pursue the economic growth of our country as the permanent solution to our age-old problems of poverty and even corruption. Every postwar Administration to my recollection has sought to advance the economic growth of our country as a matter of highest priority. Only by enlarging the economic pie can there be more and bigger slices for everyone to enjoy.

It is in poverty that we find the material roots of the problem of corruption – because the political system based on patronage–and ultimately, corruption to support patronage–is made possible only by the large gap between the rich and the poor. This will persist until and unless we enlarge the economic pie. Unfortunately, the present Administration has chosen to turn the problem upside down, anchoring their entire development strategy on one simplistic slogan:  “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”  If there is no corruption, there is no poverty—this is a proposition that also tells us that the undeniable persistence of poverty to this day therefore means the continuation of corruption under this Administration.

The Economist commented earlier that: “…The President’s approach to fighting corruption…is to punish the sins of the past rather than try to prevent crime in the future. Mr. Aquino has proposed few reforms to the system.”

Meanwhile, most analysts are downgrading their growth forecasts for this year and the next. The Dutch bank ING cited the government’s “under-spending in the name of good governance” as the reason for lowering its growth forecasts.

Now more than ever, as the rest of the world faces renewed threats of financial and even sovereign defaults as well as economic recession, it is high time for us to return to the commitment to growth that has been the primary objective of every administration in the past.

Sunshine industries

Returning to this mainstream commitment to growth enables the country to tap the opportunities of the 21st century. In line with this, during my time we promoted fast-growing industries where high-value jobs are most plentiful.

One of them is information and communication technology or ICT, particularly the outsourcing of knowledge and business processes. My Administration developed the call center industry almost from scratch: in June 2010 there were half a million call center and BPO workers, from less than 5,000 when I took office. It was mainly for them that we built our fifth, virtual super-region: the so-called “cyber corridor”, the nationwide backbone for our call centers and BPO industry which rely on constant advances in IT and the essentially zero cost of additional bandwidth.

These youthful digital pioneers deserve government’s continuing support – by upgrading instead of downgrading and politicizing CICT, the government agency that oversees our digital infrastructure; by continuing to fund related voc-tech training programs; by wooing instead of alienating foreign companies seeking to set up shop here. As countries like China and Korea rapidly make their own way up the value-added ladder of outsourcing, we must work harder to stay ahead of them.

I had coffee with some call center agents one Labor Day when I was President. Lyn, a new college graduate, told me, “Now I don’t have to leave the country in order for me to help my family.” I was touched. With the structural reforms we implemented to promote ICT and BPOs, we not only found jobs but kept families intact.

We created appealing employment opportunities by focusing on the development of priority sectors, such as BPO. We need to create more wealth and keep people working here at home.That is why I remained so stubbornly focused on the economy. Many times during my tenure I expressed how much I longed for the day when going abroad for a job is a career option, not the only choice, for a Filipino worker. My economic plans were designed to allow the Philippines to break out of the boom and bust cycle of an economy dependent on global markets for agricultural commodities, and pursue consistent and sustainable growth anchored on a large domestic market and the resiliency of Filipino workers at home and abroad.

My successor flattered me by parroting what I said, but tried to frustrate me by distorting what I did. Instead of acknowledging his debt to his predecessor, he accused me of doing the opposite of what I had achieved, by describing my government as “…[one] that treats its people as an export commodity and a means to earn foreign exchange”. Then he promised to install what I had already established and which he appears bent on dismantling: “… a government that creates jobs at home, so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity; and when its citizens do choose to become OFWs, their welfare and protection will still be the government’s priority.”

Indeed, it’s so easy to claim achievements that have already been accomplished by others, and take credit for what is there when the one who did the work has gone. Just make sure she is forgotten, or, if remembered, vilified.

The President’s words were brave indeed—and yet his government has consistently failed to back them up: by failing to rescue our countrymen from China’s death row, or promptly evacuate them from national disaster in Japan, or comprehensively secure them from political unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Now we are facing a new challenge of “Saudiization”, as the government of our largest OFW market, Saudi Arabia, sets out to implement a massiveprogram of replacing OFW’s with its own nationals, starting next year.

Will this government have the will and the skill to properly navigate such uncertain waters? Protecting our overseas workers will urgently require contingency planning and continuous backdoor diplomacy with their host governments, while creating alternative jobs at home for them will require—again—the kind of commitment to economic expansion that I cannot overemphasize.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure strengthens our competitiveness and enables us to attract new levels of jobcreating foreign direct investment. Infrastructure investment not only drives economic growth, but also creates a more efficient, competitive economy, by improving productivity and lowering the costs of doing business.

I am alarmed that the pace of infrastructure build-out has slowed dramatically under this Administration, with some projects even being cancelled outright for no good reason—such as the earlier-noted flood control projects in Central Luzon—and our country being sued by investors. At a time when we should be wooing their money, we are inviting litigation from them instead. This kind of flip-flopping may help explain the tepid investor response to the Administration’s flagship public-private partnership (PPP) program, where only one project has been awarded after all of eighteen months.

I was heartened to hear the President announce recently his willingness to resume government infrastructure spending next year. However, one cannot help but notice the timing, so close to the upcoming 2013 election campaign.

Land productivity

In my first State of the Nation Address in 2001, I said that the first component of our national agenda should be an economic philosophy of free enterprise appropriate to the twenty-first century, while the second should be a modernized agricultural sector founded on social equity.

Within a couple of months after taking office in January 2001, I personally conducted Cabinet meetings to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1995, which had never been implemented for lack of funds. After several discussions with selected department secretaries as well as heads of government banks, we uncovered budget items and available credit to channel more than P20 billion a year to provide fertilizers, irrigation and infrastructure, extension services, more loans, dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and seeds and other genetic materials to our farmers and fisherfolk. This was perhaps the biggest reason for the decline in poverty that was posted during my first few years in office. Oh, and that reminds me of a time my sister had to borrow money while travelling from låna-pengar.biz in Sweden when she spent too much. Anyway…

The current Administration originally fixated on the single goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice by 2013. I too wanted to achieve rice self-sufficiency, but I knew the odds were tough. Since the Spanish period we’ve been importing rice. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate. Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong River like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile river delta plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbors in the path of typhoons from the Pacific.  So historically we’ve had to import 10% of our rice, and so I took care to keep our goals for agriculture wideranging and diversified.

Recently the Administration seems to have retreated from the original objective of rice self-sufficiency by 2013. In its place, do they have an alternative vision in mind for our all-important agricultural sector?

The real challenge in this cetury is broader. The real task at hand is to make the finite land that we have planted to agriculture ever more productive, through agricultural modernization founded on social equity.

Higher productivity from farm lands is critical for our development. By making more food available at lower prices especially to our poor, we are effectively bringing down the required level of real wages in our country—already among the highest in the world, according to UP Professor Manny Esguerra—and helping to make our manufacturing industries globally competitive again.

As for social equity, being the daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal, the father of land reform in our country, I am gratified by the evaluation of one of my favorite Economics teachers, UP Professor Gonzalo Jurado: “The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, to the extent that it is a land distribution program, can now be described as having almost completely succeeded in attaining its goal. [CARP] should now be a developmental program aiming explicitly to raise farm productivity…so that the country as a whole will benefit from the tenurial rearrangement.”

And of course it is the landowners who must set the example of compliance with the law in order to allow the rest of us to move forward—such as the Arroyos in my husband’s family, who voluntarily submitted long ago to land reform even without an order from the Supreme Court to do the right thing.

Our children

For Filipinos, family is everything and the future of our children is sacred. That is why I invested so much time and effort in rejuvenating our education system. I met with teachers and other educators to get a first-hand look at the improvements that we need to make. I listened to what these fine public servants had to say, and in response to their advice, I increased the country’s total budget for education by nearly four times: from Ps 6.6 Billion in 2000 to Ps 24.3 Billion in 2010 when I stepped down. Those funds went into the following critical areas of educational spending:

  • We built 100,000 new classrooms, more than the three previous administrations combined.
  • We supported one in every two private high school students—a total of 1.2 million students–with the GASTPE financial voucher program.
  • In 2009 alone, we doubled TESDA’s budget.

For the long term, key recommendations were also submitted by the educational task force I created in 2007–comprising representatives from the major educational and private sector bodies under the leadership of former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres–in order to fashion a new educational roadmap with special attention to the needs of the youth and our growing knowledge-driven industries.

The task force report is the only document I personally handed to President Aquino, when we were together in the car being driven to his inauguration last year. Unfortunately that report seems to have landed in his circular file, making our schoolchildren yet another casualty of the ongoing vilification being waged against me.

I’m now saddened by news reports that the administration has been under-funding state colleges and universities without offering alternatives to the more than ten percent of our student population who attend these institutions.

Moreover, to my knowledge, any major educational reforms implemented by this administration have been limited only to adding another two years to basic education. I do not know how sound this is, or how widely supported among education professionals.

The poor

I often said during my Administration that we need to continue translating our economic and fiscal achievements into real benefits for the people. We must continue to invest in what I like to call the three “E’s” of the Economy, Environment and Education. These include such pro-poor programs as enhancing access to healthcare, food, housing and education, as well as job creation. They are central to lifting our nation up.

Over the past decade—fuelled by the windfall from our mid-term fiscal reforms—I initiated or expanded a raft of social programs for the poor.  We increased PhilHealth insurance coverage, set up nearly 16,000 Botika ng Barangay outlets to deliver affordable medicines to the poor, ordered the drug companies by law to reduce their prices, energized 98.9 percent of our barangays, provided water service to 70 percent of previously waterless municipalities. And of course, we also introduced “Four P’s”, the highly successful conditional cash transfer program aimed at encouraging positive behavior among the poor in exchange for cash assistance.

But perhaps more than our social services, what the poor benefited the most from was the low inflation and the low unemployment we made possible through effective management of the economy. Despite the global food and oil price spikes of 2008, domestic inflation slowly declined on my watch, bottoming out at 3.9 percent by the time I stepped down in June 2010. And unemployment, which had peaked at nearly 14 percent under President Estrada, was averaging only around 7.5 percent  toward the end of my term in office.

The problems of the poor are serious indeed, and they deserve serious thinking and serious solutions—not empty slogans, not the bloating of the cash transfer program for patently political ends, and certainly not the inability of this administration to keep the price of rice affordable or create more jobs by continuing the growth agenda. The moment that agenda is compromised, it is the poor who will feel first and the hardest the dire consequences.

The environment

No nation can aspire to become modern without protecting its environment.

On my watch as President, the country’s forest cover increased from 5.39 million hectares in 2001 to 7.17 million hectares by 2009. And we registered 40 projects abroad to reduce greenhouse gases—the sixth largest number of such projects among all countries.

I also signed a large number of laws to codify environmental protection—including new legislation to promote Ecological Solid Waste Management, Wildlife Resource Conservation and Protection, Clean Water, and Biofuels. And I tried to set the example for our countrymen by dedicating every Friday to environmental concerns.

I created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change in 2007, which was later enhanced into the Climate Change Commission under the Climate Change Act of 2009. Under the law, the Chief Executive chairs this Commission, just one of only a few bodies headed by the highest official of the land. And yet President Aquino to date has not convened the Commission even once. The country can ill afford his lack of interest in this matter, now that climate change is causing calamities at the most unexpected times and places, such as the December typhoon floods in Cagayan de Oro and my home town of Iligan City.

Presidential drudgery

As my father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, used to say: “The Presidency of the Philippines is a tough and killing job that demands a sense of sacrifice.” At the end of the day, it comes down to plain hard work. A president must work harder than everyone else. And no matter what he thinks he was elected to do — even if that includes running after alleged offenders in the past — he must not neglect the bread and butter issues that preoccupy most of our people most of the time: keeping prices down, creating more jobs, providing basic services, securing the peace, pursuing the high economic growth that is the only way to vault our country into the ranks of developed economies.

Good management begins with planning ahead, not pointing fingers and blaming others after the fact. It means spelling out your vision quickly and clearly so your team grasps their mission at once and immediately starts to execute it.

Unfortunately, planning and preparation seem to be absent from this administration, whether it’s for taking OFWs out of harm’s way on short notice, or evacuating flood victims—or rescuing foreign tourists held hostage by a crazed gunman. By comparison to that incident, not a single life was ever lost in all the coup attempts against me that I had to put down by force. There is no secret behind this: it against any crisis, implemented with hands-on leadership from the very top.

Once the plan is in place, the leader must proceed to hands-on execution. There is no room for absenteeism, nor for coming to work late and leaving early. There is simply not enough that can be done if the Cabinet meets only four times in an entire year.

There is no room for sleeping on the job…

The last major task for good management is to exercise control without fear or favor. This was the principle I was following when I brought AFP controller General Garcia up on charges in 2005, and cancelled the NBN/ZTE deal in 2007.

These days—alas—there is absolutely no fear in the administration when they’re running after me or my allies. But there is definitely a lot of favor involved when they excuse—and even defends—their friends even from misdeeds committed in full view of the public.

This is not the kind of ethics that should be practiced by one who claims to have a genuine reform agenda. Neither will it attract capital from investors who desire regularity and a level playing field. Nor do our people deserve to be consigned to economic stagnation, government lethargy, and nobody-home leadership.

Neither the President nor anyone else can truly expect to govern the next five years with nothing but a sorry mix of vilification, periodically recycled promises of action followed by lethargy, backed up by few if any results, and presumptuously encouraging gossip about one’s love life in which no one can possibly be interested. Given the electoral mandate that he enjoyed in 2010—the same size as mine in 2004, as predicted by every survey organization at that time—our people deserve more, and better, from him.

 

‘Sensya na po, Sir…’

Tara, party!

Once upon a time, may isang galanteng gustong mag-imbita sa kanyang mga kaibigan na mag-party sa bahay…

Mr. GALANTE: “Uy mga kaibigan, MAY PARTY AKO SA SABADO!! Kainan, Inuman, Kantahan, Sayawan… PUNTA KAYO SA BAHAY, HA…”

Pagdating ng Sabado…

(Sa gate ng bahay, may bouncer.)

GUEST: “Nandito kami para sa party…” 

BOUNCER: “May dala ba kayong 10,000 pesos?”

GUEST: “HA? Anong 10,000 pesos? Akala ko ba party ito?? Inimbita kami eh.”

BOUNCER: “Sensya na, may 10,000 pesos na entrance fee sa party ni boss…”

GUEST: “Teka, eh siya mismo ang nag-imbita sa amin na pumunta rito tapos ngayon hihingan niyo kami ng 10,000 pesos na entrance fee? Sira-ulo ka ba?”

BOUNCER: “Sensya na po Sir, nakasulat po sa rules and regulations ng bahay ni Boss na pwera lang sa mga kamag-anak, lahat ng papasok dito sa bahay niya ay dapat magbayad ng 10,000 pesos entrance fee. Eto po Sir oh, eto ang Handbook namin. Kita niyo po…

Page 23, line 5:

“Everyone who is a non-relative (within 3 degrees of consanguinity) may not enter the premises, even if there is a party, unless they pay the standard entrace fee of 10,000 pesos.”

GUEST: “Walang hiya naman, nag-imbita ng party eh yun pala may entrance fee!! Sira-ulo pala yang boss niyo!! Doon na lang kami sa ibang party pupunta, at least OPEN HOUSE sila!

BOUNCER: “Sensya na po, Sir, yun po kasi ang nakasulat sa Rule Book namin eh. Tagasunod lang po kami…”

bouncer

Yan ang kwento ng Pilipinas…

Mag-iimbita ng mga “FOREIGN INVESTORS” na pumunta raw sa Pilipinas.

Pagdating ng mga investors sa Pinas, meron palang mga RESTRICTIONS sa Constitution na nagsasabing kelangan muna silang maghanap ng local partner…

Kamot-ulo si investor: “AKALA KO BA INIMBITA NIYO KAMI NA MAG-INVEST, eh bakit kayo may mga kalokohang restrictions na yan???”

Tuloy, pumupunta na lang sa Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, China ang mga investors… Kawawa naman ang Pinas…

Read more about the issue by clicking here!

Sen. Enrile Solidly Supports Parliamentarism

Current Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has repeatedly expressed his solid support for Constitutional Reform for a very long time. Back in the days when what later became the 1987 Constitution was up for ratification in a YES versus NO plebiscite, Enrile was among the few who vigorously campaigned against it. Today, we know that he and many of the others – including a majority of military servicemen, both officers and enlisted men at the time who campaigned against the 1987 Constitution – were right all along.

These days, the Senate President has decided – along with House Speaker Sonny Belmonte – to concentrate first on getting the Protectionist Economic Provisions of the extremely flawed and hastily-crafted 1987 Constitution deleted. That’s largely because economic liberalization has become much easier to talk about and sell now that more and more returning OFW’s have become more enlightened and well-informed after seeing how many of their host countries had progressed economically as a result of economic liberalization in allowing the free in-flow of foreign investments.

Political Reforms such as shifting to a Federal paradigm of territorial administration simultaneously with shifting over to a Parliamentary form of government are a lot harder to sell because of the largely technical and process-based analysis needed to fully understand why these shifts are much better than the current flawed Unitary-Presidentialist system in place. But this has not changed the Honorable Senator’s resolve to push for reforming the political system of the Philippines along with fixing the economic provisions.

On August 2, 2005, then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile gave a very informative and highly easy-to-understand Privilege Speech in which he outlined the problems of the current flawed Presidential System in contrast to the obvious advantages of shifting over to a Parliamentary System, which has been proven by a huge majority of international PhD’s in the fields of political science and economics, to be the hands-down superior system.

Alas, far too many Filipinos continue to be misinformed by the Oligarch-controlled media, and these same Filipinos are clouded by an inability to see beyond the here and now. Instead of exerting a little bit of effort to use their intellectual faculties in order to understand what the Parliamentary System is all about, what are its key features, and how it works, too many of our compatriots are sadly too lazy and too fond of mediocrity to read up and do the necessary research. Opposing this proposed solution – for them – appears to be the more convenient path of least resistance – instead of taking the time to do some careful research, fact-finding, and due diligence.

There is no longer an excuse for Filipinos not to know how parliamentary systems work (and thus understand their obvious advantages over presidential systems) because we are now in the age of the Internet. Information is easy to access. Knowledge does not require trips to faraway libraries. All we need these days is a search engine and a little effort in typing out the topic of interest, as well as the effort in actually reading through said articles. It is our hope that Filipinos will take the time to read through the Honorable Senate President’s speech in order to better understand how a Parliamentary System works.

* * *

(The following speech is taken straight from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s official website)

Privilege Speech on Constitutional Reform and the Parliamentary System

(August 2, 2005) 

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate:

I rise today not on a matter of personal privilege, but rather on a matter of the highest and most urgent national interest.

THE MESSAGE AND THE MESSENGER

In her State of the Nation Address last July 25th, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made a strong and urgent call for charter change. She zeroed in on the shift to a federal parliamentary form of government as her own prescription for the nation, and on a constituent assembly as her suggestion to Congress on the manner of crafting a new constitution.

For one such as this humble representation who has, over the years, actively advocated a serious revision of the 1987 Constitution, the urgency of the President’s call would have been unquestionably a welcome development. It is, however, unfortunate that the call was made at a time of deep political turmoil and division in the land and in the midst of a controversy involving no less than President Arroyo herself. The tragic consequence is that predictably, the essential merits of any proposal for charter change quickly got lost in the thick political air.

OPPOSITION TO CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Mr. President, there are those in our national community — no doubt well-meaning — who keep telling our people that we ought not to distract ourselves with charter change because we have more urgent national problems that must be attended to first. They point to our distressed economy, our increasing national debt, and our huge fiscal deficit, abject poverty, corruption in government, deteriorating peace- and-order situation in the country, and the serious crisis besetting the presidency.

By their own admission, most of the opponents of charter change are not against constitutional revision or reform per se. While declaring their belief that there is certainly a need for it, they hasten to add, “but not now”, for various reasons — the timing is questionable; the motive is suspicious; it is a diversionary tactic; it is designed to provide a “graceful exit” for the incumbent; or there is a hidden agenda not only for the President but for other politicians as well. To sum it all up, the proposal for immediate charter change has been dismissed as an insidious ploy and a political gambit.

Today, if someone so much as whispers an idea to shift to another form of government, a cacophony of voices expressing impassioned, sometimes irrational, dissent will suddenly explode from the elite groups and their cohorts — politicians, religious leaders, academicians, professionals, businessmen, and even ordinary citizens — and just as suddenly, burst into and fill broadcast and print media as well as religious pulpits, corporate boardrooms, classrooms, college campuses, public thoroughfares and city squares, barber shops, sari-sari stores, and even the halls of Congress with animated opinions.

The proponents of change are right away branded, lampooned, and berated in placards or in some newspaper cartoons, columns, editorials and text messages with all sorts of derisive names, and imputed with sinister motives; accused as agents or tools of some political or economic vested interests.

The poor public with no means to verify the truth or untruth of the noisy but less-than-disinterested maneuver is being swayed to support the cause of the elite and its cohorts, without realizing that in doing so it is actually going against its own social class interest.

THE GREAT DEBATE

Mr. President, perhaps the actual convening of a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention to frame a new charter, depending on the collective sense of Congress, must be done only after the resolution of the impeachment case against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I say this because in my belief, this is the only way by which the awesome and monumental task of charting a new path for the nation can be undertaken without being weighed down by a political milieu clouded with dissent, distrust, suspicion, and even skepticism.

Having said that, Mr. President, I dare say that I agree with President Arroyo’s view that we must now begin the great debate on charter change. The process of reflecting on our alternatives in the face of present-day political, social and economic realities, and our collective experience as a nation and as a people should, in fact, be a continuing one. While it is true that political events tend to dictate our attention and priorities, these should not prevent us, especially our leaders, from looking beyond the resolution of our present crisis. Whether or not President Arroyo is impeached or is removed from office, constitutional reform remains an imperative.

BASIC QUESTION

At this point, let me ask this question, Mr. President: Where, how, and when do we really start to address the manifold and current ills of our society?

I posit this question because we can no longer afford to brush aside the immense problems weighing heavily upon our country. Neither can we hide her distressed condition no matter how much we try. As legislators of this nation, it is our bounden duty to face these problems resolutely, and find adequate responses to them in a manner that will relieve the dismal state of our society.

OUR NATIONAL CONDITION

Mr. President, so that my discussion this afternoon may be better appreciated, let me first briefly describe the present condition of the country as I see it.

Our population has grown tremendously over the years, and it continues to grow at the rate of 2.6% annually. It is expected to reach nearly one hundred million at the end of 2010.

On the other hand, our economic growth has not really outdistanced that much our population growth such that our per-capita income has lagged behind and has almost remained static in proportion to our increasing population. Our neighbors in Southeast and Northeast Asia are running well ahead of us. Even Vietnam and Bangladesh are about to overtake and surpass us.

Our national debt has reached P5.2 trillion. It is expected to continue to grow even larger. Our fiscal deficit has risen beyond tolerable limits. Contrary to our expectations, our tax revenues have not expanded to a desired level in spite of our earnest effort to reform our tax system and to improve the efficiency of our tax administration.

The number of jobless people in the country, including those with no adequate income to support themselves and their families, continues to rise. Many of our professionals and skilled workers have gone abroad, and many more are leaving to seek employment elsewhere. This Diaspora of Filipinos — doctors, nurses, medical technologists, dentists, engineers, architects, lawyers, accountants, management executives, teachers, artists, artisans, seamen, caregivers, technicians, and others — poses a serious drain of skilled manpower from our society.

Our public-school system has retrogressed over the years. Our human- resource development has become truly backward compared to those of our neighbors. Only the children of well-to-do families can now afford a fairly good education. The quality of our new professionals leaves much to be desired. Increasingly, we are losing our competitiveness in the markets of the world.

The political stability of the country has deteriorated over the last several years. The cohesion of our people has been badly shattered. A deep fissure of division in our society threatens to break our country apart because of the on-going political instability. Criminal, restive, and anarchic behaviors are evident in many parts of the nation.

Dishonesty and corruption in the public service as well as in the private sector have become prevalent, causing embarrassment to our country and shame to our people all over the world.

Our social environment is in a state of disarray, and many of our physical infrastructures have decayed and are in disrepair.

The quality of our public services has steadily declined and weakened over the years. Yet, the costs of these services to our people have become increasingly higher and burdensome.

OUR CURRENT RESPONSES

Our responses to these grave national ills so far have been largely palliatives, or at best, piecemeal and mild evolutionary reforms. Personal ambitions and vested interests have succeeded in blocking and continue to block structural changes and reforms that are proposed and expected to effectively arrest our growing decadence. Our national effort to introduce substantial adjustments in our political, economic, and social policies and structures is being thwarted by the selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and, oftentimes, groundless and knee-jerk dissent of some leaders of the country who ought to know better.

OMENS OF DANGER

Mr. President, in a span of almost twenty years since February 1986, this nation suffered three dangerous political convulsions that broke the unity of our people. These social convulsions did not happen overnight. They were the culminations and concrete expressions of lingering and pent-up frustrations and resentments of the people. They are omens of a potentially bloody social catharsis that may engulf us — omens which we cannot take lightly anymore. Only the blind and the deaf among us, and those with selfish ambitions or vested interests to protect, cannot or refuse to see or hear the coming danger.

THE PEOPLE WILL ACT

Unless our leaders harness their collective will and show their determination to act decisively, it is not farfetched to imagine that the common people’s abject degradation will push them to the brink, and compel them to take the law by their own hands to liberate themselves from poverty, and to redress what they regard as the criminal neglect of the government to mitigate their distressed and squalid condition.

BEGIN WITH THE CONSTITUTION

And so, I go back to my original question, Mr. President: Where, how, and when do we begin the quest for meaningful and effective solutions to our dismal national circumstance?

I submit, Mr. President, that we must begin no less, and as soon as possible, with the Constitution of the Republic. Let us revisit it, and excise from it and replace those provisions and institutions that hinder our progress or are inimical to our modernization.

Unless we reform our constitution, we will remain a laggard, weak, and poor. We will not achieve a higher economic growth, a better standard of living for our people, and a more stable society. We will be like a gardener who constantly trims the weeds in his garden to fulfill his desire for a better garden, instead of destroying the roots that make the weeds grow constantly; or like a cancer patient who takes vitamins to cure himself, instead of undergoing surgery or chemotherapy to eradicate the malignant cells.

THE CONSTITUTION NOT GOD’S WORK

Mr. President, our present constitution is not an immutable document. It did not come from God. It was the brainchild of human beings — of men and women who, undoubtedly in their time, had their own personal motives, biases, and prejudices.

The people did not elect the framers of the present constitution. President Corazon C. Aquino selected them. I grant their patriotism and their loyalty and dedication to the people. I also recognize their noble intentions and their intellectual competence and experience to draw up the constitution. But they were fallible human beings like us.

POLITICAL PREJUDICE AND THE CONSTITUTION

From what we already know from the experience we have gathered for almost two decades in running the affairs of this nation under the present constitution, it is fair to conclude that those who framed it failed to foresee the pitfalls of their creation. I suspect that when they drafted the constitution, they were greatly influenced by what they regarded as the excesses of the Marcos regime which, at that time, had just been repudiated by the people and consigned to the graveyard of history.

Today, with accumulated lessons to guide us, we can confidently reform and improve our constitution. In my humble view, it will be a gross act of political irresponsibility to ignore the obvious and latent weaknesses of our constitutional system and perpetuate those that brought us to our penury, backwardness, and chaotic condition.

AREAS FOR REVIEW

There are many areas that ought to be revisited in the Constitution. However, this afternoon, I will limit myself only to the imperative and salient ones — the parts that have to do with the principles of political authority and distributive justice. Let me outline them briefly.

First is our form of government. Should we continue with the presidential system, or should we discard it in favor of a parliamentary form of government? If we decide to adopt a parliamentary form of government, what type of parliamentary system should we construct?

Second is the bicameral character of the legislature. Should we maintain our present bicameral Congress? If we do, should we continue to elect senators nationally, or should we elect them regionally?

Third is the term limit on local elective public officials. Should we continue the current limitations, or should we leave the prerogative to the voters to decide how long they want their elective public officials to remain in office?

Fourth is the present multi-party system. Should we continue with it, or should we return to the two-party system under the 1935 Constitution?

Fifth is whether to maintain the present nationalized police service or to revert to the old system. We must assess this carefully in the light of the present condition of law and order in the country.

Sixth is the authority and jurisdiction of the Commission on Appointments. Should we follow the current system, or should we go back to the system under the 1935 Constitution?

Seventh is the Commission on Elections. This institution has been severely damaged. Its performance and integrity have been tarnished and compromised beyond repair. Should we maintain it, or should we discard it, and construct a new system to administer our elections?

Eighth is the Civil Service Commission. Should we dismantle the current civil service, and establish a new one in order to minimize corruption in the bureaucracy? Today, when one enters the civil service, he acquires a permanent tenure in the government agency to which he is first appointed, and he remains in that agency until he retires, unless, in the meantime, he agrees to be reassigned to another government agency.

Ninth is the judicial system. How can we make it more responsive to the demands of speedy, fair, inexpensive, and just resolution of civil and criminal cases?

Tenth are the economic provisions of the Constitution. Should we continue with the current economic nationalism of the constitution, or should we now define the areas of the economy that must be reserved and preserved for our citizens and, at the same time, identify the areas where we will welcome greater foreign involvement and participation?

DISCUSSION LIMITED TO FORM OF GOVERNMENT

Mr. President, I shall not attempt to dwell on all these broad issues because to do so will require more time than what is available this afternoon. I shall, therefore, limit myself to what I consider to be the most urgent one that demands attention, which is the system of government most likely better suited for us, given our historical experience.

EXPERIMENT WITH PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

We attempted to replace the presidential system with a parliamentary form when we adopted the 1973 Constitution. But our effort was not successful. The president then, having declared martial law in 1972, and having assumed both executive and legislative powers as a consequence, decided to suspend the implementation of the 1973 Constitution. He continued to act as President and Congress of the country, and as her Prime Minister. This lasted up to 1978.

When the Parliament was elected and constituted in 1978, it was only a parliament in name and form. Although President Marcos was no longer the Prime Minister, he nevertheless exercised executive powers in his capacity as president of the country and, at the same time, continued his legislative powers under Amendment No. 6. Hence, the Parliament was rendered inutile.

The charade ended in 1981, when the 1973 Constitution was finally amended, and the presidential system was again restored formally in the country.

REVERENCE FOR PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Mr. President, it would seem that since the end of the 19th century, we developed wittingly or unwittingly a strong and deep emotional attachment to the presidential system without realizing its pitfalls. Many of our countrymen are steadfast in their belief that it is the only form of government best suited for us. This attitude prevails even among the well informed in our society.

PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM RETARDS PROGRESS

And yet, if we study our past, Mr. President, a strong case can be made to support a conclusion that the presidential system has not worked well for us. This is more evident if we compare our national circumstance with those of our progressive neighbors in Southeast and Northeast Asia, all of which are, by and large, under the parliamentary system of government.

In terms of economic development, our country has not advanced as much and as fast as the southeastern and northeastern Asian countries did in a far shorter period of time. Their progress and modernity under a parliamentary system were way beyond what we had accomplished in more than a century under the presidential system.

Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China are good examples. Shedding their colonial status after World War II, and choosing the parliamentary system for their political structure, those countries moved forward steadily at a faster pace. In our case, we plodded sluggishly during the last century, while our neighbors overtook us rapidly and left us far behind. What was the reason? Their structure of government was evidently more efficient, flexible, resilient, and innovative compared to ours.

CLARO M. RECTO’S CRITICISM

Claro M. Recto, a brilliant former member of this Senate and president of the constitutional convention that drafted the 1935 Constitution, was first to voice his disappointment with the presidential system. He called it “a government of the incompetent by the irresponsible.”

His remark may seem somewhat severe and harsh. Yet, it betrayed his realistic assessment and judgment against the utility and merit of the presidential system.

For Claro M. Recto, the presidential system “can make fools of all the people all the time and make fools of themselves for four years.” This disdain was very likely the result of his experience as a former legislator, jurist, and member of the executive branch. By the way, his reference to “four years” had to do with the term of the president under the 1935 Constitution.

POWER WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY

Mr. President, I agree with Claro M. Recto. Like him, I find it bizarre and incongruous that members of the Cabinet — who are mere appointees of the Chief Executive and with no direct mandate from the electorate — wield more powers than the members of Congress, who are elected by, and are direct representatives of the people.

Mr. President, under our presidential system, the members of the Cabinet exercise absolute control and supervision over the government. They spend billions of the people’s money, they enforce all the laws, and they implement all policies that Congress approves, without any say-so from the members of Congress, and without any responsibility to the people. The ones answerable to the people for the public funds being spent and for the laws and policies being implemented are the members of Congress, not the members of the Cabinet whose accountability is only to the president who appointed them.

THE CHOOSING PROCESS

Mr. President, there are other defects of the presidential system that must be examined and brought to light. For instance, there is what is called, the choosing process. This has to do with the fitness of the president to be elected.

Today in our country, Mr. President, more often than not, a demagogue has a better chance of getting elected president than a democrat. The obvious explanation for this anomaly lies in the present method of electing the president. Under our presidential system, the entire national electorate elects the president. Because of this, a vast number of the voters in the country may not really know the personal characters, abilities, and backgrounds of the men and women seeking the office, let alone the needed skills for the presidency.

Therefore, the mediocre or meretricious becomes more acceptable to the electorate than the meritorious. Popularity, rather than ability and character, is the hallmark for choosing and electing a candidate for president of this country.

Given this state of affairs, it is not farfetched to say that in our country, a more popular but incompetent candidate will most likely succeed a popular but equally incompetent president.

Mr. President, this is the emerging reality. We are no longer sure that only the truly qualified will be chosen president of the country. The rising number of voters who tend to develop a fetish for popular candidates whose best qualities qualify them for everything else except public office, has spawned this problem. Even the improvement in the education of our voters has not raised their political maturity and reliability to choose and elect the best and most qualified candidate for president.

MAJORITY WILL

Another drawback of our presidential system, Mr. President, has to do with the number of votes needed to confer legitimacy on the elected president so that he can confidently govern the nation.

Unless the present system is changed, we shall never again see a president of this country elected by a majority of the national electorate. The last time we had a president elected by a majority of the national votes cast was in the snap presidential election of 1986. After Edsa Uno, the winners in all the presidential elections thereafter were determined and decided on the basis of mere plurality of the national votes rendered.

NO RUN-OFF ELECTION

In democratic countries like us, a majority of the national voters is required to elect the president. However, in our case, the framers of the present constitution made the mistake of adopting a multi-party system along with a presidential form of government. This peculiarity of our political structure engendered a multiplicity of presidential candidates during presidential elections.

Because there is no run-off election in our electoral system, necessarily, the winner in a presidential electoral contest has to be reckoned and decided in just one balloting. This made a majority vote hardly possible in electing the president of the country.

Consequently, all our elected presidents since the presidential election of 1992 were “minority presidents”. They did not represent the will of the voting majority. Thus, they did not have the will of the people to legitimately govern the nation. This feature of our present constitution, Mr. President, has gravely undermined our democratic society, the stability of the presidency, and the legitimacy of all administrations since the presidential election of 1992.

COST OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Mr. President, running for president in this country is a very expensive undertaking. In 1998, the estimated cost for a viable presidential campaign was at least P2 billion. This was to get a job that would pay the candidate, if he were successful, P693,000.00 per annum or P4,158,000.00 for the full term of six years. P2 billion is, by all means, a huge sum of money. It is the salary of the office for 2,886 years!

In 2004, it is very likely that the cost to mount a viable presidential campaign might have more than doubled.

We must reform the present system if we really want to give an equal opportunity to financially incapable but highly deserving persons to seek the presidency of the country. If we do not, and we persist with the present system, chances are rife that only the very rich and affluent — and, perhaps, those sponsored and supported by big business and crime syndicates or crime lords, or both — can successfully run for president, to the detriment of the nation.

Perhaps, the expensive presidential elections we have, Mr. President, is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for the mounting public perception about the high incidence of corruption in the political totem pole of the land. For no one will be so out of his mind to spend P2 billion for the presidency without getting it back somehow or without feeling obliged to pay his political debts.

PROTECTION OF VOTES

This is the offshoot of our present system where a candidate for president must get a mandate from a national constituency. Because of this requirement, a presidential candidate must provide the wherewithal to protect his votes across the land.

The Commission on Elections cannot be relied upon for that purpose. Although in theory the Commission on Elections is supposed to be a non-partisan and impartial administrator and enforcer of our electoral laws and activities, it is unfortunately a human institution, and its best intentions are not always translated into actual honest decisions and actions during elections.

Under our system before the 1987 Constitution, that was not a serious problem. The two major political parties then were represented in the precinct, municipal, and provincial electoral boards, at the expense of the national government.

When the 1987 Constitution was adopted, the system was changed. The 1987 Constitution banned all political parties and their candidates from having official representations in all electoral boards. The political parties and their candidates were therefore left to fend for themselves.

As a consequence, they had to hire, at their own expense, watchers and lawyers to represent them and to protect their votes in every election board throughout the country. And this entailed a huge amount of money.

PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Mr. President, another thing that I wish to stress this afternoon, refers to the accountability of the president while in office. How is the president going to account to the people for his conduct in office during his term? After he takes his oath of office, never will he again go to the people for judgment in an election. We all know that he has a fixed six-year term, and under the 1987 Constitution, he “shall not be eligible for any reelection.”

