The Parliamentary System can fix Philippine Politics

The Federal-Parliamentary System is Preferable to a Federal-Presidential System: Sticking to the Presidential System may worsen Philippine Politics

(This article came out of the book “Quest for a Federal Republic: The PDP-Laban Model of Federalism 1.0)

Shifting to Federalism from a unitary model presents the challenge of choosing among numerous available options based on combinations of so many different features or attributes. But perhaps the most important primary consideration in choosing the type of Federalism to be adopted is in choosing the system of government that should go along with it. There are, after all, countries using Federalism who use Parliamentary Systems, and countries using Federalism who use Presidential Systems. It therefore becomes necessary in this case to understand why Parliamentary Systems are considered to be superior to Presidential Systems.

For the longest time, Filipinos have by default tended to assume – without question – that the United States of America is “the best country in the world” and as such needs to be emulated by the Philippines if it wants to function well. For this reason, the framers of the 1935 Constitution that became the basis for how our country functions adopted the Presidential System, albeit modifying it to remove the USA’s reliance on an Electoral College, having the president and vice-president voted separately as opposed to having them voted together on a single ticket, and voting for multiple senatorial candidates in a nationwide direct election. But not long after our independence from the USA in 1946, one of the framers of the 1935 Constitution – the late Senator Claro M. Recto – started to lament about the blind adoption of the American-style presidential system when he said:

“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.”

Today, it once again makes a whole lot of sense for Filipinos to pay heed to the words of that great thinker and orator. This most especially requires reflection as more and more doubts fill the minds of people around the world as the many features of the USA’s society come to question in the wake of the worst mass shooting as of this writing – the recent Las Vegas Massacre, in which the occurrence of such horrific massacres now seems to happen with such frequency in the USA. It is likewise not very reassuring to continue to ape the US presidential system when one also remembers the Government Shutdown that happened a few years ago – which turns out to have happened numerous times before, the USA’s record of having several times had presidents coming from the same family (2 Roosevelts, 2 Bushes) plus a near occurrence of another one had Hillary Clinton won, but also the way in which celebrity sensationalism played a role in the election of several of the USA’s most recent presidents.

The Philippines is finding itself continually stuck in a situation where name recall, popularity, and appealing to a candidate’s famous parents weighs heavily in determining who emerges as the top decision-maker, rather than merit, ability, and proposed platform. This problem does not only hit the Presidency, but it also hits all other executive positions, be they at the gubernatorial or the mayoral levels. The Presidential System is becoming such a problematic system, not only in how leaders are selected, but also in how it functions, as it is subject to gridlock and second-guessing by legislative chambers who are institutionally-mandated to oppose, rather than working constructively with the executive branch.

Presidential Systems are generally unstable, Parliamentary Systems are more stable

As it turns out, the Presidential System has indeed been considered to be rather problematic by leading researchers who have compared the outcomes of Presidential Systems when contrasted against the outcomes of Parliamentary Systems. The late Dr. Juan Linz, in his seminal essay The Perils of Presidentialismrevealed that because of the inherent gridlock that is institutionalized by the separation of executive and legislative branches in the Presidential System, Presidential Systems have tended to be much more likely to breakdown and succumb to non-democratic interventionism than Parliamentary Systems. Parliamentary Systems, thus, are considered to be more stable and much less prone to disruptions than Presidential Systems. Another researcher, the late Dr. Fred Riggs, had also built on similar observations when he wrote The Problems of Presidentialism & the American Exception.” In this work, the late Dr. Riggs argued that while Parliamentary Systems have overwhelmingly tended to outperform Presidential Systems in terms of system stability, certain features of the US system that tend to make it somewhat parliamentary-like – such as the use of the electoral college – have helped it to be more stable than most other countries that use presidential systems.

Parliamentary Systems are less prone to corruption

In addition to system stability, Parliamentary Systems tend to outperform Presidential Systems – ceteris paribus – when it comes to efficiency and reducing corruption. In two separate studies made by two teams of researchers – one team of economists with Dr. Norman Loayza, Dr. Daniel Lederman, and Dr. Rodrigo Soares, and another team consisting of two political scientists, Dr. John Gerring and Dr. Strom Thacker, the findings have – in parallel – confirmed that corruption levels tend to be much lower in countries that use Parliamentary Systems when compared against countries that use Presidential Systems, when other variables are controlled. In fact, it doesn’t even require much complex statistical analysis to see how this is true. By simply comparing the top 30 least corrupt countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranking of countries versus the 30 most corrupt countries, one can see – with the naked eye – that it is overwhelmingly countries with parliamentary systems that dominate, versus the fact that countries with presidential systems tend to dominate the ranking of the 30 most corrupt.

It is not difficult to see why this is the case. Parliamentary Systems work with more people watching over the decision-making and implementation processes. Rather than having an executive branch which makes unilateral executive decisions, parliamentary systems feature collegial decision-making and monitoring in which numerous eyes are watching over numerous proposals, transactions, implementations, and processes. This includes the eyes of the Opposition through the official institution of the Shadow Cabinet – wherein every Minister from the Government is actively shadowed and monitored by a corresponding Shadow Minister from the Opposition, allowing the Opposition to have legally and officially-sanctioned access to everything that the Government does down to the last detail. For example, the Majority bloc which acts as the Government gets its most senior leaders to handle different portfolios as Minister for Education, Minister for the Interior, Minister for Defense, Minister for Finance, etc, while the Minority bloc which takes on the role of Opposition gets its most senior leaders to to become Shadow Minister for Education, Shadow Minister for the Interior, Shadow Minister for Defense, Shadow Minister for Finance, etc. Each shadow minister from the Opposition carefully watches over his/her own corresponding minister from the Government. Every decision or transaction made by each Minister requires the presence, acknowledgement and counter-signature by his/her corresponding Shadow Minister. It is this specific feature that tends to prevent or at the very least greatly reduces the incidences of corruption. Not only does the institution of the Shadow Cabinet ensure that the Government is kept honest and on its toes via the constant monitoring, surveillance, and scrutiny subjected to it by the watchful eyes of the Opposition, the Opposition parties are also given the ability to build experience and knowledge about how the Ministries are run so that in the event of an election, if the Opposition party suddenly wins a majority of all seats and forms the Government, their shadow ministers who had previously shadowed and followed the previous ministers around will not be clueless as to how to run things. The shadow ministers will be capable of easily taking over as ministers, knowing the issues and problems inside of the ministries they handled.

The Shadow Cabinet keeps tabs on everything that the Government does, scrutinizing decisions, proposals, etc. Each Government Minister is assigned a Shadow Minister from the Opposition to watch over each of them and question/grill them in Parliament.