His accountability to the people while serving his term is of paramount importance because of his vast and awesome powers. He is the head of state, the head of government, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the top law enforcer of the land, the politico numero uno of the realm, and the Chief Executive Officer of “The Philippines, Inc.”

With that arsenal of presidential powers and prerogatives, plus the enormous financial resources at his disposal, he can, without exaggeration, manipulate events and control the character and flow of information that reaches the public, especially when he is bent on attaining his desired personal goal at all costs, regardless of its benefit or detriment to the national interest.

He can lie through his teeth to the nation. He can use, misuse, or abuse his powers to mislead the people, to intimidate them, especially his adversaries, or to rob them blind. He can pay no heed to the most egregious or undesirable criticisms against him, or he can ignore unwelcome scrutiny of his conduct in office from an irate opposition, or from prying and hostile media, or from an enraged public. He can also play deaf, blind, and dumb to the most outrageous excesses of his relatives, friends, favorites, and subordinates, or worse, he can commit the excesses himself.

With his fixed term of six years, he cannot be divested of his office except if he dies, or if he resigns voluntarily, or if he becomes permanently disabled to discharge his duties and functions, or if he is successfully impeached, or if he is forcibly expelled from the presidency.

In a country like ours where no one resigns voluntarily even for the most despicable and inexcusable transgressions, the people are doomed to suffer for six years when they err in voting for a president who turns out to be incompetent, faithless, deceitful, heartless, corrupt, and morally and legally unfit to occupy the presidency.

IMPEACHMENT OR PEOPLE POWER

What then would be the legal remedy of the people to repair their error if, indeed, they committed one? None, Mr. President! Come to think of it, the president of the Republic is an elected king for six years. He is not really accountable to the people once he has assumed office. The only available legal remedy, Mr. President, will be his removal from office through the impeachment process, which is a duty and function of Congress.

If impeachment is not available for any reason, or if it fails, then the people may directly use force or violence — the ultimo ratio — to oust the unwanted president. This was the case of Edsa Uno and Edsa Dos.

MILITARY INTERVENTION

If the people will not act or fail to act, the armed forces might be tempted by ambition or impelled by necessity to intervene and remove from office a publicly disgraced and unwanted president under their constitutional role as “the protector of the people and the state.”

Mr. President, this provision is, to me, the gravest, the most dangerous, and extremely destructive feature of the 1987 Constitution and our presidential system.

GRIDLOCK AND INEFFICIENCY

Mr. President, there is one more flaw in the presidential system that has hindered our rapid growth and development.

As we all know, our presidential system has three branches that are intended to be coequal and coordinate. Although each branch is invested with separate and distinct powers in order to achieve a system of checks and balances, all three branches are supposed to be integral parts of one government, and work harmoniously together for the common good.

But oftentimes, the three branches work at cross-purposes. They are concerned more for their coequal status rather than for their coordinate role to achieve national goals. This is especially true of the executive and the legislative branches. Between these two branches, there exists a nearly permanent state of political tension that unduly shackles and undermines the attainment of unified action on vital and urgent national problems. This gridlock renders our system extremely inefficient and unproductive.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, that brilliant and perceptive former Prime Minister of Singapore, during his visit to Manila in November 1992, spoke before a group of local businessmen and said, “The Philippines has chosen the most difficult political system to operate, with its checks and balances and gridlock between the executive and the legislature. If this were the system chosen by South Korea, Hongkong, Taiwan, or we ourselves, we would not have attained the status that we have now.”

Someone in the audience reminded him that the presidential system was a success in the United States. He answered: “Do not compare the Philippines and the United States. The latter has a limitless expanse of territory, a vast wealth and natural resources, and an incomparable industrial power.”

FAILED PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Mr. President, more than one hundred years of presidential system is, I believe, a long enough time to make us realize that it is not a good and effective system. It has failed us. And I am afraid it will continue to fail us, and retard our economic growth, social progress, and political stability unless we have the heart, the nerve, the courage, the wisdom, and the foresight to change it, and adopt a more flexible and efficient structure of government. If we insist on being under our present system, we will continue to deprive ourselves of a desirable and dependable tool to solve our mounting national difficulties.
In my humble view, Mr. President, we should know by now that our presidential system is fraught with inherent and irremediable defects. And we should also realize that time is running out; that the sooner we do away with the weaknesses of our present system, the better it will be for our country and people.

ADOPT A PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

Mr. President, I repeat what I said earlier. Let us summon our hearts, our nerves, our sagacity, our courage, our foresight, and our political will to give our people a new beginning. Let us provide them a better means to survive in this dangerous and uncertain world. Let us not waste time anymore. Let us cast off the presidential system with its pitfalls and weaknesses once and for all, and adopt a parliamentary form of government. Let us construct a new form of government that shall allow us to recruit and enlist the services of the best and the brightest men and women in our national community to render public service to the people.

Mr. President, a parliamentary system is superior and more reliable in providing our country with good, able, and dependable leadership than a presidential system.

Walter Bagehot, an English constitutionalist, in his famous book, The English Constitution, pointed out years ago that sometimes a presidential system produces a great president. But that is like winning in a lottery, according to him; and winning a lottery, he says, is no argument in favor of a lottery.

Mr. President, it is about time we stop taking chances in a political lottery with no less than our national well-being at stake.

THE ROLE OF POLITICAL PARTIES

More often than not, Mr. President, elections in a presidential system exhaust the resources and energies of the nation to produce good, able, and dependable leaders. However, in a parliamentary system, elections will only exhaust the resources and energies of the competing political parties.

The political parties will do the search for, and the recruitment and enlistment of qualified, capable, and reliable men and women into the public service to manage our national affairs. Political parties will be compelled to do that, if they wish to remain active and relevant competitors for political power in the country.

A political party, to win the favor of the electorate and to gain political power, must present to the electorate men and women of proven political competence, executive ability, and leadership acumen that are necessary in the formulation, articulation, and implementation of essential programs and policies, and in providing good government management for the country. Unless it does that, it will never amount to anything as a political competitor for power.

THE PRIME MINISTER

The majority in Parliament chooses the Prime Minister; it also removes him from power — not from Parliament — through a simple no-confidence vote, should there be any compelling reason to do so. His longevity in office as Prime Minister, not as a member of parliament, is not fixed. His longevity as Prime Minister will depend on his competence, skills, wisdom, and trustworthiness.

To sustain his primacy, he must equip himself with a well-trained mind and a large reservoir of leadership skills to govern the country. Above all, he must possess a broad knowledge and experience not only about the country and her people but also about the world and the dynamics of its politics so that he can formulate and implement wise policies and programs for the country in the domestic and international arena. The Prime Minister must be one with the gift and art of articulation to communicate his programs and policies to our people and to the world.

Mr. President, a dimwit, a dullard, a comedian, a clown, or an expert reader of an idiot-board who is popular and rich, or who has moneyed supporters and sponsors, can easily be president of this country; but surely he can never be a Prime Minister.

TRANSPARENT AND EFFICIENT GOVERNANCE

Under a parliamentary form of government, governance will be transparent and more responsive to the people’s needs. The leadership of the country cannot evade responsibility for failed policies and for inefficient performance of the government.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet are accountable directly and immediately to the Parliament and to the people. Passing the buck will not excuse them, especially the Prime Minister, from blame.

FUSION OF EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE POWERS

Furthermore, a parliamentary system is a more efficient and expeditious tool for dealing with grave national problems. There is a fusion and close coordination between executive and legislative powers. The members of the Cabinet are generally drawn from and shall remain members of Parliament. As such members of Parliament, they actively participate in formulating and enacting desirable laws, which they themselves implement with the participation and cooperation of Parliament.

EASE IN REMOVING GOVERNMENT

Mr. President, in a parliamentary system, the government can easily be removed when it becomes morally and materially corrupt or when it turns out to be incompetent. The nation will not be held hostage to any specific term of office for the political leadership. The political leadership may be changed any time when the cause and need for it arise.

A parliamentary system will spare the country from the recurrent necessity and danger of mounting a disruptive people-power revolt to remove a morally depraved and an utterly worthless leader of the country just to restore decency and rectitude in government.

RETENTION OF REPLACED CABINET

Equally important, the rich and valuable experience of the replaced members of the Cabinet will not be wasted. The replaced Prime Minister and his Cabinet will remain in Parliament as members, despite their removal from the role of leadership.

GRIDLOCKS AND RED TAPES AVOIDED

Under that kind of a system, the time and energy of government are not wasted. Senseless and dilatory debates will be minimized. Gridlocks and red tapes in the formulation and adoption of needed policies and programs will be lessened. Paralysis in governance, and disputes over turfs will be eliminated.

QUESTION HOUR AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet will always be on their toes and open to scrutiny by an alert political opposition. The political opposition can direct sensitive questions at any time to the political leadership during the Question Hour, and the political leadership is bound to answer the questions right then and there in Parliament, and directly before the general public. This is transparency and accountability at its best.

NO SACRED COWS

In a parliamentary system, no one is sacred — not the Prime Minister, and much less the members of his Cabinet. In a presidential system, the President, like a real monarch, is immune from direct questioning by members of Congress. This kind of political interaction between the president and the members of Congress, I believe, is rooted in the “L’ etat c’est moi!” of Louis XVI on the eve of the French Revolution of 1789.

POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE CIVIL SERVICE

Those who prefer the status quo argue that we are not yet ready because we do not have well-organized political parties and a well-trained civil service.

In a way, they are right. Mr. President, both systems — the presidential and the parliamentary — require well-organized political parties and a well-trained civil service. But where well-organized political parties and a well-trained civil service failed to develop under our presidential system, a parliamentary system will induce and force the accelerated growth and development of these two institutions.

The new system will introduce the needed element of compulsion. All that will be expected of us is to be patient and allow the political parties and a new civil service system to mature, which, hopefully, will not take long.

A LEARNING PERIOD

Mr. President, we should not expect a perfectly working parliamentary government the moment we adopt it. There are adjustments to be made. There are birth pains, which we cannot escape. There is a price to be paid. There is a necessary apprenticeship — a learning period — that we must undergo. This was the experience of others that embraced the parliamentary system.

GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE’S RIGHT

Mr. President, let me paraphrase a portion of the American Declaration of Independence, which is germane to the issue before us: Whenever a form of government becomes inimical to their life and liberty, and to the pursuit of their happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

We must invest time and effort to rebuild our institutions. The time and effort we are going to spend will be necessary and worthwhile investments. We must not skirt this obligation and responsibility, if we are to liberate the common people from the decadence and rut they are in. We must do it not for ourselves, but for the future of our country, especially for the future well-being of our downtrodden people. As Andres Bonifacio said: “The people is all, and all is the people.”

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Three people-power revolts should be enough to remind us of the biblical writing on the wall — “Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin” — and to impress upon us the urgency of the task ahead. This nation cannot afford another Edsa revolt.

Mr. President, you are the third highest leader of this nation. I earnestly urge you to take notice of the darkening clouds hovering over our social and political environment. Heed the signs of the times. I urge you and this Senate to follow the path of peaceful and non-violent social change while the nation still can. Let not events overtake us. Otherwise, a bloody revolution just might revise the constitution for us.

SEIZE THE DAY

The action I am proposing to this Senate, Mr. President, has been long overdue. We must harness our collective energy and resolve to remove the cause of our stagnation, backwardness, and poverty. Piecemeal and mild reforms in the component parts of our political system are not enough to stay the course of our turbulent condition. We must overhaul and change the structure of our government while we still have the time to do it without spilling blood in the streets.

Let us seize the day, and confront the future with our collective strength and courage. With God’s grace, with a vision focused on our national goal, and with a united and resolute commitment and prayer, we shall overcome our present difficulties, and bring forth to this land peace and social stability, and to our people the good life they long for and truly deserve. Let us not deny our people the chance to be enlightened on their options for meaningful change and the survival of the nation.

Let the great debate begin!

Thank you.  

Crucifying Cruz

Neal H. Cruz at center: He is anti-Foreign Investment, anti-Constitutional Reform, but he is sipping Foreign Wine with pro-Foreign Investment, pro-Constitutional Reform Speaker Belmonte

After reading the article written by Neal Cruz last October 17, 2011  titled Cha-cha will let foreigners grab our lands, I couldn’t help but have the urge to reply to some of the claims made by Mr. Cruz on the aforementioned article.  Had not he been so serious about the claims he had made, I could have easily dismissed it but with the amount of vitriol he likes to throw against the “evils of foreigners” and other assorted nationalist rah rah, I felt I really needed to write this as a response.

In his article, he writes that the proposed ChaCha or Charter Change, which aims to amend provisions of the current 60/40 ownership restrictions placed on foreign investors, will allow foreigners to “grab land from the Filipinos.” Despite not having anything to back this statement up, for him it is a fact simply because it stirs nationalism in the hearts and minds of Filipinos against the much-dreaded “evil white man” and when most of the populace has to deal with the harsh realities of life, nothing is more comforting than the nationalistic wails of “Pinoy Pride” or “the Philippines belongs to Filipinos only.”

Let me explain why his statement of foreigners “grabbing” all the lands here is both dubious and ridiculous. Vietnam and China, both countries who have really large foreign investments, allow foreigners to fully own 100% of any company set up in these countries. Section 8 of Article 2 on the 1996 Law of Foreign Investment in Vietnam states that a foreign investor is defined as “An enterprise with one hundred (100) per cent foreign owned capital means an enterprise in Vietnam the capital of which is one hundred (100) per cent invested by foreign investor(s).” Clearly this states that any foreign company who wants to invest in Vietnam can invest with 100% foreign ownership. As per land ownership, Section 1 of Article 5 of the Vietnamese Law on Land states that “Land belongs to the entire people with the State as the representative owner” meaning that land ownership lies in the hands of the State, which then leases the land (or sells time-bound “land-use rights”) to foreign investors. That’s because the two countries aforementioned follow the principles of Georgism, which states that anything that is not created by man, in this case the earth, cannot be owned.  No evil white man grabbing land there.

Skyline of Hanoi, capital of Vietnam

Although his claim that marginalized local folks will “run out of land” if we allow the “evil white man” to own lands in the Philippines due to the country’s small size and ever-increasing population sounds academic to some, it is false since there are other countries that are smaller with lesser land area that allow foreign ownership of lands yet their citizens are neither “marginalized” nor “evicted” from their lands to pave way to foreign ownership. Singapore, which is a lot smaller compared to the entire island of Luzon (Singapore, with a total land area of 778 km2, is even smaller than Marinduque, which has a land area of around 963 km2), allows foreigners to own land under the 1973 Residential Property Act which states that “The Act seeks to strike a balance between giving Singaporeans a stake in the country by being able to buy and own residential properties at affordable prices, while attracting foreign talent by allowing permanent residents, foreign companies and limited liability partnerships that make an economic contribution to Singapore to purchase such properties for their occupation.” Yet you never hear of any “oppressed” or “marginalized” Singaporeans who cannot own land. Seems like there is something so special about the Philippines that makes “evil white men” want to grab all the land.

Adding more fuel to his “Pinoy Pride” ultra-nationalism is his statement about “European settlers grabbing the lands of Amerindians and confining them to reservations”, as nothing is more dreadful than instilling the thought that evil foreigners are out to get your land and have their way with the local women, despite being historically inaccurate. When the first batch of Europeans arrived in 1492, this vast land now known as America was not owned by the Amerindians as a nation as there was no “Amerindian or Cherokee” nation that existed during the time, despite claims made by these sponsors of White guilt. The land was inhabited by several Indian nations such as the Cherokee, Iroquois, Apache, Mohawk and others who among themselves fought for land ownership. Historical facts be damned in the name of “Pinoy Pride.”

This is the result of very little investment (foreign or local), resulting in very few jobs…

And his claim that the 40% limit of foreign ownership of companies and utilities here in the Philippines is for the “benefit” of the Filipino people is ludicrous as the results has proven to be detrimental to the Filipino people. Looking at utilities alone, the Philippines ranks as having the highest power rates in Asia, and among the highest power rates in the world. Why? Because power generation is monopolized by the state-owned NAPOCOR , which then provides little or no competition to other foreign/local energy generation firms which then gives little incentive for NAPOCOR to generate electricity at lower prices through the use of less fossil fuel/coal dependent means such as geothermal and hydroelectric power as they do not have to compete in the consumer market with lower power rates and value-added services, which is the very essence of competing companies in free markets. This in turn allows them to sell electricity at fixed rates to various electric providers, who in turn have the liberty of overcharging for their services as there is no one else competing with them. As a result, many Filipinos have to suffer as foreign investors are hesitant to set shop in the Philippines due to the high energy costs which in turn keeps most of the population jobless and local businesses too have to struggle with the high power costs to keep themselves operational and the regular Juan Dela Cruz has to endure paying high electric bills.

Another example is the Internet. According to SpeedTests.net, the Philippines ranks 121st in terms of internet speed (Average download speed/download rate) at 787 kbps (0.8 mbps) or 98 KB/sec, lower than its Southeast Asian neighbors(Malaysia at 1269kbps or 159kb/sec, Singapore at 4078kbps or 510kb/sec, Thailand at 3529 kbps or 441kb/sec) Want to know why? Since foreign investors have limited ownership and because foreign ISP’s cannot invest in the Philippine market, which also allows them to invest in the technology for high-speed internet, the populace is left with a few major internet providers who are free to jack up internet prices or provide cheap internet but with terrible service as these companies have no competition in the local market. I don’t think the average Filipino wants to pay higher electricity or live with mediocre internet connection all in the name of “Pinoy Pride.”

His third to the last statement made about Petron’s sale to ARAMCO smacks of his ignorance on the free market system. Free markets work through the basic law of supply and demand, which states that when the demand is low and the supply is high, prices are low and vice versa. By allowing the government to intervene, which is what he wants through price controls, this creates an artificial demand as lowering prices for the sake of the “poor” masa only allows for more demand, and when supply can’t keep up, you eventually run out of supply, the end result being long bread lines, just like in communist countries such as the USSR in the late 1980’s.

It is true and sad that most Filipinos cannot afford the means to buy housing and their own land, coupled with the skyrocketing costs of commodities and other necessities. But the solution does not lie in big government, corporate monopolies and autarky. By keeping out foreign investors and kicking them out, which at the end of the day is what Mr. Cruz wants, it will only worsen the plague as there will be no new jobs generated and we’ll end up with high costs of products & services and more poverty. Without a lot of lucrative job opportunities for local employees, it destroys both the ability of the local economy to grow through the multiplier effect and social mobility, meaning the ability of those who want to move up the financial food chain to do so, thus leaving us no choice but having to rely on our overseas workers for their dollars.

Looking at our more successful neighbors like Singapore, one of their formulas for success is by allowing foreign investors to invest in the country with 100% ownership and removing the protectionist and ultranationalist policies that were in place. As a result, Singapore is among the wealthiest nations in Asia and has truly gone “From Third World to First” alluding to the title of Lee Kuan Yew’s book on Singapore’s success. As the late Paramount Leader of China, Deng Xiaoping once said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, if it catches mice, that’s a good cat.”

In the age of globalization and advancing technologies, where whole economies are intertwined by free trade and the world is made even smaller by the internet through e-commerce, there is simply no room for such ultranationalistic backwardness. But unfortunately, many of the likes of Mr. Cruz will still push for over protectionist policies and kick out people who will bring further wealth to the country all in the name of “Pinoy Pride” or “Brown Power.

Too bad it neither puts food on the table nor buys the clothes on your back.

 * * *

About the Author: James Aron Mangun, known simply as James or “Jim” to colleagues, is a former BPO English Trainer in several companies and now a freelance BPO consultant/businessman who regularly visits political Philippine blogs and websites to offer his two cents on current events/affairs.

He is an ardent believer of the free market system and is an avid fan of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Milton Friedman. He currently runs the Mangun On Markets website with his father John where they offer advice/tips to people interested in investing in the PSE. You can visit his site at http://www.mangunonmarkets.com

 

* * *

The CoRRECT™ Three Point Agenda

The CoRRECT™ Three Point Agenda was conceptualized as a comprehensive but simple solution that acts as a first enabling step that helps facilitate a lot of other important reforms.

Here are the three points as follows:

1) Economic Liberalization

“Attract investors. Create more jobs.” 

Removing protectionist provisions so as to more easily attract foreign investors to come to the Philippines and help create jobs to solve the massive unemployment problem of the Philippines.

2) Evolving Federalism

“Empower the regions, decongest Manila.”

Also called “Evolving Region-based Decentralization”, this reform proposal calls for empowering the regions by gradually giving them the appropriate autonomy that would give them the onus to set their own economic and political policies, allowing them to attract investments and make their own regions economically self-sufficient.

3) Parliamentary System

“True leadership, not popularity politics.”

By shifting to the Parliamentary System, the problems of gridlock and the excesses of pork barrel politics associated with the Presidential System go away, leaving a more efficient, leaner, more agile and flexible, more stable, more transparent, more accountable, and more professional form of government that more likely produces quality leaders, as opposed to the old excesses of the presidential system which is more prone to celebrity popularity politics.

These Three Points were originally totally separate reform proposals which, on each of their own merits, actually do help immensely to improve the Philippines. However, all three of them, when integrated and joined together, actually work synergistically to produce overall results that far exceed the sum of the results of each reform proposal.

1.Economic Liberalization helps both Evolving Federalism and Parliamentarism:

a) Economic Liberalization helps Evolving Federalism by creating economic opportunities that the Regions will benefit from when they decentralize/federalize.

b) Economic Liberalization strengthens Parliamentarism by creating new emerging members of the rich elites, new members of the middle classes, from among the ordinary citizenry who can now provide alternative choices to the old oligarchy/warlord class during elections.

2. Evolving Federalism helps Economic Liberalization and Parliamentarism:

a) Evolving Federalism helps Economic Liberalization by allowing each of the component autonomous regions or “newly federalized states” to compete against each other, such that each region offers attractive enticements such as lower taxes or tax holidays and other incentives to companies (both local businesses and foreign multinationals) to set up in their respective regions.

b) Evolving Federalism helps Parliamentarism by focusing members of parliament who belong to constituencies to be aware of the common regional concerns as well as local concerns of their constituents and thus more vocally raise these issues in parliament, thus giving valuable feedback and input to the collective decision making that goes into policy-and-decision-making.

3. Parliamentarism helps Economic Liberalization and Evolving Federalism:

a) Parliamentarism obviously helps Economic Liberalization because parliamentarism creates better quality leaders (of much higher levels of competence and experience) than presidentialism, and thus, the quality of economic decision-making is better and there is more political will in ensuring that the other economic liberalization reforms that need to be done do indeed get done. Empirical evidence proves that Parliamentarism consistently produces more Economically Free economic systems than presidentialism, as shown in the Heritage Foundation’s EFI rankings where the top slots are dominated by Parliamentary Systems. The Parliamentary System’s “Shadow Cabinet” system of checks-and-balances also ensures greater transparency and less corruption, thus improving investor confidence.

b) Parliamentarism helps Evolving Federalism because once you decentralize according to regions in order to eventually form Federalized States, each of the states will pattern their regional governments according to the parliamentary form of government, thus granting the same advantages of better accountability, greater efficiency, greater stability, greater flexibility, and faster implementation of policies to the regional governments, similar to how countries like India, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc are parliamentary at the national level but are also parliamentary at their component states (or “provincial”) levels.

* * *

* * *

One clear example of how the Three Point Agenda – when all three reform proposals are put together – works to produce superior results than having each reform point work on its own is when looking at the issue of “political dynasties” and warlordism.

Most Filipinos unfortunately do not realize that the issue of political dynasties and warlordism is not a purely political issue, but it is primarily an economic issue that requires both economic and political system reform. Simply coming up with palliative solutions such as laws that seek to ban political dynasties won’t really work.

Instead, the real solution depends on a combination of empowering the people economically by creating economic solutions that dismantle monopolies and allow the more active participation of the wider public so that more people (coming from more families, not just the few clans who currently monopolize the economy and thus dominate politics) can prosper and improve their standard of living. Moreover, the real solution also relies on adopting a political system that more easily allows competent people, regardless of their wealth or popularity, to more easily participate in public office.

Few Filipinos seem to acknowledge the fact that local “Warlords” and local political dynasties exist and continue to have a monopoly of political power because they also happen to wield a monopolistic hold on the local economies of their respective bailiwicks. Most people seem unaware that the basis of political monopoly usually lies within economic monopoly. More often than not, if you monopolize the economy, you monopolize politics.

Many Filipinos are all obviously concerned that “even in a new proposed Parliamentary System, the Warlords will continue to lord it over the people”, but that’s why the answer to that is the Three Point Agenda.

Parliamentarism alone will not solve the political problems of our country.

We need both Economic Liberalization and Region-based Decentralization to go hand-in-hand with a shift to the Parliamentary System.

Because with Economic Liberalization comes numerous new opportunities for wealth creation among the people in the regions and provinces. New companies – including multinational companies or even locally-operated and locally-led but foreign-majority funded, assisted, and bankrolled enterprises will create jobs and improve the lives of millions of ordinary Filipinos.

And with Region-based Decentralization, these companies will not have to be overcrowding themselves in Imperial Manila, but will instead take advantage of attractive offers that various regional governments will dangle to entice them to be based where the land is cheap, the labor is cheaper than in Manila, and yet the quality is still good or even better than Manila’s.

(After all, where do many of the “talented workforce” in Manila often come from? Indeed, they’re mostly from outside of Manila – from the “provinces.”)

So with these two agenda points working together, we will end up with a rising middle class and a newly-emerging nouveau riche class who will be plentiful and actively challenge the existing Warlord-Oligarchy in the different locales.

With Region-based Decentralization, the existing leaders of each region will be forced to compete with the other leaders of other regions in order to attract much-needed investors to set up shop. It will become a matter of pride for the regional leaders to show that they can develop their own regions better than rival regions, by showing that they can produce more jobs, and improve the local economies of their regions. Regional competition in the sphere of economics is always good.

And with the mentioned rising nouveau riche whose wealth will be a result of the economic liberalization reform agenda, more people can stand for election in the new parliament. Who says only those members of the old Oligarchy and Warlord class can join the game, when there will now be a new class of nouveau riche and/or rising middle class intellectuals who can more easily compete against the old order?

With more and better choices to choose from, since candidates from Warlord families or political dynasties will no longer be the only ones rich enough to mount political campaigns, the quality of local and national politics will improve drastically as massive economic development means that an expanded base of rich and middle class people will translate into more numerous active participants in politics, leading to a drastic improvement in the quality of local and national politicians.

Is it really true that Constitutional Reform won’t improve the “people” we elect? Well, if all we did was to shift to a parliamentary system without regionally decentralizing (and moving towards Federalism) and without enabling economic liberalization, then perhaps, the improvement in the quality of our politicians will not be as huge.

That is why it is absolutely imperative that we do not come up with standalone bit-solutions and instead, we must adopt a comprehensive solution that hits all our problems from Three Main Sides. That is why we need to fully implement the full and complete CoRRECT™ Three Point Agenda because eventually, not only will Constitutional Reform simply improve the system, it will also obviously improve the people involved and produce better leaders.

If we do not go with the CoRRECT™ Three Point Agenda, we will unfortunately continue on with the same rotten status quo that keeps our people living in squalor. The Three Point Agenda serves as a First Enabling Step that will make many other important reforms easier to accomplish. The sooner, the better.

Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

Are the élites who control the Philippines enlightened, unenlightened, or pseudo-enlightened?

[Note: This article was originally published in Get Real Philippines, and was first published by Orion Pérez Dumdum on April 26, 2003.]

* * *

This article is included in the www.correctphilippines.org site because people might be asking why this advocacy is being targeted mostly towards educated English-speaking Filipinos such as professionals, OFW’s, educators, teachers, academics, engineers, IT Professionals, community leaders, architects, scientists, writers, and more and not so much at the grassroots.

This article below clearly explains it: we simply cannot reach all Filipinos. There are too many local languages. Using Tagalog will not reach the grassroots in non-Tagalog regions, and English still happens to be the preferred language of technical or intellectual discourse in the entire country, especially among non-Tagalogs. It is for this same reason that José Rizal wrote his two masterpieces in Spanish in order to target the educated elites and leaders as his audience who would then “fan out” the ideas to the masses.

The same goes with how the CoRRECT™ Movement must target the movers and shakers and tap them to help spread the word among the rest of society. Ultimately, it is the elites who determine what happens to the society in which they belong. Lousy elites translate into a lousy society. Enlightened elites translate into a better-run society. Read more to understand the ideas behind our approach.

* * *

1. There are no and there never will be perfectly egalitarian societies. All societies will always have Élites.

Italian intellectual Vilfredo Pareto described how all societies always have élites

“Elites”, in this case does not necessarily refer only to the well-heeled, well-dressed, and perfumed socio-economic Élites. It refers also to the intellectual Élites or “intelligentsia”, political Élites, and other groups of people who wield some form of power or influence among other people. They can be student leaders, labor leaders, baranggay captains, parish priests, etc. They may not always be “rich” or materially well-off, but because other people look up to them, they are, by default, Élites.

 

2. Élites will always be the sourceof widespread change in society, good or bad.

The masses instinctively take their cues from the Élite or members of the Élite. In fact, historically, the leaders of mass movements have often been members of the Élite themselves.

3. A significant majority of the Élites of a given society must be enlightened and capable of critical reasoning for that Élite to espouse effective positive change in society.

If among the Élites, only a very small minority achieve a high level ofenlightenmentand ability to think things in a critically rational way, whilst the majority of the Élites are unenlightened or pseudo-enlightened, then the Élites will end up divided and will not be able to agree on proper policy. More importantly, the viewpoint of the truly enlightened Élites ends up muted (due to their limited numbers amidst a vast sea of ignorance) and their proposed course of action, neglected. Discussions, arguments, and debates on policy thus become a matter of sophistry (trying to “appear correct” through the use of rhetorical techniques) rather than genuinely weighing pros and cons and studying the feasibility of the stated options through logic and inquisitive reasoning.

Point number 2 talks about the fact that Élites are the key to widespread change in society, be it good or bad. Point number 3 states that the difference between good change and bad change for society is determined by the presence or absence of enlightenmentand rationalism among the majority of the Élites.

Enlightenment, more importantly, is all about the continuous search for a high-level of knowledge, a high-degree of common-sense intelligence, and the continuous use of logic and reason in order to tie common-sense and vast amounts of knowledge together in order to come up with a fairly accurate understanding of various relevant phenomena and formulate suitable courses of action in order to solve problems that may be perceived. It is not considered enlightenment if after achieving a high-level of knowledge in one or more fields, a person decides that he/she has reached the end point of knowledge and thus refuses to learn anything new and no longer considers it necessary to update his/her knowledge in the fields in which he/she has achieved a degree of expertise.

Enlightened people will always seek to provide well thought-out and highly informedopinions, rather than opinions that are purely based on sentiment, emotional attachment, or other flimsy or arbitrarily concocted reasons.

4. Bigger potential dangers are likely to arise from the pseudo-enlightened or “half-enlightened” Élites.

 Such Élites think they are “enlightened”, but unfortunately, they aren’t. Examples of such people are religious fanatics, die-hard proponents of Communism, other forms of Marxism, and Extremist Nationalism, Nazism, among others — adherents to ideologies rather than common sense.

They are often of the impression that they are “enlightened” often because they believe that society needs to be improved, as most enlightened thinkers in the past had often advocated improved social and economic conditions for society. They are also likely to think of themselves as being “enlightened” if the point of view and/or course of action they advocate is unconventional, controversial, revolutionary, and not necessarily popular, due to the fact that historically, many important figures of the Enlightenment espoused unconventional, controversial, and unpopular views. Without them knowing it, they forget that while the views espoused by thinkers of the Enlightenment were often unconventional and/or unpopular, the real essence of the Enlightenment is in the use of independent reasoning coupled with the comprehensive collection of knowledge that is relevant to understanding and solving a variety of issues. Whether one espouses views which are unconventional, controversial, or unpopular, is not what truly matters. What matters is whether the views one espouses make sense and are grounded in reality.

But because Élites of society who are pseudo-enlightened have effectively deluded themselves to think that they are “enlightened”, they will think that “they already have all the answers”, and will often oppose the aims, views, and actions of the truly enlightened members of society. If the truly enlightened are too few in number, they will effectively be overwhelmed by the more numerous pseudo-enlightened ones.

Another example is the half-enlightened status of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Any policy presented that goes counter to any of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church is always in danger of being anathemized by the “Philippine Inquisition.” The enlightened ones who bravely propose such measures often risk political alienation and social exclusion, which is tantamount to excommunication. In this case, a solution to a problem cannot be easily pursued because one unenlightened sector of the Élite has decided to block the moves of the enlightened sector.

Furthermore, we have another example: Joma Sison & Luis Jalandoni, for instance, are both members of the materially-endowed, landowning Élite. Indeed, while they are members of the Élite, and perhaps even the “intelligentsia”, that did not necessarily mean that they were truly enlightened. They are, unfortunately, prime examples of pseudo-enlightened members of the intelligentsia. On the other hand, many of their lieutenants in the communist movement are members of the “new Élite” who may have come from humble beginnings. Their lack of full enlightenment, largely a result of the Philippine school system’s lack of emphasis on critical reasoning, resulted in their unquestioning and extremist zeal in espousing an intolerant and absolutist ideology. Despite evidence that exposes the poor results that their ideology’s economic system has delivered in other countries that actually tried it, their lack of true enlightenment prevents them from critically analyzing this fundamental disconnect between their ideology’s utopian promise as expressed on paper, on the one hand, and its disappointing performance in real-life, on the other. Truly enlightened individuals must always remain cold, detached, and skeptical about ideologies and fanaticisms, and should rather prefer pragmatism and the constant analysis and verification of actual data through the use of proper logic and critical reasoning.

Had Joma Sison, Luis Jalandoni, and their lieutenants been truly enlightened (and therefore, truly rational), they would have abandoned their lost cause long ago, as soon as it was obvious that the ideology they espoused could not deliver the material progress and human development that it promised. A more enlightened example of a Communist leader, at least in the economic aspect, would be the late Deng Xiaoping, as it was he who decided to shift China from a centrally-planned economy to a market-driven and capitalistic one, after noting that centralized economic planning could never react fast enough to the challenges that famines and food shortages posed. China today, though nominally Communist, is fast becoming a capitalistic economic powerhouse, and the benefits that an improved capitalist economy can provide to the masses are substantially superior to the ones previously provided under a centrally-planned economic set-up. Following China’s example, officially “Communist” Vietnam has also gone on a 180 degree shift in economic policy towards market-oriented capitalism.

It is suprising that, while in the early 1900′s, such an ideology might have been an untested yet apparently promising one that is perhaps, worthy of experimentation, it is difficult to imagine why, despite the wealth of evidence of economic collapse that such an experimental ideology brought about to several formerly Communist countries, some Filipinos as late as the 1990′s, were still advocating a system that had already been exposed and proven to be a failure. Obviously, these people were just not enlightened enough to use their faculties of logical and critical reasoning. They were, perhaps, partially-enlightened to the point of realizing that society needed to be improved, but were not truly enlightened enough to logically and rationally verify whether the promises made by the ideology they had chanced upon made real sense in the real-world, given the findings and newer realities of the 1990′s and beyond.

Most pseudo-enlightened intellectuals often require that their followers take their information from the same source, interpret it in the same way, and believe in the same things. There is an element of imposing a common subjectivity on the whole group, just so that the entire group can be united and unanimous. Strict adherence to the “orthodox view” is necessary, lest a purge be done to rid the group of deviant “heretics.”

True rationalists and enlightened people, on the other hand, given the same amount of knowledge and evidence, are often likely to reach the same conclusion, even when working independently of each other. They may sometimes differ on a few specifics, usually because one party knows a little tidbit of information that the other doesn’t know yet, but once that bit of information reaches the other one, and he verifies it to be true, he then makes adjustments, and revises his view. The end result is that their conclusions end up the same or highly similar, despite having been independent of each other. Because of the adherence to true objectivity, there is no need to coerce each other to subscribe to the same view. The empirical evidence as processed through proper use of logic and reasoning often speaks for itself.

Pseudo-enlightened intellectuals and their followers can be somewhat described as subscribing to a form of Messianism, where they believe that the author of an ideology is a kind of Messiah and his ideology and writings, his “Holy Scriptures.” Far from merely taking the author’s “advice” with a grain of salt, pseudo-enlightened intellectuals and their followers unquestioningly swallow the author’s entire work as “Gospel Truth” and often refuse to acknowledge overwhelming real-world evidence that refutes the basic tenets of their ‘religion.’

5. Human history is full of case studies of Élite leadership in social change.

During the Age of Enlightenment in Western Europe, the masses (peasants/laborers) and the uneducated people were, in a way, just as ignorant as the masses (peasants/laborers) and the uneducated people of the Philippines are today. They were not enlightened as far as theories, science, etc, were concerned.

But what made Western Europe of the 1700′s and beyond different from the Philippines today is that, whereas in both cases, the masses were largely ignorant, in Europe, a large number of the Élites (nobles, intelligentsia, mercantile class, emerging bourgeoisie, etc) were busy reading up on Science, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, etc, and beefing up on their practice of logic and rationalism, while in the Philippines today, only a small minority among the “Élite” are trulyenlightened and rationalist. There are, in fact, much more people among the Élite who are unenlightened and half-enlightened. The unenlightened ones are busy fitting spoilers on their daddies’ cars, going to bars/discos, partying, while the pseudo-enlightened ones chant repetitive mantras in street rallies, get indoctrinated in extremist cadres, and some even join armed movements. These are all members of the Élite, yet they are not enlightened. (Yes, even student leaders in leftist groups are members of the Élite. They are relatively better off than the rest of the masses. Labor & Union leaders are Élites because of the influence they wield.)

Western Europe of the 1700′s was becoming “considerably enlightened,” despite the numerous members of the masses who were ignorant, because “Enlightenment” merely suggested that at least a majority of the Élite be enlightened.

Therefore, Enlightenment may not necessarily require mass enlightenment, but may just mean that at the least, a significant majority of the Élites be enlightened.

A quick look at PinoyExchange.com (PEx) or a few other Philippine discussion forums on the internet reveals the problem — and let’s not deny it; PEx and the other Filipino forums represents members of the Philippine Élite; people who can afford computers and internet time; people who were blessed enough to go to “decent-enough” schools and thus find work in companies that were modern and fiscally healthy enough to provide them with internet access.

Yet the quality of logical ability and critical thinking found there is dismal. While there are a few highly intelligent and rational members who post logically presented insightful messages, there is often a larger number of members who are often unable to appreciate the insights posted, usually because on the surface, they have a knee-jerk reaction to some of the insights. Often, they disagree without even properly reading through or digesting the data that is presented by the member they disagree with. And rather than aiming to understand things fully and get to the “bottom of things” in a logical and rational way, using sophistry and the quest to “appear correct” is how these members use “logic.”

A large number of people care more about people’s credentials rather than the logical merits of a case. People resort to various forms of argumenta ad hominem in order to retort or refute logically-presented arguments. They’d resort to fervent beliefs in ideology or religion, rather than properly thinking things through in a critical fashion to get their answers and justify their stand on certain causes. The usual result is that these people say “It is correct because I say so! I say so, because I have a PhD in this-and-that…” as opposed to saying “Based on the evidence presented and the analysis that went into it, these are my findings…”

Until the vast majority of the Philippine Élite are capable of discussing issues rationally in a calm, cold, detached, critically objective, and scientific manner, as opposed to discussions based on fervently-held fanatical beliefs and religio-ideological convictions, the Élite will be considered far from being enlightened. If the majority of the Élite is far from being enlightened, then the future of the society it heads cannot be said to be headed in a positive direction.

6. Whereas it is next to impossible, given the enormity of the task, to effectively enlighten the masses, it should at least be possible to Enlighten the Élites.

Resources are scarce, not over-abundant. While it would be ideal to educate and enlighten the masses, we know that given the dearth of resources and the fact that extremely good (enlightened & rationalist) teachers are not easy to come by, the first step should be to first concentrate the effort of enlightenment and teaching the values of Rationalism on the relatively small Élite sector of society that has the power and influence to fan out this enlightenment to the rest of society.

Enlighten the Élites first, then once a majority of the Élites are enlightened, the policies these enlightened Élites will pursue within society will likewise be enlightened. When the policies the Élites pursue are “enlightened”, they will naturally seek to enlighten the Masses and seek to uplift them. Put another way, if you enlighten all the Élites then these Élites, being enlightened, will seek to enlighten the masses. From there, we must realize that not all of the masses will be enlightened…

However, there will be among the children of the masses, people who are ideal candidates for enlightenment. These are children of the masses who are identified to be more intelligent, more achievement-oriented, more driven, and clearly more influential, than their peers. These new entrants to the enlightened Élite will further swell the ranks of the enlightened Élite and will work more towards the further upliftment of the rest of society, especially the masses. A highly infinitessimal enlightened Élite will definitely not have the manpower available to painstakingly educate and enlighten the masses. Worse, the pseudo-enlightened Élites will seek to negate the effort expended by the enlightened Élites.

If only the Élites could all (or at least majority) be truly and “fully” enlightened, then at least these Élites can be united in the quest to educate and enlighten the masses. Thus, this spells the importance of first enlightening all (or at least most) members of the Élite.

7. The Enlightenment of the Élites must be thorough and not half-baked.

This is a corollary to point number 4, since as mentioned, the worst enemies of the enlightened Élite are not the unenlightened Élite nor even the unenlightened masses, but rather, the pseudo-enlightened (or half-enlightened) sector of the Élite. Being Élites, they too will have some measure of power and influence. Being partially-enlightened, they’ll think they know the answers on what needs to be done. Being partially-unenlightened, they’ll pursue the wrong aims, use the wrong means, and cause more damage instead of fixing things.

When the level of enlightenment among the Élites is uneven, and a huge sector is only partially enlightened, you end up with a divided Élite. Partial enlightenment often leads people to seek answers from ideologies rather than through critical rationalism. When this happens, those who flirt with ideologies will end up becoming pseudo-enlightened. This poses as a huge problem since it would certainly cause the dangers described in point number 4.

To reiterate what was mentioned in point number 3, having a divided Élite where the enlightened Élites form a small minority and the rest of the unenlightened and pseudo-enlightened Élite is factionalized into so many splinter-groups that are antagonistic to one another presents more problems than having a “rich-poor” or “Élite-masses” divide. A divided and highly factionalized Élite will constantly squabble amongst themselves and will, in the long run, spell out a directionless society that is in a constant state of “virtual civil war.” This was partly the situation in former President Corazon Aquino’s “rainbow coalition” in which various mutually-antagonistic pseudo-enlightened factions of the Élite (yes, even the leaders of the Left are part of the Élite) were all brought together into one government. The result was the lack of direction, stagnation, and hence, the lack of progress.

 Whereas in point number 6, it is possible for members of the masses to become new entrants into the intellectual Élite, in the Philippines, a number of them were not truly enlightened. Instead, they took shortcuts to become pseudo-enlightened members of the intelligentsia, and committed themselves to influential & somewhat “convincing” pseudo-enlightened members of the material Élite who espoused extremist ideals and became demagogues. As opposed to the thoroughly rational and scientific method of continuously gaining new knowledge, scrutinizing such knowledge, and using precise sequential logic to derive conclusions and/or courses of action, their preferred short-cut was to base their thinking on the ideologies of authors who came before them. If, for example, Karl Marx thought he had all the answers to social problems, wrote in an apparently “authoritative manner” on it, and his teachings gave an emotional “feel-good” high to its readers, these readers decided to take it as the absolute Truth and decided to commit themselves to it as if it were a religion. None of them thought of using their faculties of critical reasoning in order to rationally verify whether the ideas actually made any true practical sense in the real world. (See Point Number 4, referring to Joma Sison / Luis Jalandoni)

It is sad that highly intelligent people can sometimes be unenlightened or pseudo-enlightened. As mentioned, the biggest danger comes from intelligent people who are pseudo-enlightened. Thus, there is a real need to ensure that half-baked and pseudo-enlightened intellectuals are not bred by society. Always remember that Nazism, Religious Fundamentalism, Communism, and other extremist movements were often authored and implemented by brilliant but half-baked and pseudo-enlightenedintellectuals.

8. Entry to the Élite must not be closed to aspirants.

Upward mobility and accepting qualified entrants into the Élite is of utmost importance. In many developed societies, many members of the “Élite” did not necessarily descend from members of a hereditary Élite. Many had humble parental origins. The key, in improving society, is in allowing the Élite group to expand and continually grow. The development of society, particularly the history of the First World, is founded on allowing the Élite group to grow and expand by creating opportunities for members of the masses to improve themselves and become new members of the Élite. The expansion and creation of a strong and large middle class is precisely what this is all about. Without this, the ideals of true representative Democracy will never come into fruition in the Philippines.

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

 

Problems of Presidentialism & the US Exception

by Fred W. Riggs, PhD (1917-2008)

This is a draft for the text published as “Conceptual Homogenization of a Heterogeneous Field: Presidentialism in Comparative Perspective,” in Mattei Dogan and Ali Kazancigil, eds. Comparing Nations: Concepts, Strategies, Substance. Blackwell, 1994. pp. 72-152.


ABSTRACT:

The American constitutional system based on the separation of powers was modeled on a transitional stage in the evolution of democracy as experienced in 18th century England. With Kings struggling to retain power against insurgent parliamentary forces, a precarious imbalance of power existed which the Founding Fathers copied in America, but sought to stabilize by an ingenious though precarious system of checks and balances. When other countries imitated this plan — as in virtually all of Latin America and some countries in Africa, Asia, and the post-Soviet arena — they typically experienced break-downs followed by despotism. By contrast, in the United States, despite severe crises such as a major Civil War and the Depression, the system has survived until today, a truly exceptional experience that calls for explanations, as proposed here.

Meanwhile, all the other industrial democracies, on the basis of 19th century developments in the UK, have adopted a significantly different constitutional design based on an the accountability of Cabinet Government to Parliamentary controls that evolved in England half a century after the American Revolution. Although no constitutional plan can guarantee success for any country, the likelihood that parliamentary regimes will survive is far greater than the prospects for those based on the separation-of-powers. Even the best recipe can be spoiled by a bad cook, but all cooks are more likely to succeed following better rather than worse recipes.


Note by the CoRRECT™ Webmaster:

The “transitional stage” in the evolution  of Democracy as mentioned by the late Dr. Riggs was also mentioned in the article “Senator Pangilinan & the Parliamentary System” where a diagram was presented describing the evolution of democratic systems from the original Absolute Monarchy in Feudal England all the way down to the Post-Victorian Parliamentary System (often within the framework of a ceremonial Constitutional Monarchy) that exists in today’s modern United Kingdom and several post-19th century former British colonies such as Canada, Australia, NZ, Bahamas, Barbados, Malaysia, Singapore, and others.

The diagram is shown below:

What we refer to as the US-derived Presidential System actually coincides with the system of a Powerful Semi-Absolute Monarchy which is merely one iteration away from an Absolute Monarchy. Most Presidential Systems are realistically just one step away from being Dictatorships. Parliamentary Systems are the most evolved systems.


CONTENTS

 PRESIDENTIALISM: WHAT IS IT?

The Institutional Framework
Regime Authentification

THE TROUBLES OF PRESIDENTIALISM

The Presidential Establishment
The Legislative-Executive Chasm
The Party System
Bureaucratic Dilemmas

THE SURVIVAL OF PRESIDENTIALISM IN AMERICA

A Procedure
The American Presidency
The Legislative-Executive Balance
An Immense Congressional Agenda
A Centripetal Open Party System
American Bureaucracy

THE OUTLOOK FOR PRESIDENTIALISM

Comparing Presidentialist Regimes

NOTES

REFERENCES


INTRODUCTION.

The frequent collapse of presidentialist regimes in about 30 third world countries that have attempted to establish constitutions based on the principle of “separation of powers” suggests that this political formula is seriously flawed. By comparison, only some 13 of over 40 third world regimes (3l%) established on parliamentary principles had experienced breakdowns by coup d’etat or revolution as of 1985 (Riggs 1993a) (1)..

This empirical data substantiates Juan Linz’s argument that parliamentarism “is more conducive to stable democracy…” than presidentialism (Linz 1990, 53). While Linz admits that a presidentialist regime may be stable, as the American case shows, he does not try to explain this exception. Here I shall speculate about some of the practices found in the United States which seem to have helped perpetuate an inherently fragile scheme of government. These speculations need to be tested by systematic comparisons with the experience of the presidentialist regimes that have broken down. Pending such analysis, however, I will offer some impressionistic evidence to support the hypotheses presented below.

The discussion that follows is divided into three parts. –

  • First: the institutional features found by definition in all presidentialist regimes;
  • Second some critical problems inherent in any constitution based on “presidentialist” principles
  • Third: American practices or traditions–frequently “undemocratic” in character–whose absence has apparently contributed to the collapse of presidentialism elsewhere.

* * *

* * *

PRESIDENTIALISM: WHAT IS IT?

Traditional institutional analysis antedated World War II and, unavoidably, focused attention on the well established polities of North America and Europe. Because all the stable industrial democracies (except the U.S.) adopted parliamentary forms of government and the other presidentialist systems were so unstable, however, the comparative analysis of presidentialism languished. Generalizations were based on a universe that included only one “viable” presidentialist regime and a good many parliamentary systems. Perhaps unavoidably, in this context, comparativists often assumed that the unique properties of governance in the U.S. could be attributed to environmental factors (i.e., geography, history, culture, economy, social structure, etc.) rather than its institutional design.

After World War II, Comparative Government experienced a radical re-evaluation of its fundamental premises in the light of the entry into the world system of over 100 new -third world- states. Many of them adopted constitutions that were quickly repudiated when military groups seized power in a coup d’etat, and it became apparent that formally instituted structures of government, typically based on Western models, did not or could not work as they were expected to. New approaches to comparative politics stressed functionalism or socio-economic determinism, and emphasized the crucial importance of external forces generated by the world capitalist system and international “dependency.” Political anthropologists emphasized the continuing vitality of traditional cultures and the comparative study of institutions languished. – 

* * *

The Institutional Framework

In this context, formal institutions of governance were down- played as having secondary, if not trivial, importance. The fact that virtually all presidentialist regimes except that of the United States experienced authoritarianism and military coups was attributed to cultural, environmental or ecological forces rather than any inherent problems in this constitutional formula. Comparative presidentialism was neglected because it was considered useless to take “unsuccessful” cases seriously: how could failures teach us anything about the workings of a political system?

Moreover, since there was only one “successful” case, it could scarcely prove anything about the requisites for success in a presidentialist regime. It never occurred to anyone to think that the failures of presidentialism outside the U.S. were due to deep structural problems with the institutional design rather than with ecological pressures caused by the world system, poverty, Hispanic culture, religion, geographic constraints, demographic forces, etc. Nor did anyone imagine that constitutional failures could be used to test hypotheses about why American presidentialism had survived, or to learn more about the risks involved in this kind of system.

A counter-intuitive hypothesis might explain why presidentialism in the third world has been so unsuccessful. The newer presidentialist regimes may have rejected, as -undemocratic,- some practices that, perhaps unintentionally, have helped American presidentialism to survive. If so, these regimes were unconsciously caught in a double bind: to be more -democratic- involved taking risks that could lead to dictatorship, whereas to perpetuate representative government meant accepting some patently undemocratic rules. Unfortunately, I believe, our ignorance of the regime-maintaining requisites of presidentialism blinds us to the negative impact of progressive reforms on the survival of this type of democracy.

In the U.S. itself, debates about proposed “reforms” fail to consider their likely impact on the viability of the constitutional system. An old example involves the use of “primaries” to select candidates for election to public office, a nominally “democratic” innovation that has weakened its political parties. The current debate about limiting the terms of legislators in order to enhance democratic values fails to consider how it might affect the capacity of Congress to maintain the precarious legislative/executive balance of power that is so crucial for the survival of presidentialism.

A recent critic of President George Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to limit Congressional terms to 12 years points out that it would increase the number of legislative ‘lame ducks,’ reduce the incentives for ‘men [and women] of potential public excellence’ to compete for elective office, increase the dependence of neophyte legislators on their professional staff and on bureaucrats and lobbyists, and diminish the scope of effective electoral choice open to voters. The same author, who directs political and social studies at the conservative Hudson Institute, argues that other solutions can be found to overcome the unfair advantages — mainly financial — that incumbents have when seeking re-election, without incurring the grave defects of the limited term option. I agree with all of these arguments, but they do not consider how the proposed change would affect the vitality and viability of presidentialism in America (Blitz, 1990). My guess is that electoral primaries have already weakened our constitutional system, and term limits, if adopted, would also have a negative systemic effect — but these are points to be discussed below at greater length.

Meanwhile, without rejecting any of the important findings of functional, ecological and world systems analysis, I suggest that we should also view all institutions as fragile human creations vulnerable to erosion or collapse? In addition to asking how a constitution actually works and how democratic and effective it may be, we need to consider its viability: what are its prospects for survival in a dangerous and highly interdependent world?

As ‘comparative politics’ evolved since the Second World War, it focused on intra-regional comparisons — that is, within the ‘First,” “Second” and ‘Third” Worlds. Such a geographically and economically determined framework has impeded institutional modes of analysis that require a global approach, including a North-South perspective that compares the effects of fundamental (constitutional) designs regardless of their geographic location or economic status.

* * *

The Environmental Context.

An institutional framework does not preclude environmental considerations. Economic level, class conflict, ethnic heterogeneity, geographic inequalities in the distribution of resources and population densities, religious, linguistic and cultural variety and so on, are ll significant and affect the destiny of states, as do such external forces as imperialism, foreign interventions, wars, migrations, and trade. Every regime confronts such -environmental – problems, some much more acutely than others.

Since both environmental pressures and regime types vary significantly, we must eventually try to link the two kinds of considerations. However, the impact of institutional variables is much easier to isolate and compare. It is perhaps easier, also, to compare the capacity of similar regimes to handle tough environmental challenges. To reverse this approach poses an extremely complex problem: it is extraordinarily difficult to reach safe conclusions about how any environmental variable affects the survival of democracy. Moreover, if our goal involves helping presidentialist regimes cope with tough environmental challenges, it is much easier to propose legal or constitutional reforms that might help instead of trying to change the environment–e.g., by promoting economic or cultural transformations, religious movements, and the rest. 

* * *

Regime Authentification

Comparison of political institutions should begin with basic regime types, the constitutional principles that determine how a government is organized. No doubt every government has unique features, but it is easy enough to classify them into a few broad categories. Ideally speaking, the new (non-Western) states ought to devise indigenous institutions well adapted to their own needs and circumstances. So far, however, to cope with the problems of the modern world, they have relied for the most part on a few options borrowed from abroad, based mainly on the experience of presidentialist and parliamentary governments–or single-party authoritarianisms.

When these regimes fail, they typically give way to a military dictatorship and personal rule based on the seizure of power by public officials (mainly military officers) carrying out a successful oup d’etat Here I shall confine my analysis to a single regime type, one that has been widely emulated with disastrous results in some 30 countries of the third world, i.e., “presidentialism.”

The word, presidentialism (for reasons to be explained below) is used here to designate a type of -representative- government based, in principle, on the -separation of powers- between executive and legislative institutions, i.e.,. the President and the Congress. The meaning of “representative government,” or of “democracy,” will not be discussed here, but it presupposes the existence of a viable assembly (Congress or Parliament) whose members are elected from competing candidates by the citizens of a state. The separation of powers is a complex goal that cannot sustain itself simply because of a constitutional prescription. Rather, it results from adherence to a fundamental rule, namely that the head of -government- must have a -fixed term of office,- i.e., not be subject to dismissal by a no confidence vote of Congress: this does not preclude the power of impeachment for criminal conduct. The presidentialist separation of powers is viewed as a -result- of a single rule–the fixed term of the President. My definition of presidentialism, therefore, specifies this rule as its cause, rather than the separation of powers that is its consequence. The definition, of course, presupposes the existence of a viable legislative assembly without which any head of government may easily become a dictator.

* * *

The Defining Criterion

The definition of presidentialism offered here involves a sharp distinction between two key roles found in representative governments: that of head of -state- and head of -government.- This distinction is basic because non-presidentialist systems often have elected “presidents” who are heads of state but not heads of government. In parliamentary systems the two roles are easily distinguishable: the head of government is a prime minister, while the head of state is either a constitutional monarch or an elected -president.- Such “presidents” usually also serve for a fixed term and cannot be discharged by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, but this does not make their regimes “presidentialist.” The term president is often used also for the head of state in single-party and even military authoritarian regimes, but they are not therefore “presidentialist.”

In presidentialist regimes the elected head of government always serves concurrently as head of state. However, we must avoid defining a presidentialist system as one in which the head of -state- (president) is elected to office, a criterion that includes many non-presidentialist systems. A regime is presidentialist only if the effective head of -government- (President) is elected for a fixed term: the mode of election may be direct or indirect. To be “effective,” a head of government cannot be dominated by a single ruling party or a military junta, and the “fixed term” rule precludes discharge by a legislative no-confidence vote. (2)..

To repeat, by presidentialism I mean only those -representative governments in which the head – -of government is elected for a fixed term of office-, i.e., he/she cannot be discharged by a no- confidence vote of Congress. Note that this definition is -onomantic- rather than -semantic-: I am not reporting what the word, presidentialist already means. Rather, I am explaining a fundamental political concept and proposing a term to name it. Of course, presidential can be used to name this kind of system, but since this word is also used for other regime types– notably parliamentary systems with an elected head of state–there is less risk of ambiguity if we use an unfamiliar word, like presidentialist for the specific concept intended here. (3)..

Admittedly, this usage is not yet established. Many writers will say presidential when they mean presidentialis However, generalizations about “presidential” regimes are often invalid because they lump together some non-presidentialist with presidentialist polities. In this essay it is always necessary to know whether one is talking about the specific properties of a presidentialist system–as defined here–or using a loose concept that can also include parliamentary systems. These are different institutional forms of democracy and they have radically different properties that we need to understand. (4)

Scales of Variation The distinction between presidentialism and parliamentarism should be viewed as logical -contraries,- not -contradictories.- They are ideal types at opposite ends of a scale: in other words, representative government is not necessarily either presidentialist or parliamentary. There are intermediate possibilities, “semi-presidential” and “semi- parliamentary” in character.

Consider, for example, the French Fifth Republic, that Maurice Duverger has characterized as semi-presidential (1980). Although the head of -state- (president) is indeed elected for a fixed term of office, the head of -government- (premier) must command a parliamentary majority. So long as the president’s party has such a majority, the president may choose a premier of his own party, thereby permitting him to rule as the de facto head of government. Otherwise, the head of government (premier) may come from an opposition party in order to gain parliamentary support, as happened between 1986 and 1988 when President Francois Mitterand had to name an opposition leader, Jacques Chirac, as premier (Suleiman 1989, 11-15). At such times, the president is not a President. Juan Linz refers to the Fifth Republic as a “hybrid” (1990, 52). Scott Mainwaring also identifies Chile (1891-1924) and Brazil (1961-1963) as semi- presidentialist, even though their constitutional rules differed from those of the French Fifth Republic (1989, 159). Luis E. Gonzalez uses the terms, semi and neo-parliamentary to characterize the changing Uruguayan constitutions. The 1934 and 1942 charters, for example, had neo-parliamentary features insofar as the President had the authority to dissolve the legislature, and the legislature could censure the ministers, compelling the President to resign– but these powers were never tested (Gonzalez 1989, 3-4). The 1967 Uruguayan constitution retained the President’s right to dissolve Congress and hold new elections after a minister had been censured, but he would not, then, be required to resign (Gillespie 1989, 12-13). Giovanni Sartori proposes a four-type scale running from pure “presidential” [i.e., presidentialist] to pure parliamentary regimes. (5) This typology presupposes the maintenance of representative government. We need, however, to consider a second dimension of variation that runs from truly representative government to open authoritarianism or personal rule. Presidentialist forms may be retained even though their essential functions are lost.

Quasi-presidentiaist refers to a degenerated presidentialist system. Sometimes, regimes that were originally presidentialist become modified in practice when the principle of separation of powers is breached even though it remains nominally in effect. This has usually occurred when Presidential powers were expanded at the expense of the legislature that became a pliant legitimizing body, ratifying without resistance the decisions of the President. Although such regimes are presidentialist de jure, de facto they are not. We might put President in quotation marks to signify a role that appears to follow presidentialist rules but, in fact, violates them. It is often said that a weak legislature combined with “Presidential” domination is endemic in Latin America–countries like Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay provide the exceptions. Quasi-presidentialism may mask the dominant position of a hegemonic political party but it occurs more often, I believe, because an autocratic “President” or a dominant family or clique gains control of the Presidential office. Sometimes, also, unseen military “bosses” determine key policies while the formal office-holders, including the “President,” become their “puppets.” One may argue that most Latin American regimes are only “quasi-presidential”.

Whereas quasi-presidentialism results when an authentic presidentialist regime disintegrates, -pseudo-presidentialism- arises when a presidentialist charter is promulgated as a facade to cover some form of authoritarianism. For example, a military dictator establishing personal rule (Jackson and Rosberg 1982, 10) may adopt the title of “president” and sponsor a charter that copies the presidentialist formula: its elected assembly is politically impotent and the outcome of its presidential elections is predetermined. 

* * *

Constitutional Transformations.

When a presidentialist regime experiences serious crises, one might assume (or hope?) that its political leaders would recognize the need for fundamental reforms and adopt constitutional amendments or new constitutions that move in the parliamentary direction. Instead, what usually happens is a regime breakdown that moves toward authoritarianism, whether formalistically through quasi-presidentialism or more overtly, after a coup d’etat, into pseudo-presidentialism.

Authoritarianism, whether in the form of quasi- or pseudo-presidentialism, is no more stable than pure presidentialism. Ultimately, all forms of dictatorship (including single-party and military authoritarianism) may be overthrown and replaced by constitutional regimes and representative government. Whenever this happens, serious attention is usually given to the design of a new constitution that might overcome the liabilities of earlier schemes.

In such episodes of re-democratization, parliamentary or semi-parliamentary options are often seriously debated, as happened recently in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. However, it seems to be true that almost all ex-presidentialist regimes opt again for a new form of presidentialism. Under these circumstances, it is truly important to understand the survival problems inherent in the presidentialist formula. The practices that have enabled presidentialism to last in the United States might, perhaps, be institutionalized in other countries. However, I believe that most reformers would consider these practices (not presidentialism as such) so essentially undemocratic that they would reject them. When they recognize the costs involved in perpetuating presidentialism, they may be more willing to embrace options that move in the direction of parliamentarism. Until then, they are more likely, unwittingly, to approve presidentialism in a form that also involves quite democratic practices that, unfortunately, undermine the viability of the regime.

Presidentialism, per se, may be neither more nor less “democratic” than parliamentarism, although the American “founding fathers” explicitly prescribed a “republican” formula that they thought would avoid the dangers of populist “democracy.” However, even if one were to grant, provisionally, that presidentialism creates a more open and democratic regime than parliamentarism, one would have to balance this argument against the claim that, if presidentialism is likely to collapse into authoritarianism, then we ought to embrace a less democratic option that has better prospects of survival. Please understand: I do not claim that presidentialism is less democratic than parliamentarism. I only argue that if presidentialism is to survive as a regime type, heavy costs must be born, and some of these costs involve accepting undesirable (undemocratic?) practices. 

* * *

THE TROUBLES OF PRESIDENTIALISM 

In order to maintain the constitutionally prescribed separation of powers based on the election of a head of government for a fixed term of office, several fundamental and typical problems have to be solved in every presidentialist regime. Even though some of them may be solved in a given polity, failure to handle others can lead to deterioration or breakdown. Each major presidentialist problem is a kind of handicap: by itself it may not cause a breakdown but it becomes part of a cumulative and mutually reinforcing set of ruinous forces.

An executive/legislative relationship based on the fixed term of office set for the head of government constitutes the core problem: it generates other difficulties, however, each of which might precipitate a breakdown. Thus the separation vs. fusion of powers issue is not the only critical issue. In addition, each institutional feature of presidentialism–including the Presidential role, the Congress, the political party and electoral system, and the bureaucracy, as they relate to each other–needs to be examined. Questions involving a powerful third branch, the judicial system, are also relevant, but space limitations prevent discussion of this complex subject here. Might it be true, for example, that even a strong Supreme Court could not rescue a presidentialist regime about to collapse, or that a weak judicial system would not undermine such a regime if it had found other ways to cope with its major intrinsic problems? Such doubts reinforce my decision to ignore this important question here, but some tentative thoughts on it can be found in Riggs (1988c, 255 & 269-272). 

* * *

The Presidential Establishment

Although the presidentialist formula only requires, by definition, the election for a fixed term of office of the head of -government,- Presidents also always serve as the head of -state-. In addition, the President is typically also the commander-in- chief and sometimes heads a leading party (or coalition of parties). These overlapping roles create vast expectations . The power vested in the office eems overwhelming, and regime tabilit appears to be assured. Since presidentialist regimes are vulnerable to collapse, however, this is an illusion. No doubt, so long as the regime persists, the fixed term of a President’s office assures more continuity of leadership–despite possible cabinet reorganizations–than can be found in a multi-party parliamentary system vulnerable to frequent cabinet crises. In practice, nevertheless, Presidents are severely hampered in their leadership roles, and their inability to fulfill popular expectations often leads to crises and regime breakdowns. These limitations may be viewed from several perspectives.

* * *

Fusion of Roles.

As head of -government- every President has to make controversial policy decisions that unavoidably alienate substantial portions of the population. Even when a Government’s policies are widely supported, failures and injustices in their implementation are often blamed on the President. Yet Presidents, in their capacity as heads of -state,- are expected to symbolize and attract everyone’s loyalty, providing a common focus of patriotism for all citizens. Clearly, the requirements of the first role often clash with those of the second.

In parliamentary regimes, where loyalty to the head of state (“king” or “ceremonial president”) can easily be dissociated from support/opposition to the head of government (prime minister in cabinet), citizens can more easily sustain their patriotic loyalty to the State while opposing the policies of the Government. When the two roles are linked, however, citizens easily confuse their dissatisfaction with Government with disloyalty to the State. As a result, opposition to the current Administration may produce discontent with the Constitution and provide support for coups and revolutionary movements: opposition to Government easily becomes treason to the State; dissent becomes revolution. The absence of a separate head of state may also deprive the regime of an important moderating force to help conciliate opposing political movements or tendencies in times of emergency.

* * *

Fixed Term of Office.

The fixed term poses a double liability. In the case of effective Presidents it forces them out of office prematurely: one example may be that of Nobel prize winning President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica–his four-year term expired in 1990 and he could not be reelected. The more usual cost, however, is that paid for an ineffectual President who, nevertheless, cannot be constitutionally discharged from office (except for criminal conduct as determined by impeachment). Ironically, one of the reasons for such ineffectiveness is precisely the fixed term: ambitious politicians, even in the President’s own party, often feel that they can best advance their own careers by distancing themselves from the President, building an independent (oppositional) base for future political campaigns, and establishing themselves as opponents of the current regime. This -lame duck- phenomenon occurs in the U.S. near the end of every President’s second term in office, but in many other countries we might even speak of a -dead duck- syndrome that afflicts new Presidents shortly after they assume office. In part this is due to constitutional barriers to any re-election of a President: in the American case, the possibility of at least one re- election (two or more until the enactment of Amendment 22 in 1951) enables a President to postpone the lame duck syndrome.

A dead duck President is not only gravely handicapped, but the growth of political opposition and popular discontent may well bolster the ambitions of a military cabal conspiring to seize power. A coup d’etat is the functional equivalent, under presidentialism, of a removal effort that, in parliamentary regimes, can be achieved by a no-confidence vote. Since coups involve suspending the constitution, Congress is also dissolved, whether or not its resistance contributed to the failures of the Presidency.

* * *

Veto Groups vs Opposition.

A President’s role as head of government is also severely limited by the pervasiveness of -veto groups- such as the legislature, the courts, and the bureaucracy, plus a fractionalized party system. Although these diverse bodies can block executive action, they cannot formulate the coherent alternatives that the political opposition can often produce in parliamentary regimes. Such an opposition may also compel Government to modify policies in a consociational direction (Lijphart 1989, 8), something that presidential veto groups normally fail to do. The possibility that an opposition can replace them means that cabinets must take their views seriously, whereas Presidents are tempted to view their opponents merely as hostile forces to be subdued.

Mainwaring tells us that in the Latin American presidentialist democracies, Presidents have often been able to initiate policies but unable to win support for their implementation (1989, 162). Thus veto groups can block action but they are powerless to bring alternative (opposition) parties to power. Since all Presidents, despite growing opposition and political impotence, must cling to office until they meet their scheduled deadlines, a kind of self-induced nemesis drives them into the dead end of their “lame duck” terms.

* * *

The “Winner-take-all” Syndrome. 

In parliamentary systems, the election of a ceremonial president means relatively little, while the election of party members to Parliament means a great deal–especially to party supporters. Even small parties may “win” to the degree that some of their candidates become Members of Parliament and may even join the Government.

By contrast, in presidentialist systems the electoral stakes are much higher and more concentrated because so much hinges on the selection of a governing President–often, indeed, it is more of a personal than a partisan victory. Presidentialism, writes Juan Linz, “is ineluctably problematic because it operates according to the rule of ‘winner-take-all’–an arrangement that tends to make democratic politics a zero-sum game, with all the potential for conflict such games portend” (1990, 56). There are many losers under presidentialism. Not only defeated parties but even members of a winning party–especially rival candidates for nomination–may feel that they have lost everything when a President is elected, leading to great discontent, alienation and the “dead duck” syndrome, as noted above.

To the degree that patronage prevails–and it is pervasive in all presidentialist regimes–a host of public officials may feel that their continuation in office depends on victory for the ruling party, and private interests supported by the Government also have a large stake in its survival. Consequently, a Presidential victory is a triumph for supporters of the winning candidate and a great loss for opponents (Linz 1990, 56). Understandably, their frustrations easily translate into popular resistance to the Regime rather than loyal opposition to the Government.

In pathological cases, the stakes seem so high that Presidents resort to unconstitutional means to maintain their power, including corruption, violence, and sponsoring proteges (relatives and cronies) so as to perpetuate a “family” dynasty, or even to compel constitutional changes that permit their own reelection. Corruption and violence at the polls often occur as a likely consequence of the high stakes winner-take-all contest.

Such contentiousness may be amplified by the electoral rules. In Peru, for example, until 1979, a President could be elected by a one-third plurality, and Congress could name the President when no candidate won a third of the votes. In Peru’s 1962 election, the leftist (APRA) party’s leader, Haya de la Torre, “beat Balaunde [of the centrist Accion Popular party] by less than one percentage point, 32.9% to 32.l%, with Odria third at 28%.” Since this threw the final choice to Congress, Haya sought first to make an alliance with Balaunde who rejected him, calling instead for new elections (APRA had been charged with electoral irregularities). Haya then turned to his arch rival, Odria, of the right wing PPC. “The specter of a government led by the presidential candidate who had finished third, in an ideologically disparate coalition between two parties that had been enemies for decades, may have been the last straw for the military. The coup came within two days” (McClintock 1989, 28-9). Thus the high-stakes winner-take-all game may even lead the losers to support the desperate expedient of a military coup.

* * *

A Fragile Political/Administrative Base. 

The institutional foundations of a President’s rule are inherently fragile. We may analyze this problem separately at the political (partisan) and the administrative (bureaucratic) levels, although in fact the two are closely interlocked.

At the political level, the contrast with parliamentary systems is instructive. The dependence of cabinets on parliamentary support means both that party discipline is necessary and that a government without parliamentary support must resign. The resulting fusion of powers often enables parliamentary governments to act decisively. By contrast, no such interdependence occurs under the presidentialist separation of powers where a persistent stalemate can block executive action.

Ideally, perhaps, a President’s authority ought to rest on a party system that mobilizes voters to support candidates for election to public offices so that a winning party can ensure Congressional support for Presidential policies. In fact, however, this rarely occurs. Presidentialist party systems vary widely in their capacity to mobilize political support for a President. Some are highly disciplined and others extremely loose, two equally dysfunctional extremes. Disciplined parties, as found in Chile, have prevented the President from getting necessary

Congressional support whenever he lacked a majority. Alternatively, as in Brazil, where party members freely vote their personal preferences, Presidents have responded by flagrantly overriding or flouting the parties that had formally supported their candidacy (Mainwaring, 1990b, 21). Even in the United States, as at present, the majority party in Congress need not be the President’s party, setting the stage for persistent conflict and deadlocks.

In multi-party systems, the President is likely to win only a plurality of popular votes, even though a technical majority may be formed in second round run-off elections or Congressional voting. Such majorities are ad hoc coalitions that soon fall apart, denying the President genuine legislative support for his/her policies: according to Mainwaring, “The combination of presidentialism and a fractionalized multiparty system is especially unfavorable to democracy. (Mainwaring 1990b, 25). See also (Valenzuela 1989, 33).

Even when, in a two-party system, the President’s party has a Congressional majority, the fact that the President cannot be discharged by a majority vote of no confidence may mean that members of the President’s party have little to lose by not supporting a Government bill they do not like. Moreover, party factionalism can also mean that many members of the ruling party consistently vote against the chief executive’s policies and leadership. No doubt, when party discipline is strong, as it has been in Argentina, a Congressional majority will assure support for Presidential policies. Nevertheless, even though the separation of powers may serve its original purpose of preventing arbitrary government, it often fails to provide the political support Presidents require in order to govern effectively.

The inability of Presidents to implement policy is compounded at the administrative level, as illustrated pointedly by the precarious dynamics of “cabinet” formation. A President needs the help of a highly qualified top echelon of department heads and bureaucrats who can administer public policies effectively and also secure Congressional and legal support for Administration policies. However, Presidents jeopardize the separation of powers if they rely either on members of Congress or on career officials to head their departments and form a cabinet. Accordingly, they seek to enhance Congressional support by naming party activists from outside Congress, or they recruit personal followers (even relatives) from the private sector to fill these posts, and to staff the Presidential apparatus, by-passing both elected politicians and experienced public administrators. Consequently, a highly personal style, inter-departmental conflicts and lack of institutionalization at the top levels of Presidential administration typically hampers the processes of governance in presidentialist regimes. 

* * *

The Legislative/Executive Chasm.