Parliamentary Systems tend to produce better leaders

While Presidential Systems tend to rely on popular elections to choose leaders, causing candidates who enjoy name recall and popularity to have an unfair advantage and may often cause inexperienced and not-so-competent individuals to take on the top spot, Parliamentary Systems feature a contest between parties who then internally require that the party members be ranked according to leadership ability and competence. As such, as parties battle against each other for the public’s vote, individual party members compete within their respective parties based on merit so that whoever emerges as the party’s leader tends to be someone who has meritoriously moved up the ranks within his party and proven himself to be of the appropriate competence and ability to successfully lead the party not only to electoral victory at the polls, but more importantly to be able to deliver on the party’s platform promises and thus ensure continued success for the party as a whole.

Prime Ministers in Parliamentary Systems tend to be competent and technically-inclined leaders

It can be noticed, for example, that it was not that difficult for countries like Malaysia and Singapore to end up having extremely competent transformative leaders such as Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore’s late Lee Kuan Yew. While it would be considerably difficult for these two “no-nonsense” leaders to win in Philippine-style Presidential Elections where song-and-dance numbers are a staple, it was perfectly possible for these serious, sometimes abrasively blunt, and straight-talking leaders to emerge on top in their countries despite the fact that earlier on, their own electorates were not yet as educated or as prosperous as they are today. Under a Presidential System, popular celebrities such as actors, TV celebrities, and athletes may have more easily won against such leaders, but because of the way Parliamentary Systems work in emphasizing competence, leadership ability, and merit as opposed to name-recall, personal popularity, and celebrity status, it was not such a big surprise that Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the late Lee Kuan Yew ended up becoming the Prime Ministers of their respective countries, and these same leaders became responsible for enabling the continuous successful economic development of their countries.


It is worth noting that when one does a “naked-eye” comparison between the rankings of the top 30 GDP per capita countries versus the bottom 30 GDP per capita countries, the richest countries based on GDP per capita tend to have parliamentary systems, while most of the 30 poorest countries based on GDP per capita tend to have presidential, semi-presidential, and authoritarian systems.

Parliamentary countries outperform Presidential ones

Most anti-Federalism detractors have tended to provide examples of supposedly “not-so-good” countries using Federalism in order to cast doubt on the proposal to shift towards Federalism. They have often mentioned countries in Latin America and Africa such as Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Nigeria. What the anti-Federalism detractors haven’t been honest and upfront about is the fact that while these countries use Federalism, they also use a form of government that the Philippines currently has and is specifically trying to wean itself away from – the Presidential System.

In fact, in most world rankings, it is the ones that make use of a Parliamentary System as opposed to a Presidential System that tend to dominate the top. One only needs to look at the general trends that list out countries based on GDP per capita, Global Competitiveness Index, Ease of Doing Business Index, Transparency / Least Corruption, Economic Freedom Index, Human Development Index, and many more, and it can be easily observed that the vast majority of the countries that dominate the top ranks use Parliamentary Systems, while those that are at the bottom of these same rankings tend to use Presidential, Semi-Presidential, and authoritarian systems.

It is not surprising that Parliamentary Systems outperform Presidential Systems in terms of having less corruption. After all, in a Parliamentary System, the Government – represented by the Prime Minister and his/her Cabinet – are regularly grilled and called to account for their actions (or lack thereof), their policies, and their decisions – during parliamentary Question Periods and debates where members of the Opposition, especially the Shadow Cabinet, as well as the Government’s own fellow party mates are allowed to ask questions and make Freedom of Information inquiries. It is usually within these debates and Question Periods that underperforming ministers and Prime Ministers who have lost the trust and confidence of their own parties and rest of parliament can be easily removed and a replacement must immediately be made. As a result of this possibility of ouster, Prime Ministers and other Cabinet Ministers are always on their toes, making sure that they have a good explanation for everything that they do.

Dynasties are more common in Presidential Systems than in Parliamentary Systems

As a direct consequence of the fact that Presidential Systems feature popularity-centric electoral contests in which name-recall is a huge advantage, countries that use Presidential Systems have tended to feature a lot of dynasties and politicians from the same family.

The USA, for instance has already had several instances in which Presidents were related and shared the same surname. Father and Son: John Adams & John Quincy Adams and George Bush & George W. Bush. Grandfather & grandson: William H. Harrison & Benjamin Harrison. Cousins: Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The USA almost had a president who is the wife of a former president as Hillary Clinton is the wife of former president Bill Clinton. She lost the presidential race to former reality TV host of the Apprentice and celebrity businessman Donald Trump.   Presidentialist Argentina has had a husband and widow serve as presidents: Nestor Kirschner who died in 2010 was succeeded by his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner when his term ended in 2007. Indonesia has had a father and daughter serve as presidents: Sukarno and his daughter Megawati Sukarnoputri. The Philippines has already had two instances where parent and child had served as President: Diosdado Macapagal & his daughter Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Corazon Aquino & her son Noynoy Aquino.

And while it is true that there have also been fathers-and-sons in parliamentary systems like in Singapore – Lee Kuan Yew & his son Lee Hsien Loong or in Canada – Pierre Trudeau & Justin Trudeau, or brother-and-sister in Thailand – Thaksin Shinawatra & Yingluck Shinawatra, becoming Prime Minister in a Parliamentary System first requires a politician to become the leader of his/her party and ensure that the party’s other candidates win enough seats to gain a majority and thus form the government. In fact, in a Parliamentary System, voters essentially choose the party they prefer based on the party’s platform and their proposed program of government. While the party leader and his/her name can still help, voters still need to consider the fact that they are essentially voting for their own constituency’s member of parliament to represent their community. Voters in a parliamentary system thus need to treat their votes more holistically as the vote for the local member of parliament also represents the same vote that could make the leader of the local candidate’s party become the country’s top decision-maker as Prime Minister.

The Parliamentary System will improve the Regions under Federalism

One of the fears that many have is that under Federalism, some regions will be lucky enough to have good leaders while other regions will be very unlucky to end up with not-so-good leaders, and that this difference will be exacerbated because of the higher level of autonomy and policy-making that will be granted to the regions. These fears may be understandable if the proposal was to adopt Federalism while sticking to the current Presidential System of Government, as sticking to the same old system of government will cause the same type of elections to prevail in which personal popularity, celebrity status, and name-recall will continue to allow the same types of sub-standard low quality politicians to continue to thrive and dominate.

But this is precisely why it is extremely important to shift from the Presidential System to the Parliamentary System. The regional governments will need quality leadership and will thus require a better-quality system that is based more on merit and competence so that better-quality leaders may emerge. The regional governments will also need a system that will keep corruption to a minimum by introducing more collegial dynamics and the feature of the Shadow Cabinet that causes parliamentary systems to be much more transparent and less prone to corruption.

The Parliamentary System will not just be used at the national “Federal” level, but will be used in Regions, and big cities, while in smaller cities, towns and municipalities, a more parliamentary-like collegial system meant for smaller-scale polities known as the council-manager system will be used. This will allow these other levels of government to be able to benefit from the advantages and efficiencies inherent in the way a parliamentary system functions.

Semi-Presidential System as a Transitional Phase for shifting from Presidential to Parliamentary

Shifting from the current Unitary structure towards Federalism as well as shifting from the current Presidential System towards the Parliamentary System will require a transitional system to be used which can allow the Office of the President to oversee and properly supervise the transition. This will require special powers to be wielded by the President, which would be impossible to use if the Philippines were to abruptly shift from Presidential to Parliamentary.

During the transition, institutions will have to be reformed and some newer institutions will need to be set up in order to replace obsolete ones that will need to be discarded with the adoption of the newer system. This is why a “French-style” Semi-Presidential System would be useful in order to facilitate the transition. Under the Semi-Presidential System, the office of Prime Minister can be created and filled by a member of the legislature, and this position will be handed over executive powers and responsibilities that will be delegated from the president. The President will still have overall authority and power, but this will progressively be delegated over to the Prime Minister. The President, especially the experienced incumbent, should thus pass on the responsibilities of government as he mentors the Prime Minister and does a gradual hand-over of executive responsibilities. This would also be the case for the Cabinet Secretaries where some of them could run as proportional representation members of parliament, and if they win seats, can be converted into Cabinet Ministers from within Parliament or for those who wish to retire from public service can gradually hand-over their responsibilities to the designated Minister and Opposition Shadow Minister handling the same respective portfolio.

Shifting from Unitary-Presidential to the Federal-Parliamentary System via a transitional Semi-Presidential phase need not be a very painful exercise. Transitions of this sort happen all the time within the corporate world as companies go through corporate mergers, acquisitions, and even spin-offs. This kind of exercise is really straightforward and there is a wealth of knowledge and experience on organizational restructuring exercises like this from the private sector. The powers that the President will wield under the Semi-Presidential System will ensure that there will be a smooth transition with the incumbent President watching over the entire hand-over process. Should there be any issues encountered, the President will be there to step in to address such issues and rectify them.

The Adoption of the Parliamentary System is an Integral Ingredient in the Success of Federalism

It is true that Federalism has indeed become extremely popular in recent times and has been quite popular among the people of the Visayas and Mindanao, shifting to the Parliamentary System is going to be an extremely important ingredient in making Federalism a success. Without shifting to the parliamentary system and simply retaining the current presidential system, the regions under Federalism will be hobbled by the same flaws and problems that the Philippines currently experiences today under the presidential system. Corruption will likely just stay the same instead of lessening. Gridlock between the legislative and the executive will continue. Elections at the national and the regional levels will continue to be dominated by name-recall, celebrity, and popularity.

By shifting to the Parliamentary System, the Philippines and its regions will improve on their stability and operational efficiency, and get rid of the many problematic features of the presidential system that have long plagued our country. No more dependence on PDAF. Less of the political turncoatism. More party platform focus, less on individual personal popularity. More meritocracy and emphasis on competence and ability and less emphasis on winnability and name-recall. Less likelihood of corruption.

The Parliamentary System was the system that the First Philippine Republic had decided to make use in Malolos. Our revolutionaries at the time had been influenced much more by Europe than by the USA and because of this tradition, we were actually on the trajectory towards a better system. Sadly, our tutelage under the USA and our immersion in Hollywood’s movies about the US Presidency had brainwashed so many of us to end up thinking that the Presidential System was the best. It is not surprising even, that many Filipinos tended to feel pride that the Philippines had a presidential system of government which superficially resembled the presidential system used by the United States of America – the country that everyone else looked up to. Filipinos even sometimes tended to look down on countries that had systems that were different from the USA’s system. This closed-mindedness and false pride in mimicking the USA proved to be unhelpful to our own situation.

Had we had a parliamentary system, we quite likely would not have needed to go through Martial Law. We could have had good leaders who could easily stay on in power as long as they continued to deliver good results and were successful in developing our economy and advancing our society to achieve success. Had we been parliamentary, we would not have had to endure so much instability and our politics would not have turned into such a pathetic circus.

To be sure, the Parliamentary System is not a perfect system as it relies on human beings and no system that relies on humans will ever be perfect. But it is way better than the current presidential system we have. The Philippines  – along with the countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia – who made the mistake of trying to emulate the USA in its use of the Presidential System have only been plagued with problem after problem after problem. Shifting to the Parliamentary System is our last chance to wean ourselves away from all kinds of problems inherent in such a flawed system that promised so many benefits, but delivered so much disaster. It is confidently hoped that with the eventual adoption of a Parliamentary System, the Philippines and the Regions that will emerge under Federalism will be able to enjoy the stability, accountability, transparency, and quality of leadership that is commonly found in parliamentary systems.

About the author:

Orion Perez Dumdum is the lead convenor and principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement, an advocacy movement that aims to spread the word about the need for 3 Constitutional Reforms, namely – (1) the Deletion of all anti-Foreign Direct Restrictions in the constitution in order to attract more job-creating foreign companies into the Philippines, (2) Shifting to Federalism, (3) Shifting to the Parliamentary System. Orion is an OFW and works as an IT professional in Singapore. He had also gained national prominence in the Philippines in the 1990’s as one of the first grand finalists and the record setting winner in RPN-9’s Battle of the Brains television quiz show. As a Cebuano himself, has long been an advocate of Federalism. His interest in learning about other countries as well as his travels and his experiences as an OFW had made him very interested in and knowledgeable about the flaws of the Presidential System and desperate need to shift to the Parliamentary System. Sside from conducting seminars, talks, and workshops, had also set up the website as a means of helping to educate other Filipinos to better understand the benefits of all of these reforms.