Consider the case of Ecuador, which has experienced frequent regime breakdowns, but has restored democratic procedures since 1979. Nevertheless, acute tensions between President and Congress persist, according to Catherine Conaghan, who tells us that shortly after the elections of 1984, “Congressional activity came to a stand still after sessions were marred by tear-gas bombings, fisticuffs on the floor of the assembly, and walk-outs by legislators on both sides. Meanwhile, [President] Febres Cordero had decided to physically bar the new appointees [named by Congress to the Supreme Court] from using their offices and banned the publication of the appointments…” (Conaghan 1989, 20). In 1987, the President was kidnaped by Air Force paratroopers who released him only after he had agreed to confirm the amnesty granted by Congress to two leading opponents of the administration (23-4).

“From 1979 through 1988, Ecuador staggered through a succession of executive-legislative confrontations that created a near permanent crisis atmosphere in the polity” (Conaghan 1989, 25). “Even when Presidents enjoyed a pro-government majority in Congress, the majority could easily erode under the pressures of interest groups and electoral calculations. Congressional opposition was a standard feature in the interruption of Presidential terms with interest groups and the armed forces joining in the fray” (Ibid., 8).

When a President is “…incapable of pursuing a coherent course of action because of congressional opposition… in many cases, a coup appears to be the only means of getting rid of an incompetent or unpopular president..” (Mainwaring 1989, 165). A similar argument can be found in Linz (1990, 53). Stalemate is even more unavoidable when–as noted above–the President’s party has only a minority in the Congress.

To overcome such impasses, Presidents frequently strive to dominate the assembly, a tendency that, in effect, vitiates the principle of separation of powers, leading to quasi-presidentialism and the erosion (or destruction) of presidentialist legitimacy. Embattled Presidents are often tempted to resort to desperate and even unconstitutional measures in order to bypass Congress and achieve their goals (Mainwaring 1989, 168-9). Sometimes, as in the Philippines in 1972, the President suspends Congress and rules by martial law and executive orders.

More often, as in Brazil, according to Mainwaring, all its democratic Presidents sought “…to bypass Congress by implementing policy through executive agencies and decree-laws… the practice of creating new agencies and circumventing congress for major programs…” has grave costs (1990b, 15). “When Quadros and Goulart were frustrated with Congress…they appealed to popular mobilization–with disastrous results in both cases… This strategy was catastrophic, as it further alienated major institutional actors, including the armed forces…” (1990b, 16).

Military interventions are not often explicitly due to an overt impasse between the President and Congress, but rather are attributed to habitual executive abuse or misuse of power provoked by a long-festering history of such conflict. The absence of a coherent opposition that could replace the Government–as noted above–often tempts a President to persist in unwise projects that undermine popular support. No cabinet officer or legislator is powerful enough to compel the President to make serious policy revisions. The frequent replacement of cabinet members not only reflects Presidential weakness but, reciprocally, generates sycophantism and intimidates those who might be able to correct a misguided President.

Since impeachment cannot replace the Government by an opposition party, even fierce opponents may oppose a procedure that will merely replace the President with an even more objectionable vice president. Consequently, the fixed electoral cycle of presidentialism creates structural rigidities that are readily overcome in the alternative parliamentary model by the threat of a cabinet crisis and/or new elections whenever the current leadership is seriously discredited. Is it, therefore, surprising that in such an environment a cabal of officials, mainly military officers, should seize power and overthrow the presidentialist regime?

* * *

Congressional Problematique.

Since the presidentialist formula requires that members of Congress as well as the President be elected for a fixed term of office, it is apparent that every effective Congress will have to cope with a vast and inherently unmanageable agenda. By contrast, in any Parliament, members mainly need only to agree or disagree with Government policies. Even members of a Government party who disagree with its policies will usually support them in order to avoid the likelihood of a new election in which they might lose their seats.

In all contemporary polities the number of complex issues calling for attention is so vast and controversial that it is really impossible for any body of legislators to study and reach collective agreements on all of them. The danger, then, is that an overloaded Congress will fail to act or find itself deadlocked in major controversies. If it is too compliant with Presidential policy demands, it becomes a mere rubber stamp, or it may simply refuse to consider many of the issues that might have been placed on its agenda. If, however, it habitually rejects Government proposals, or offers alternatives that the President will only veto, it can bring the processes of governance to a halt.

Moreover, members of Congress face competing demands that must be terribly frustrating. They are pressured by clients seeking patronage appointments, by local constituencies seeking funds for “pork barrel” projects, and they must mobilize support for re-election campaigns. Essentially, every Congress is placed in a kind of “no-win” situation from which it vainly struggles to extricate itself. Ultimately, it must share with the President a heavy burden of criticism that, all too often, generates military intervention and the breakdown of the regime. 

* * *

The Party System

Since a presidentialist regime is, by definition, a form of representative government, it needs to have an open party system: i.e., it needs electoral competition between two or more effective parties. I believe this is true because the maintenance of genuine legislative power is impossible whenever one party regularly dominates the elected assembly. A one-party system (as in Communist regimes) leads to complete party control of the elected assembly. Even a hegemonic party, in a polity that permits genuine opposition parties, nearly suffocates the Congress. Mexico provides a classic case. There, all the advantages resulting from electoral success belong repeatedly to the PRI and the Congress becomes a pliant legitimizing instrument. The separation of powers required, by definition, in a presidentialist regime is, therefore, incompatible with hegemonic or one-party rule–what I shall refer to as a closed party system. By definition, opposition parties may be permitted to run candidates in free elections, but if they have no real chance of winning power, then the party system is really “closed.”

An open party system, by contrast, is one in which two or more parties have real possibilities of winning power. We cannot use multi-party for this concept because a two-party system is also “open.” No doubt the distinction between two and multi-party systems is significant–as is the distinction between single and hegemonic party systems. However, I see them as sub-types of a more fundamental distinction, i.e., between open and closed party systems. Moreover, among open party systems there is a more fundamental difference based on the dynamics of inter-party competition that we need to consider here. 

* * *

Dynamics of Centrifugalism.

Among open party systems, the most fundamental distinction, I believe, involves the degree to which power is centrifugalized (polarizing) or centripetalized (centering). In the context of this distinction, we can better understand the two- party/multi-party contrast. (6) I believe that the survival of presidentialism is promoted by an open centripetal party system and undermined by one that is centrifugal or closed.

Centripetal forces arise when different parties compete mainly for center votes, i.e., the support of regular, mainstream voters who think of themselves as “independents,” willing to support candidates of any party or even to split their tickets, as current interests, policy issues or political personalities suggest. By contrast, centrifugal forces prevail when more extreme positions are taken by parties seeking to attract the support of non-voters. This typically involves proposing dramatic, populist, costly and controversial policies likely to win the support of apathetic or alienated citizens who normally cannot or will not vote. Unfortunately, most presidentialist regimes have developed centrifugal party systems, thereby creating self- destructive spirals based on circular causation.

* * *

Multiparty Systems.

A voting system that rewards small parties offers strong incentives for marginal groups to become organized and present extremist platforms that can mobilize special interest groups of many kinds, be they street sleepers, religious sects, or ethnic communities or social classes. Such pressures produce multi-party systems that undoubtedly create grave problems for parliamentary systems but they need not destroy them. No doubt each party represented in a coalition cabinet can exercise a veto power by threatening to withdraw, but it also needs the support of other coalition members to achieve any of its goals, often leading even extremists to support consociational accommodations.

By contrast, a centrifugal multi-party system surely undermines any presidentialist regime because its polarized parties lack pressure points vis a vis a fixed-term head of government. Although presidential candidates may temporarily seek the support of extremist parties, as when forming pre-election coalitions, the withdrawal of partisan support will have little influence on Presidents in office. Small parties lack bargaining power and Presidents have no built-in structures to counteract the polarizing tendencies of a centrifugal party system. Indeed, any President who seeks to meet the demands of extremists in Congress soon antagonizes the main-line parties and loses the support needed for policies of more general interest.

Multi-party systems usually lead to minority governments, in two senses. First, a plurality government is one in which a President has won office with a plurality vote, but no absolute majority of the popular vote and, second, a divided government is one where the President continuously faces an antagonistic majority in Congress (where the same party prevails in both branches we may speak of party government). Minority government in both senses is almost unavoidable because of the centrifugal dynamics inherent in multi-party systems : plurality Presidents lack the popular mandate needed to lead effectively, and minority governments cannot gain Congressional support for their policies.

In most of Latin America, sad to say, multi-party systems prevail. Among them, the most successful was probably Chile, “… the only case in the world of a multiparty presidential[ist] democracy that endured for 25 or more consecutive years” (Mainwaring 1989, 168). In Chile, Congress was called upon to make the final choice of a President but, in this situation, a temporary coalition of highly disciplined parties, formed to support the winning candidate, usually soon fell apart (Valenzuela 1989, 32). Thus, “…there was an inadequate fit between the country’s highly polarized and competitive party system, which was incapable of generating majorities, and a presidential[ist] system of centralized authority… As minority Presidents…Chilean chief executives enjoyed weak legislative support or outright congressional opposition. And since they could not seek reelection, there was little incentive for parties, including the President’s own, to support him beyond mid-term” (Valenzuela 1988, 33-4). The resulting sense of “permanent crisis” culminated in 1974 in the Pinochet coup and dictatorship.

A different kind of multi-party presidentialism is found in Brazil where “…Presidents could not even count on the support of their own parties, much less that of the other parties that had helped elect them. Brazilian parties in the two democratic periods have been notoriously undisciplined and incapable of providing consistent block support for presidents” (Mainwaring 1990b, 5). They have tried to cope with the deadlock of congressional opposition based on an extremely fragmented and fluid party system by developing an “anti-party discourse” and have “engaged in anti-party actions.” Often they were “recruited from outside or above party channels…” They usually avoided strong links with any party in order to enhance their political appeal to a broad range of public opinion (Mainwaring 1990b, 9-10).

Whether the individual parties are disciplined or not is certainly important, but I believe that a more important consideration is the centrifugal dynamism of all multi-party systems. Although these dynamics may even invigorate parliamentary systems, they ultimately destroy presidentialist regimes, producing both plurality and divided governments.

* * *

Two-Party Systems.

It is widely thought that two-party systems are generated by presidentialism and conducive to their survival. Actually, multi-partyism is more common in presidentialist regimes, and two-partyism by no means assures their survival. According to Mainwaring, “Two party systems are the exception rather than the rule in Latin America, but among the regions’s more enduring democracies, they are the rule rather than the exception”– including Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela (Mainwaring 1990b, 25).

However, a two-party system is not necessarily a permanent feature of any presidentialist regime, and by no means assures its survival. Since the 1984 election, Uruguay may no longer be classed as a “two-party system” and Venezuela has been a two-party system only during the last 20 years or so. In Asia, two-partyism prevailed in the Philippines from 1946 to 1972, after which President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law, suspended Congress, and created his closed system dominated by the New Society Movement (KBL) (De Guzman and Reforma 1988, 87-95). Actually, it is very difficult to maintain a viable two-party system: it may evolve into a multi-party or hegemonic party system.

Ideally, a two-party system will enable Presidents to secure a majority vote and a popular mandate to rule, with the support of a party majority in Congress. This premise is based on the familiar parliamentary model and fails to appreciate the basic fact that, because of the fixed term, presidentialist regimes lack the basic motor of parliamentarism that promotes party discipline. Even when the President’s party has a Congressional majority, there is no way to guarantee support for the President’s program.

To understand the acknowledged linkage between two-partyism and presidentialism we must first recognize that a two-party system may be centrifugal or centripetal: overcoming executive/ legislative conflicts is much easier with a centripetal two-party system than it is when that system is centrifugalized. To visualize the dynamics of a centrifugal two-party system, consider the situation in Uruguay, often mentioned as a leading example of successful two-party democracy. There, the Colorado party actually held power from 1865-1973–except for a brief interim (1958-62) of control by the opposition Blanco party–suggesting a de facto hegemonic party situation. A military group seized power in 1973, and democracy was not restored until 1985.

Centrifugalization in this “two-party system” was driven by party factionalization and high voter turnouts, leading to deep cleavages between the President and Congress (Gillespie 1989, 15; Gonzalez 1989, 14). The main explanation can be found in Uruguay’s exceptional scheme of proportional representation that permits party factions to present separate lists. This system, known as the “Double Simultaneous Vote,” has produced highly contentious intra-party factions (Gillespie 1989, 15). Even though each list goes under the label of a major party, the candidates on each faction’s list compete with each other just as they would in a multi-party system, and they also provoke wide-spread electoral participation. Consequently, Presidents typically face strong resistance within their own party–in addition to the opposition party.

Thus, when Oscar Diego Gestido was elected in 1967, his faction controlled only a fraction of the Colorado deputies. The resulting standoff, complicated by some quasi-parliamentary features of the constitution, resulted in no “…real control over the Executive but a permanent hindrance of its functioning which ironically increases the tendency toward coups.” In 1973 a military group seized power and dissolved Congress, although Juan Maria Bordaberry was allowed to remain as nominal “President” (Gillespie 1989, 15-17; Gonzalez 1989, 7-8).

A similar rule permits party factions to run separate electoral lists in Colombia and helps to explain the complexity of this country’s highly factionalized and centrifugal “two-party” system. “Factionalization forced each President to create and recreate an effective governing coalition within Congress, making the National Front period resemble a multi-party system” (Hartlyn 1989, 16). Although leading factions of the two main parties supported the Government, other factions of each party went into opposition. Immobilism and deadlock resulted. For further details see Hartlyn (1989, 15-20).

Since multi-party systems are necessarily centrifugal, only a two-party system is compatible, in the long run, with presidentialism. However, this is possible only if the system is centripetal, and as Uruguay and Colombia demonstrate, two-party systems may be highly centrifugal. We will clarify the problem, therefore, if we say that a centripetal open party system is needed. If, as I have argued, multi-party systems are necessarily centrifugal, this means that it must be a two-party system, but having only two parties is not sufficient. 

* * *

Electoral Foundations.

When our focus is on the centripetal/centrifugal distinction among open party systems, we can easily see that the electoral system provides the most important explanation. In general, a wide variety of multi-member-district proportional representation– i.e., PR–systems produce centrifugalized party configurations (normally, but not always, with more than two parties). The attempt to secure a popular majority for the President by means of a second-round run-off election cannot nullify the effects of PR in the first round. Moreover, when congressional elections coincide with the first round balloting for President, as may often be the case, it becomes most “unlikely that a President will enjoy a clear-cut majority in Congress.” This proved to be the case in Ecuador where many parties have proliferated (Conaghan 1989, 12-3).

The rhetoric of two- and multi-party systems lulls us into our preoccupation with the number of parties in a polity and distracts attention from an equally necessary factor, i.e., the internal distribution of power in a party. I believe the survival of presidentialism is as much affected by party-structure as it is by party-system. Yet we cannot easily discuss this dimension because our vocabulary is inadequate. We tend to make a simplified dichotomy between “disciplined” par ties, such as we normally find in parliamentary systems, and the “catch-all” parties found in the United States and, for example, in Brazil. We may also assume that PR leads to disciplined parties and SMD voting to loose parties–generalizing from U.S./European comparisons.

The comparative study of presidentialist regimes will show us, however, that such notions conceal a far more complicated reality in which, assuredly, electoral systems play a role, in combination with regime type. I believe we need to distinguish between at least three dimensions of power distribution found in all political parties: geographic, functional, and relational. We can use centralized/localized to talk about the geographic dimension; concentrated/dispersed for the functional dimension; and integrated/isolated to discuss relations between political parties and other social organizations based on religion, ethnicity, class, occupation, etc. Here I shall focus on the first two, leaving the third for later comment.

I shall use centered to characterize a political party where power is both centralized and concentrated; and fluid for a pattern in which power is both localized and dispersed. Discipline is properly used for the willingness of all legislators belonging to a given party to vote as instructed by their leaders. Clearly the more centered a party, the greater the likelihood that its parliamentary members will be disciplined. By contrast, members of a fluid party are likely to be undisciplined, often refusing to follow their party’s line. We need to retain this distinction between the internal power structure of a party and the voting behavior of its members in an elected assembly.

A party in which power is both centralized and dispersed is factionalized, as illustrated by the Uruguayan and Colombian parties. This pattern is produced, I believe, by an unusual form of PR (the “double simultaneous vote”) that produces a centrifugalized two-party system. Legislative voting will be disciplined (within the factions) and undisciplined (in an all-party sense). A neologism may be required to talk clearly about such cases: we might speak of dia- discipline in the case of factionalized parties.

Party power may be both localized and concentrated in the form of urban machines, such as Tammany Hall and many other political clubs typical of an earlier period in U.S. history. Rather awkwardly, we might speak of such a party as machined or machinist, but I use these words here only to illustrate our need for better terms. Legislative voting in such parties might also be dia-disciplined, but with members following orders from local machine bosses rather than from national faction leaders.

More importantly, however, we need to see that normally PR in a presidentialist regime produces a multi-party system in which the power distribution in individual parties can vary between centered and fluid. Fluid parties are found in Brazil, producing a chaotic Congressional arena where Presidents have to bargain with many individualistic members in order to secure clientelistic support for their policies, often by means of patronage and local (pork barrel) projects. “The extremely loose nature of Brazilian parties has added to the problems caused by the permanent minority situation of Presidents’ parties. Presidents could not even count on the support of their own parties, much less that of the other parties that had helped elect them” (Mainwaring 1990b, 5).

Similarly, in Ecuador, “…politicians of every stripe appear to be afflicted with a significant amount of distaste and disdain for the party system in which they operate.” “Rather than using presidential resources to build up his own party, Febres Cordero [as other Presidents had done] preferred to by-pass parties altogether and create a clientelist network…” (Conaghan 1989, 30) Thus, the efforts of Presidents and other politicians to undermine party solidarity often stimulates, by circular causation, the disruptive effects of fluid parties on legislative performance and the growing frustrations of the chief executive. Conaghan remarks that “What is striking in Ecuadorean political culture and style is the extent to which it has been permeated by an anti-party mentality…” (29). Alternatively, as I propose, one might see the extreme fluidity (localization and dispersal) of such parties as a normal feature of presidentialist regimes that use PR electoral systems.

It is equally normal, however, for such systems to produce highly centered parties, and they are equally dysfunctional for the maintenance of presidentialist regimes. The best example can be found in Chile where well disciplined (ideological) parties often combine to produce a solid opposition front whenever a President cannot sustain the majority coalition in Congress that brought him to power (Valenzuela 1989, 32-3).

In parliamentary systems, of course, PR also leads to centered parties–the dynamics of parliamentarism simply renders a fluid party non-viable. Moreover, centered parties are functional for the maintenance of parliamentary accountability because they produce discipline. Of course, reciprocally, the need for discipline has a feed-back effect which encourages electoral rules that generate centered parties. In presidentialist systems, by contrast, PR can produce parties that are fluid, centered, or factionalized: always in a centrifugalized party system and always dysfunctional for the maintenance of presidentialism. Moreover, neither President nor Congress seems to have any systemic means to counteract these party dynamisms.

Fortunately, between the polar extremes identified above some intermediate intra-party power distributions are also possible. Here our vocabulary is, again, quite inadequate. Provisionally, I shall use responsive to characterize an intra-party distribution of power that combines local autonomy with headquarters guidance, and permits intra-party groups to organize informally but not to become oppressively prominent. On the two basic power dimensions, responsiveness falls between centered and localized, and between concentrated and dispersed. In the section, Predictable Enigma, I argue that the survival of presidentialism in the United States hinges, among various factors, on the responsiveness of its political parties and the semi-disciplined voting patterns that this engenders. The causes are no doubt complex, but they surely include reliance on a single-member-district (SMD) plurality system for the election of legislators, plus the freedom to abstain from voting and a variety of other factors that will be explained below, under Centripetal Party System.

[figure 1 may be inserted here] 

* * *

Bureaucratic Dilemmas

The urgent need of any chief executive to be surrounded by competent and loyal officials capable of managing and coordinating the administration of government directs attention to a major problem that is easily overlooked by analysts predisposed to focus on the “political” aspects of governance at the expense of its “administrative” dimensions. Yet failure to administer well has dire political consequences. Public confidence declines and discontents soar, producing the kinds of unrest that lead, so often, to revolutionary movements and coups.

Moreover, many activities that are nominally administrative in character actually have strong political implications–for example, appointments to public office and administrative reorganizations, including the establishment of new agencies, can vitally affect a President’s power position, and influence the disposition of members of Congress to support or oppose a President’s policies. Perhaps, above all, bureaucratic power often expands to such a degree that public (especially military) officials become major actors in the political arena–sometimes even seizing power by a coup d’etat. Because the political implications of bureaucratic dilemmas are so often misunderstood, we need to take a closer look at these problems as they occur in presidentialist regimes.

* * *

The Power of Modern Bureaucracy.

The main instrument for administering any modern government is typically a bureaucracy whose members–military as well as civil–depend largely on their salaries to support themselves and their dependents. This feature of modern bureaucracy contrasts with the situation found in traditional bureaucracies where modest official stipends were normally supplemented by various kinds of legal but non-official income (Riggs 1991, 2-6). (7)

The significance of this fact becomes apparent when we remind ourselves that officials, like all other people, have their own interests to defend. However, their control over public offices and resources gives them weapons of power (especially in the armed forces) not available to most citizens. Unless their incomes are secure and their conduct is well monitored, guided and supervised by constitutional organs and popular forces, bureaucrats are easily able to exploit public office for personal advantage, as by widespread corruption and sinecurism. When they really feel threatened, they can also, under military leadership, seize power by a coup d’etat.(8)

The Need for Patronage. The public interest in contemporary societies requires that many bureaucrats, especially those in leadership and technocratic positions, be experienced and highly qualified to perform difficult tasks. The necessary qualifications are best assured by the establishment of a “merit” system designed to recruit well trained persons whose continuing (tenured) experience in government service enables them to perform effectively.

In parliamentary democracies–and even under single-party domination and in traditional monarchies–the development of experienced cadres of public officials is usually possible, and ruling elites or cabinets are able to rely, for the most part, on career bureaucrats to staff and implement their politically-driven policies in ways that are essentially technocratic and professional.

By contrast, in presidentialist regimes, the structurally precarious position of Presidents–for reasons discussed above–would be seriously jeopardized were they to depend on career officials to staff the highest bureaucratic offices, including cabinet positions. Moreover, Presidents cannot recruit sitting members of Congress to serve as cabinet members without endangering the autonomy and power of the executive office, nor is it possible for non-elective cabinet members to hold seats in the assembly without jeopardizing the balance of power. In this necessarily precarious position, Presidents have no option but to recruit a large number of leading officials, starting at the cabinet level, from outside the government service: they cannot be either career officials or elected politicians.

Consequently, heavy reliance on patronage appointments (clientelism, cronyism and spoils) is a prevalent and necessary feature of all presidentialist systems. It entails fateful political and administrative costs. The most apparent is a lack of experience, qualifications, and dependability–Presidents must, on very short notice, try to assemble a “team” of personal supporters to manage the Government and direct a host of subordinates whose interests and obligations often conflict with those of the President.

Members of Congress also have a compelling interest in patronage. They typically seek posts for their supporters (clients) in order to maintain the political support without which they could not be elected. This gives them a powerful incentive and basis for bargaining with a beleaguered President: they can trade votes for favors. This is no trivial matter since their own power base may be seriously undermined if they cannot secure appointments for their proteges. Consequently, the indispensable minimum of political appointees needed to staff a presidentialist regime’s top posts is vastly inflated because both the President and the Congress need patronage to maintain the system.

Presidents typically need patronage to gain legislative support for their policies. Hartlyn reports that in Colombia a “…President had massive appointive powers, whose significance was augmented by the importance of spoils and patronage to the clientelist and brokerage oriented parties and by the absence of any meaningful civil service legislation. Presidents could appoint cabinet ministers without congressional approval” (1989, 13). The effect of the growing power of the President was “…to marginalize Congress further from major decisions, reducing its functions to ones of patronage, brokerage and management of limited pork barrel funds” (21).

Mainwaring reports that, in Brazil, “The only glue (and it is a powerful one at times) that holds the President’s support together is patronage–and this helps explain the pervasive use of patronage politics” (1990b, 7). “Both Vargas and Kubitschek pressed for reforms that would strengthen the merit system and protect state agencies from clientelistic pressures, but they were defeated by a Congress unwilling to relinquish patronage privileges” (6).

Here we find a classic double bind: the President needs patronage to secure congressional support and members of Congress cannot abandon clientelism without undermining their own political support base. Only a judicious use of patronage can sustain the separation of power needed for presidentialism to survive. Thus, although both President and Congress need a non- partisan career system in the bureaucracy in order to implement their policies effectively,

neither can afford to embrace a merit system without undermining their own precarious power base and threatening the presidentialist balance of power. 

* * *

The Tenacity of Retainers.

In every polity bureaucratic self-interest produces additional problems that involve officials in office. Most conspicuously, in presidentialist regimes, this concerns the retention/rotation dilemma. In all non-presidentialist regimes, as noted above, almost all appointed officials are recruited and retained on a career basis. In presidentialist systems, by contrast, powerful forces lead to patronage appointments under a succession of elected officials, including both the President and members of Congress. What happens to these appointees when new elections bring new personalities and political parties into power? Will they be able to keep their jobs, or will they be discharged?

It is much easier to hire than to fire, and those in office fight to keep their jobs: no doubt they are more interested and powerful than are candidates seeking new posts. We need to recognize a large class of political appointees who are able to retain their positions–I refer to them as retainers. Although they remain in office, they are often down-graded and humiliated (siberianized) when new political appointees replace them in higher office. Only their dependence on salaries and their eagerness to protect their personal security and fringe benefits lead them to put up with many humiliations. Predictably, however, demoralized and underpaid officials do unsatisfactory work and lower the quality of public administration.

Moreover, because bureaucratic retainers work on a salary basis and depend on government for their income and security, they will often (when their livelihood is threatened) support a coup. Its military leaders are not only enraged by the policy failures of a regime but they want to safeguard the interests of all public employees, not just themselves. In all bureaucratic revolts, military officers play the dominant role because they control the means of violence, but they need the support of civil servants in order to run the government successfully. This is why I use bureaucratic polity for the resultant dictatorships, rather than the superficial term, “military authoritarianism.”

Merit-based careerism will surely help any regime cope with the serious crises that might lead to a coup simply by improving the quality of public administration. However, it is extremely difficult to establish such a system, not only because of short-term Presidential and Congressional resistance, but also because retainers see it as a threat that must be fiercely resisted. In order to pave the way for careerists to replace retainers, rotation in office must first be accepted. A government must be able to discharge incumbents in order to create the vacancies that a new class of careerists can fill. Yet attempts by any presidentialist regime to enforce a rotation policy generate fierce resistance and usually compel Governments to compromise with incumbents rather than risk the serious costs of mass lay-offs, including a possible coup d’etat.

A costly alternative to rotationism was developed in Chile where civil servants could retire “…with fifteen years service and a relatively good pension. Agency heads, however, would retire with what was known as la perseguidora–a pension that kept pace with the salary of the current occupant of the post retired from…. Agency heads were thus appointed as a culmination of their careers and could be persuaded to retire to allow a new President to make new appointments” (Valenzuela 1984, 262). Another common bureaucratic practice in Chile deprived officials of significant functions while respecting their job security: “The haustoria (or common grave), a series of offices for individuals with no official responsibilities… became a feature of many agencies” (ibid., 264). Moreover, “…new agencies…that could carry forth new program initiatives of the new administration were brought into existence without having to abolish older ones. Even the conservative and austerity-minded Jorge Alessandri added 35,000 new employees to the public sector during his tenure in office” (ibid., 263). This practice enables a President to make patronage appointments without discharging incumbent officials.

In Brazil, similarly, Presidents often expanded the apparatus of government by creating new state agencies in order to enhance their power and overcome Congressional resistance (Mainwaring l989, 169). By such means, some of the short-term political benefits of rotationism have been achieved, but only at immense cost. Most importantly, by thwarting the establishment of merit-based career systems, they have perpetuated a deep flaw that helps us explain the collapse of most presidentialist regimes.

* * *

Structural Poly-normativism.

A second fundamental problem for all presidentialist bureaucracies involves the need of bureaucrats to be responsive concurrently to the separate authority of the President, Congress and the Courts. This results, as David Rosenbloom has pointed out, in three sets of criteria governing bureaucratic performance that frequently clash with each other, generating bureaucratic poly-normativism. Presidential authority can lead to emphasis on the managerial values of efficiency and effectiveness; Congressional demands may generate insistence on political responsibility and responsiveness; and Judicial decisions often give priority to standards of legality and the protection of citizens’ rights versus bureaucratic abuse of power (Rosenbloom 1983). A fourth criterion, suggested by the discussion of patronage, involves partisan pressures. Indeed, it may be true that in all political systems partisanship can play an important role in public bureaucracies. This is especially true of presidentialist regimes, however, where it has disastrous consequences.

Even where a “non-partisan” merit system has been established, as it was in the Philippines because of American influence, career officials are often openly partisan. Carino reports that “…a third of middle-level bureaucrats in a survey mentioned helping in an electoral campaign– against civil service rules. Another third acknowledged nurturing political ambitions…” “Civil servants also sometimes played off the executive against Congress, claiming the ability to get appropriations despite the absence of the President’s support” (1989, 12, 14). In addition to the career officials, of course, in the Philippines, as in all presidentialist polities, there were always a good many overtly partisan Presidentially appointed “…agency heads and such aides as could be justified as ‘policy determining, highly technical or primarily confidential'” (1989, 10).

This was the “normal” pattern of bureaucratic politics in the Philippines, always involving substantial Congressional intervention, before the advent in 1972 of the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. He sought to institutionalize an intermediate, highly politicized and well paid, layer of political appointees, the “Career Executive Service,” to become vehicles of his authoritarian regime and to help him perform functions of the dissolved Congress. Since the advent of President Corazon Aquino in 1986 and the attempt to re-establish a democratic presidentialist regime, there have been sweeping bureaucratic replacements, purges of many officials, and tumultuous reorganization schemes. The partisanship involved in this highly traumatic and often unsuccessful effort to “de-Marcosify” the bureaucracy are summarized by Carino (1989) and described in more detail in her monograph (1988).

In Chile a partisan type of merit system evolved. According to Valenzuela, “The Chilean civil service was recruited and promoted through a Chilean version of the spoils system: party recommendations, and legislative support, in addition to formal credentials, were important in gaining entry and crucial in rising to higher office. The civil service was fragmented… by strong partisan loyalties that prevented the development of institutional loyalties” (1984, 271).

In practice, therefore, public officials in presidentialist regimes are typically cross-pressured from four main sources: the President, Congress, Courts, and Political Parties. Although comparable cross-pressures can no doubt be found in non-presidentialist regimes, they are less disruptive of administrative performance in them than they are in presidentialist systems where, I believe, they augment the forces contributing to the collapse of these regimes mentioned above. Further details on this subject can be found in Riggs (1993b). 

* * *
THE SURVIVAL OF PRESIDENTIALISM IN AMERICA

All of the resulting from the presidentialist design that have been enumerated above compel us to conclude, I believe, that it would be amazing if any country could maintain such a regime for any length of time. The likelihood of catastrophe is simply too great. Any one of these major problems could lead to disaster, but normally, we may assume, adverse results are due to the cumulative and mutually reinforcing consequences of many unsolved problems. No one of them by itself can be blamed for the collapse of a presidentialist regime but, cumulatively, they generate insoluble difficulties that lead to catastrophe.

Moreover, disasters typically occur in stages. The economy may stagnate and civil strife break out, provoking foreign interventions, even though the formalities of presidentialism are maintained. Sometimes, a frustrated and angered President will then usurp power and by-pass Congress, leading to quasi-presidentialism. Power may become concentrated in the hands of an authoritarian “President” or, more often, in behind-the-scenes military, family, or social elites and factions. Eventually, revolution, military or foreign intervention may occur, accompanied by complete suspension of the constitution.

It is, perhaps, comforting to note that military bureaucratic and autocratic regimes are themselves unstable. They provoke growing resistance and even external pressures that often lead to their collapse and, possibly, to the restoration of constitutional government. At such times it is important to understand the prospects and costs of presidentialism by contrast with its parliamentary alternatives. An explanation of the survival of presidentialism in the U.S. by contrast with its fate elsewhere will, surely, contribute immensely to such an understanding. 

* * *

A Procedure

In the light of the problems identified in Part II, we need not be astonished at the fate of the thirty or so polities that adopted the American presidentialist scheme, by contrast with the greater ability of parliamentary regimes to survive. No doubt, some contextual variables help to account for the striking U.S. exception: for example, are North Americans more “practical,” “tolerant,” or “problem oriented” than the citizens of Latin America, as some analysts assert? Have geographic, economic, cultural, historical, or social advantages of various kinds facilitated the perpetuation of presidentialism in America? Such claims are often made to explain the apparent viability of American presidentialism.

I feel helpless to evaluate these claims. Moreover, insofar as we may be interested in the possibility that other states–especially the new Republics in the East–will want to emulate the American model, we need to consider the proposition that, if environmental conditions are the determining factors, they cannot be replicated in other countries; but if rules and practices that can be changed by political decisions are decisive, their adoption by others might enable them to establish or perpetuate presidentialist regimes.

To the degree that important political practices found in the United States are not found in other presidentialist regimes, their absence may have explanatory significance. We do need comparative data to reach any persuasive conclusions. The single American case cannot provide conclusive evidence to support any important causal explanations, but it can suggest hypotheses that may be tested by the comparative study of presidentialist regimes. If practices that seem to be associated with the survival of American presidentialism are missing in countries where presidentialism has failed, then this evidence provides empirical support for the hypotheses. We must not reject comparisons between the U.S. and other presidentialist regimes because of the failures of the latter–rather, they provide the information we need in order to explain the relative success of the United States.

I say “relative success” because some observers now wonder whether or not American presidentialism can continue to survive in the face of growing world complexity and interdependency. For example, Philip Cerny has recently offered an English political scientist’s opinion that “The Madisonian formula of checks and balances–federalism and the separation of powers–provided a resilient and flexible means during the nineteenth century…” By contrast, he argues, at the present time “…the capacity of the United States to play an effective role in an increasingly interpenetrated world has frequently been undermined in significant ways by the workings of the system. …as other countries adapt more effectively than the United States to contemporary conditions, the American system of government both exacerbates crises and stalls solutions. Such counterproductive propensities threaten continually to turn an otherwise manageable hegemonic decline into a steep and slippery slope” (1989, 47-48). “The effects of Madisonian entropy are already reaching a critical point, seriously compromising the capacity of the United States to respond coherently to the challenges of the future” (Ibid., 55). Although federalism may well be a liability in presidentialist regimes, it may also be an asset, in my opinion, for reasons explained at Role of Federalism. –see also note 19.

No doubt, increasingly, foreign friends will become more aware than Americans of the serious limitations of presidentialism. Fortunately, however, there are a few American political scientists who are seriously studying the problems inherent in the American presidentialist system and proposing significant constitutional reforms. In 1963 Quentin Quade argued that “American government is inadequate for the responsibilities confronting it…” and that we need “…a fundamental alteration of our political institutions” (Quade 1963, 73). A collection of documents offering diagnoses of the problem and proposed reforms is contained in Robinson (1985). This work reflects the efforts of the Committee on the Constitutional System–under the leadership of Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Lloyd N. Cutler and C. Douglas Dillon–to pro mote serious inquiry into the need for and possibility of some basic reforms in the American constitution (cf. also Hardin 1974 and 1989; Robinson 1985 and 1989; and Sundquist 1986).

* * *

The Fruits of Comparison.

So far, unfortunately, these analyses pay scant attention to comparisons with other presidentialist regimes. Instead, they focus on parliamentary democracies and on the strategic considerations that might block or support proposed reforms. To view the American case in a broader perspective, consider the sad Argentinian experience. By the 1920’s, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal cited with approval by N. Guillermo Molinelli, Argentina was “one of the world’s richest countries, had a democratically elected government, an elaborate university system, a literacy rate close to 90%, one of the best credit ratings in the world, and its per capita output of goods and services in 1929 was four times higher than Japan’s” (1988, C6-7).

Since then, starting with the first of six military coups in 1930, political instability has prevailed, and “Argentinians have suffered an increasing economic downward trend, characterized by more and more inflation and less and less growth. Today, most Argentinians know that theirs is the only underdeveloping country of the world, ‘going back from the First World to the Third in a generation'” (loc. cit.). The explanation of this huge disaster, I believe, is primarily political (and institutional) rather than ecological. Carlos Waisman offers a somewhat different but relevant explanation (1989, 160-2). Argentina’s fate can, assuredly, happen to any other country, including the U.S., that strives to govern itself by the antiquated and increasingly non-viable 18th century presidentialist model: past successes provide no assurances for the future.

The Argentine case illustrates another point: although we often assume that economic conditions determine political systems–as when we compare “industrialized democracies” and relegate comparisons among “third world” countries to a separate category–we may also want to consider the possibility that political institutions affect, though they do not determine, the nature and extent of economic growth or “development.” Put differently, political systems may provoke economic decline, as the ex-Communist countries have now discovered.

Finally, and ironically, democratizing reforms in some Latin American countries undermined the stability of presidentialist regimes that had previously seemed to work rather well. Many of the traditions that seem to explain the survival of American presidentialism appear to have “undemocratic” implications. Not surprisingly, they have often been rejected elsewhere in favor of rules or practices that seemed to be more “democratic.” Actually, some American traditions are currently under severe attack in the U.S. precisely because of their undemocratic implications and, if my conjectures are correct, reforming them may undermine the continuing viability of the U.S. system. In this connection, see the last paragraph under Constitutional Transformations.