Centrist Proposals Executive Summary

The Centrist proposals

The Centrist proposals (CDPI, CDP, Lakas, 2004 ConCom and CDA) calls for a shift to a parliamentary-federal system, with a unicameral body, with the president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, both elected from among the members of parliament.
The parliament is constituted first and oversees the creation of autonomous territories toward the establishment of federal states.
Shift to parliamentary govt
1st stage: now up to February/May 2019 plebiscite and mid-term elections
A. Constituent Assembly will start revising the 1987 Constitution targeting February/May 2019 plebiscite coinciding with mid-term elections
B. Officials elected mid-term will only hold office until first parliamentary elections in May 2020 (one-year term). Transitory provisions in the new constitution will provide for this.
2nd stage: May 2020-2025
A. First unicameral parliamentary elections under the new federal constitution with five-year term.
B. Incumbent DU30 shall continue his dual role as head of state and head of government (prime minister)
3rd stage: May 2022 (DU30’s term ends under the 1987 Constitution)
A. By May 2022, DU30 steps down as head of state and a new president is elected by parliament to serve his remaining term, or
B. DU30 ends his term by 2025 (provided for in the transitory provisions)
4th stage: May 2025-2030
A. 2nd regular parliamentary elections with five-year term. By 2030, we have new president and new prime minister, both elected by the unicameral parliament.
Creation of autonomous territories
1st stage: February/May 2019 plebiscite and mid-term elections
A. Upon ratification of new constitution, a body/commission is created to oversee negotiations, setting parameters for creation of autonomous territories.
B. The Bangsamoro will be constituted ahead based on BBL enacted by Congress previous to the plebiscite.
C. Parliament can enact under the new constitutions the Organic Act of the Bangsamoro and other autonomous territories that are advanced in their negotiations and agreements.
2nd stage: May 2020-2025
A. Parliament shall guide and allow evolution of the provinces and highly urbanized cities from what they are today into autonomous territories (eventually a federal state) based on several criteria (details in the booklet).
B. Results of these negotiations shall be incorporated in an organic law by parliament within a year of a petition to be subsequently approved by the constituents of the newly formed autonomous territory in a referendum.
C. Some provinces and cities will be ahead of the pack and some will be laggards therefore the development of a federal republic will not be uniform.
D. If 60 percent of the autonomous territories are established with their organic acts, then the Federal Republic of the Philippines is created. By our reckoning, this will happen between 2025 and 2028.

The PDP-Laban Federalism Executive Summary

Proposed Amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution

[The Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines]

The PDP Laban Model of PH Federalism: An Executive Summary

The Philippines has a unitary system of government by an accident of history. The Spaniards and Americans who colonized our country saw that that fastest way to subjugate the native peoples was to set-up a highly-centralized system with Manila as the imperial capital. Despite the archipelagic nature of the country inhabited by diverse cultures, the unitary system was carried over even when the Philippines gained its independence and became a Republic in 1946.
Through time, the disadvantages of a unitary system became apparent in the country. The system concentrated political and economic power in the “center” and thus, development was limited in areas close to Manila and stifled elsewhere. Not surprisingly, in a country of more than 100 million people, sixty two per cent (62%) of the country’s GDP comes from Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON while the rest of the country is suffering from underdevelopment and low investment. Our system of government has resulted in a grave imbalance in the distribution of resources among regions and local government units. Unfortunately, this inequality has led to social unrest, with various groups (especially in Mindanao) arming themselves to fight against the system. Clearly, there is a need for change.
The problem, we submit, is our highly-centralized form of government and the solution, we believe, is the adoption of the federal system. We believe that the only way to bring about equitable and widespread development in our country is for the central government to share power – political and economic – with the regions and LGUs.
The unprecedented assumption to power of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his political party, PDP Laban, has given the country a rare opportunity to introduce systemic change to our country’s system of government, among other Constitutional Reforms. The solution advocated by PDP Laban since 1982 is to abandon the unitary system and shift to a Federal system of government. Federalism, a system of governance, has been adopted by many nations in the world such as the United States, Germany, Malaysia, and Australia to keep their countries strong and progressive while allowing the different communities within their country to work together for the progress of all.
As a political think tank, the PDP Laban Federalism Institute has been studying and advocating for Federalism in the Philippines. In July of last year, the Federalism Study Group[2] composed of various political scientists, lawyers, politicians and practitioners was convened by the Institute under the direction of Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. The group was tasked to study various federalism models from around the world, determine what model would be best for our country, and propose the necessary amendments to the Constitution.
In proposing amendments to the Constitution, the Federalism Study Group approached this task based on the following principles:
  1. There is no “one size fits all model” of Federalism. Federalism scholars contend that there are as many federal models as there are federal countries; every federal country has a distinct model that works best for its own country. Countries who wish to shift to a federal system – like the Philippines — must discern its own version of federalism according to the peculiar conditions of their societies. Therefore, it is important to learn from the experiences – whether good or bad – of existing federations.
  2. There is a different context to Federalism in the Philippines. Many of the established federations in the world like the US and Australia examples of “coming together” federalism, meaning they were independent states that decided to bond together. We, on the other hand, will be an example of a “holding together” federalism, because we are already a unitary state seeking to shift into a federation. Thus, many of the standard features of federal countries like “shared sovereignty” between the federal and regional governments do not apply to us because of our different context.
  3. There is no need to come up with an entirely new Constitution. The 1987 Constitution has many good provisions that need not be changed. Thus, we have taken a “surgical” approach towards amending the fundamental law, concentrating only on the articles and provisions that would enshrine federalism into the Constitution and strengthen our public institutions, among others. Thus, there are articles in the 1987 Constitution that are left practically untouched such as Articles on the Bill of Rights, Citizenship, and Suffrage, among others.
It is essential that we continue to strengthen our democracy not by supplanting or doing away entirely with the 1987 Constitution but by improving the current Constitution, the charter that allowed us to abandon Marcos authoritarianism and move forward. In doing so, we ensure Constitutional continuity and stability while at the same time make adjustments in our charter to address the needs of the present and the future.
The PDP Laban Model of PH Federalism being proposed herein draws lessons from other countries but is customized to our own needs and circumstances. The foundational ideas were provided by the ideologues of Federalism like Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., the founder of PDP Laban and father of the Local Government Code. We also took into account the salient features outlined by our Party Chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte. We studied our 25-year experience of devolution under the Local Government Code, our 20-year experience with ARMM, as well as many models of Federalism, Decentralization, and political arrangements from around the world.
Some of the salient features of the proposal includes a shift to a Federal Government with a Semi-Presidential System or a Hybrid Parliamentary System similar to the governments in Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal and to a certain extent, France. It also features a transition mechanism for Regional Governments to prepare themselves for further decentralization, provisions to strengthen political parties, mechanisms to regulate political dynasties, and other political and electoral reforms.
PH Federal System.
There shall be two Constitutionally-established orders or levels of government – the Federal Government and the Regional Government. Unlike the present system where there are overlapping mandates between the National Government and Local Government Units (LGUs), each level of government in the Federal structure will have its particular jurisdiction. The Federal Government shall have exclusive legislative powers over National Defense, Police and National Security, Foreign Affairs, Currency, Immigration, and other matters that concern the entire nation.[3] In addition, all residual powers are retained by the Federal Government but these may be delegated to the Regional Governments.
The creation of Regional Governments are guided by the principles of Autonomy, Subsidiarity, Solidarity, Decentralization and Devolution, Democracy and Accountability. Basically, since local governments are closest to the people, they are the ones who are best equipped to deliver basic services to the people. Those basic services, however, that are best delivered under a national standard shall be a shared power[4] between the Federal and Regional Governments. We propose the creation of 11 regional governments the composition of which shall be attached as an ordinance to the Constitution.[5]
Regional Governments shall have primary legislative powers over basic services such as Social Welfare and Development; Tourism; Irrigation, Water and Sewerage; Waste Management; Fire Protection; Regional Development Planning; Franchises, Licenses and Permits; and the allocation and provision of funds and resources to local Governments within the Region, among others.
Semi-Presidential System.
It is proposed that our current Presidential System which concentrates executive power in a single office, the Presidency, be replaced with a semi-presidential or hybrid parliamentary system where executive power is dispersed among the President, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Parliament and the Regional Governments.
The logic for this division of executive powers in the context of the Philippines are as follows: First, in the transition to a more decentralized system of governance, we need a popularly elected presidency to hold and unite the country together and ensure that the transition to federalism and transfer of powers to the regions will be successful. The President can help as an arbiter of disputes between the federal and regional governments and among regional governments.
Second, we need an effective president to deal with powerful countries like China and the United States, as well as to effectively compete in a globalized world economy; Third, we need a president who can decisively address the numerous national security problems and natural disasters; Fourth, a pure parliamentary system without strong political parties run the rist of being unstable during the initial years. It may take some time to build strong political parties. We need a president to ensure that there is no gridlock in our political system and a president who can remain decisive in cases of national crises;
Finally, having a president, a prime minister, a cabinet and regional chief ministers will help spread out the burdens of governance, avoid a single issue agenda and, most importantly, help speed up regional development by giving more powers to the regions, which is the main objective of our reform. More horses pulling the national and regional wagon together is better than one.[6]
Therefore, we propose both a President and a Prime Minister for our country. The President, who is nationally elected, shall be the Head of State. He/she will be the symbol of the nation and the decisive leader in times of crisis. He/she will be primary responsible for the country’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs. The President can veto acts of Parliament, appoint members of the Judiciary, nominate and with the consent of the Federal Assembly, appoint the Prime Minister and he/she can dissolve the Federal Assembly depending on certain conditions, and call for new elections. Given these powers, the President will be insulated from day-to-day politics and act as an “elder statesman.” The President is given a maximum of two 5-year terms.
The Prime Minister, on the other hand, shall be the Head of Government and he shall now handle the day-to-day affairs of government. It is now the Prime Minister who will set domestic and economic policy and control public finances. He/she should be a member of the majority party or ruling coalition in the Federal Assembly in order to be appointed by the President as Prime Minister. He/she is responsible for the program of Government and determines the guidelines of national policy, appoints members of his/her Cabinet and other officials except those appointed by the President, and prepares the National Expenditure Program and submits it to the Federal Assembly for approval.
The Parliament.
It is proposed thaht te present Bicameral legislature be retained but with different names, powers, and functions. Legislative power shall be vested in Parliament which shall have two houses or chambers – the Federal Assembly and the Senate.
Under the hybrid Parliamentary system, primary legislative power is vested on the Federal Assembly which will be composed of 400 members – 60% elected by plurality votes in Legislative Electoral Districts and 40% elected through the Proportional Representation system of accredited national political parties.[7] The Federal Assembly shall have the power to initiate legislation which shall go through the mandatory 3-readings. The Prime Minister shall also come from the Federal Assembly together with the Cabinet, a majority of which shall come from the Assembly.