The analysis offered here includes points routinely made in constitutional studies by American political scientists. However, several differences should be pointed out. Most importantly, the usual premise of these analyses is that the separation of powers not only safeguards democratic freedoms but it poses no serious problems for system survival. When constitutional issues have been debated in the U.S., according to James Sundquist, they have focused on such details as the length of presidential and congressional tenure, links between the cabinet and Congress, the direct election of senators, the amendment process, approval of treaties, the war power, and (in a limited academic environment) questions of leadership and accountability growing out of the divided (executive/legislative) powers (1986, 41-74). Sundquist also notes, “…no amendment that would contravene the separation of powers principle has ever been debated on the floor of either house of Congress, and few have even been proposed…. When structural amendments have been debated in the halls of Congress, proponents have been at pains to insist…that their proposed changes would certainly not weaken, or would even reinforce, the constitutional structure of checks and balances” (Sundquist 1986, 40-41).

No doubt, some American political scientists have questioned the long-term viability and utility of presidentialism, but their ideas have not provoked much general interest or debate. For example, almost half a century ago Charles McIlwain wrote that, “For this dissipation of governmental power [i.e., the separation of powers inherent in presidentialism] with its consequent irresponsibility I can find no good precedents in the constitutional history of the past. The system has worked disaster ever since it was adopted, and it is not the outcome of earlier political experience… It is a figment of the imagination of eighteenth century doctrinaires who found it in our earlier history only because they were ignorant of the true nature of that history” (1947, 143).

Had McIlwain’s warnings been seriously heeded, we would long since have undertaken a serious popular debate on presidentialism and the high costs of preserving the archaic American constitutional system. Today, in the light of comparative analysis based on the experience of countries that have emulated the American model, it is even more urgent to engage in such a debate, not only for the sake of the U.S. itself, but also for the future of other countries–notably the newly independent Republics of the USSR and Eastern Europe–that are today seriously considering the possibility of new constitutional frameworks for representative government and democracy.

In the discussion that follows, I shall try to identify some of the important practices–para- constitutional in character (Riggs 1988c)–that appear to play a significant role in enabling the American presidentialist system to survive. I do not argue that any one of them is a necessary condition for the persistence of presidentialism, and certainly no one is a sufficient condition. Taken as a whole, however, we need to ask ourselves how the presence, or absence, of these practices affects the survival of presidentialism. I shall now discuss each of the major problems identified in Part II (omitting the need for a powerful judicial system only because this question is too complex for the kind of brief treatment that might be possible here), starting with the role of a head of government (President) elected for a fixed term of office. 

The American Presidency.

No good solution has been found to overcome the essential limitations on the Presidency dictated by the separation of powers and its precondition, a fixed term of office. In presidentialist regimes the role of President has been called a “winner-take- all” competition, leaving many powerful and frustrated losers whose bitterness in defeat undermines the viability of the new government (Juan Linz 1990, 55-8). However, in the United States, the stakes appear to be considerably lower than they are in other countries with the same rules for choosing the head of government–resulting in fewer embittered losers, and hence less antagonism against the President.

* * *

Lower Stakes.

A number of significant features of the American political system reduce the weight of the Presidential sweepstakes. Similar features are found in some but not most other presidentialist systems.

Because of federalism, real power in the United States is distributed by constitutional mandate among the fifty sovereign “states.” Much of the decision-making power that affects the average citizen, the success or failure of most politicians and the fate of office-seekers is determined at the local level–not only in the sovereign states, but also in cities, counties, towns, and other jurisdictions having delegated authority. Although Presidential power rises above that of all sub-national politicians, it is nevertheless shared with a host of elected officials. Because of the “responsive” two-party system (see last paragraph under Business of Capitalism ) the President cannot command the loyalty nor control the actions of innumerable locally powerful politicians–including members of his own party–with whom his/her power is shared.

By contrast, to a large degree, power is much more centralized in most presidentialist systems, even when the system is formally “federal.” Although Venezuela is a “federal republic,” the governors of its states are appointed by the President; in the Philippines power is highly centralized despite changing constitutional and legal provisions for local self-government. The Mexican federal constitution authorizes each member state to have its own constitution and elect its governor, but in practice only candidates of the President’s party, the PRI, win these elections and power is highly centralized. Argentina has a federal constitution that authorizes the provinces to elect their own governors and legislatures, but in practice the central government exercises overwhelming power.

Brazil has long been a genuine federation, but since 1930, under the domination of President Getulio Vargas, central power has increasingly prevailed over state power. According to Abdo Baaklini, “Vargas’ reforms and programs transformed the federal government’s role in the socioeconomic realm… The role of state governments was irrevocably diminished… The federal system of government and its decentralization that Brazil enjoyed until 1930, gave way to a more centralized system… The governor’s role as a counter balance that the governor had vis a vis the president during the old republic was undermined. From then on the presidency became the undisputed power center of the entire political system.” The period prior to 1930 represented “…the highest degree of institutional stability that Brazil has attained” (2). Its subsequent history has been highly unstable (1991, 2 and 4).

The separation of powers in the Federal government, of course, also means that Presidential power is shared with Congress and an extremely powerful judicial system. In addition, there are many autonomous governmental bodies, like the Federal Reserve Board, whose powers are not subject to Presidential control. Because of the vigorous independence of the private sector in the United States, including not only capitalist profit-making corporations but also a vibrant non-profit (third) sector, the range of Presidential decision-making is also significantly restricted. Except in times of grave national emergency, as during an economic depression or war, when central controls over the economy multiply, it may not make much difference who occupies the Oval Office. By contrast, in other presidentialist systems, despite the existence of capitalism and free market institutions, governmental powers are often more extensive than in the United States, especially where corporatism prevails.

Within the Federal bureaucracy, the overwhelming majority of bureaucratic offices are now filled on a non-partisan career basis. Because career advancement occurs primarily within specific programs and government agencies are strongly oriented to legislative committees, Congressional influence over career officials is very strong by contrast with the relative weakness of Presidential control. This means that extremely powerful structures within the bureaucracy exercise considerable autonomy–in collaboration with private interest groups and legislative committees (i.e., the “iron triangles”)–again limiting the real power of the President. By contrast, in other presidentialist regimes, the number of people whose jobs hinge on the outcome of a Presidential election is terrifyingly great, magnifying the stakes of the game.

Finally, the moderate, compromising platforms offered in the context of a centripetal two-party system means that the actual programs of the government are never radically transformed, regardless of who wins the Presidential elections. By contrast, in most presidentialist regimes a new head of government is more likely to initiate far-reaching changes with important consequences for large sectors of the population.

Insofar as a crisis atmosphere created by the winner-take-all character of Presidential elections prevails in most presidentialist systems, we can understand why it contributes so much to the instability of these regimes. By contrast, the relatively low stakes involved in the American Presidential sweepstakes contributes to the capacity of this system to survive.

* * *

Surrogates for the Head of State.

No doubt, a dampened role as elected head of government permits American Presidents to serve better as head of state. Nevertheless, because Presidents must still take sides in many controversies, their actions as head of government are necessarily more salient than their ceremonial role as head of state. To compensate for the inherent weakness of the President as head of state, impersonal symbols play an exceptionally important role in America, contributing to a sense of national unity or patriotism that the President, in person, cannot sustain.

Americans pledge allegiance to the flag (consider the recent outrage about flag burning and calls for a constitutional amendment to ban such protests), sing the national anthem, visit patriotic monuments and the Statue of Liberty: above all, they honor the constitution and take oaths to support it, even though they often know little about its real meaning. Thus the American “Constitution” is reified, a glamorized myth, more or less loosely based on the written charter. Eric Black tells us that “..the Constitution that binds us is the one we have in our heads. That mythic Constitution performs functions no 200-year-old parchment ever could. It functions as the bible of our national civic religion” (Black 1988, 173).

No doubt other presidentialist regimes also have some functionally equivalent symbols, though I cannot comment on their potency. However, I believe it would be rare to find a presidentialist Constitution that commands so much unquestioned patriotism as does the 200-year old American prototype. As the recent flurry of constitution drafting in ex-presidentialist countries reveals, there is a widespread willingness to question and reassess pre-existing constitutions, even though in every case the new version has been some form of presidentialist charter. In most presidentialist regimes, I suspect, the Constitution is viewed as a product of expediency, a more or less useful set of rules for the conduct of government, but far from a sacred symbol of national identity.

* * *

Presidential Powers.

Considerable variation exists among presidentialist regimes concerning the powers constitutionally assigned to the office, ranging from extensive authority, especially in emergencies, to carefully limited powers. May we assume that both extremes are dysfunctional, leading to imbalances in the executive/legislative relationships. The intermediate powers assigned to the American President are probably conducive to system survival, but this is not a question about which I feel able to say anything more concrete. Certainly, however, it deserves careful study.

It is also clear that historical and personal factors affect the vigor with which different Presidents exercise whatever powers they hold by constitutional fiat. Energetic leaders, during emergencies, such as war or depression, exercise more power than weaker persons in ordinary times. A weak President during a great crisis may be faulted for the collapse of a regime, but because of the low stakes discussed above, even a relatively ineffective American President is not likely to cause a breakdown of the system. Variations in Presidential leadership style and capabilities naturally interest historians–especially those who focus on one country in a non-comparativist mode–and may help explain a particular constitutional debacle. However, they have little bearing on the questions studied here.

One restriction, however, has important implications that need to be mentioned here: namely term limits that produce the lame duck phenomenon, a drastic reduction of Presidential powers during a final term in office. American presidents were not truly vulnerable to this phenomenon until 1951, when the twenty-second Constitutional amendment (to limit American Presidents to two terms in office) was adopted. Even now, during the President’s first term, the lame duck syndrome is avoided.

By contrast, in many if not most Latin American countries, Presidents are limited to one term. This restriction was often imposed as a democratic safeguard against serious abuses caused by incumbent presidents who used unconstitutional means to enable them to repeat their terms in office. However, such term limitations seriously hamper many presidents who find that, almost as soon as they have been sworn in, rival and defeated candidates begin to organize campaigns against them and to undermine their efforts to govern effectively. This is a good example of a democratic reform that undermines the viability of presidentialism. 

* * *

The Legislative-Executive Balance.

 All modern representative governments require the concurrent exercise of authority by a dynamic leader (or small group) and a restraining/ legitimizing representative body (9) The relationship between the two countervailing centers of political legitimacy are never easy to manage, but the parliamentary principle works more smoothly than the presidentialist one. When a cabinet can be ousted at any time by a parliamentary no-confidence vote, the leadership can act vigorously so long as it retains a majority, and yet it can be held strictly accountable. By contrast, a fixed term of office for the head of government sets up a built-in opposition (“separation of powers”) between President and Congress in every presidentialist regime. Presidents must often choose between abuse of their powers in order to accomplish much-needed policy objectives or a supine posture of doing only what Congress mandates.

The formula invented by the American founding fathers was designed to prevent the abuse of power by safeguarding the interests of minorities (especially propertied minorities). It has worked well to accomplish this goal, but it could not anticipate the growing need of modern governments to provide effective policy leadership and implementation over a wide range of extremely complex issues. Moreover, a formula that can, indeed, safeguard civil rights and human freedoms offers small comfort for democracy when it collapses in the face of problems it cannot solve, only to be replaced by dictatorships. Juan Linz, commenting on the dangers of imbalance in the legislative/executive relations of presidentialist regimes points out that presidentialism is based on “…dual democratic legitimacy: no democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people” (1990, 63).

To illustrate this problem, consider the Argentine experience where, according to Guillermo Molinelli, executive/legislative relations have evolved in such a way as to enhance Presidential powers at the expense of Congress. One result has been the erosion of the authority of the regime and the “probable role of this low level [of authority] in a general loss of political legitimacy as a concurring factor for coups d’etat” (1988, 22). This long term trend has been reinforced by the norms promulgated by authoritarian rulers during Argentina’s six periods of “de facto” (military) rule, between 1930 and 1983. Each time, when democratic government was restored, these decisions might have been revoked by the new President, “but it seems unrealistic to expect such generous behavior: power is power is power.” Although Congress would have good reason to revoke new norms that typically curtailed legislative authority, any such law would be “…subject to Presidential veto, which can only be overridden with 2/3 of the votes in each chamber… It is a sort of Catch-22 situation” (1988, 31). (10)

* * *

The Party Line.

A critical element affecting the legislative/executive relationship in presidentialist regimes involves the role of political parties. In the American case, exceptionally, a centripetal open party system prevails, and the distribution of power within each of the main parties is responsive — see discussion under Electoral Foundations No doubt it has often happened, in America, that the President’s party also held a majority in Congress. Between 1796 and 1945 the same party dominated both the Presidency and Congress three-quarters of the time–the ratio fell to less than half since 1945 and less that one-third since 1968 (Robinson 1989, 43). Thus the phenomenon of divided government has been increasing in the U.S. while its opposite, party government, has declined. However, we must not exaggerate its importance. Having an undivided government by no means assures Presidents of Congressional support for their policies, though it surely helps. Our habit of comparing presidentialism with parliamentary systems leads us to assume that the solution involves party discipline and, somehow, finding a way to give Presidents a partisan majority in Congress.

In fact, however, American Presidents who lack a partisan majority in Congress–a continuing recent phenomenon–have, nevertheless, been able to secure legislative support for many of their main policies and, because of the veto power, they can abort laws that they seriously oppose. Consequently, despite continuous tension between President and Congress in the U.S., it has been possible to reach sufficient accord on fundamental issues for the two institutions to coexist. We need to learn why this has been possible–and how the main problems due to the separation of powers can be overcome.

The grave disadvantages for a President of fluid parties are well illustrated by the Brazilian situation where the extreme individualism or fluidity of Congressional voting puts every bill at risk and compels the President to bargain separately with every member in order to secure a winning package. “Brazilian catch-all parties,” writes Mainwaring, “make the U.S. parties appear to be the paragon of well disciplined, cohesive parties” (1989, 167). By contrast, however, in a few countries, e.g., Chile and Venezuela, discipline in its centered parties is exceptionally strong. When the President lacks a Congressional majority, as was typically the case in Chile before 1974 when Maj. Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power, the President also experienced grave difficulties in maintaining Congressional support.

These examples suggest that the legislative/executive relationship may be impaired by excesses of partisan discipline/indiscipline. Both the domination exercised by party leaders over the votes of their members in centered parties, and the complete absence of such control found in fluid parties are equally dysfunctional for presidentialism, whereas party domination over the votes of legislators is both necessary for, and produced by, the dynamics of parliamentarism. 

* * *

A Predictable Enigma. 

In the American case, exceptionally, an intermediate degree of partisan responsiveness grounds Congressional support of Presidential policies, while always making the outcome of Congressional votes indeterminate. Enough party discipline exists so that American Presidents can normally count on the support of a substantial number of members of their own party, and they also know that a significant proportion of opposition party members will predictably oppose their initiatives. Consequently, they can focus their energies on efforts to sway enough opposition party members to secure a majority–and also, of course, to dissuade those members of the government party most likely to defect. No doubt “responsiveness” is not a constant: at different times members of the U.S. Congress have been more or less responsive to their party’s leadership, but they have not, I believe, ever gone to the extremes of party domination or extreme fluidity.

American Presidents who are sufficiently determined and adroit can often influence enough of the wavering party members to create a voting majority. Moreover, the President can usually count on the support of at least a third of the members of Congress, thereby permitting his/her veto of a measure to be sustained. Knowledge of an imminent veto can also influence waverers to compromise with the President so that at least some of their legislative goals will be accomplished. This means that preliminary negotiations in which staff members and even the President personally take part play a fundamental, though behind-the-scenes role–in ameliorating clashes. These practices by no means assure legislative/executive congruence in the U.S. but they do permit some agreements to be reached and help to prevent the bitter stalemates so often found in other presidentialist regimes. For American Presidents, Congress is a “predictable enigma”: the available options present solvable puzzles.

To explain the responsiveness of American political parties we need to understand the Centripetal two-party system as discussed below. This appears to be truly exceptional among presidentialist regimes. Its significance is reinforced by the dynamics of a vast Congressional agenda. 

* * *

An Immense Congressional Agenda

The separation of powers scheme can only be effective if Congress can make its own decisions on a vast agenda. This seems to be an impossible task, especially when compared with the modest burdens imposed on a Parliament that needs only to accept or reject its Government’s bills. Despite the growing attacks on Congress that we now hear, I believe the American Congress handles its responsibilities exceptionally well–in large measure because of the effectiveness of its innumerable sub- committees–and this helps to explain its contribution to the viability of this presidentialist regime. I suspect, though I have no clear evidence, that the failures of other presidentialist regimes may be due in part to the inability of their Congresses to accept or process comparably large agendas. The American achievement, however, may be possible only because some important democratic values are sacrificed. We can evaluate them by examining the influence of senioritism, lobbyism, and bureaucratic functionism.

* * *

Senioritism.

According to the seniority rule, members of the majority party who have been on a committee for the longest time usually chair it. Moreover, in the absence of rules against re-election, incumbents are usually returned to office. These practices reinforce each other: members win the real rewards of office only after several terms, a consideration that motivates voters to return incumbents and incumbents to seek reelection, with the help of affluent contributors who tend, also, to support incumbents. I refer to both the seniority rule and the re-election of incumbents as senioritism.

Senioritism contributes to the power, prestige and subject-field expertise of long-term members of Congress. This enables them to build organizational networks and alliances while learning the complex rules and practices that govern legislative action. Seniority may also strengthen committee chairs because their leadership does not depend on popularity: where the members elect their chairs, they will presumably choose more congenial or less domineering personalities. Although seniority can, assuredly, produce ineffective and rigid leaders, it also favors capable and experienced persons, those most able to secure re-election and willing to provide strong leadership. Senioritism also enables legislators and committees to retain competent staffers whereas rapid turn-over of members, because of patronage, would reduce the professional expertise available to them.

In most presidentialist systems, by contrast, there is a widespread aversion to senioritism as essentially undemocratic. Committee chairs are often filled on a non-seniority basis, incumbency in Congress is limited by rules against reelection, and restrictions are placed on the length of time that members may chair or remain in a single committee. Such rules, which vary greatly between countries, are usually supported because they enhance the representativeness of elected assemblies by favoring citizen “amateurs,” impede the growth of a professional class of “elitist” politicians, and hamper the accumulation of power by old-timers and political insiders.

For evidence, consider the situation in Brazil where the rapid turn-over of legislators and lack of senioritism greatly limits the effectiveness of the Congress (Baaklini 1989, 17, 32). “For ambitious politicians, serving in the legislature is a means to an end–executive positions–rather than an end in itself” (Mainwaring 1990b, 23). Because executive branch positions–President, governors, mayors–offer much more power and prestige, ambitious politicians treat legislative seats as a short-term step in their careers, resulting in rapid rotation and a relatively low level of competence, both in policy areas and in knowing how to make a legislature work effectively.

The penalty for term limitations is that less experienced members of Congress will be more vulnerable, as “lame ducks,” to outside pressures, especially from special interest groups, local elites and, of course, public officials. Moreover, anti-senioritism rules mean that able and ambitious politicians are less likely to view legislative careers as an attractive vocation: at best they may think of it as a mere stepping stone to other more interesting political roles. In the contemporary American debate about this important issue, we hear much about the short-term advantages of term limitations for “democracy,” but the long-term implications of this important rule for the survival of presidentialism in America is never discussed. (11)

Instead, the frequent re-election of Congressional incumbents is deplored by American reformers who, quite rightly, regard it as a violation of democratic norms. However, from the point of view of system survival, the practice seems quite functional–it enables members to acquire relatively high levels of expertise, especially in the subject fields of the committees where they hold office for a long time, and their large bureaucratic and interest group networks substantially enhance the power of Congress in relation to the President. 

* * *

Lobbyism.

Lobbying includes the efforts of special interests to promote advantageous legislation in Congress–no doubt lobbying occurs in every democracy, parliamentary as well as presidentialist. In the U.S., lobbying is grounded in the institutionalization and legitimization of mutually advantageous long-term relationships between committee members in Congress and private organizations representing powerful constituencies. The agents of these constituencies enhance the informational, financial and political resources needed by their Congressional collaborators without, I think, thereby gaining the upper hand in this relationship. A term is needed for this broader framework, which I call lobbyism. Lobbyism benefits from senioritism and, reciprocally, senioritism is strengthened by lobbyism, but both need to be limited in appropriate ways. To control lobbyism presents issues as complex as those involved in the effort to restrict senioritism.

In some presidentialist regimes, lobbyism is strictly limited as an undemocratic practice that rewards the rich and better educated citizens at the expense of the masses. Unfortunately, I suspect, anti-lobbyist policies, especially if combined with term limitations, have unintended consequences. In place of legally registered and controlled lobbyists, inexperienced legislators are easily influenced and manipulated by outside private interests that include rich and prestigious families, large landowners, merchants, industrialists, and foreign corporations, working in a highly individualistic and invisible way. The bulk of the population lacks the resources needed to influence legislators and anti-lobbyist rules hamper their efforts to become mobilized in mass-based public interest organizations. As with party discipline, presidentialism requires a balance between too much and too little power in the hands of lobbyists.

* * *

Interest Networks.

The American pattern of recruitment and promotion for career officials normally places them, throughout their professional lives, in the service of a particular government program. This pattern, which I call functionism, differs from the normal practice in parliamentary systems where officials often rotate between different departments — note that functionism differs from functionalism. As a result of the interactive linkages between bureaucratic functionism, senioritism and lobbyism there has emerged in the United States a complex set of interest networks (“iron triangles,” “subgovernments”) which, in large measure, determine policy and its implementation in a host of specialized fields of public policy.

By yielding authority in these fields to its subcommittees, the American Congress is able to process a gigantic agenda, in close liaison with interested components of the federal bureaucracy and the constituencies most directly affected. Consequently, a vast “infrastructure” of public business has become so self-governing and autonomous that it maintains itself regardless of political party and policy changes at the highest Presidential and Congressional levels.

When combined with the power of federalism, capitalism and a vast non-profit “third sector,” interest networks offer most Americans enough of a stake in the status quo so that they are not easily stirred to support wide-spread protest or revolutionary movements–including movements to make any fundamental changes in the presidentialist constitution. In most presidentialist regimes, by contrast, political substructures like the “iron triangles” are weaker–not because of any specific opposition to them but because the fundamental practices that lead to them are discouraged as anti-democratic. Unfortunately, this means that vast populations have little reason to support the status quo.

* * *

Dispersal and Decentralization of Power.

Sad to say, however, the process of legislation by delegated authority, rooted in interest networks, carries heavy costs. It means that a few committee members (both in Congress and in state legislatures) allied with bureaucratic counterpart agencies and private constituency organizations can create mighty oligarchies. Public decision-making becomes so compartmentalized, as a result, that it replaces, for the most part, decisions by the whole Congress, to say nothing of “all the people.” The resulting dispersal of power (not only within Congress, but also in the bureaucracy) poses a tremendous challenge for Congressional and Presidential leadership: how to coordinate programs that often contradict and clash with each other. Much of the business of governing proceeds independently of the President’s preferences or the “will of the people” as a whole. (12) 

* * *

A Centripetal Open Party System.

Under the Dynamics of Centrifugalism I suggested that the prevalence of centrifugal party systems (whether two- or multi-party in structure) is dysfunctional for the survival of presidentialism. Although less common, a hegemonic (closed) party system, such as we find in Mexico, is equally dysfunctional. By contrast, perhaps alone among presidentialist regimes, the U.S. has an open centripetal party system. We need to understand the practices or forces that have created and maintained this system, and how it has contributed to the development of responsive parties, as discussed above under Predictable Enigma. I shall first discuss party-system centripetalism and then the problematics of an open party system.

* * *

The Maintenance of Centripetalism.

The clearest evidence of centripetalism in the U.S. can be found in the campaign strategies of its two major parties: each aims primarily to win the support of independent voters. To attract their votes, both parties adopt compromise platforms that are only marginally different from each other. This provokes the scorn of non-voters who believe they have little to gain from the victory of either party. A wide range of lower class, ethnic and minority constituencies do not vote, thinking they have little to gain from either party. For many of the poor and less educated, assuredly, the costs of voting outweigh the likely benefits. Most non-voters are bored by elections or view them with hostility as a no-win exercise, preferring to spend their spare time and effort on family, sports, religion, or entertainments that promise immediate rewards. (13)

Each of the two U.S. parties counts both on the abstention of non-voters and on the support of innumerable party regulars. It pays them, therefore, to target the independent voters: they do vote and whatever ideology they embrace (whether “conservative” or “liberal”) it generates ambivalence toward both of the major parties. What is “moderate” in the U.S. is typically “right of center” in parliamentary systems. The point is that they are not party regulars and can, therefore, be swayed to vote either way, or to split their votes.

The limitations of our vocabulary lead us to think of American political parties as “loose” or unstructured. Clearly they are not fluid in the sense of having an extremely localized and dispersed power structure, nor are they centered (centralized and concentrated) as are most parties in parliamentary regimes. Instead, I believe they are responsive (centralized/localized and concentrated/dispersed), and their members in Congress vote in a semi-disciplined way. This structure is often criticized by those who view centered and responsible parties as more “modern” and preferable. (14) However, the responsiveness of American parties and politicians also permits American Presidents and Congress to make bargains, organize strong committees, and find practical solutions to many of the crucial problems of presidentialism.

Two basic practices appear to be the main causes for the maintenance of centripetalism in the American party system: first, the SMD pluralist electoral system and second, the right of citizens to abstain from voting. I shall discuss them next, reserving the problematics of an open party system for later treatment.

* * *

SMD Plurality Voting.

Concerning American electoral systems, Leon Weaver reports that “The numbers of PR and SPR [semi-proportional representation] systems constitute a very small proportion when compared with the total number of electoral systems in the United States, most of which are of the SMD variety (all national, virtually all state, and many local legislative seats), or in the AL [at-large] category, which are found mostly at the local level” (1984, 195).

Many critics condemn this situation, arguing that PR is a requisite for genuine democracy. J. F. H. Wright, for example, claims that “The basic failure of any single-member-district system to provide for the representation of a large proportion of voters is sufficient to disqualify such systems for use in countries claiming to be democratic” (1984, 127). Similarly, George G. Hallett, Jr. states, for the American case, that “Millions of voters across the country are regularly left with ‘representatives’ whom they voted against because they were outvoted in the district where they resided. Though they are all sorts of people, they form together a major class of unrepresented citizens just as surely as if they had been denied ‘the free exercises of the franchise'” (1984, 114).

Even if we accept this argument, viewing SMD majoritarianism as anti-democratic, we might also consider that it is a price that has to be paid for the survival of presidentialism. Interestingly, Arend Lijphart, who argues in favor of parliamentary-PR systems as the most democratic and effective kind of voting system, now says that “…the Latin American model of presidentialism combined with PR legislative elections remains a particularly unattractive option” (Lijphart 199la, 77). (15) Charles Gillespie remarks: “…very little thought has been given to the implications of Latin American democracies’ peculiar combination of presidentialism with PR as the basis for legislative elections” (1989, 2). It is clear, nevertheless, that PR systems are widespread in Latin America, and they encourage the proliferation of centrifugal party systems.

By contrast, advocates of SMD plurality contend that it produces non-ideological and loose “people’s parties,” appealing to a wide range of voter interests. Ferdinand Hermens writes that “Such parties do have different tendencies within them, but if these tendencies are organized (which, as a rule, they are not), their influence is limited and the entire line-up is characterized by fluidity and flexibility. The upshot is pragmatism and practicality in government” (1984, 22). As Hermens has also pointed out, the essence of a two-party majoritarian system is not the absence of third parties or the possibility of winning by a mere plurality, but rather the likelihood that a single party will command a parliamentary (i.e., Congressional) majority, and will gain a majority mandate for the President (1990, 6). Consider that local, class, ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic interests that could easily, under PR rules, generate viable political parties, find in the American SMD context that their best hopes for political representation arise in the context of a major party since only one candidate can win in each district. To organize a “third” (small) party is virtually to ensure defeat.

Whatever its costs for representative democracy, the rejection of PR strikes me as crucial to the survival of presidentialism in the U.S.–and reliance on PR as fatal for its survival in Latin America. Moreover, I accept Hermens’ argument that SMD majoritarianism is not totally undemocratic: each of the major parties recognizes that, to enhance its electoral prospects, it must offer hospitality, intra-party representation and participation in electoral tickets to any significant minority willing to support its candidates–especially when this minority commands a local majority. The impetus to win an electoral majority also leads both American parties to accept minority group planks that, they believe, would enhance their chances of winning. No doubt, groups joining a major party must also pay a price, sacrificing part of their special interests in the hope of winning some influence through the victory of a loosely structured but responsive political party.

SMD voting accounts for some basic differences between the responsive U.S. political parties and the factionalized parties found in Uruguay: both are “two-party systems,” but they are very different. No doubt American parties are highly sectionalized and localized, lacking in discipline and sharply focused goals. They focus attention on candidates, their personalities and opinions, their weaknesses and strengths, at the expense of party or faction loyalties and ideological commitments. They produce “tendencies” rather than “factions”. (16) They are also isolative–as I shall show. Those who prefer the centered and integrated parties produced in parliamentary PR regimes will easily find fault with the American parties. However, those committed to the perpetuation of American presidentialism may see that SMD plurality voting generates a type of party system that promotes its survival.

* * *

The Right to Abstain.

By itself the electoral system is not enough to assure the development of responsive parties in a centripetal party system. In addition, the right to abstain is necessary. When the American constitution was adopted, state voting limitations were perpetuated. These typically required property qualifications that seriously restricted mass voting–and, of course, women could not vote and slaves were automatically excluded. Other kinds of restrictions can also impede the formation of new parties, thereby protecting the privileged position of the established parties. In the United States, recently, such “anti- democratic” restrictions have increased so much in states like Florida, California, Oklahoma, Maryland, North Carolina, and Massachusetts that it is almost impossible now for a third party to collect enough signatures, within the required time and cost limits, to put their candidates on the ballots (Harris 1990. 548-9). Over the years the right of all citizens to vote has been greatly expanded, but the duty to vote has never become institutionalized: indeed, the right not to vote, to abstain, has been viewed as a basic right. Quite unconsciously, this “right” may contribute significantly to the survival of presidentialism in America.

Many writers condemn the low turnout in U.S. elections as a very regrettable undemocratic phenomenon. Such an analysis is offered by Richard Pious who points to a 53.2% turnout in the U.S. in 1984 by contrast with from 72.6 to 91.4% in the European democracies (1986, 139- 40). Edward Greenberg offers comparable data and points to a continuing decline in voter turnout in the U.S.: e.g., from 65% to 54% in Presidential years, and from 47% to 37% in off- year congressional elections, between 1960 and 1978 (1980, 230). A similar assessment can be found in Rodgers and Harrington (1985, 129-134).

Unfortunately, none of these authors note the connection between these data and their constitutional significance. Wherever PR systems prevail, the interests of those who would not otherwise vote can be espoused by political parties or factions that can attract their support. According to the prevalent myth of democracy, universal suffrage is not only a right of all citizens, but its exercise provides the basis for legitimizing representative government. Unfortunately, however, the high turnout levels PR systems produce are system-destroying for presidentialism because they generate strongly centrifugal political pressures that make it increasingly difficult for a President and a Congress to reach agreements on important policies.

In some presidentialist regimes concern for non-voters has led to compulsory voting. Politicians striving to capture the support of the new voters produced thereby have unintentionally centrifugalized party systems that might previously have been centripetal with SMD voting rules. In Argentina, for example, compulsory voting was mandated in 1912, trebling the voter turnout in the next (and succeeding) elections. As a result, the Radical and Peronist parties, at different times, came to power, permanently displacing the conservative parties that had hitherto monopolized power. Carlos Nino reports that there was “…considerable political stability in Argentina prior to 1916 (from the enactment of the Constitution in 1853/60) and extreme instability afterwards. Obviously, those displaced by the results of massive voting sought other ways of acceding to power” (Nino 1988, 19).

In Brazil, “When popular participation was still quite limited, ideological consensus…was reasonably strong, making it possible to form moderately stable, informal coalitions. Between 1945 and 1964 [the year of a coup] there was an explosion of popular participation in politics, with a significant impact on the parties. Politics ceased being an elite game and elite consensus eroded, and along with it so did the facility of forming these broad coalitions” (Mainwaring 1990b, 12).

Chile’s vigorous and ideological multi-party presidentialist system, rooted in PR, has generated high voter turnouts and centrifugal pressures. In its 1970 election, this turnout (83.7%) gave Marxist candidate Salvador Allende a plurality of 36.3% (Lijphart 1989, 10). The tragic denouement was the breakdown of 1973 and the Pinochet military dictatorship. Two opposing coalition parties, Popular Unity and the Democratic Confederation, were formed during Chile’s 1973 congressional elections, but, as Arturo Valenzuela notes, “Rather than moderating the political spectrum, the two party configuration came to embody the ultimate in polarization [centrifugalization], a U-shaped curve with a total absence of any center force. …under such circumstances the moderate forces within each coalition are pressured heavily by the extremes, reducing further any centripetal tendencies in the political system” (1989, 31). Apparently, even a two-party system with a large voter turnout and PR voting rules becomes centrifugalized. (17)

Non-voting in the U.S., by contrast, supports the viability of a centripetal party system. If the focus of a centripetal party system has to be on securing the support of independent voters, then it follows that centripetalism requires the right to abstain–compulsory voting assures centrifugalism in the party system regardless of whether it has two or more than two parties. PR always generates centrifugalized party systems, and SMD by itself does not assure a centripetal party system: it needs to be coupled with the right to abstain. Even an SMD-based two-party system will, I believe, become centrifugalized when voting is made compulsory.

Low turnout, then, is neither a property of presidentialism nor of geographic exceptionalism (as comparisons of the U.S. with European parliamentary polities alone suggest). Rather, either PR or compulsory voting will produce centrifugalized party systems and high levels of voter participation–as they typically have in Latin America. By contrast, party system centripetalism (as in the U.S. deviant case) is associated with SMD voting, the right to abstain, and widespread voter apathy or alienation. Of course, this pattern is reinforced by circular causation: the inability of elected politicians to deliver on their campaign promises because of the inherent problems in presidentialism fortifies the tendency of many citizens to abstain from voting.

* * *

A Terrible Paradox.

These considerations generate a terrible paradox: the more “undemocratic” a presidentialist system (with low turnout), the more viable it will be! The more “democratic” a presidentialist regime (with high turnout), the more likely it is to be overthrown and replaced by authoritarianism. The only way to achieve high turnout levels and safeguard democracy will be to abandon the presidentialist “fixed term” formula and move toward executive accountability to the legislature, i.e., toward parliamentarism. A few pro- democracy rule changes unaccompanied by constitutional reform in the United States, –notably the introduction of PR in multi-member districts, compulsory voting, and the elimination of barriers that prevent third parties from placing candidates on the ballot–would soon centrifugalize the party system and prevent any President from securing a popular majority. This would throw the final choice of the President into the hands of Congress where a temporary coalition (Chilean style) would select the chief executive but deny him/her continuing support, thereby ensuring devastating stalemates between the President and Congress and enhancing the likelihood that a military group would seize power.

Unfortunately, even an SMD electoral system and the right to abstain, by themselves, cannot guarantee the maintenance of an open party system in a presidentialist regime. A comparison between multi-party and two-party systems indicates that the former are quite stable, even surviving periods of suppression under military dictatorships, but the latter are fragile and vulnerable to erosion. In particular, a two-party system easily slides into a hegemonic closed party system, although continuation of SMD election rules will keep it from becoming a centrifugal multi-party system. To explain the persistence of an open two-party system, therefore, we need to introduce some additional factors among which, I believe, the most important involve federalism and capitalism.

* * *

The Role of Federalism.

Even if we suppose that SMD pluralities and a low voting turnout assure centripetalism in an open party system, we cannot assume that, somehow, one party will not become overwhelmingly successful at the expense of the other, engendering a type of hegemonic party situation. It is quite conceivable that, in every district, the same party will win

and will be able, by various means, to prevent the opposition party from gaining power. Since each party acts in its own interests rather than that of the whole system of which it is a part, we cannot assume that idealism will lead a dominant party to help its rivals succeed.

Such a scenario can be found in some American states where a single dominant party has long held power at the expense of an impotent opposition party. e.g., in the long-standing Democratic domination of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama–and Hawaii–and in the Republican control of New Hampshire and Vermont. (18) Because these state governments exist within the framework of the American federal system, their hegemonic parties cannot monopolize power but must share it with national and local authorities, often of a different party.

In a sovereign centralized state, however, the inability of an opposition party to win elections could well become a self-reinforcing vicious circle. The defeated party would have difficulty raising money or finding volunteers interested in jobs that are unlikely to materialize. Affluent contributors will support incumbents in preference to their opponents. Leaders of the opposition party naturally become discouraged and some, succumbing to the “bandwagon effect,” defect to the ruling party. Others, in frustration, abandon politics or try to form more dynamic “third” parties, covering a wide ideological spectrum, thereby dooming themselves to defeat so long as the SMD rule prevails. Only a unified opposition party can hope to defeat an entrenched hegemonic party under these rules.

One reason why, despite these inherent dynamisms, centripetal two-partyism persists in the U.S., involves the framework of American federalism. Consider the fact that because the governors of each state, its legislators, mayors and city councils all stand for election, there are many opportunities for a defeated national party to win local victories on the strength of local issues and personalities. This is only possible, of course, because of the “responsive” though not utterly localized structure of American parties.

In the two major American parties, local organizations nominate candidates and control their campaigns, including those for members of Congress. So long as each of these parties can dominate local politics in a substantial number of states, the members of Congress will represent both parties, and the majority in Congress will be independent of the ruling party in the White House, even when it has the same name. Moreover, inasmuch as having party competition in a legislature sustains that body’s power position, members of both parties in Congress may, perhaps, unite in support of measures that help them maintain the strength of the legislature and, consequently, their own power and prestige, simply by safeguarding the openness of the party system (Riggs 1973).

If the President’s party apparatus could control a permanent majority in Congress, the effectiveness of that body would collapse, as it has in other countries with hegemonic or single- party regimes. Although divided government unavoidably hampers the ability of a presidentialist regime to make and implement policy effectively, it also contributes to the maintenance of an open party system. Such a contribution may well be a necessity if democratic presidentialist government is to survive.

Remember that the national party is only a coalition of local parties designed to conduct presidential campaigns and has no authority over the conduct of the local parties. Because local party organizations in a centripetalized party system cannot have strong ideological commitments, but would love to place their own candidate in the White House, they will form a coalition with kindred party organizations in other states for the sole purpose of sponsoring a Presidential candidate. The continuing local power of party organizations affiliated with a defeated national party surely helps to explain the survival of an open party system in the U.S.

To say that federalism supports the maintenance of an open centripetal party system in the U.S. clearly is not to imply that federalism will always have this effect. Indeed, a centrifugalized multi-party system may well be weakened by federalism. If its parties are centered–as in Chile, for example–they would view federalism as a threat. To maintain centralized control in each party, a unitary state is functional.

In a multi-party system with fluid parties, we may expect federalism to aggravate the localization and dispersal of power so as to undermine the capacity of Congress to perform in any coherent way. In the Brazilian case, an unusual electoral system that combines PR with open lists that permit voters to choose among rivals in the same party (a kind of quasi-primary system) augments the weight of locally-sponsored political appointments in the state bureaucracy. Combined, these factors undermine all sense of party solidarity by favoring individualistic local clientelism (Mainwaring 1990a, 26, 28-9). (19) By holding its primaries before an election, the American national party organization, although weakened, can still generate a moderate sense of responsiveness, and not all of its local party organizations are victims of the primary system.

The Uruguayan system might be viewed as a refutation because, there, a two-party system has survived despite a centralized system of government. However, the unique form of PR used in Uruguay supports the formation of powerful intra-party factions that, in effect, operate much like the centered parties in a multi-party system.

My conclusion, therefore, is only that federalism enhances the prospects for survival of an open party system, provided SMD plurality voting and the freedom to abstain from voting combine to make it a centripetal system. Such a system, I now think, may be a sine qua non for the long-term survival of a presidentialist regime. 

* * *

The Business of Capitalism.

By itself, however, even the momentum of federalism might not be strong enough to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S. Additional reinforcement may be attributed to the requirements of campaign financing in the context of a dominant capitalist economic system. Wealthy and powerful individuals, corporations and associations recognize, I believe, the advantages they enjoy as a result of the open party system. By direct contributions and through “Political Action Committees,” they support individual candidates and campaign committees in both parties, enabling them to conduct costly primary and electoral campaigns. (20)

During the heyday of the spoils system, volunteers hoping for political appointments powered the American party system. Since expansion of the career system (see American Bureaucacy ), however, and the development of modern media campaigning, plus the burdens of extensive pre-electoral primaries, the costs of political campaigning have radically escalated. The result, of course, has been a vast expansion of the importance of corporations and wealthy contributors in the political process. The direct primary was introduced in order to bring the people into the process of candidate selection and to by-pass the inner circle nominating process formerly dominated by local party bosses at national conventions.

Its critics claim that primaries have actually weakened democracy in America. For example, Edward Greenberg writes, “With the coming of the direct primary, prospective candidates could bypass the party organization, thus weakening it as an important entry to politics. It soon became apparent that the people best able to conduct direct primary campaigns were those with ready access to money… and to a favorable press, persons who were rarely a threat to dominant groups” (1980, 222). Rodgers and Harrington also show how primaries have gravely weakened the political parties (1985, 325-328). Primaries have also enhanced the salience of the President’s personal preferences and political appointees, bringing them daily into the living rooms of most Americans. These effects have increased the influence of wealthy contributors who support political party activities. Not only do they enhance the electoral prospects of pro- capitalist candidates, but winners are reluctant to betray those who finance them by supporting social programs that appear to curtail the scope of a free market system.

Here, however, we have to raise a different question: how does this system affect the viability of American presidentialism, and more specifically, does it safeguard the survival of an open party system? To answer this question, do we not need to re-think the relations between bourgeois capitalism and the American system of government. They have usually been assessed in the context of theories which hold that property holders have contrived (plotted?) to design and maintain a regime that protects their interests. Little attention has been given, I believe, to a different hypothesis, namely that the maintenance of an open party system depends on capitalist support for candidates of both parties.

The survival of capitalism is, we may assume, a basic goal in all capitalist systems. Because of its own “contradictions,” to use a Marxist term, it is vulnerable to self-destructive tendencies currently manifested in the U.S. savings and loan crisis, junk bonds and insider trading, bankruptcies produced by monopolistic competition among giant firms, etc. To overcome such risks, capitalism requires regulation by a state that is not just its pawn. The point is that this is not an “either/or” situation–either socialism or rampant capitalism. There are many degrees of regulation and control over free market institutions, and some of them are, indeed, prerequisites for the survival of capitalism.

However, a state dominated by a hegemonic party can easily be seen as a threat to capitalism. Once securely in control of the state apparatus, the leaders of a dominant party are free to impose oppressive regulations that undermine private property and the market system. At least, property holders may reasonable fear such domination and feel helplessly threatened whenever an open party system is crushed.

Without further discussion of this admittedly controversial hypothesis, we may use it to ground a corollary, namely that shrewd capitalists will use their resources to perpetuate an open party regime within which they may feel their prospects for enhancing their more specific interests are also enhanced. To accomplish this goal, they will want to see both parties succeed and the collapse of either party will be viewed as a threat. They understand that their interests lie with the system rather than with either political party. By supporting candidates in both parties whose views support capitalism, even though tinged with enough commitment to social justice to ameliorate the most flagrant causes of unrest, contributors help to maintain the system. So long as the party system remains centripetal, politicians know that they need not commit themselves to policies that will mobilize a mass electorate. Plenty of issues remain to attract the attention of independent habitual voters and to swing the election to one side or the other. I have to admit that this argument is speculative, but it seems reasonable enough to deserve study.

Moreover, it can be tested by the comparative study of party systems in other presidentialist countries. These dynamics do not apply in parliamentary systems, however. In them mass- based popular parties have a good chance of winning power because of the PR electoral system and the dynamics of cabinet government. The commitment of their members also greatly reduces the dependence of parliamentary parties on generous financial support. Consequently, it is much easier for social democratic or labor parties to gain power and they can regulate capitalism quite strictly while ensuring its survival.

In most presidentialist regimes, however, capitalist interests are much weaker than they are in the United States, and they are also vulnerable to external pressures. They may not understand how an open centripetal party system would help them, nor how it could be created. Moreover, if PR electoral systems and compulsory voting have already been established, they may feel helpless to promote the general interest and compelled to concentrate on their own short-term personal problems. In the context of an established multi-party system, they will tend to sponsor a party committed to their specific interests, as will their various class and ethnic opponents. The option of supporting coalitional catch-all parties such as those produced by a centripetal two-party system is simply not available to them.

To conclude, it seems to me that capitalism–in conjunction with federalism–helps to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S., even though it could not create such a system. This effect occurs only because the party system is centripetal, a fact that may be attributed to the prevalence of SMD plurality voting and the right to abstain. Finally, it is the responsiveness (not the discipline) of party members that enables Presidents to bargain with and reach accommodation with Congress, even when confronted with an opposition party majority. Such accommodations are no doubt easier to reach when the President’s party has a majority in Congress–but the lack of party discipline means that even then such agreements are not guaranteed. This is fortunate for the survival of American presidentialism because it sustains the independent power of Congress, and probably also helps perpetuate the openness of the party system. 

* * *

American Bureaucracy

An ubiquitous patronage system and poly-normativism are inescapable consequences of the separation of powers (see Bureaucratic Dilemmas They hamper public administration and promote corruption in such a way as to undermine support for any regime, providing a basis for all kinds of popular complaints, military coups, and protest or revolutionary movements. Although we habitually take public administration for granted as a non-political function of government, clearly the effective administration of public policies is a sine qua non for the success of any political regime and bad administration can lead to the overthrow of representative government, especially when bureaucrats themselves feel threatened by the status quo and, under the leadership of military officers, take measures to discharge elected officials and appropriate their functions. The reasons why the risk of such a catastrophe are significantly greater under presidentialism than they are in other types of constitutional system are also discussed in Bureaucratic Dilemmas. 

* * *

A Unique Experience.

To explain the deviant American case–why it alone has never experienced the type of breakdown that other presidentialist regimes have suffered–we need to pay attention to the structure and role of bureaucracy in the United States. The topic is so important and complex that it deserves separate treatment and I have, therefore, written another paper that explores the subject in some detail (Riggs 1993b). An earlier discussion of related problems can be found in Riggs (1988a). Here I shall only summarize the argument.

Two decisive reforms ameliorated the effects of patronage and poly-normativism and limited their negative impact in the U.S.–though, of course, they never eliminated them. These involved the establishment of large-scale non-partisan merit-based career services rooted in the principle of functionism. The reforms that led to this development have deep historic roots that need to be understood: they involved the development of a spoils system based on the principle of rotation in office–as I shall explain below.

However, other factors also need to be taken into account. Admittedly, the relative efficacy of the political superstructure (President, Congress, Courts, and Party System) meant that the temptation for public officials (especially military officers) to seize power was probably never as great in the U.S. as it has been in many other presidentialist regimes. Some commentators argue that the indoctrination of American military officers to accept civilian rule may be the most important variable. I accept this argument as part of the explanation. Perhaps, historically, it can be attributed to the small and intermittent character of the armed forces during the early days of the Republic, and the relative importance of state militias by contrast with small and weak Federal forces. By the time national forces had become permanently institutionalized, their political subordination had become well established and culturally reinforced. Even so, as Dwight Eisenhower warned, the “military-industrial complex” has become an extremely powerful actor in American politics and, despite lip-service to civilian rule, I suspect that in a time of major political crisis it would be as able and willing to seize power as any other military establishment.

Another important factor is the federalist configuration of the American government: more officials serve in state and local government than in the federal government. Consequently, no unified “national” bureaucracy has ever existed and the kind of coordinated action among dissidents that is possible in unitary polities would not be possible in the U.S. Moreover, insofar as the “winner-take-all” game applies also to U.S. presidentialism, its effects are greatly ameliorated by the distribution of patronage powers among a great many jurisdictions: the President controls only a small part of the total pie to be divided among the winners of political power.

Moreover, a powerful capitalist market system and innumerable private associations in the U.S. offer many job opportunities that, for most people, are highly prized and often more attractive than public office. By contrast, in most presidentialist systems the demand for government jobs is disproportionately large because of the relative weakness of the private sector. This point affects all third world countries, regardless of the degree to which they have market economies. It may well be one of the environmental variables that most powerfully affects the survival of American presidentialism. Indeed, it may now also be true that the President’s need to appoint officials who are not only loyal but also well qualified has changed the dynamics of political patronage. Although the supply of applicants is undiminished, those who are most wanted are often reluctant to serve. Accordingly the stakes in the Presidential winner-take-all game are reduced.

Because of its strong capitalist (free enterprise) influence (see Business of Capitalism ) the U.S. offers fewer social benefits–health, social security, welfare–than other democracies (mainly parliamentary) that have universalized such services. This relatively “undemocratic” feature of the U.S. system greatly reduces the number of government positions. Moreover, the tendency to “privatize” many operations that elsewhere would be handled by government agencies curtails the number of officials in the state bureaucracy. By contrast, I believe most presidentialist regimes employ a larger percentage of the population as bureaucrats, thereby increasing the opportunities for patronage (and for resulting corruption and mismanagement of these functions).

Perhaps above all the successful introduction of non-partisan merit-based careerism has radically reduced the pressure for making a large number of patronage appointments. Americans now take this development for granted, but comparative analysis shows how truly exceptional it is for presidentialist systems. How can we explain this exception?

* * *

Non-partisan Merit-based Careerism.

Different kinds of careerism are well established in most presidentialist regimes, but they are typically partisan and based on favoritism. Indeed, this was the way the American public service started: according to Leonard White, “The Federalists took for granted permanence of tenure and were sensitive to the claims of officeholders except where they proved untrustworthy.” By the end of the 1790’s, “…the rule of continuing tenure had become established.” (White 1948, 514, 180).

Despite the important political changes that occurred at the century’s end when Jeffersonian Republicans succeeded the Federalists, public administration remained under the control of “gentlemen,” to whom, Thomas Jefferson wrote, he “would wish to give office, because they would add respect and strength to the administration” (White 1951, 550). In fact, without any contracts or examinations, a conservative upper class of retainers (see Tenacity of Retainers ) dominated the public administration for 40 years, from 1789 to 1829.

The rotation system in America was established during the Jacksonian period when, as White explains, President Andrew Jackson (1829-37) “did not introduce the spoils system,” but he did “introduce rotation into the federal system…” (1954, 4-5). Although we normally associate the Jacksonian era with the rise of the “spoils” system, the introduction of rotation was historically more critical. It opened the doors of public office to ordinary people (not just “gentlemen”) and it also enabled succeeding Presidents to discharge many (though not all) officials in large numbers. Thereby, it not only created vacancies to be filled by patronage but it also dampened the natural growth that occurred in other patronage-based retainer bureaucracies. In such bureaucracies, as top officials retain their salaries while being downgraded and replaced (siberianized), the costs of government rise and the quality of public administration declines.

The rotation principle made government more “popular” in the sense that, by opening the doors of public office to those of humble background, it made bureaucracy more “representative.” At the same time, public administration became more formal as, increasingly, rules and regulations replaced the idiosyncratic habits and traditions that had been established by the long-term gentlemen retainers of the first forty years (Crenson 1975, l3l-39).

If we assume that the tendency of public officials to cling tenaciously to their posts and their perquisites is even stronger than the zest with which applicants seek new appointments, we may understand how persistently the retainer tradition has maintained itself in most other presidentialist regimes. In a comparative perspective, the Jacksonian achievement was truly remarkable and paved the way for a new type of merit-based nonpartisan careerism that was to emerge fifty years later.

Had the patronage-based retainer bureaucracy established by the founders been permitted to continue, it would assuredly have become an incubus on the body politic, encouraging corruption and oppression while encumbering the public administration. A good example can be found in Brazil where, according to Scott Mainwaring, “The political class has been acutely aware of the overshadowing of the legislature by the bureaucracy and has responded by expanding their influence within the bureaucracy… [with] deleterious consequences upon the efficacy of the state apparatus” (1990a 20).

In the American case, by contrast, Jacksonian rotationism and spoils generated a new set of problems and opportunities that paved the way for the successful movement to establish the merit-based career services. First, the spoils system, by itself, created so much abuse of office and incompetence in administration that it spawned a growingly powerful middle-class reform movement that, ultimately, succeeded in launching a new kind of nonpartisan and merit-based careerism–for details see Van Riper (1958, 60-95) and Hoogenboom (1961).

Although the spoils system generated powerful incentives for reform, it also created opportunities that have been little noticed. Any well-entrenched class of retainers in public office is experienced enough to administer better than inexperienced spoilsmen. At the same time, they clearly have good reason to resist the introduction of a merit-based system that might bring bet ter qualified new-comers into office and, eventually, undermine their own security. By contrast, a host of American ex-spoilsmen, having some experience in public office, may have joined forces with reformers in the expectation that they could qualify themselves for re-employment on a permanent career basis. After the merit system was introduced, many patronage appointees were actually “blanketed” into the career services: facing discharge because of continuing rotationism, they may have supported the extension of the career-based reforms.

Finally, it must be emphasized that the new careerists were emphatically nonpartisan. It was clearly in their interest, in order to avoid being rotated out of office when a new party came to power, to emphasize their own nonpartisanship. The myth of a dichotomy between “politics” and “administration” served as a powerful argument to support the reforms and, thereby, helped to preserve the American constitution. At the time, politics clearly meant partisanship. As “politics” came to be used for a much broader concept that includes non-partisan policy- oriented and organizational competition (in the Lasswellian sense), it informed a growing disjunction in the study of government that separated the academic disciplines of Political Science and Public Administration, with adverse consequences for both.

The success of the reform movement was also affected, I believe, by the subsequent emergence of “lobbyism” as a powerful force in American politics (see Lobbyism). In many countries, parliamentary as well as presidentialist, political parties have closely associated themselves with religious and social movements–thus one party may bring together conservative Catholic farmers and another radical Protestant workers, and a third liberal anti-clerical intellectuals. Many professional, class, religious, and policy-oriented movements become identified with a single integrative political party, one whose “ideology” includes a variety of explicit policy commitments.

By contrast, the isolative American political parties reduced their linkages with a wide range of interest groups and embraced bland essentially non-ideological party platforms. The rhetoric of bureaucratic politics has been shaped by this difference: transient appointees are oriented to party politics and hence “partisan,” whereas careerists are associated with policy politics and interest group lobbies on a “non-partisan” basis. In countries where integrative parties prevail, such a dichotomy is scarcely viable: bureaucrats necessarily link party loyalties with interest group policies. The American solution required, however, not only a disjunction between political appointees and careerists, but also a separation of career-ladders on a programmatic or policy-oriented basis, that may be discussed under the heading of functionism. 

* * *

The Significance of Functionism.

The success of the merit system in the U.S. may well hinge on its adoption of the principle of functionism, whereby candidates are admitted to a program-oriented career service (based on functionally specific examinations) that produces a host of functionaries (rather than mandarins). An important obstacle to the formal adoption of a career system in America involved resistance to the British model of the Administrative Class that produces a powerful “mandarinate” of generalists who rotate between different government departments. Paul Van Riper explains that the American functionist adaptation was due to the rejection of youthful recruitment (by permitting entrance at all levels) and academic criteria (in favor of practical tests) (1958, 100-1). He also tells us that the Congressional debate thoroughly explored “the likely effects of the proposed legislation upon the constitutional position of the President and Congress, upon the party system…” but it appears that the main issue involved the constitutionality of Congressional action to restrict the President’s power of appointment, in view of his unrestricted removal powers (1984, 97). More practically, Congress insisted on a quota system that would assure recruitment of personnel from all the states, a safeguard against its loss of patronage, but also a barrier to the rise of an elitist bureaucracy recruited from the most prestigious universities–the American counterparts to Oxbridge.

Perhaps unconsciously–though I have no positive evidence–members of Congress might have sensed that careerists, rooted in functionism, would be more responsive to legislative committees and more dependable as political allies than an elite core of bureaucratic generalists (mandarins) shaped according to the typical parliamentary mode (Riggs 1988a, 363- 5, and 376, note 40). In fact, this adaptation of the British model has surely fostered the survival of American presidentialism. Had the British system (itself derived from the Chinese Confucian prototype, via the Indian Civil Service) prevailed, an elite class of career generalists would have become so powerful that it could, I believe, have unbalanced the separation of powers principle, first by undermining the power position of the Presidency, and ultimately by subordinating the Congress itself. As it turned out, career functionaries became closely attached to Congressional committees and their programmatic goals. Through evolving interest networks, career bureaucrats became ambivalently interdependent with members of Congress and thereby augmented the power of the legislative branch. (22)

Some reformers apparently hoped, eventually, to replace all patronage appointees by merit- based careerists. Their efforts were reinforced by the teachings of the newly-emergent academic field or discipline of Public Administration that, borrowing from business management theory, tended to see the President as a kind of chief executive officer (CEO) of a gigantic corporation in which norms of efficiency and effectiveness prevail over political and legal norms. Had their efforts succeeded, however, the independence of the Presidency would surely have given way to the growing power of an “Imperial Congress.” Some alarmists think this has already happened, as Charles Kesler explains: “…the principal beneficiary of the growth of the executive bureaucracy has been Congress, not the president…” (1988, 23).

Confirming the image of American bureaucrats continuously caught in a cross-fire between the three branches of government that David Rosenbloom (1983) has given us, John Rohr writes that “…American Public Administration… is necessarily and appropriately caught in the perennial cross fire involving a Congress, a president, and courts–all fiercely independent of one another” (1986, 89). However, in Rohr’s view, career officers should “…become active participants rather than feckless pawns in the constitutional struggle for control of the Public Administration.” By deciding for themselves which “…branch to favor and for how long…” they could preserve “…a certain autonomy within the framework of the Constitution and would thereby capture the professionalism that was at the heart of the reforms [Woodrow] Wilson and [Frank J.] Goodnow had in mind” (loc. cit). In short, “The Public Administration” has a responsibility to help “Run the Constitution” and, thereby to preserve the balance of power between its constitutional branches that undergirds the American presidentialist regime.

If only careerists were employed in the Federal Government, however, I suspect they would dangerously unbalance the separation of powers. To maintain the balance it is necessary to retain the President’s patronage powers, although it was not until the Presidencies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt that those powers became well entrenched in the continuously expanding apparatus of the White House and the Office of the President. These powers have proven increasingly effective both in helping the President to influence the outcome of Congressional votes and also (hopefully) to coordinate the mutually competitive, not to say antagonistic, branches of the functionist career bureaucracy. Although the balance between (non-partisan) careerists and (partisan) transients in the federal bureaucracy remains, at best, conflicted and hazy, it has to be coped with as one of the costs of survival of a presidentialist regime (Durant 1990).

The manifest purpose of the merit system reform was administrative rather than political: it provided a growing body of experienced officials whose institutional memory and personal competence enabled them to implement public policies with some consistency and efficiency despite changes in the Presidency. However, these improved administrative capabilities had important political consequences that strengthened both the Congress and the Presidency. Through the creation of stable interest networks (“iron triangles” or “subgovernments”), the State bureaucracy directly enhanced Congressional power.

Moreover, since authorized public policies could, as a result, be implemented with minimal intervention from the White House, the President’s work-load was greatly reduced (Riggs 1988a, 363-5), and Presidents could also become more selective in choosing their patronage appointees, singling out those who could really help them achieve their major political goals (Newland 1987). Simultaneously, they could claim credit for the continuous implementation of a vast array of public programs that were uninterruptedly administered by experienced career officials whose work required no direct intervention by the President. Concurrently, better public administration reduces popular discontent and also helps the regime survive.

Paradoxically, the American Presidency, as a result of these changes, has become both more institutionalized and more personalistic. The stability of interest networks involving career officials, members of Congress and professional lobbyists has institutionalized governance in the U.S. to such an extent that it proceeds “autonomously” regardless of who occupies the White House. However, the growing importance of television, the primaries, and the resultant loosening of party organization throws a spotlight on the personalities of the President and key political appointees, giving each administration an idiosyncratic flavor that sets it apart from its predecessors and challenges American political historians and journalists to focus public attention on every eccentricity in the kaleidoscopic White House scene. Confusingly, it occurs to me that this public theater, by distracting attention from more basic problems, may also contribute to the survival of this complicated and precarious political system.

I cannot prove that the absence of nonpartisan, merit-based functionist bureaucracies or the ubiquity of patronage (cronyism, spoils, clientelism) in other presidentialist regimes has contributed to their collapse, but I believe it is an important possibility that deserves careful study. Put differently, I think the presence of nonpartisan merit-based and functionist careerists in the American government has contributed significantly to its survival in the twentieth century at a time when the challenges facing all contemporary governments have escalated. 

* * *

THE OUTLOOK FOR PRESIDENTIALISM

A comprehensive explanation of the survival of presidentialism in the U.S. should, admittedly, include an assessment of the environmental conditions that have favored it. These might include the Common Law system, inherited from Britain, that may have helped the Courts exercise their powers of judicial review and maintain the system of federalism. The Puritan tradition in church organization may have paved the way for widespread acceptance of collegial decision-making through elected assemblies. The historical sequences that permitted the thorough institutionalization of representative institutions prior to the development of a modern administrative state were surely important. The availability of jobs in the private sector facilitated the establishment of the rotation principle in the public bureaucracy and the existence of a vast frontier that could easily be seized from its indigenous inhabitants provided opportunities that alleviated socio-political pressures.

Many other environmental conditions could be mentioned–their significance for comparative analysis would require that we evaluate the effects of their presence or absence in other presidentialist systems of government. I cannot do that here. Moreover, insofar as there may be some interest in discovering the conditions that might enable other presidentialist regimes to survive after their recovery from bouts of authoritarian dictatorship, it is surely relevant to focus on practices rooted in constitutional prescriptions and laws that can be adopted by political choice–after all, environmental conditions based on culture, geography, history, and socio- economic circumstances are more difficult to manipulate and defy transfer from one country to another.

* * *

Comparing Presidentialist Regimes

The structural dynamics of presidentialism as a whole system of government, moreover, seems to have received precious little attention. Only by comparing the operations and fate of different presidentialist regimes–including those that broke down as well as those that persisted for varying lengths of time–can we gain an understanding of the inherent problems of this system and how they mighty be solved. This essay highlights some of the dangers inherent in the presidentialist design, and points to some of the practices that have helped the system survive in the United States, including federalism, SMD plurality voting, the right to abstain, senioritism, lobbyism, rotationism, functionist careerism, and capitalism.

The strength of these practices (traditions) should not be taken for granted. Many them have been attacked as “undemocratic” by reformers. Because we have not studied presidentialism comparatively we were unable to see how some proposed reforms (e.g., proportional representation) might undermine the viability of representative government in the U.S.

In this context, widespread support for the fundamental reforms required to overcome the essential constraints of the presidentialist formula will not arise until the country has experienced deeper crises than any so far encountered. Moreover, the Constitutional myth based on the separation of powers principle is itself so necessary as a supplement (if not replacement) for the compromised role of the President as head of state that we cannot seriously challenge it without undermining the viability of the regime and gaining a sinister reputation for ourselves.

The Committee on the Constitutional System (see A Procedure) has struggled heroically to mobilize interest in fundamental reform and has no doubt provoked some academic interest (see Hardin 1974 and 1989, Sundquist 1986, and Robinson 1985 and 1989). Unfortunately, however, the comparisons made by Committee members usually involve only parliamentary systems–the index to Robinson (1989), for example, lists about 15 parliamentary democracies with which some comparisons are made, but the only presidentialist polities mentioned are Nicaragua and El Salvador, where the text only takes up U.S. foreign policy issues. Until specific comparisons are made with other presidentialist regimes, I believe we cannot really understand the deeper problems inherent in the presidentialist design. Such an understanding, moreover, will enable us to attract the interest of a large constituency composed of many kinds of frustrated reformers who will discover that, until the regime itself is transformed, they will continue to be frustrated for reasons they cannot understand.

It is surely important and feasible for us now to engage in a serious analysis of the political/ administrative implications of presidentialism, and to re-evaluate the American experience in a comparative framework that takes into account the ordeals suffered by other countries following the American model. Such an analysis will help us understand the plight of other presidentialist regimes, why presidentialism has survived in the U.S., and what other countries must do if they want their presidentialist constitutions to succeed. We will also, I hope, become very wary about recommending presidentialist constitutions to any of the new republics that are now emerging from long periods of single-party domination.

* * *

Para-Constitutional Practices.

Elsewhere I have characterized the fundamental traditions, rules and practices that seem to help maintain the American presidentialist system, despite its great inherent problems, as para-constitutional (Riggs 1988c). These would include rules that favor the reelection of members of Congress, reward seniority in committee assignments and delegate great power to their subcommittees, recognize lobbies that represent affluent and well organized constituencies while permitting them to subsidize the re-election of incumbents. They must tolerate the frequent rotation in office of political appointees who have to work in antagonistic cooperation with career officials, and they embrace the formation of stable interest networks, including the notorious “iron triangles.” They must put up with an electoral system based on federalism, special interest funding, the right to abstain, and SMD plurality voting.

No doubt, even compliance with all these para-constitutional practices might not assure the survival of a presidentialist regime–especially if environmental conditions were not also auspicious. Of course, the lack of any one or more of these practices may not, by itself, precipitate the collapse of a presidentialist regime–it is their cumulative effect that is important. However, I believe that each of them does contribute significantly to the survival of such a regime and its absence acts like a handicap that, cumulatively, jeopardizes its continued existence.

I do not have systematic data on all presidentialist regimes, but my impression is that most of them abhor many of these practices and, in fact, have adopted more “democratic” rules that, tragically, have the paradoxical effect of undermining any presidentialist regime and leading to military, personalist or hegemonic-party authoritarianism. Any constitution-makers who are unwilling to pay the price needed to enhance the prospects for survival of presidentialist governance ought to consider seriously the alternative designs that are based on executive accountability to an elected assembly. Whenever the head of government can be succeeded, in a crisis, by a responsible political opposition rather than a military junta or a personal dictator, the prospects for the survival of representative government will, I believe, be enhanced and the viability of various democratic practices and public policies will also be increased. 

* * * *

NOTES

1. Between 1946 and 1984 Bolivia had experienced 12 coups, Argentina 8, Ecuador 7, Brazil, Venezuela and South Vietnam 6, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru 5, Panama 4, Dominican Republic 3, Colombia and South Korea 2, Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Uruguay 1. The Philippines fell under presidential authoritarianism in 1972. Although Costa Rica and Mexico did not experience coups during this period, Mexico, after a stormy political history, came under the domination of a hegemonic party, the PRI; and Costa Rica experienced uprisings in 1917 and 1948, but since promulgation of the Constitution of 1949 has had the most stable presidentialist regime, after the United States. All but forgotten are the abortive Chinese (1913) and Philippine (1898, Malolos) republics and the unfortunate Liberian case. Most of the surviving parliamentary regimes are mini-states, but they also include gargantuan India, plus Jamaica, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago. Fiji had not experienced a coup before 1984, but succumbed to one in 1987. These data are unavoidably rough because complex historical events defy simple coding.

2. By contrast, Giovanni Sartori suggests that a polity should be defined as presidential only if 1) the head of state is popularly elected, ii) during his preestablished tenure cannot be displaced or removed by a parliamentary vote, and iii) is both head of government and head of state (Sartori 1990, 1). The first criterion conflates presidentialist with parliamentary systems, many of which have elected heads of state (presidents), and they may be elected indirectly (see note (4)). My single criterion covers the essential points in all three of Sartori’s stipulations while excluding those that are not necessary.

3. Additional distinctions are made here: I shall refer to the elected assembly in any presidentialist system as a Congress and in a parliamentary system as a Parliament, while using legislature as a generic term for both. Since presidential often refers to the office of a President as well as a system of governance, I shall use either Presidential (capitalized) or President’s to characterize properties of the office in presidentialist systems only.

4. The approach used here distinguishes between the defining, accidental and redundant characteristics of a concept. A defining (essential) characteristic is one that is always found in members of a defined class. When only some members of that class have a characteristic, it is called accidental (accompanying) and if non-members also have it, it is redundant (superfluous).

These distinctions are often ignored in definitions of presidential systems. For example, since some Presidents may be re-elected but others may not, this is an accidental property. Similarly, the head of government is normally just one person, but a small group (board or commission) may also exercise Presidential functions, as happened in Uruguay from 1917-33 and 1951-67. Consequently, to specify that the President is one person is to identify an accidental rather than a defining characteristic of presidentialism–though most Presidents, assuredly, are individuals. All Presidents, as heads of government, serve concurrently as heads of state. However, since presidents are also elected in such parliamentary regimes as Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, and Ireland, it is redundant to define Presidents as elected heads of state.

Although Presidents are usually elected by a direct popular vote, this is not true by definition. The American Constitution provides for the indirect election of Presidents by an Electoral College–a rule that is still formally observed. The final choice may actually be made in Congress, as it has been in Bolivia and Chile and even in the U. S. where the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to choose the President when no candidate secures a majority in the Electoral College. Exceptionally, this happened in 1801 when the House chose Jefferson over Burr to break an Electoral College tie, and in 1824 when it selected Adams, although Jackson had a plurality. Since most Presidents are, indeed, popularly elected, this is an important accidental, but not a defining, feature. Moreover, since presidents are also directly elected in some non-presidentialist (parliamentary) regimes–e.g., Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Finland–the direct election of the President is also a redundant characteristic in any definition of presidentialism.

5. Sartori’s scale recognizes semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary forms of government that intervene between the pure presidentialist (primus solus) and the pure parliamentary (primus inter pares) models. His preference is clearly for the two “semi-” types: semi- presidential illustrated by France and Finland, and semi-parliamentary illustrated by Great Britain and West Germany (1989, 6). I shall not discuss the parliamentary alternatives in this paper, but we could usefully examine the experiences of several Latin American countries that have experimented with semi-presidentialist features. Some proposed fundamental reforms of the American constitution also go in the direction of semi-presidentialism rather than full parliamentarism.

6. The dangers of “polarized pluralism” have been lucidly explained by Sartori (1976, 131-145). However, his treatment focuses on parliamentary multi-party systems (except for Chile) and he draws a basic line between “moderate” and “polarized” pluralism, using five or six parties as the dividing line. My analysis supplements his by emphasizing the parliamentary/presidentialist context and by arguing that even a two-party system can be highly polarized (centrifugal) by PR- based factionalism, as in Uruguay and Colombia.

7. Because much if not most of the income of traditional officials was secured from extra- governmental sources, bureaucrats lacked the incentives found in modern polities for seizing power and we find no examples of a real coup d’etat in these societies, with the possible exception of the Mamlukes in Egypt (Riggs 1991, 7-8).

8. The historical reasons for this phenomenon are elaborated in Riggs (1991 and 1993a). Most importantly, the new states have inherited well entrenched modern bureaucracies whereas the institutions of representative government required to control them were established, usually, only as independence approached. Not surprisingly, when and if these new-born institutions failed to handle serious problems, especially those involving public finance, threatened officials were willing to support a coup that promised to stabilize their own incomes.

9. No elected assembly can, by itself, govern effectively–it always falls into disarray and deep cleavages. According to Douglas Verney, “Convention government, the domination of a political system by the Assembly, has generally been unsuccessful” (1959, 57). Until the development of both the presidentialist and parliamentary models in the 19th century, political theorists tended to think that the only option for governing a society involved a choice between the rule of one (as in monarchy) or the rule of an assembly (as in classical Greek democracy). Monarchic absolutism remains as a political fossil in a dozen or so countries (mainly in the oil-rich Arabian peninsula) but convention government has been severely discredited ever since the disaster of the French Convention of 1792-5.

10. What determines the capacity of a legislature to sustain its power position in the face of Presidential pressures is a complex and important problem that I shall not address here. However, in an earlier essay, I offered some reflections on the need for party competition as a basis for legislative power, pointing out that legislatures in countries with a single-party or hegemonic party system are reduced to political powerlessness (Riggs 1973).

11. A strong political campaign is now under way in the United States to restrict senioritism by setting limits to the time legislators may remain in office. This campaign appears to be partly motivated by the hope of Republicans that, thereby, they might regain “parity in Congress and in most of the legislatures of America” (Cannon, 1990). California has recently adopted, by referendum, a rule that limits members of its state Assembly to six years in office. Since some 96% of its members who sought reelection during the last decade were returned to office, this will force a mass turn-over by 1996. Meanwhile, many state legislators, “…concerned about their political and economic futures [will] seek other offices or leave government altogether” (Cannon 1990). By contrast, the state of Washington, in November 1991, rejected a proposition that would also have set term limits–mainly because of a desire to retain their own long-term member of Congress, Speaker Tom Foley.

12. This situation has generated an interesting academic debate–the classical preference of American political theory for democratic values rooted in liberal notions of the importance of majority rule has been largely replaced by theories rooted in pluralism, the idea that it is in the general interest to permit many special interests to compete freely for their share of the public patrimony, the sum of these claims adding up, supposedly, to the general interest. As Trudi Miller has noted, the prevalence of a pluralist orientation among American intellectuals welcomes special interest politics as desirable. She calls for a revival of 18th century liberal theory in a modernized form. Such a theory, rooted in the notions of individualism, rationality, and majoritarianism, is attributed, among others, to James Madison who wrote in The Federalist, no.10, “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote” (1989, 80).

13. Juan Linz argues that “In countries [e.g., the U.S.] where the preponderance of voters is centrist… and expects both rightist and leftist candidates to differ only within a larger, moderate consensus, the divisiveness latent in presidential[ist] competition is not a serious problem. With an overwhelmingly moderate electorate, anyone who makes alliances or takes positions that seem to incline him to the extremes is unlikely to win…” (Linz 1990, 57). By contrast, my analysis of the American party system attributes its ability to sustain a centripetal dynamic to the reluctance or inability of most poor and uneducated citizens to vote, rather than to any consensus that can be ascribed to moderate “independent” voters. Indeed, I believe that there are as many potential voters with extremist views in the U.S. as in any other country. The big difference is that they see no reason to vote. Perhaps charismatic candidates, like Jesse Jackson on the left or David Duke on the right, could mobilize many apathetic non-voters, but only at the cost of centrifugalizing the party system, encouraging candidates to espouse extreme positions that would appeal to white racist non-voters as well as impoverished and disaffected ethnic minorities–a good example can be found in the defeat of David Duke for governor of Louisiana in November 1991, where an unprecedentedly large turnout of black voters was generated in reaction to Duke’s racist history.