The Senate shall now be elected by region just like in other Federal countries. In the exercise of its legislative powers, the Senate shall concur on all bills and resolutions passed by Federal Assembly before it becomes law. But in order to avoid the duplication of functions between the two chambers and to streamline the legislative process, the 3-reading rule shall no longer apply to the Senate. One reading shall suffice. Moreover, it cannot initiate legislation. The power of the Senate shall be limited to the review of bills passed by the Federal Assembly.[8]
Instead of a bicameral Commission on Appointments, it shall now be the Senate who shall confirm appointments made by the President and Prime Minister to the Cabinet (except when the nominee is a member of Parliament) and to other positions (e.g. Constitutional Commissions) that require confirmation. The Senate shall continue to act as the Impeachment Court; approves treaties and international agreements, and screen and nominates appointments to the Judiciary instead of the Judicial and Bar Council.
There shall be 3 senators elected from each Region. Both the Senators and the Members of the Federal Assembly shall have a maximum of two 5-year terms.
Transition Mechanism to a Federal System. For federalism to succeed there must be serious consideration to a smooth transition mechanism. We should learn from the painful experience we had with the devolution of health services et. al. under the 1991 Local Government Code where no smooth transition mechanism was put in place. Since the shift to a federal system will impact on practically all government agencies and levels of government, the transition must be slow, deliberate and purposeful.
It is proposed that there be a three-step process in the transition process. This is important to ensure the capability and readiness of the Regional Governments and their constituent Local Government Units to take on the devolved powers and responsibilities from the Federal Government. The transition mechanism will also give Parliament the time needed to amend national laws as well as enact complementing legislation.
Step 1: Regional and Local Government Code (RLGC).
Eighteen months from the ratification of the amendments to the 1987 Constitution, a Regional and Local Government Code shall be enacted by Parliament to replace the 1991 Local Government Code. The RLGC shall define the powers, functions, and responsibilities of Regional Governments and their constituent LGUs. The Code shall also provide the taxing powers and other sources of funds of the Regional and Local Governments. And it shall provide for the creation of an Equalization Fund which shall replace the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).
Step 2: Regional Commissions.
Once the Regional and Local Government Code is passed, the Regional Governments are deemed created. But in order to save on government resources and do away with the need for new elections for Regional positions, the Regional Governments in the interim shall be governed through Regional Commissions. Each Regional Commission shall be composed of the incumbent Governors of Provinces and Mayors of Highly Urbanized Cities and Independent Component Cities within the Region. The chairmanship of each commission shall be by rotation among its members for a term of one-year term. The organizational structure and operations of the commissions shall be defined by the Regional and Local Government Code.
The Regional Commissions shall serve as the interim Regional Government acting as a collegial body with both executive and legislative Powers. A Regional Chief Administrator who is a professional manager appointed by the Commission En Banc shall act as the Chief Executive Official tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the Regional Government. The Commission shall create and organize the government offices necessary for the effective and efficient functioning of the Regional Government.
The rationale behind the establishment of a Regional Commission as the Interim Regional Government are as follows: Firstly, it will reduce the cost of establishing the regional government as the commissioners are already receiving their salaries from their respective LGUs; Secondly, the regional government can operate right away without the need for new elections which takes time and entails cost to government; Thirdly, it allows the constituent units to determine the agenda of the regional governments until such time that region can transition to a regular regional government through an Organic Act.
Step 3. Regional Organic Act.
Within 5-10 years from the establishment of the Regional Government, the Regional Commission shall submit to Parliament for approval a proposed Regional Organic Act more responsive to the needs, culture, and aspirations of the region. The Act shall define the basic structure of government for the region consisting of an Executive Department headed by a Chief Minister and a Regional Assembly composed of elected representatives from each province and city. The regional chief executive called Chief Minister shall be elected by the Regional Assembly from among its members. Once the Regional Organic Act is approved by Parliament, the Regional Commission shall transfer its powers and functions to the Regular Regional Government.
Fiscal Reforms.
Changes in the allocation of funds to the regions are at the heart of the shift in the system of government. The unequal distribution of public funds to the regions is one of the major causes of underdevelopment in the country. We will pursue the principle that the budget shall follow the division of powers; which means that the regions should be given the necessary funds to properly exercise the powers devolved to them.
At present, 83% of national government revenue are controlled by the national government and only 17% are allocated to local governments. Under our formula, this will change in favor of regional governments: 60% to be controlled by the Regional Governments and only 40% by Federal Government.[9]
Political, Electoral and Other Reforms.
For Federalism to succeed, it should come with a package of electoral and political reforms. We believe that federalism can fail if we do not institute changes in our political and electoral system.
In order to democratize political power, we propose to make the anti-dynasty provision in the Constitution self-executing. It is proposed that relatives of incumbent politicians up to the 2nd degree of affinity or consanguinity shall be prohibited from running for public office in the territorial jurisdiction where the incumbent was elected.
In order to establish strong and cohesive political parties, Parliament shall be mandated to promote the development of political parties as public institutions that shall serve as a mechanism for communication and cooperation between the people and the government, facilitating political organization and representation.
To support this initiative, political turn-coatism shall be prohibited. Party switching shall be banned within 1 year immediately preceding or following an election, otherwise he loses his position and shall be prohibited from running in the next election. It is also proposed that state subsidy shall be provided to political parties based on their electoral performance in the previous election just like they do in mature democracies. This is to reduce or all together eliminate the influence of big business and drug and gambling lords in our politicians.
The current party list system is also proposed to be improved and transformed into a system of proportional representation. The 3-seat cap will be removed in order ensure that the ruling party is able to muster a majority and ensure a stable parliamentary system.
As to the restrictive economic provisions in our current Constitution, we propose that we delegate to Parliament the matter of fixing the percentage of allowable foreign ownership in nationalized economic activities. Land ownership in the country, however, shall be reserved only for Filipino citizens.
Since corruption is still a curse devastating our country, we shall continue to strengthen the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, and the Commission on Audit and make them a strong presence in every Region.
Our Last Hope.
As argued by President Duterte, it is our firm believe that the next logical, and perhaps the only peaceful, legal and constitutional avenue left open to those who wish to lay down the foundations for a just and lasting peace and development not only in Mindanao but in the entire country is the adoption a federal system of government.
In conclusion, we do not see federalism to be the cure-all to all our problems. In fact, there is no cure-all to all our nation’s ill. Federalism is not a perfect system; but it may be the answer to the country’s lingering problems rooted in our country’s multi-cultural federal nature. Maybe it is time to recognize the Filipino identity as a “diversity of identities” and not one single monolithic artificial construct. We submit that it is the recognition of differences that make communities prepared to embrace a common identity with others. The time for change is now.
[1] By Jonathan E. Malaya, Executive Director, PDP Laban Federalism Institute
[2] Members: Dean Dr. July Teehankee (DLSU), Assoc. Prof Dr. Ed Araral (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), Prof. Ed Tayao (LOGODEF), Dr. Tony Avila, Dir. Novel Bangsal (CPBRD, HRep), Atty. Valery Brion (Office of the Senate President), Dir. Mon Casiple (IPER), Dr. Grace Jamon (UP Diliman), Mr. Francis Manglapus (CAPDI), Dr. Edwin Martin (ASPAP), Dir. Gen. Jun Miral (CPBRD, HRep), Mr. Raphael Montes (CLRG, UP NCPAG); Sec. Gary Olivar (FEF), Atty. Al Oxales (O/Senate President), Atty. Salma Rasul (PCID), Atty. Vince Revil (PDP Laban), Sec. Gary Teves (FEF), Mr. RV Vicerra (CDPI), Mr. Jojo Villano, Mr. Orion Perez Dumdum (CoRRECT™ Movement) and Federalism Institute Director Jonathan Malaya.
[3] Other functions under the iurisdiction of the Federal Government includes: Currency and Monetary Policy; Customs and Tariff; International Trade; Inter-regional Commerce; Postal Service; Quarantine; Citizenship, NaturaIization, Immigration and Deportation; General Auditing; National Elections; Maritime, Land and Air Transportation and Communication; Patents, Trademarks, Trade Names and Copyrights, Energy, Judiciary, and the Administration of Justice.
[4] In the case of basic education which is proposed to be a shared power, the Federal Department of Education shall set the curriculum, minimum standards and conduct assessment and testing of all basic education institutions while the Regional Governments can handle classroom construction, creation of teaching items, provision of school furniture and equipment, etc.
[5] This follows the proposal of Senator Nene Pimentel. Nonetheless, the number and composition of these regional governments shall be subject to extensive consultation with the people on the ground, thus, we will leave this matter for the Constitutional Convention or Constituent Assembly to finally settle.
[6] Dr. Ed Araral, Vice Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
[7] The Proportional Representation or PR system will improve on the current Party-list system we have under the current Constitution.
[8] This power is referred to in Parliamentary democracies as Consent Legislation. Which is not to say that the Senate cannot propose a bill or resolution. It can still do so but not in its chamber. Any senator may submit a proposed bill or resolution to the Federal Assembly who shall act on it consistent with its rules.
[9]The Federal government will remain responsible for the national debt.

Why are the Monsods so anti-Constitutional Reform?


Winnie Monsod was being preposterous when she chided those individuals who rejected posts in Duterte’s cabinet because of the paltry pay.

To paraphrase her, she said that they should not even be thinking about their salaries because it’s a great time to participate in the country’s strong economic growth.

Which probably means, Monsod is an out-of-touch romantic, or worse, a scholar who has lost all credibility by engaging in motherhood statements and vacuous platitudes rather than sober arguments supported by a solid framework of data as befitting an economist of her renown.

It’s no different from saying that OFWs should not have just sought their fortunes abroad and just meekly accepted measly salaries which can barely support their families because doing so would be “unpatriotic.”

This attitude is unfortunately prevalent among Filipinos whether highly educated or ignorant, where emotional arguments prevail over pragmatic and realistic ones. Given the broken and ubernationalistic educational system that we have, it’s natural for many uninformed Filipinos to spout garbage such as “protectionism protects Filipino enterprises but only temporarily so they can compete later” or that “without 60/40 our country will be bought by foreigners” or “the Philippines belong only to Filipinos” when prodded about this topic.

Compare that to what practical Singapore did when it pegged its ministers and bureaucrats’ salaries to the private sector’s rates to ensure that the best minds would join the Singaporean government (and unsurprisingly SG’s government tops almost all international metrics). More importantly, Singapore has had zero qualms at all in allowing FDIs to arrive in the tiny island country in droves because it wanted jobs for its people.

This poor reasoning probably also accounts for her and her spouse’s excuses not to support lifting the protectionist restrictions in the 1987 Constitution, citing among many things that Japan and South Korea didn’t need FDIs (while ignoring that these countries are special cases, or how FDIs transformed Hong Kong and Singapore, or how British investments laid the ground for later American economic dominance) and that human capital, lack of infrastructure, transparency, a good regulatory framework, etc., are more important. [1]

No one’s arguing against these factors, but opening barriers on FDIs will actually give more incentives for government to address these issues since it will be pressured by foreign investors who will be trying to come in once these restrictions are gone.

Foreign investors themselves are saying that the main problem of the Philippines in attracting investments lies with the protectionist clauses in the Constitution. Sir Richard Branson, the multibillionaire founder of the Virgin group of companies, has said that the Philippines must open up so more investors can come, and that protectionism does not benefit consumers but only the businesses insulated from competition. [2]

And what’s even more curious is that many of the Monsods’ colleagues in the UP Department of Economics do not agree with their conclusions. Gerardo Sicat, another UP economist and former head of NEDA, argues rightly that foreign restrictions have to go, while not forgetting to mention that infrastructure (among other things) has to be improved as well. [3]

But some of the excuses from Christian Monsod are: FDIs help, but not too much, or many industries are virtually allowed anyway, or that quality of the investment, not quantity, must be the focus.

Now, even if these conditions were true, then why oppose the proposed lifting of the restrictions anyway? Why do a lot of foreign investors specifically state that the ownership caps dissuaded them from setting up shop in the country? And most importantly, why not allow foreign businesses to come here with full ownership of their interests, and let the jungle rule of competition weed out the bad from the good?

Is this even an argument coming from an economist? This is basic economics! There is no need for an intellectual of equal or greater caliber like Prof. Sicat to elucidate the obvious! Now this is what you call “palusot”!

And what about quality? How would it be measured? Heck, even LKY proudly stated that he and his team warmly welcomed a mothball factory to be built in Singapore!

[1] Charter Change: the 2014 Version

[2] Virgin Group’s Branson says Philippines should relax foreign ownership caps

[3] Foreign ownership limits hinder Philippine growth potential

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About the Author

louis gerardLouis Gerard Del Rosario is an avid reader. He is also an active Constitutional Reform advocate within the CoRRECT™ Movement, becoming even more active after a pro-Constitutional Reform candidate won in the recent election. (This article started off as a status update on FB.)

He studied literature at the University of Santo Tomas.

How does Federalism work?

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.”

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!

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About the Author


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.

What if we were Parliamentary back in 2009?

Thousands watch the cortege of former President Cory Aquino along Sucat road in Paranaque City.   MANNY MARCELO/PHOTO
Thousands watch the cortege of former President Cory Aquino along Sucat road in Parañaque City. MANNY MARCELO/PHOTO

An insightful CoRRECTor, Louis Gerard del Rosario wrote a very good status update:

Yes, a parliamentary system is a hard sell to many Filipinos, because it does not allow direct election of the head of government (the prime minister or PM).

But I think there is a space for the Filipinos’ insistence of a directly elected chief executive in a future parliamentary system by allowing direct elections for a ceremonial president, who would simply become the head of state (in the current system, the president is both head of state and government). This way, even if the Filipino obsession with personalities was not suppressed immediately, it would instead be diverted into another purpose, and thus, far from being a liability for its caprice, would become a positive contribution to political stability.

To understand the merits of this suggestion, look at this hypothetical reimagining of the 2010 elections, which takes place in a unicameral parliamentary Philippines:

It is 2009, GMA is the PM and will lead her party, Lakas, in elections next year. The LP under Mar Roxas will contest the elections, hoping to beat Lakas, which is unpopular, and form the next government. Presidential elections are also scheduled next year for the next ceremonial leader of the country. (Note: parliamentary republics often separate their presidential elections from the parliamentary ones, so the former would not distract voters from the latter. This scenario is simply for the purpose of argument.)

Cory Aquino dies, a much respected icon of democracy and freedom. A strong movement formed by multiple sectors begins to convince Noynoy Aquino to run for president. Aquino, being a member of LP, has to sever his ties from the party to qualify for the presidency, as presidents are expected to be impartial and transcend politics. The LP unofficially and quietly supports their former party member.

Noynoy wins the 2010 presidency, while Mar Roxas who remains the leader of the LP wins the elections for his party, and later forms the government as the PM. GMA resigns the Lakas leadership.

A closer analysis of this hypothetical scenario reveals that it’s basically a win-win situation for everyone:

1. Filipinos would be able to express their People Power nostalgia and personality worship by voting for Noynoy in a non-political position.

2. Noynoy, being above politics and not really expected to govern the country, would never have the chance to be incompetent and divisive. More importantly, the Aquino reputation that he embodied would not be tainted and thus not become a cause for division and alienation among Filipinos. This also means that the majority would not rethink Martial Law.

3. Mar Roxas would remain the leader of the LP and have the chance to lead the Philippines as PM. He would not need to sacrifice his political ambitions for the sake of nostalgia, because that sentiment was channeled in the presidential elections instead.

4. Everything ceteris paribus, that would mean less chance of things such as the HK Tourist Bus hostage tragedy happening.

5. GMA, an unpopular leader, would be peacefully removed from power. Since the same happened in actual history anyway, the importance of this point is appreciated in the years before the election, when there would have been hardly any calls for a revolution or an impeachment (impossible), because she could have easily been removed either through a no confidence motion in parliament or a coup by her own party.

From our assessment of how things may have turned out, who knows, maybe under a Parliamentary System, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo might not have been as villified and demonized the same way she was had she been a Prime Minister, because ultimately, in a Parliamentary System, most of the focus would have been on her Government’s policies, programs, and her party’s platforms, not on her person.