14. Linz, for example, writes about “…the diffuse character of American political parties– which, ironically, exasperates many American political scientists and leads them to call for responsible, ideologically disciplined parties…” He notes, however, that the American case is exceptional by contrast with the “development of modern political parties…” elsewhere (1990, 53). From a different perspective, Edward Greenberg attacks the American party system as too loose, uncommitted, and elitist (1980, 229-234) and argues that, although “Elections play an important function in the overall maintenance of the American system, and of the capitalist order at its base,” they “…do so even though–indeed precisely because–they perform largely ceremonial and symbolic functions” (229). Greenberg fails to see that the kind of parliamentary (ideological) party that he prefers as more inherently democratic would centrifugalize the party system and jeopardize the survival of presidentialism in America.

15. By contrast, PR is clearly compatible with parliamentarism where small minorities can actually participate in coalition governments. PR may even be compatible with two-party parliamentary systems, but this combination is unusual. Maurice Duverger, while advocating PR systems in general, has pointed out that “…it can happen that PR does not prevent the formation of a two-party system, as in Austria and the German Federal Republic. But these cases are exceptions and depend on special circumstances” (1984, 37). In view of the rejoinders to Lijphart (1991a) by Lardeyret (1991) and Quade (1991) I am not persuaded that PR necessarily improves the performance of parliamentary regimes but, on the basis of Lijphart’s response (1991b), I agree it might be better than plurality systems. My argument here is simply that, by promoting centrifugalism, PR undermines the viability of presidentialism.

16. Faction is often used loosely, especially when describing local party organization in the U.S.(Henry 1984, 83-85). In fact, however, local intra-party groups rarely combine to form coherent national “factions.” A lucid explanation of the difference between factions (well organized intra-party groups) and tendencies (loosely patterned attitudes) is contained in Sartori (1976, 75-82). He classes both as fractions. A good example of an American party “tendency” would be the “Boll Weevils” in the Democratic Party who helped President Ronald Reagan gain Congressional support for some of his key programs. A counterpart Republican group, the “Gypsy Moths,” frequently defected from their party’s position. How Reagan and his followers managed to secure the support of Boll Weevils and prevent defection by the Gypsy Moths is explained in colorful detail by Hedrick Smith (1988, 471-7). Although one may well deplore this amorphous pattern of “tendencies” in American political parties and its affinity for elitist “back room” wheeling and dealing, it seems to be conducive to the survival of presidentialism in America.

17. Under presidentialism, it is almost impossible for a centrist governing coalition to form when a centrifugalized party system prevails. A possible exception might have been Chile, but even in this case, as Valenzuela explains, “…centrist movements only minimally represented a viable centrist tendency and were in fact primarily reflections of the erosion of the two extreme poles… The instability of centrist movements…contributed to the difficulties in building common public policies because centrist consensus at the decision making level was so fragile. The erosion of centrist consensus accelerated dramatically during the Allende years and contributed to the crisis culminating in regime breakdown” (1989, 14).

Linz also recognizes this problem when he writes: “One of the possible consequences of two-candidate races in multiparty systems is that broad coalitions are likely to be formed (whether in run-offs or in pre-election maneuvering) in which extremist parties gain undue influence.” Consequently, “…a Presidential election can fragment and polarize the electorate.” He sees the American system as exceptional because, there, “the preponderance of voters is centrist, agrees on the exclusion of extremists, and expects both rightist and leftist candidates to differ only within a larger, moderate consensus…” thereby overcoming “the divisiveness latent in presidential competition…” (1990, 57).

However, Linz ignores the possibility that the American exception is not so much due to a “centrist consensus” as it is to the centripetalism of a party system based on SMD voting and the right to abstain that, together, enhance the weight of a relatively small number of independent voters while dampening participation by peripheralized people. The point is that we may better understand the attitudes of American voters and non-voters if we view them, structurally, as a consequence of the centripetalized party system. My guess is that any presidentialist polity would generate popular responses similar to the American if it were to develop a centripetalized rather than a centrifugalized party system. However, to do that, it would have to sacrifice important democratic values, e.g., by relying on SMD plurality electoral systems and accepting the right of citizens to abstain from voting. Under these conditions, no doubt, the behavior of voters might create the illusion of a centrist consensus as the cause of political moderation, rather than the consequence of electoral rules and widespread non-voting.

18. For a summary of one party domination in the states and the shifts that have occurred, together with analysis of the reasons for these changes and their significance, see Henry (1984, 98-106).

19. Mainwaring argues that the “…combination of presidentialism and a multiparty system is further complicated by the strong federalist bases of Brazilian politics” (1990a, 23-4) I would argue, instead, that Brazil’s fluid multi-party system is primarily caused by its open-list PR electoral system, which is simply reinforced by its federalism. Mainwaring also points out that the extreme fluidity of party identification in Brazil leads “…clientelistic politicians to join the party in power, regardless of what it is” (1990a, 24). There is a similar tendency in the U.S., before elections, but party responsiveness dampens the tendency and, once elected, legislators will be strongly sanctioned by their local supporters if they try to jump to the other party.

20. Elsewhere, I have argued that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative in order to survive whereas parliamentary regimes may well move much further in the direction of social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises (Riggs 1990, 230-232). However, in that context I failed to appreciate the importance of an open centripetal party system as the linkage mechanism that both enables capitalism to dominate the regime while compelling the regime to protect and regulate capitalism in order to assure its own survival.

21. A pioneer exposition of the class basis of the American Constitution was offered in Beard (1913). The founding fathers counted on the indirect election of both the President and the Senate, plus the prevalence of property qualifications in the state laws governing elections to the House of Representatives to assure support for the minority interests of property-holders (augmented by the obstacles to be overcome by decision-makers subjected to the severe constraints of an institutional design based on the separation of powers). Subsequent constitutional changes have eliminated these electoral safeguards, rendering all three of these basic institutions subject to popular elections (despite the anachronistic survival of the Electoral College). Contemporary radical explanations of the American government rely, more explicitly, on the Marxist view that bourgeois capitalism is an autonomously powerful socio-economic actor capable of imposing its preferences on a government subject to its domination. Greenberg, for example, writes that “…the building blocks of a general understanding of the political economy appear in that body of work known as Marxist social theory.” In that context, Greenberg sees “Government…as the institutional expression of the needs and interests of those who own property, and not as a popular tool for the redress of grievances,” and views “…what we might call normal politics (elections, representation, petition, and the like) only from within the more general framework of capitalism as a whole” (l980, 13-14).

By contrast with the position I am offering here, Greenberg views capitalism in a unilinear perspective as accountable for the performance of both government and the party system, while dismissing the relation of the party system to government as unimportant or purely symbolic. By ignoring the properties both of parliamentary government and of other presidentialist regimes, his interpretation is essentially non-comparative (parochial).

More conventional authors often ignore the linkages between presidentialism and the capitalist system. Comparisons with other presidentialist (and parliamentary) regimes, however, should enable us to formulate a more adequate understanding of the interdependence of capitalism and presidentialism in a context of circular causation, via the party system. Here my focus is more specifically on the linkages between capitalism and the maintenance of an open party system.

22. American specialists on Public Administration normally use the term program-oriented in contrast with career-oriented, a juxtaposition that emphasizes positions rather than rank as a focal concept. This distinction also separates the American from the British practice, but here I need to emphasize a different dichotomy: the specialist (departmental or functionist) by contrast with the generalist (class) criterion. Functionaries are career specialists, by contrast with transient generalists (the political appointees)–they constitute the two main divisions of the American bureaucracy. In the British, as in most parliamentary systems, elitist mandarins are career generalists by contrast with lower level functionaries (career specialists).


REFERENCES

Aberbach, Joel D., Robert D. Putnam, and Bert A. Rockman (1981). Bureaucrats and Politicians in Western Democracies. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Baaklini, Abdo (1992). The Brazilian Legislature and Political System. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

Beard, Charles (1913). An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. New York: Macmillan.

Black, Eric (1988). Our Constitution: The Myth that Binds Us. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Blitz, Mark (1990). “Term Limits a Poor Solution.” Honolulu Advertiser Dec. 18, A14.

Broder, David (1990). Column. Honolulu Advertiser. March 14, A8.

Cannon, Lou (1990). “Term limits: GOP’s big hope.” Honolulu Advertiser, Dec. 15, 1990, A8.

Carino, Ledivina (1988). Bureaucracy for a Democracy: The Struggle of the Philippine Political Leadership and the Civil Service in the Post-Marcos Period. Occasional Paper No.88-1. Manila: University of the Philippines, College of Public Administration.
—– (1989). “A Dominated Bureaucracy: An Analysis of the Formulation of, and Reactions to, State Policies on the Philippine Civil Service.” (Unpublished paper)

Cerny, Philip G. (1989). “Political Entropy and American Decline.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 18:1, 47-63.

Conaghan, Catherine M. (1989). “Loose Parties, Floating Politicians, and Institutional Stress: Presidentialism in Ecuador, 1979-88.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

Crenson, Matthew A. (1975). The Federal Machine: Beginnings of Bureaucracy in Jacksonian America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

De Guzman, Raul P. and Mila A. Reforma, eds. (1988). Government and Politics of the Philippines. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

Dogan, Mattei, ed. (1975). The Mandarins of Western Europe. New York: John Wiley.

Durant, Robert F. (1990). “Beyond Fear or Favor: Appointee-Careerist Relations in the Post- Reagan Era.” Public Administration Review. 50:3, 319-331.

Duverger, Maurice. 1980. “A New Political System Model: Semipresidential Government.” European Journal of Political Research. 8, 165-187.
—– (1984). “Which is the Best Electoral System?” Lijphart and Grofman, 31-39.

Federalist Papers (1961). Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. New York: New American Library.

Gillespie, Charles Guy (1989). “Presidential-Parliamentary Relations and the Problems of Democratic Stability: The Case of Uruguay.” (Paper for Georgetown Univ. Symposium)

Gonzalez, Luis E. (1989). “Presidentialism, Party Systems and Democratic Stability: The Uruguayan Case.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

Greenberg, Edward S. (1980). The American Political System: A Radical Approach. Second edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Winthrop Publishers.

Hallett, George H., Jr. (1984). “Proportional Representation with the Single Transferable Vote: A Basic Requirement for Legislative Elections.” Lijphart and Grofman, 113-125.

Hardin, Charles (1974). Presidential Power and Accountability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. —– (1989). Constitutional Reform in the United States. Iowa State University Press.

Harris, James W. (1990). “Third Parties Out,” The Nation. Nov.12, 548-9.

Hartlyn, Jonathan (1989). “Presidentialism and Colombian Politics.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

Heclo, Hugh (1987). “The In-and-Outer System: A Critical Assessment.” In The In-and- Outers: Presidential Appointees and Transient Government in Washington. ed. C. Calvin Mackenzie. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

Hermens, Ferdinand A. (1984). “Representation and Proportional Representation.” Lijphart and Grofman, 15-30.
—– (1989). “Making Democracy Safe for the World.” (Unpublished paper)
—– (1990). “From Tyranny to Democracy.” Freedom at Issue. New York: Freedom House. 114, 6-9.

Henry, Nicholas (1984). Governing at the Grassroots: State and Local Politics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hoogenboom, Ari. (1961). Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement, 1865-1883. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press.

Jackson, Robert H. and Carl G. Rosberg (1982). Personal Rule in Black Africa: Prince, Autocrat, Prophet, Tyrant. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kesler, Charles (1988). “Separation of Powers and the Administrative State.” The Imperial Congress,” Gordon S. Jones and John A. Marini, eds. New York: Pharos Books (the Heritage Foundation).

Lardeyret, Guy (1991) “The Problem with PR.” Journal of Democracy, 2:3, 36-41.

Lasswell, Harold D. and Abraham Kaplan (1950). Power and Society: A Framework for Political Inquiry. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lazare, Daniel (1996) The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution is Paralyzing Democracy. Harcourt Brace [Note: this book appeared after the Riggs paper was published, but its critique of the American constitutional system is highly relevant to the theme of this essay.]

Lijphart, Arend (1989). “Presidentialism and Majoritarian Democracy: Theoretical Observations.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)
—–(1991a) “Constitutional Choices for New Democracies.” Journal of Democracy. 2:1, 72-84.
—– (1991b) “Double-Checking the Evidence.” Journal of Democracy, 2:3, 42-48.
—–and Bernard Grofman, (1984). Choosing an Electoral System. New York: Praeger.

Linz, Juan (1990). “The Perils of Presidentialism.” Journal of Democracy. 1:1, 51-69.

—- and Arturo Valenzuela, eds. (1994) The Failure of Presidential Democracy. Baltimore: Johns Hoppkins

Mainwaring, Scott, (1989). “Presidentialism in Latin America: A Review Essay.” Latin American Research Review, 25:1, 157-179.
—– (1990a). “Brazilian Party Underdevelopment in Comparative Perspective.” Working Paper #134, University of Notre Dame, Kellogg Institute (Revised version of a paper presented at the International Political Science Association congress, 1988)
—– (1990b). “Dilemmas of Multiparty Presidential Democracy: The Case of Brazil.” (Paper prepared for the World Congress of Sociology)

McClintock, Cynthia (1989). “Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does it make a difference? The Peruvian Case.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

McIlwain, Charles Howard (1947). Constitutionalism: Ancient and Modern. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Mezey, Michael L. (1989). “Congress within the United States Presidential System.” Paper presented at the APSA Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.

Miller, Trudi C. (1989). “The Operation of Democratic Institutions.” Public Administration Review, 49:6, 511-521.

Molinelli, N. Gullermo (1988). “President-Congress Relations in Argentina: l860s-1980s.” Paper presented at the IPSA World Congress, 1988, Washington, D.C.
—–(1989). (Personal letter with extended comments on Riggs (1988c) sent to the author on Sept. 11, 1989)

Newland, Chester A. (1987). “Public Executives: Imperium, Sacerdotium, Collegium? Public Administration Review. 47:1, 45-56.

Nino, Carlos Santiago (1988). “Transition to Democracy, Corporatism and Constitutional Reform in Latin America.” (Unpublished paper)

Pfiffner, James P. (1987). “Political Appointees and Career Executives.” Public Administration Review, 47:1, 57-65.

Pious, Richard M. (1986). American Politics and Government. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Quade, Quentin (1963). “Presidential Leadership: Paralyzed or Irresponsible.” Parliamentary Affairs. 17:1, 65-76.2
—– (1991) “PR and Democratic Statecraft.” Journal of Democracy, 2:3, 30-5.

Riggs, Fred W. (1965) “The Political Context of Administrative Reform: Relearning an Old Lesson.” Public Administration Review. 25:1, 70-79.
—– (1973). “Legislative Structures: Some Thoughts on Elected National Assemblies,” Legislatures in Comparative Perspective. Allan Kornberg, ed. New York: McKay.
—– (l985). “Bureaucratic Power and Administrative Change.” Administrative Change. Jaipur, India. 11:2 (“1984”), 105-158.
—– (1988a). “Bureaucratic Politics in the U.S.: Benchmarks for Comparison.” Governance. l:4, 343-379.
—– (1988b). “The Interdependence of Politics and Administration.” Philippine Journal of Public Administration. 31:4 (“1987”), 418-438.
—– (1988c). “Survival of Presidentialism in America: Para-constitutional Practices.” International Political Science Review. 9:4, 247-278.
—– (1989). “The Political Ecology of American Public Administration: A Neo-Hamiltonian Approach,” International Journal of Public Administration, 12:3, 355-384.
—– (1990). “A Neo-Institutional Typology of Third World Polities.” Contemporary Political Systems: Classification and Typologies. Anton Bebler and James Seroka, eds. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
—– (1991). “Bureaucratic Links between Administration and Polities,” Ali Farazmand, ed. Handbook of Comparative and Development Public Administration and Policy. New York: Marcel Dekker. pp.587-509.
—– (1993a). “Fragility of the Third World Regimes.” International Social Science Journal. No.136, pp.199-243.
—– (1993b). “Bureaucracy and the Constitution.” Public Administration Review. (in press)

Robinson, Donald L. ed. (1985). Reforming American Government: The Bicentennial Papers of the Committee on the Constitutional System. Boulder and London: Westview Press.
—– (1989). Government for the Third American Century. Boulder, CO.: Westview.

Rodgers, Harrell R. and Michael Harrington (1985). Unfinished Democracy: The American Political System. 2nd edition. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman.

Rohr, John A. (1986). To Run a Constitution. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas.

Rosenbloom, David (1983). “Public Administrative Theory and the Separation of Powers.” Public Administration Review, 43:3, 219-227.

Rourke, Francis E. (1984). Bureaucracy, Politics, and Public Policy. Third ed. Boston: Little, Brown.

Sartori, Giovanni (1976). Parties and Party Systems. Vol.I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
—– (1990). “Neither Presidentialism nor Parliamentarism.” (Paper for Stable Democracy in the Third World) (in press) Severn, Bill (1969). John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Court Supreme. New York: David McKay.

Smith, Hedrick (1988). The Power Game: How Washington Works. New York: Random House.

Suleiman, Ezra N. (1989). “French Presidentialism and Political Stability.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

Sundquist, James L. (1986). Constitutional Reform and Effective Government. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

Valenzuela, Arturo (1984). “Parties, Politics, and the State in Chile: The Higher Civil Service.” In Bureaucrats and Policy Making, Ezra N. Suleiman, ed. New York: Holmes & Meier.

—– (1988). “Chile: Origins, Consolidation and Breakdown of a Democratic Regime.” in Democracy in Developing Countries: Latin America. Larry Diamond, Juan Linz and Seymour Martin Lipset, eds. Vol. 4. Denver, Colo.: Lynne Rienner. [references based on pre- publication draft]

—– (1989). “Party Politics and the Failure of Presidentialism in Chile.” (Paper for Georgetown University Symposium)

Van Riper, Paul A. (1958). History of the United States Civil Service. Evanston, Ill.: Row, Peterson.

Verney, Douglas V. (1958). The Analysis of Political Systems. Glencoe: Free Press.

Waisman, Carlos H. (1989). “Counterrevolution and Structural Change: The Case of Argentina.” International Political Science Review, 10:2, 159-174.

Weaver, Leon (1984). “Semi-proportional and Proportional Representation Systems in the United States.” Lijphart and Grofman, 191-206.

White, Leonard D. (1948). The Federalists. New York: Free Press.
—– (1951). The Jeffersonians. New York: Macmillan.
—– (1954). The Jacksonians. New York: Macmillan. Winger, Richard, ed. Ballot Access News.

Wright, J. F. H. (1984). “An Electoral Basis for Responsible Government: The Australian Experience.” Lijphart and Grofman, 127-134.

Sen. Claro M. Recto on the Presidential System

The late Senator Claro M. Recto, president of the 1934 Constitutional Convention which drafted the 1935 charter, describes the Philippine political system this way:

The late Senator Claro M. Recto

“Our Constitution was frankly an imitation of the American charter. Many of the delegates were products of an American system of education and consequently were obsessed with the sincere belief that Democracy can be defined only in American terms. Necessarily, therefore, the Philippine presidency became a copy of the American presidency, with its vast concentration of powers and only periodical accountability to the people. Like the man in the White House, the man in Malacañang is now safe from immediate responsibility. And like the men on Capitol Hill, the men on Taft and Lepanto (the old Congress) do not have to render accounts for the fixed limits of their terms. A bad President and a bad Congress may not, in Lincoln’s phrase, fool all the people all of the time. But they can make fools of the people – they can make fools of themselves – for at least four years.

Only God and impeachment can remove the President from high office, no matter how incompetent or dangerous he may have proved himself to be in the eyes of the majority of the electorate. He may quarrel with his Congress. Congress may rebel against him and systematically obstruct his administration. But the issue must remain unresolved for the duration of their arbitrary terms. Neither the President nor the Congress may be changed although those two active powers of government may be stifling the Nation in a stubborn and unbreakable deadlock.

Under the Constitution the Presidency is potentially more powerful. I do not believe it an exaggeration to state that the President of the Philippines could easily convert himself into an actual dictator within the framework of the Charter. With his control of local governments and all that it signifies in terms of elections, with huge sums and unlimited sinecures to distribute, with emergency powers to rule by executive decrees as a last resort, he is restrained only by his own conscience from perpetuating himself or his party in power.

I do not recall any considerable discussion in the Constitutional Convention on this ancient and persistent problem of governmental responsibility. I believe we were too deeply under the spell of the American system to give much thought to any alternative. But now that we have presumably been freed by the declaration of our independence… the Filipino people may soberly consider (another) system… to harness the power of government to the will of the people.”

Taken from: http://www.iper.org.ph/documentation/parlshift.pdf

(Note: Recto was commenting on the 1935 System which was better than the 1987 System. What would C.M. Recto say if he were talking about the 1987 System which is a much more degenerated and defective system than the 1935 one?)

* * * 

* * *

Here are some useful articles on the Parliamentary versus Presidential Systems:

1) Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

2) Sen. Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

3) The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

4) Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

5) Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

6) Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change? 

Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

(First published on antipinoy.com on July 7, 2010)

At the time of this writing, millions of people around the world are obsessing about the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the noise of the annoying Vuvuzela horn. From every continent, people speaking almost every language, coming from practically every race, creed, and color are excitedly watching the game called “Association Football.”  Unfortunately, there’s been relative calm in the Philippines, as hardly anyone, save for a few die-hard soccer fans, actually watched the World Cup closely.

Soccer, (coming from the word “association” in the sport’s full-name “Association Football”), called “Football” by everyone else, is also known as the world’s Beautiful Game. It is one of the most democratic sports ever – as Time Magazine recently described it. Anyone can play and excel in it: Rich or poor, light-skinned or dark-skinned, and most importantly, tall or short.  That last one is of utmost importance, considering that we Filipinos, most of whom are not very tall, are crazy about basketball – a sport that obviously favors tall players.

It has caused numerous ceasefires in many conflict zones as Israelis and Palestinians (Soccer is the biggest sport in the Middle East) or Rebel guerrillas and Government troops in continents like Africa or Latin America, often stop fighting just to watch the World Cup or other high-profile soccer matches on TV or listen to live commentaries on radio. During World War I, an informal Truce on Christmas Day in 1914 witnessed one of the most amazing displays of human fraternity as warring sides – British & French versus the Germans came together and played Soccer. After having played the game, made friends, and exchanged names & addresses, the soldiers simply could not shoot at each other once the truce ended, forcing their respective angry generals to send all of them to other fronts to fight against other enemies.

It’s a real shame because while Filipinos were glued to the NBA Finals at about the same time that the World Cup was just about starting, one unfortunate fact continues to be ignored by basketball-crazy Filipinos: We are never going to excel in sports that require height. Unlike most basketball-loving Filipinos, millions of average-height, barely middle-class, or even impoverished Africans and Latin Americans who play and practice soccer can actually dream of one day playing professionally for local or internationally-famous professional teams such as Manchester United (England), Juventus (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), or Galatasaray (Turkey) – to name a few – and live a life of fame and fortune. These are dreams which are feasible as long as whoever plays and practices the sport has the competence, talent, and commitment, because the game-dynamics of soccer simply does not require height. It needs to be said that soccer legend Diego Maradona of Argentina became a soccer superstar with his very Filipino height of 5 ft 4.

In stark contrast to the meritocratic nature of soccer which does not care much about being born with the genes for height, the fixation that Filipinos have for basketball creates so many shattered dreams. Millions of young Filipinos are raised to love a sport that does not love them back. Many waste inordinate amounts of time practicing the game, wishing that they would be just like Kobe Bryant when they grow up, only to grow to their full height which might be just a few inches taller than Diego Maradona – a height that is just not cut for competitive basketball.

Filipinos even love to watch the NBA play-offs, but even if the Philippines is perhaps the most basketball-crazy country in the World (Americans are more obsessed with American Football and Baseball), countries with much more diversified sporting interests such as Mainland China and the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Croatia, etc, who all watch more soccer than they do basketball, have successfully sent players to the NBA. The Philippines has never sent a Filipino to the NBA!

Numerous honest discussions and debates have erupted about the need to shift the Philippines’ team sports focus from the excessively height-centric basketball towards the more height-agnostic soccer in order to focus on a sport in which every ordinary Filipino can excel. However, the rebuttals to the contrary range from such excuses as “The cultural temperament of Filipinos makes them prefer basketball because it has a faster-pace of point-scoring while soccer’s scores are low and goal-scoring is rare” to other excuses like“soccer requires a huge field in order to play while basketball needs a much smaller space.”

Who says you need a field to play soccer?

Both excuses fall flat considering that Filipinos are ethnically and even temperamentally similar to the Malays of Malaysia and Brunei (except in religion), both of whom enjoy and excel in soccer within the ASEAN region. It can be argued too that most Latin Americans, with whom Filipinos share common Spanish colonial history vis-à-vis Hispano-America and a very similar Iberian heritage with Portuguese-speaking Brazil, are somewhat culturally similar to Filipinos (especially in their sense of humor) and yet they too enjoy the sport immensely and are perhaps among the most excellent players of the Beautiful Game in the World. Most importantly, millions of impoverished Latin-Americans and Africans often practice playing soccer just about anywhere, be it on a small field, a dusty road, or even a small backyard. Some of the world’s highest-paid soccer stars come from such an impoverished background and they often cherish their childhood memories of growing up, playing soccer barefoot with plastic bottles or anything they can kick around as their ball, drawing lines on the ground to serve as their “goals.” It is just not true that Filipinos cannot shift to soccer.

The unfortunate fact is that Filipinos prefer to stick to whatever status quo they’ve grown used to. The real problem here is Inertia: the resistance to change.

Resistance to Change

Indeed, there is something really flawed about the situation, and Filipinos have to immediately correct it. Unfortunately, there seems to be something about us Filipinos that exacerbates our resistance to change: We have a tendency to refuse to admit that a problem exists, and often prefer to just ignore it and sweep the problem under the rug. In case that problem stares squarely at us, thereby making it impossible to ignore, quite often, we just outright refuse to do the work that would fix that problem and just endure the resulting mediocrity. Worse, many Filipinos prefer to make excuses that seek to justify such refusal to fix the problem, oftentimes reasoning – using intellectual dishonesty – that trying to fix the problem would actually make things worse.

We need not look far to see that this problem is not solely confined to the world of sports, in which increasing attention is being placed on the Soccer versus Basketball debate. Just recently, journalist and current Ambassador to Greece, Rigoberto Tiglao, recently wrote a two-part special on why Filipinos are not into Soccer.

The Tall Man’s Game

In it, he likened the need for Filipinos to carefully consider shifting from basketball to soccer and the difficulty in convincing Filipinos to do so, with the fact that many Filipinos still stubbornly refuse to at least attempt to consider the objective merits of the Parliamentary System as a possible option to replace the current Philippine Presidential System. It has been observed that the Philippine Presidential System’s skew towards popularity and name-recall , coupled with the Philippine Electorate’s preference for form over substance that unfortunately brought about perhaps the most embarrassing stain on the Philippines’ international reputation in 1998, when celebrity actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada won as President of the Philippines. The Philippines had another close call in 2004 when his fellow celebrity actor and close friend, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. almost won. And just recently in May 2010, the convicted-of-plunder ex-President Estrada who was deposed in 2001 ran again and took second place.

In the meantime, numerous politicians aspiring for the Presidency jockey for positions in the equally useless and non-representative Philippine Senate (whose Senators do not represent constituencies unlike in the USA, where Senators are elected per State), and as a result, the Philippine Senate has numerous “Senactors” (Senators who are actors) as well as politicians married to actresses or celebrities.

We continue to be a basketball-crazed society that is isolated from the soccer-loving rest of the world and yet we can’t even excel in this game we so love, nor can we send talented Filipino players to the NBA because basketball is a game that clearly favors height and we simply do not have the height that would at least give us a fighting chance.

In almost the exact same way, we continue to clamor for improvements in our lives, our economic livelihood, and the quality of our politics, yet because of a system of government whose electoral procedure (choosing the name of an individual candidate running for President) clearly favors “winnability” (popularity and name-recall) over competence, we end up with incompetent people who become President only because of their celebrity status or famous surnames. At other times, we also end up with leaders who – though sometimes competent – are forced to pander to the public lest they risk being unable to govern if they fail to play the popularity game.

When will we Filipinos realize that for us to excel in team sports, we need to choose a sport where competence and real talent are much more important than one’s height?

When will we Filipinos realize that for our society to be better-run, more efficient, and more responsive to our people’s needs, we need to choose a system of government in which quality policy-making, platform relevance, and competence take overwhelming precedence over petty traits such as celebrity-status, personal popularity, and name-recall?

Knowing that both basketball and the current Presidential System are not good for us, why then do we Filipinos continue to insist on sticking it out with the both of them instead of making the necessary changes that would correct the problems that these two Problematic American Imports continue to cause?

Once upon a time, Albert Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

Basketball & the Presidential System: Problematic US Imports

There is absolutely no doubt that an objective and honest discussion on the merits of soccer over basketball most certainly parallels the discussion on the merits of a Parliamentary System over the Presidential System.

Both Basketball and the Presidential System are largely American inventions which they brought along with them during the almost 50 years that they occupied our country and we Filipinos took to both of them as if they were our own.

Unfortunately, both basketball and the Presidential System have pre-requisites that Americans often meet which Filipinos don’t: Basketball inherently favors height for a player to be considered eligible for competitive play because the hoops are high. On the other hand, the Presidential System requires that the electorate be naturally issues-centric and platform-oriented in order to counterbalance the inherent personality-centered exercise of voting for a presidential candidate.

They want to be like Kobe

Incidentally, both basketball and the Presidential System have brought Failure to Filipinos: Basketball has shattered the dreams and self-esteem of millions of young Filipinos who’ve continued to aspire to be just like their idols Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, practicing basketball for hours on end, only to be rendered ineligible for competitive basketball all because they were too short.  On the other hand, the current Philippine Presidential System (based on the 1987 Constitution) has shattered the lives of millions of Filipinos who – because the system favors candidate winnability (popularity, and name-recall) over competence and a sound platform for governance – often end up with leaders who merely have popularity but no competence. Sometimes we end up with leaders and lawmakers who have no choice but to pander to the public instead of focusing on doing what is the correct and beneficial course of action in the long-term, even if it may appear to be unpopular in the short-term. Most politicians with presidential ambitions (except for a select few) therefore tend to focus too much on short-term popularity by engaging in publicity stunts in order to have the name-recall and media attention they need just to have a stab at the Presidency when the time comes to run for it.

In the end, Philippine Society as well as its Government is often unable to make the hard decisions necessary that would bring about a better economy, more jobs, more prosperity, and more improvements to the lives of the people, all because the focus on popularity-based personality-politics always manages to derail society away from focusing on the most important aspects of governance.

In a manner of speaking, it can be said that both basketball and the Presidential System are skewed towards traits which Filipinos either do not have in abundance (height for basketball) or towards traits that Filipinos are extremely obsessed about (popularity and celebrity-status for the Presidential System), both of which lead to Mediocrity and ultimately, towards Failure.

In the former case, Americans have a bigger pool of tall people to select from who may excel in professional basketball, while Filipinos clearly do not. In the latter, Americans have the required cultural and political maturity, policy and platform focus, issues focus, and the ability to zero-in more on the message rather than the messenger in order to counteract and counterbalance the inherent skew towards popularity and name-recall that is inherent in the Presidential System. Filipinos, sadly, are more culturally pre-disposed towards personality, celebrity-status, and popularity, so that winning Philippine presidential elections is more about fielding candidates who are deemed “winnable” rather than determining who among the prospective candidates is the most competent, possesses the necessary qualifications that would enable him to perform his duties successfully, and who has done the best job related to governance in the past and as such, is therefore most likely going to do a splendid job.

Regarding the sport of basketball, it is also no wonder that Filipino basketball players are not exactly NBA-quality (and therefore explains why no Filipino has ever gone to the NBA). In the Philippines, many basketball players who get chosen to go professional are often those who are of towering height, never mind that they may not exactly be the best among the entire pool of available players. There are oftentimes people who play basketball really well and can shoot hoops accurately, but simply because they are too short and unable to do slam-dunks, they are totally ignored by recruitment scouts for professional or semi-professional teams.

In fact, stories circulated in the past about some UAAP basketball teams whose alumni associations recruited players who were not really basketball prodigies, but just plain “tall giants” from their respective high schools. It was evident from their on-court performance: These were extremely tall players who always missed getting the ball through the basket during free throws. No mystery there: Such players were recruited for their height, not for their prowess in basketball.

Product of the Philippine Presidential System

Once again, this parallel zeroes in on the main problem that the Presidential System has brought on the Philippines. Very similar to basketball’s unfair preference for tall people, the  Presidential System has an inherent skew towards winnability  (popularity and name-recall), coupled with the cultural inclination of Filipinos to gossip more about popular celebrities and their private lives or marital woes, and discuss less about the most important issues related to the economy and governance. It is therefore not difficult to see why numerous actors and showbiz celebrities end up as politicians and why professional politicians often end up marrying famous actresses or TV personalities just to gain media mileage and rapport with the voting public. It also shows precisely why the discussions in Philippine Politics tend towards vacuity and pettiness, rather than on real practical problem-solving. For this reason, the Philippines continues to be unable to fix the same kinds of problems that have hounded it for decades, while other countries are zooming ahead leaving the Philippines in the dust.

In other words, the system of government in the Philippines is set up so that the people who are most favored to win in national elections tend to be those candidates who have the necessary popularity and the name-recall (actors, showbiz celebrities, children of well-known politicians, politicians married to celebrities, controversial public figures who get excessive media exposure, athletes and basketball stars, etc) required to win said popularity contests, to the detriment of those people who have the requisite expertise, competence, track record, vision, and most importantly, the relevant platform of governance that matches the needs of the country at a given point in time.

It doesn’t help much that the Philippines continues to make use of the direct popular vote in stark contrast to the more indirect voting system of the US Electoral College, which was set up by America’s Founding Fathers with the express intention of moderating and mitigating the tyranny of popularity, name-recall, and emotionalism that is the unfortunate negative tendency of direct democracy. In addition, there also is the fact that the two-party system of the USA makes use of party-based Caucuses & Primary Elections to ensure that – as much as possible – the best man (or woman) for the job is chosen by each party.

To be absolutely honest about it, there is a steadily increasing dissatisfaction and growing base of evidence worldwide against the dismal operational efficiency and low degree of accountability resulting from the Presidential System. Case in point: There is a large number of disadvantages that the Presidential System is described to possess by numerous political scientists and economists, particularly by renowned political scientist and expert on political systems Dr. Juan Linz, PhD of Yale in his famous essay “The Perils of Presidentialism) as well as a recent joint World Bank and University of Chicago study entitled “Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter” – authored by three Latin American economists namely, Dr. Daniel Lederman, PhD – Chile, Dr. Norman Loayza, PhD – Peru, and Dr. Rodrigo Soares, PhD – Brazil, correlating the Presidential System with greater levels of corruption on the one hand, and much lower incidences of corruption with the Parliamentary System on the other.

Notwithstanding all those operational disadvantages of the “separation-of-powers” Presidential System, coupled with the inherent tendency towards personality-politics found in it, at the very least, it can be said that the USA has specific safeguards such as the use of Primaries and the Electoral College which clearly mitigate the negative traits associated with the Presidential System’s popularity-centric electoral procedure.

Alas, no such safeguards such as a “Two-Party System”, “Party Primaries” and the reliance on an “Electoral College” exist for the current Philippine Presidential System based on the 1987 Constitution. It is for this reason that the full unadulterated impact of the tyranny of popularity bears down heavily on Philippine Society.

* * *

Defects of the 1987 Constitution’s Presidential System 

Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ: Forgot to consider the Problem of having a Minority President

Unfortunately for Filipinos, the Philippine Constitutional Commission of 1986 which created the current 1987 Constitution – of which one of the most vocal members is revered Constitutionalist and Jesuit Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ – set up a system that has consistently produced presidents who do not have a majority mandate. The 1987 Constitution did not support the creation of a two-party system which would enable the electoral winner to emerge with an absolute majority, and instead, allows for multiple candidates to run for president. The real dilemma here is that allowing multiple candidates to run for President of the Philippines invariably results in splitting the vote in three ways or more, in which there is a big possibility that the candidate who emerges with the most number of votes merely wins with a plurality but unfortunately does not have a majority (more than 50%) of all votes cast. A President who does not get a majority of all votes cast is a Minority President.

Having a minority president is obviously a major disadvantage and creates a crisis of governance. In fact, it is a curse. Minority Presidents are always disadvantaged, because Philippine media has always had the tendency to pander to the preferences of the public. A minority president with say, 40% of the vote, will have 60% of the electorate stacked against him as they did not vote for him, making him vulnerable to gripes, complaints, and negative articles published in the papers.

Every single Philippine President who came after the late President Cory C. Aquino has been a minority president. Former President Fidel Ramos only had 23.5% of the entire vote thanks to so many rival candidates running for the presidency in the 1992 elections. Ousted former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was a minority president, having just around 40% of the entire number of votes cast. And in 2004, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also a minority president with around 38% of all votes cast. It is no surprise, therefore, that all of them were often presented unfavorably by media during their term.

In fact, our popular new president, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is himself a minority president as his mandate is said to be just around 42%, with roughly 58% of the electorate having voted for another candidate.