If we are to actually look at it objectively, many of the legislators who joined the Liberal Party to cause it to have its majority were actually originally members of GMA’s Lakas-CMD-Kampi party/coalition bloc. Under a Parliamentary System, they wouldn’t have jumped over to the LP and it may very well have meant that GMA might have actually remained on as Prime Minister and wouldn’t have been unfairly villified. Mar might have become the Leader of the Opposition, and had Noynoy won as ceremonial figurehead president as a result of Tita Cory’s death in 2009, Noynoy wouldn’t have been able to wrongly influence or block all kinds of other reforms that we so desperately need to put in place. There wouldn’t have also been a PDAF or such a scandal in the first place.

Things would have really turned out differently.

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 #realchange #constitutionalreform”


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

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?”


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!!!

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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.

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 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.


Commandments Are Not Enough

Keith Breeze Ten Commandments
By the way, Pork is forbidden in the Old Testament.

There has been some debate among Filipino netizens about what is more important when it comes to fixing the problems of the Philippines. Much of it has been centered on the flawed culture in the Philippines and the need to fix this flawed culture. Some netizens have argued that we need to fix the culture first before fixing the Constitution. Others argue that it is the other way around. So which is it?

The following article explains that culture is built up around systems, and so in order to change the culture it is necessary to change the system first:

Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

So instead of trying to fight corruption alone, we must correct the system that encourages corruption. Instead of just telling people to vote wisely, we must first change the system that encourages people to go for name-recall and vote celebrity politicians instead of voting for competent statesmen based on abilities and platforms.

Essentially, it is all about dealing with root causes. To more efficiently and more permanently fix a problem, one must go to the root cause of the problem, rather than just dealing with symptoms.

Of course, it is possible to change the culture through a dictatorship, but I’d prefer doing it through a much more democratic way. What we need is a system that enforces certain wanted behaviors, and discourages certain unwanted behaviors – and switching to a parliamentary system, rather than a presidential dictatorship, is the way to do it.

Think about the 10 Commandments of the Bible. Sure, it is definitely a good moral code to go by. However, it is not enough just to advise people to not steal. Humans are fallible creatures prone to temptations. All humans have this tendency. Some religious traditions even have concepts to explain this: The Jews have the concept of the Yetzer Hara (The Evil Inclination) that is the source of how people can sometimes be harmful (albeit it is also tied in with the human survival instinct), and Christianity has Original Sin.

When it comes to one of the biggest moral flaws of Philippine society, corruption, it turns out that it is actually an intermediate effect of even deeper systemic root causes. It’s to say that corruption is somewhere in between a symptom and a root cause. Corruption causes other bad things, yes, but something deeper causes corruption to occur and/or exacerbates it.

The truth is that the tendency towards corruption is present in each and every person. It manifests itself as an effect of the human survival instinct which, when unregulated, can mean that one tries to survive at the expense of others. It manifests itself as laziness and the tendency of human beings to want to go with the path of least resistance: i.e., to get something for nothing.

Like I said, all humans have this tendency. Call it Yetzer Hara, Original Sin, Temptations, etc.

What we can do, however, is to come up with systems that will minimize the tendency for such traits to emerge. For instance, when people are needy and desperate, there is often a greater chance that they will resort to corruption in “finding the shortest path to ensure their survival” even if this harms others or goes against the rules or standards of society.

As such, a society where people are at least able to meet their most basic needs comfortably can minimize corruption greatly. If we have an economic system that does not provide enough economic opportunities for people to live comfortably, expect higher incidences of corruption to emerge. Then there’s the fact that if you have “more eyes watching”, it causes people to be more likely to avoid being corrupt.

In short, having systems that dissuade people from being corrupt, having systems that provide economic opportunities for the people at large, having systems that reward transparency and punish corruption can minimize corruption and if done properly, practically eliminate it.

It’s not enough to say, “get rid of corruption” or “thou shall not steal” because the question is: How?!?! Sometimes, even if you try to get rid of corruption without addressing the root causes of why some people risk getting caught while doing corrupt acts in the hope of personal gain, you’ll find that the corruption doesn’t really go down.

It’s like trying to swat flies over and over again, but new flies keep emerging. It’s necessary, thus, to look at the systemic root causes for why there are lots of flies in your area, and often, you’ll realize that it’s the preponderance of uncollected garbage that becomes the breeding ground for maggots and flies. No amount of swatting the flies over and over again does anything because new flies emerge to replace the ones who were downed.

The emergence of corruption is not the root cause… It is the effect or symptom of something else. And that often – at the very core – is poverty and the lack of opportunities. People who have mounting bills to pay because they earn so little or probably don’t have jobs themselves may end up seeing an opportunity to “cheat the system” as being advantageous to them or helpful to their survival. Had they not had to worry about that, they then wouldn’t have resorted to corruption.

We need to look at root causes. In the end, our system in the Philippines is conducive to keeping people poor, and poverty makes corruption come out in full force.

If we CoRRECTed the system so that we have a system that creates more economic opportunities, more prosperity, more chances for people to live decent lives, then there’ll be less tendency for corruption to emerge.

Now where do poverty and lack of opportunities stem from? They generally stem from the economic system and how things work as far as the economy goes. Countries that stifle business and economic activity tend to shoo businesses and entrepreneurs/investors away. Countries that allow free business to happen and allow foreign companies to easily set up shop and create jobs for the local population tend to have better job creation and less poverty as a result.

I also have to mention the case of having “more eyes watching.” Well, that’s why parliamentary systems also tend to be less prone to corruption than presidential systems. Because the way parliamentary systems work involves the opposition sending in representatives to the ministerial meetings of the government so that there is always a witness from the opposition present to watch over ministry meetings. While the majority has a government cabinet led by a prime minister, the minority has an opposition shadow cabinet led by the leader of the opposition. Each minister of the government has a corresponding “shadow minister from the opposition” watching over him and attending the meetings of the minister in his ministry. The Minister of Defense, when conducting meetings for the Ministry of Defense has the Shadow Minister of Defense from the Opposition attending and looking at the proceedings and noting all the decisions.

This is why generally speaking, parliamentary systems outperform presidential systems and parliamentary systems are less prone to corruption: Because there’s someone or many people from the opposition watching.

In the end, in order for corruption to actually get lessened, you cannot just ask people to not be corrupt. You cannot just command them not to steal. You must set up systems that prevent the corrupt-tendencies present in all people from emerging and to suppress people being corrupt with systems where “many are watching over.”

CoRRECT™ is really all about systemic change, not just surface changes. System change hits at the root causes of problems. That’s how we fix things in the long term. That’s how we CoRRECT™ the Philippines – by CoRRECTing the flawed system enshrined in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines.

1987 Constitution Kicks FedEx Out


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!

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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.

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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

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.]

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This article is included in the 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.

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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 (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.

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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.