Now, lest we think that Minority Presidents are extremely common around the world, the fact is that in a majority of countries that allow for multiple candidates for President such as France, numerous countries in Latin America, countries using a presidential system in Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and even East Timor, the prospect of a Minority President (a president with less than 50% of all total votes cast) is thoroughly avoided through provisions for a second round of elections called the “Run-Off.”

Le Pen took 16% versus Chirac’s 19% in 2002’s first round as the vote was split among 16 candidates. After the Run-off: Chirac won 82%, Le Pen took 18%

The dynamics for holding Two-Round elections are simple: The first round of elections pits all candidates, say, 3 or more candidates for President against each other. After they slug it out in the first round, the top 2 candidates who emerge from the first round are then pitted against each other in the Run-Off election, where a week or more after the first round, everyone goes back to the polling stations to vote in the second round “Run-Off.” Since there are only two candidates in a run-off, a clear majority-winner will emerge. It is in such an electoral system where people who voted for other candidates during the first round are then forced to “choose the lesser evil” during the “Run-Off” round. At the very least, voters can choose whom they really want during the first round, and if their favorite candidate was eliminated after the first round, it’s during the run-off where they throw their support behind one of the two candidates.

Here is an example: France’s 2002 Elections. The first round of elections saw numerous candidates slugging it out with Gaullist re-electionist Jacques Chirac coming out on top and with Right-wing “Neo-Nazi” and anti-immigration Front National candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen snatching second place. As there were too many candidates, Jacques Chirac did not get a majority of the vote, so a Run-Off had to be held exactly one week after, pitting the top two candidates from the first round  against each other. The Run-Off was an amazing display of solidarity among the French in order to avoid allowing a “Neo-Nazi” like Le Pen to emerge victorious. Everyone from the Left – Communists, Socialists, even people who had formerly hated the right-of-center Gaullists with a vengeance, went in all-out support for Jacques Chirac in order to ensure the defeat of far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Front National candidate Le Pen.

Alas, the 1987 Constitution made absolutely no provisions for a run-off election, nor did the Constitution’s framers find it important to avoid having a minority president. That is a major defect.

Unfortunately, this inherent defect in the 1987 Constitution cannot be fixed unless the Constitution is amended. That is exactly what a Constitutional Amendment is all about: If something is missing, needs to be removed, or changed in the Constitution (never mind if it’s a word or a punctuation mark), the Constitution needs to be amended. There is unfortunately no real way around it. The 1987 Constitution is defective and needs thorough revision, if not an overhaul.

The Better Way: Soccer and the Parliamentary System

Fortunately, since it is clear that both basketball and the current Philippine Presidential System are more and more proving to be inappropriate and extremely non-conducive to success for Filipinos, we now have the opportunity to look at the clear alternatives. For our “national team sport”, we definitely should consider soccer. For our form of government, we should bid Adieu to the Presidential System and move on towards the highly recommended Parliamentary System. (Recommended by Ivy League Political Scientists and Economists)

We already know the issue with basketball. Basketball requires height and average Filipinos just don’t have height. Rather than continuing to produce heart-broken basketball-loving youngsters whose dreams of going professional are shattered by their inability to grow to at least 6 ft tall, it’s about time our society – led by our Government, Media, Schools, and our Businesses who sponsor sporting events – decisively shifted over to soccer.

There should be no turning back. Soccer is clearly the World’s Beautiful Game, loved by almost everyone of all creeds, colors, cultures, languages, races, and continents. It is a sport that can allow Filipinos to excel because it does not require nor does it even favor height in order for players to be successful. It is a sport that promotes more teamwork as there is much more ball-passing that goes on than in basketball. In soccer, most goals are scored as a result of teamwork and last-minute ball-passing, in contrast to basketball’s tendency to promote keeping the ball to oneself selfishly in order to reap the glory of scoring.

We also know that the Presidential System has the tendency to promote personality politics due largely to the electoral procedure of choosing an individual candidate to become President. During such Presidential campaigns especially in the Philippines, candidates are extremely likely to promote and differentiate themselves from their opponents by talking more about their own personal traits. Instead of playing up their party-affiliations and their party platforms, advocacies, and policy proposals, Presidential candidates in the Philippines, are forced to play the popularity game simply because it is ultimately popularity, winnability, and name-recall that gets voters picking a candidate’s name on the Presidential System’s ballot. Worse, the Philippine Presidential System creates Minority Presidents.

Question Time: You need to know your stuff well to be Prime Minister

In stark contrast, the Parliamentary System requires the formation of majority governments, through either of two ways: a party can win an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats, and immediately, the majority party’s leader immediately becomes the Prime Minister. Another way such a majority government is formed is through coalition-building. Coalition-blocs can be formed, so that if one bloc gains a majority of all seats in parliament, that coalition then forms the government, and the leader of the party with the most seats within that majority bloc emerges as Prime Minister. Prime Ministers in a Parliamentary System, therefore tend to have more majority-support and therefore a clearer mandate than minority Presidents emerging from the runoff-less Philippine Presidential Elections.

Moreover, the Parliamentary System is a much more party-centric system whose campaigns tend to be much more issues-advocacy, ideas-centric (as opposed to personality-centric), and platform-focused as the electoral dynamics do not involve the Pubic Electorate directly choosing who the Prime Minister will be. This does not even talk about the Parliamentary System’s bias towards leaders with competence and solid knowledge of all the relevant details regarding the country’s affairs: A Parliamentary System features a weekly Question Time session where the Prime Minister and his Front Benchers (Cabinet) are grilled by members of the opposition to make sure that all angles relating to policy-making and functioning of the government and cabinet have considered the best options and are also running properly. A Prime Minister must therefore be on his toes, totally knowledgeable, and able to respond extemporaneously as he is often expected to answer most questions without deferring to other members. For this reason, not all ordinary MP’s aspire to become PM and members of the majority party often cooperate to help brief the PM and the front bench on what they need to know so that they can properly respond. This Parliamentary feature further promotes more solid team dynamics as party members close-ranks to support their PM and party front-benchers.

Listed below are two ways in which the Philippines can develop a True Party System where the politicians rally around ideas, platforms, and consistent policies, and form a loyalty to their parties and their core principles, and where the voting public can be made to look less at personalities and look more at the collective nature of parties and vote accordingly:

  1. Dr. Kasuya´s observation: 1 term only limit = weaker parties

     Removal of Term Limits – Allowing the top leader to continue to stand for elections more than once (removal of term limits) actually promotes stronger party dynamics as parties cease to be ad-hoc election clubs that get formed only to defray election-period campaign costs, and become more long-standing and consistent in rallying around a stable policy-platform in order to maintain continuity. This was the observation made in a research paper entitled “Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies as well as the book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines“, both authored by Japanese political scientist Dr. Yuko Kasuya, PhD when she observed that the party structure of the Philippines rapidly deteriorated after the idea of presidential re-election was banned by the 1987 Constitution, thus preventing an elected President (or Head of Government) from standing for more than one term.  This has caused presidential aspirants as well as those people running together with them in their parties to unfortunately regard each election as essentially a one-shot deal. In case a presidential candidate does win and becomes President, there is hardly any real sense of continuity as that President and his staff only look at the specific 6 year term he has. One-shot deal thinking of that sort turns parties into ad-hoc “cliques of convenience” (my term), thereby eroding whatever sense of continuity and working for the same goals may have existed during the campaign. In short, the idea that an incumbent President may run for re-election develops a better focus on continuity among members of a party to act in support of the incumbent party-mate. Since Parliamentary Systems do not have term limits for Prime Ministers, the tendency for parties to act like one-shot, ad hoc, and temporary “cliques of convenience” is greatly reduced and in fact, practically eliminated, and it is thus no wonder that the party system is much stronger in countries using Parliamentary Systems. A Prime Minister who continues to enjoy his own party’s (or coalition’s) internal support, and whose party (or coalition) continues to enjoy a parliamentary majority stays on as Prime Minister. (Technically, under the Parliamentary System, the parties are bigger than the personalities involved, and so it does not matter who the Prime Minister should be, because it is the party or coalition and its accompanying platform that truly matters.)

  2. Strong Parties: a section of a US Ballot from the 1908 polls – Mark a circle in order to choose a Straight Party Ticket

    Forced “Straight Ticket Voting”– Superior party-dynamics emerges (or is further enhanced) when the ability to choose different candidates vying for different positions is eliminated, and replaced with a system that forces “Straight Ticket Voting” or “Straight Party Voting(sometimes confusingly called “bloc-voting” as that term may also mean groups voting as a “bloc” as in the INC’s tendency towards telling their members whom to vote for: “voting as a bloc”) The use of the term “Forced Straight Ticket Voting” clearly refers to the scenario where voters are not able to split the ticket across to vote  for a candidate from party A to be President, a candidate from party B to be Vice-President, and a candidate from party C for their local district representative.  “Straight Ticket Voting” in the USA would clearly refer to voting straight Republican (for all positions) or voting straight Democrat (for all positions).  Modifying the ballots to remove the ability to choose different candidates from different parties for each position and instead determine the party that the voter chooses and all candidates from the same party are assumed to be selected for all the relevant positions. This feature forces the electorate to cease looking at individual candidates and instead forces the voters to look at entire parties. Since political parties are not human beings with “individual personalities”, the key differentiator between political parties then becomes their Party Platforms.

Mahathir: Product of Parliamentarism

When one carefully looks at both, it is obvious that number 1 forces Strict Party Dynamics among the Politicians themselves, as they end up having better party discipline as they seek to allow for more continuity of their party’s programs instead of seeing their “parties” as mere ad-hoc cliques that stand for nothing and come together every 3 or 6 years with the sole purpose of simply pooling campaign financial resources together to share and defray the costs of their poster printing, TV and Radio advertising, etc. Number 2, on the other hand forces Strict Party Voting among the Electorate. As mentioned, the inability of the voters to “extricate” the personalities from the parties forces the electorate to look at parties as a whole, rather than rely on the default Filipino tendency which is to look for individual superstars.

Both these features which promote better Political Party Dynamics can be done within a Presidential System. Term-limits can be removed *and* the ballots can be redesigned to force voters to choose only straight party tickets. In order to do this, ballots should no longer have individual names of candidates, and instead, only party names will be written down and selected by the voters.

However, when you do both 1 and 2 within a Presidential System, you’ve essentially turned that Presidential System into a Parliamentary System, because this time, the voting system fuses the choice of Executive (President) and Legislative (Senate and Local District Representative) together so that both choices come from the same party.

Continue reading

Exposing Esposo

(This article is dedicated to the late William Esposo, a man who took it upon himself to expose his own ignorance in the field of economics and showed his true colors as being nothing but a lackey of oligarchs [he was an oligarch himself] in the Philippines.

May there be no more foolish writers in the Philippines who will follow in his footsteps in trying to defend the rotten status quo. This one’s for you, Billy.)

A little over a month ago, on the 16th of January, I released an article entitled “Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™” in which I laid out the general principles behind the CoRRECT™ Movement, whose full name is “Constitutional Reform & Rectification forEconomic Competitiveness & Transformation.”

Not too long after, on the 23rd of January, an extremely poorly-researched article came out of the Philippine Star authored by erstwhile pro-Oligarch pundit William Esposo entitled “Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem”, in which Mr. Esposo derided the now snowballing clamor for Constitutional Reform spearheaded by the CoRRECT™ Movement (as an umbrella coalition) together with numerous similarly aligned pro-Constitutional Reform groups with responses that were laughably full of factual inaccuracies and logical lapses.

Mr. Esposo opened up his article, to wit:

“Here we go again. Some people want to dance the Cha cha again. Cha cha is of course the adopted moniker for Charter change, a revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

It is largely suspected that Cha cha is being promoted with the use of “economic” boosters as its front but in reality — it’s the Trojan Horse of people with sinister personal and selfish motives. The more popular “economic” boosters being floated are:

1. Opening the ownership of Philippine land to foreigners.
2. Removing the 40 percent ownership limit of foreigners in Philippine corporations.”

Mr. Esposo needs to be corrected as the CoRRECT™ Movement is not that aggressive in pushing for the removal of land-ownership restrictions (number 1), and instead concentrates its efforts on pushing for the removal of the 40% ownership limit on foreigners and foreign investors in corporations in the Philippines.

It would certainly be a big bonus if restrictions on the ownership of land were to be removed from the Constitution as land ownership restrictions or special requirements that would qualify certain foreigners into owning land could instead be legislated more flexibly. That being said, the CoRRECT™ Movement emphasizes the much greater urgency and importance of removing the 60/40 protectionist provisions which are making the Philippines one of the most restrictive investment destinations in a region where 100% foreign-owned investments are fueling economic growth in the various neighboring countries such as Vietnam, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many more.

Going back to Mr. Esposo’s statements on the land issue, he then went on to say:

“If we’re a big country like the US then it could be alright to allow foreigners to own Philippine land. Seeing that we’re a small country which is hardly the land area of the US State of California, this proposal is idiotic.”

If everyone were to analyze the issue carefully, if Billy Esposo were looking for the truly idiotic one he just needs to directly face a mirror and point at it. (Sorry, Mr. Esposo, you started off calling out-of-the-box thinking as “idiotic”)

Let us review:

Monaco is a teeny-weeny principality, yet it allows foreigners to own land.

If indeed we were to acknowledge Mr. Esposo’s flawed knee-jerk reasoning, then why are the teeny-weeny countries of Europe – much smaller than the Philippines – such as the Benelux countries (Belgium,Netherlands, and Luxembourg – all of whom have zero restrictions on foreign land ownership), as well as Monaco (zero restrictions), Liechtenstein (foreigners must be residents to buy land), and Andorra (permits ownership based on certain requirements), all allowing foreign ownership of land(Caveat: Liechtenstein & Andorra have certain requirements)

Why does teeny-weeny Singapore allow foreigners to own land? (There is, of course, a need to get certain approval to qualify for owning landed property, but usually, business owners operating in Singapore who create jobs easily get it.)

(Since mid-2005 foreigners can buy apartments (known as strata-titled properties) in all buildings without needing approval from the Singapore Authorities. Previous rules about the apartment block needing to be higher than six storeys and classified as a condominium no longer apply.

A foreign person (any person who is not a Singapore citizen, Singapore Company, Singapore limited liability partnership or a Singapore society) will still need approval from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to buy land-titled property such as houses, bungalows and vacant plots of land.)

Why does Malaysia allow foreigners to own land? (There are size restrictions that require special government approval or opting into special programs for investors, retirees, or others. In general, Malaysia is even ranked as being more liberal with foreign land-ownership than Singapore.)

Taiwan and South Korea both allow foreign land ownership based on a reciprocity principle: Citizens of countries that allow Taiwanese or South Koreans to own land can also own land in Taiwan and South Korea.

Thailand, for instance, also allows full foreign land ownership, albeit there are certain requirements such as investor status or special approval from the government.

Jurassic leftists who don’t understand economics showing their ignorance once again

Outside of the Philippines, a large number of developed countries as well as highly-progressive and fast-rising developing countries have provisions that allow foreigners to outright own real property or land or allow them to meet certain requirements that would qualify them to legally purchase and own land. In the Philippines, foreigners are specifically limited only to being able to purchase condominiums. On the other hand, foreigners who are permanent residents or are married to Filipinos / Filipinas are forced to purchase land in their spouses’ names because there is a total ban on foreigners owning land – even for business purposes that would help create jobs for Filipinos.

Just the same, Billy Esposo still went on to spew out some more factual inaccuracies as he said:

“It also did not occur to the legislators pushing for this that China and Vietnam — two Asian countries that are attracting the bulk of foreign investors — do not allow land ownership by foreigners.”

Firstly, both China and Vietnam – being Communist Party-controlled, and being based on Socialist principles of collective ownership – subscribe to highly “Georgist” (based on the philosophy of Henry George) or “Geoist” principles where man can only own that which man can make. Since land is not made by man, it cannot be owned by man. And thus, land is ultimately under State custodianship and then merely leased out in “sub-custody” to long-term lessees or owners of transferrable (and resalable) “land-use rights.” In short, no one owns the land – not even Chinese or Vietnamese citizens, only the State does.

That being said, the systems in both China & Vietnam recognize that the improvements (physical structures, houses, buildings, factories, etc) made on top of leased land as well as the land-use right can be owned, and thus, a system that is, for all practical purposes, similar to land-ownership actually exists.

If we were to consider this as a “time-bound” alternative form of “ownership” of land-use rights and the improvements made on land, we thus find that Mr. Esposo’s sweeping generalization that Vietnam & China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” iswrong. From here on, when talking about “land ownership” in Vietnam or China, we will be referring to land-use rights which are transferrable (often called “leasehold property”) and can be purchased and sold just like any normal property under the default “fee simple” model of land ownership common in the USA and the Philippines.

外灘 – The Shanghai Bund was a result of foreign investment; When they left China, the foreigners couldn’t take the buildings or the land with them. But Esposo clearly didn’t know that.

Certainly, both China and Vietnam do not match the liberal land-ownership schemes found in countries like the USA and several others (including several European countries previously mentioned), where foreigners even those without special residency status may purchase, own, and sell “freehold” fee-simple land. However, to say that both Vietnam and China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” is definitely wrong as both countries have created schemes that allow foreigners to own leasehold residential property as well as property related to running a business (a factory, etc) at full 100% ownership. Moreover, foreigners who buy leasehold property are easily able to sell-off their property at a profit, which essentially makes the distinction between freehold (fee-simple) and leasehold property irrelevant.

Even before 2007, China had already allowed expatriates who lived in China for a year to be eligible to purchase leasehold property as personal residence, as long as they could prove that they were going to be the primary users of the residential property and were likewise limited only to one property. Foreigners wanting to purchase property for commercial purposes could still do so, except that this had to be done through a Corporate-Entity known as a “Wholly Foreign-Owned Entity” (WFOE) or through an Equity or Contractual Joint Venture (JV). The WFOE scheme allows full 100% ownership by foreigners, and also required certain residency and business-visa status.

In 2007, China made changes that further relaxed such restrictions.

Saigon Night Skyline

As for Vietnam, we find that leasehold property is treated somewhat similarly to pre-2007 China’s laws which allowed foreigners who had residency status were allowed to buy, own, and sell one residential leasehold property. The Vietnamese Law Consultancy website states:

In accordance with the legal provisions currently in force, foreigners permanently residing in the country are only entitled to ownership in respect of movable property, but not real property located in Vietnam except residential houses. In accordance with Decree 60/CP issued in 1994, a foreigner who is a permanent resident in Vietnam can only have ownership in respect to one house for himself/herself. Foreigners who are not permanent residents in the country are not entitled to ownership in respect of real property located in Vietnam. (In accordance with article 181 of the Vietnam Civil Code, real property is the type of property which cannot be moved or relocated and includes items of property fixed to residential houses and residential building works; other assets fixed to land and other assets provided for by the laws.)

Foreign investors in Vietnam are categorized as foreigners who do not permanently reside in the country, but in practice, they enjoy a particular status in respect to ownership of real property in the country notwithstanding the absence of specific provisions of Vietnamese law. In particular, foreign investors are entitled to joint ownership in respect to factories, enterprises, warehouses and other types of real property that they contribute to the capital of joint venture enterprises. The ownership of foreign investors in these cases is proportionate to their capital contribution to the joint venture, and, as a matter of course, they are also entitled to joint ownership in respect of the products produced by and other types of movable property of the joint venture. Where foreign investors invest 100 percent capital to establish the factory, enterprise and warehouses and/or other real property in Vietnam, the property and products produced by their enterprises are absolutely in their ownership.

Foreign investors do not have the right to own land in the country; this applies even to Vietnamese individuals and organizations pursuant to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam which stipulates that land is of the state under the ownership of the whole nation.

It is noteworthy that only during the duration of investment in Vietnam the foreign investors have the ownership in respect to the real property that they contributed as capital or which was 100 percent created by their invested capital. Upon the expiration of their investment duration, if no extension is granted or the foreign investors do not apply for any extension, the foreign investors are not permitted to maintain their ownership in respect to the real property they contributed as capital or invested 100 percent in its establishment. In those cases, the foreign investors must deal with their property by way of transferring it to a Vietnamese party or by other means in accordance with the provisions of Vietnamese law.”

The concept of LEASEHOLD properties is common in the British Commonwealth

It was essentially made clear that land per se cannot be owned by individuals – both locals and foreigners. Therefore, there is no real preferential treatment in both China or Vietnam with respect to land ownership. No one truly owns the land except the state, and this paradigm helps immensely in preventing or at least drastically-reducing speculative purchases of land.

Fee simple “Free hold” land is oftentimes in danger of being purchased by speculators with no intention to develop the land for productive use, and this is unfortunately the situation in the Philippines as numerous Filipino speculators buy land, keep it idle, and wait years on end without developing the land while waiting for the value to appreciate before selling it at a profit. The leasehold concept introduces a time-bound concept that forces land-use right buyers to make calculated purchases that coincide with real land-development plans.

As everyone can see, Mr. Esposo has clearly attempted to misrepresent the facts regarding land ownership. He tried to use land-size as an excuse to explain away why the USA can afford to allow land-ownership by foreigners, but he failed to take into account how small principalities of Europe or countries smaller than the Philippines such as Belgium, the Netherlands, or Malaysia actually allow foreigners to own land. He also tried to use the examples of both China and Vietnam, conveniently ignoring the fact that for all intents and purposes, both China and Vietnam have prohibited free-hold of land for all individuals – both foreign and local, yet they allow the purchase, ownership, and sale of leasehold properties by foreigners just like they do locals.

Either Mr. Esposo is someone who simply does not know the facts and is too lazy to do the necessary research or he is a malicious liar out to deceive the public.

But it doesn’t end there. Billy Esposo continues on in spreading ignorance by stating:

“It is also reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations. We are in our worst economic situation at this time and removing this provision is tantamount to giving foreigners the full run of our economy. We need more Danding Cojuangcos, Manny Pangilinans, Jaime Zobel de Ayalas, John Gokongweis et al and not the Donald Trumps et al.”

Esposo foolishly insulted MVP, Mr. John, and Don Jaime by implying that they require protectionism for them to succeed.

Mr. Esposo once again blatantly displays his ignorance of the facts and of history. He pontificates by telling us that it is “reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations” (As found in the current Constitution), yet he does not even attempt to explain why! He expects us thinking people to just accept his word without providing proof, facts, evidence, and information to back his statements up.

More importantly, he totally ignores the fact that the rest of the progressive world and all fast-growing economies have already either allowed foreign investors to come in with 100% ownership of the companies they set up or are quickly dismantling whatever protectionist policies some of them may still have.

The man simply has zero knowledge of the strategy that Singapore made use of as a means to create massive employment opportunities for their people at a time when the British Military bases were about to leave and were threatening to leave tens of thousands of Singaporeans jobless as a result of the pull-out. Lee Kuan Yew simply refused to listen to the prevailing developmental dogma of the time which was that “protectionism was necessary to keep patrimony in the hands of local citizens” and that “foreign multinational corporations” (often referred to by Filipinos Leftist & Pseudo-Nationalist dinosaurs as “Transnational Corporations”) were “evil.”

From pages 57-58 of “From Third World to First”, Lee Kuan Yew says:

Lee Kuan Yew tapped MNC’s in order to create jobs and develop Singapore’s economy from Third World to First

The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNC’s were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNC’s continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries. MNC’s controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma. Anyway, Singapore had no natural resources for MNC’s to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNC’s could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNC’s.”

Following the advice of Dutch economist and UNDP economic planning consultant Dr. Albert Winsemius, Lee Kuan Yew developed an open-economy strategy of allowing 100% foreign ownership of companies, molding governmental policies to comply with the preferences and requirements of said multinational corporations in seeking to make Singapore a highly attractive location for investment, with the obvious intention of continuing to create more and more employment opportunities for Singaporeans. This was meant to cause jobs and corporations to compete against each other by raising salary offers to applicants. It’s all simple law of supply and demand: The more jobs there are, competing against each other for the few job-seekers, the higher the wages become. Conversely, if there are more job-seekers than there are jobs, it is the job-seekers who compete against each other for the scarce jobs, and thus, salaries are bid downwards.

The latter is obviously the case in the Philippines.

In a shameless effort to ingratiate himself to the handful of Filipino tycoons and rich families, Esposo even sought to flatter Danding Cojuangco, Manny Pangilinan, the Zobel de Ayalas, and John Gokongwei, when the problem of the Philippines is simply that there are just too few of these rich enough people to invest in businesses and corporate expansion, and our 95+ million people, including the 10+ million overseas Filipinos do not have the luxury of time to wait for new Filipino tycoons to emerge.

Worse, he was actually insulting “Mr. John”, MVP, and Don Jaime when Esposo implied that these tycoons require Constitutional Protectionism in order to survive and thrive in the Philippine economy, instead of recognizing that their competence and acumen is such that they can actually compete regardless of foreign competition. John Gokongwei’s Jack & Jill, for instance, is sold and exported abroad and is a strong product that non-Filipinos enjoy.

(On a side note: The Chan family’s snack brand Oishi, known in China as 上好佳 – “Shang hao jia”, is China’s children’s most popular snackfood. When I was living in China and people found out I was Filipino, they always said “Shang hao jia!” …Competent businessmen do not need protectionism to succeed!)

Filipinos need jobs now, and to paraphrase Deng Xiaoping’s favorite Sichuanese proverb:

Original:

不管黑貓白貓,抓到老鼠就是好貓

(“buguan heimao baimao,      zhuadao laoshu   jiushi   haomao”)

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, if it catches mice, that’s a good cat.”

Deng Xiaoping

My version:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a foreign company or a local company, if it creates jobs for Filipinos, that’s a good company!”

It truly is jobs that matter. If Esposo learned to analyze properly and decided to open his eyes to the obvious reality, he would have noticed that Filipinos are desperately trying to leave the Philippines in droves just to find overseas employment. Be they Filipinos with high-flying qualifications and desired skills who emigrate together with their entire families to countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or to a lesser extent, the USA (they’ve made it harder to go there), or individual Filipinos forced to leave their families in the Philippines while they work abroad in the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, or elsewhere, the fact remains that Filipinos leave the Philippines simply because of economic reasons and the obvious dearth of jobs in the Philippines.

Mr. Esposo is one such person who simply cannot see how much better it is to bring in hundreds or thousands of Foreign Companies to come to the Philippines and massively create local jobs for millions of locally-based Filipinos, than it is to send Filipinos abroad and away from their families and loved ones to foreign lands in order to be employed by foreign companies.

Unbeknownst to Esposo, the biggest show-stopper that prevents foreign companies from coming to the Philippines to create jobs is the Philippine Constitution. Whereas China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and many others do not have Constitutional Restrictions on foreign ownership of corporations, the Philippine Constitution continues to block a large number of foreign companies from coming in by imposing 60/40 protectionist requirements. Either they find a rich oligarch to partner with or they simply can’t invest.

In the meantime, Vietnam is happily taking in all the companies who have all tried to come to the Philippines to take advantage of our English Ability and relatively high quality of human resources, by simply telling the would-be entrants to the Philippines that “The Philippines does not allow 100% foreign ownership, we in Vietnam do…  Plus we’re willing to give you tax holidays and other freebies: Come to Vietnam!” Many such companies would have preferred the Philippines over Vietnam because of our English ability and greater affinity to Western or American standards, but because Vietnam’s economic provisions are way more pro-business and pro-foreign investor than the Philippines, Vietnam scoops up a huge number of investments originally meant for the Philippines.

Going back to the Singapore story, Esposo is obviously ignorant of the fact that China’s economic boom is actually directly traceable to Singapore’s open-to-foreign-investment strategy.

Mao Zedong was a pathetic failure when it came to Economics

After having suffered pretty much two decades of economic mismanagement under Mao Zedong’s Communist planned economy – some 10 years of the Great Leap Forward (which actually went backward), and another 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, China was ready for change when Deng Xiaoping came to power after Mao Zedong’s death.

(Mao used the Cultural Revolution as a means to punish his own fellow Communist Party leaders who had criticized his failed policies during the Great Leap Forward by tapping into the clueless, young, rabidly frothing-at-the-mouth Red Guards by building a Mao-centered personality cult around himself, and used the Red Guards to denounce, humiliate, and exile those Council Members who had proposed corrective measures against Mao’s disastrous economic policies. One of those who was denounced, purged, humiliated, and exiled to the countryside was Deng Xiaoping)

Deng did state visits all around the region and the World in order to learn more about what other countries did to develop their economies. One country that totally struck Deng Xiaoping was Singapore. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Singapore was one of those states that Maoist Propaganda denounced as being “Capitalist running dogs” and tools of Imperialism.  The propaganda tried to present all those countries as being weak, poor, exploited by colonialists, and unable to get their acts together. But during Deng Xiaoping’s visit, he saw a rich, prosperous, well-ordered society that was heads and shoulders above China in all ways. And he asked Lee Kuan Yew what their secret was and Lee answered without hesitation: Foreign Investors and an Open Market Economic System.

Deng was convinced. He no longer needed to read through 50 page “business value proposition” plans that would recommend shifting to Singapore’s free market system. He saw the difference between Mao’s China and Lee’s Singapore and saw how far behind China was. He endeavored to get his fellow Communist Party Council Members agreeing on the need to adopt Capitalism and the Market Economy as well as the need to bring in Foreign Investors, and of course, he got weird looks from all kinds of dyed-in-the-wool fellow Communists who believed in “From each according to his ability, to each according to need.” It was in such an instance that Deng Xiaoping famously wittily issued his retort by citing his favorite Sichuanese Proverb of the Black Cat and the White Cat.

Shenzhen before the 1980’s

Hesitantly, his party-mates accepted his proposal by allowing him to create a small pilot test-site to serve as a kind of proof of concept. He then proceeded to choose a small fishing village not too far from then British-controlled Hong Kong. The sleepy village, known as Shenzhen, saw China’s People’s Liberation Army cordon off a huge area of unused land with barbed-wire fences, and then went on with the task of building roads and other infrastructure.

Right after the project, Deng persuaded thousands of Hong Kong businesses and other foreign-owned companies operating out of the then British-controlled Crown Colony of Hong Kong to set up their manufacturing plans and facilities in Shenzhen in order to take advantage of the lower cost of land-lease as well as the much lower labor costs.

Shenzhen today

As years went on, the project was a success. Shenzhen became a modern city and served as a showcase of how Capitalism and the Free Market Economy could help Mainland Chinese lift themselves out of poverty. Shenzhen also showed how a vibrant Capitalist-run economy could end up having more funds for the city government (as a result of taxation) for many social and infrastructure projects. Not long after, the lessons learned from Shenzhen’s success story which all ultimately came from Singapore’s “pro-Foreign Investment” economic system was replicated throughout China. Today, China is the 2nd largest economy in the World, surpassing Japan, and clearly, the rapid economic boom continues on.

Fast forward to 1991, India itself was on the verge of economic collapse and bankruptcy. The IMF and World Bank had told then prime minister, the late Narasimha Rao, that they were not going to be able to lend any more money unless major structural reforms were undertaken to change the highly sluggish and over-regulated protectionist economy of India. Back then, India had long subscribed to the concept of Gandhian Minimalism, preferring small-scale locally-owned villeage-based cottage industries. Home-spun cloth was seen as “more Indian” than industrially woven cloth. Small-scale businesses were more in line with Gandhi’s philosophy than big business. And the laws of the land reflected this. Not only were importing and foreign companies heavily restricted or outright prohibited, special laws were set up to prevent large companies from emerging. The moment a company became large, it was required to spin-off into smaller companies.

Gandhi’s idealism didn’t work as far as economics was concerned

It was because of this highly idealistic but impractical economic strategy that an Indian economist Dr. Raj Krishna described India in the 1970’s as having a lethargic “Hindu Rate of Growth”, evoking images of Fakirs, Sadhus, and Yogis doing self-denying stationary poses, being steady and unmoving – just like India’ economic growth rate.

But since the IMF and World Bank wouldn’t allow these to continue, PM Rao decided he needed professional help. He immediately tapped into the highly competent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh to become Finance Minister and asked him for a plan of action. Aside from immediately easing certain business restrictions and economic policies, Dr. Singh proposed studying “the other large country” – China – and thus an Indian delegation was sent to China to observe how they did what they did.

The difference was staggering: China’s airports were well-maintained, after getting off the plane and out of the airport, the roads were first class. The Indians wondered what it was that allowed China to enjoy such high standards of infrastructure. Deng Xiaoping told them about the foreign-owned corporations who hired millions of Chinese laborers and office workers, whose tax contributions helped fund all the infrastructure developments as seen in the airports, roads, and bridges.

Narasimha Rao’s decision to liberalize India in 1991 turned it into an emerging major economy

Immediately upon returning to India, reforms continued on at break-neck pace. Whatever protectionist restrictions that used to exist were now dismantled and foreign companies came into India. Looking for low-hanging fruit to dangle to foreign, especially American companies, India presented its highly-educated, professional, and English-speaking white-collar workforce to American companies. The proposal was simple: Whatever white-collar job that Americans could do, Indians could do at a fraction of the cost.  Be it answering phones, processing accounting forms, encoding data, etc, India pioneered the Call Center and Outsourcing industry as a means to save its economy, provide jobs for millions upon millions of its highly-trained English-speaking new graduates and underemployed citizens and to move away from India’s decades-old “Hindu Rate of Growth.”

If Mr. Esposo read more books and did more research, he would have been cured of the ignorance that he has recently displayed in his Chairwrecker column. He’d have seen that the secret to China’s and India’s success was their decision to follow Singapore’s “100% Foreign Investment” model as a means to create job opportunities for their people. In the 1980’s, when Malaysia’s Mahathir bin Mohamad became Prime Minister, he too took his cue from Singapore and actively pursued a policy of allowing 100% foreign ownership in numerous economic sectors, thus creating Malaysia’s highly-competitive manufacturing and IT sector.  In a bid to compete with Singapore, Malaysia even went on to provide numerous incentives for Multinational Companies who would set up their 100% foreign-owned Asian Regional HQ’s in Malaysia instead of Singapore. This move once again created so many new jobs.

Esposo needs to get himself a copy of Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First” so that he can read for himself the story of Singapore’s tapping into Foreign Investors and MNC’s as a means to create jobs.  That way, Mr. Esposo will read the following quotes from Lee Kuan Yew’s book, from page 62:

Esposo should have gotten a copy of this book

And from page 66:

“We did not have a large group of ready-made entrepreneurs such as Hong Kong gained in the Chinese industrialists and bankers who came fleeing from Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), and other cities when the communists took over. Had we waited for our traders to learn to be industrialists we would have starved… It is absurd for critics to suggest in the 1990’s that had we grown our own entrepreneurs, we would have been less at the mercy of the rootless MNC’s. Even with the experienced talent Hong Kong received in Chinese refugees, its manufacturing technology level is not in the same class as that of the MNC’s in Singapore.”

Billy Esposo clearly belongs to the dinosaur generation. The man simply does not have what it takes to be relevant in this day and age and should just retire from spreading false information and lies.

But his ignorance did not stop there. He went on to say:

“The biggest argument against Cha cha at this time is this — it is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. We can revise our Constitution again and again in the next 10 years but that won’t get us anywhere if we do not repair our damaged culture and improve the Filipino mindset. The real problem is not what the Philippine Constitution allows or disallows but what is in the minds and hearts of Filipinos — how we think, feel, act and react as a people.

Cha cha will not reform the people and political players who suffer from a damaged culture. A good, strong president has better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture. The problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people.”

The question needs to be asked: How can a president have better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture if the manner in which a Philippine President emerges is itself damaged so that instead of the most competent candidate(s) emerging at the top, those who do emerge happen to be those with the highest winnability rating, that is, they are the ones with the most name-recall or the most popularity, yet more often than not , they are also the candidates who are utterly lacking in competence and ability?”  Worse, how can that be possible with the current 1987 Constitution when the presidents who emerge are always turning out to be minority presidents because there is no run-off election to trim down the contenders to only two if there are so many candidates?

Indeed, we can all see that Mr. Billy Esposo has done nothing but pontificate without providing a single shred of evidence to back up his extremely weak claim that the “problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people”, especially since it is obvious to Social Scientists, Political Scientists, Anthropologists, Organizational Development & Human Resource Professionals that Systems influence (and sometimes even determine) Culture, and on the macro “society” level, it is the Constitution that determines the type of system that we end up with.

Systems can change destiny since systems change culture!

Mr. Esposo is another one of those people who knows very little about the social sciences or culture, as he is unable to see how culture is by itself a system and realize that cultures are the products of different systems. He also fails to see that the 1987 Constitution, with all its flaws in creating a system that consistently produces weak minority presidents plus a non-constituency Senate, explicitly specified economy-hindering protectionist economic provisions (when it could have instead just kept mum on it just as a majority of the world’s constitutions do not make economic restrictions in their constitutions). Most other countries of the world, instead of making explicit mention of specific economic restrictions in their respective constitutions, chose instead to relegate economic policy-making to the realm of legislation in order to have more flexibility in making changes if and when conditions change.

Since Mr. Esposo is grossly uninformed and ignorant about the facts of “Culture Change”, he needs to read a bit more about how cultures can be improved. He needs to arm himself with a copy of B.F. Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom & Dignity” to learn more about Behavioral Modification, and Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First”, where the esteemed Singapore Statesman was able to change the cultures of a mostly impoverished rag-tag motley crew of numerous racial groups and oftentimes mutually-antagonistic ethno-linguistic