Exposing Esposo

(This article is dedicated to the late William Esposo, a man who took it upon himself to expose his own ignorance in the field of economics and showed his true colors as being nothing but a lackey of oligarchs [he was an oligarch himself] in the Philippines.

May there be no more foolish writers in the Philippines who will follow in his footsteps in trying to defend the rotten status quo. This one’s for you, Billy.)

A little over a month ago, on the 16th of January, I released an article entitled “Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™” in which I laid out the general principles behind the CoRRECT™ Movement, whose full name is “Constitutional Reform & Rectification forEconomic Competitiveness & Transformation.”

Not too long after, on the 23rd of January, an extremely poorly-researched article came out of the Philippine Star authored by erstwhile pro-Oligarch pundit William Esposo entitled “Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem”, in which Mr. Esposo derided the now snowballing clamor for Constitutional Reform spearheaded by the CoRRECT™ Movement (as an umbrella coalition) together with numerous similarly aligned pro-Constitutional Reform groups with responses that were laughably full of factual inaccuracies and logical lapses.

Mr. Esposo opened up his article, to wit:

“Here we go again. Some people want to dance the Cha cha again. Cha cha is of course the adopted moniker for Charter change, a revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

It is largely suspected that Cha cha is being promoted with the use of “economic” boosters as its front but in reality — it’s the Trojan Horse of people with sinister personal and selfish motives. The more popular “economic” boosters being floated are:

1. Opening the ownership of Philippine land to foreigners.
2. Removing the 40 percent ownership limit of foreigners in Philippine corporations.”

Mr. Esposo needs to be corrected as the CoRRECT™ Movement is not that aggressive in pushing for the removal of land-ownership restrictions (number 1), and instead concentrates its efforts on pushing for the removal of the 40% ownership limit on foreigners and foreign investors in corporations in the Philippines.

It would certainly be a big bonus if restrictions on the ownership of land were to be removed from the Constitution as land ownership restrictions or special requirements that would qualify certain foreigners into owning land could instead be legislated more flexibly. That being said, the CoRRECT™ Movement emphasizes the much greater urgency and importance of removing the 60/40 protectionist provisions which are making the Philippines one of the most restrictive investment destinations in a region where 100% foreign-owned investments are fueling economic growth in the various neighboring countries such as Vietnam, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many more.

Going back to Mr. Esposo’s statements on the land issue, he then went on to say:

“If we’re a big country like the US then it could be alright to allow foreigners to own Philippine land. Seeing that we’re a small country which is hardly the land area of the US State of California, this proposal is idiotic.”

If everyone were to analyze the issue carefully, if Billy Esposo were looking for the truly idiotic one he just needs to directly face a mirror and point at it. (Sorry, Mr. Esposo, you started off calling out-of-the-box thinking as “idiotic”)

Let us review:

Monaco is a teeny-weeny principality, yet it allows foreigners to own land.

If indeed we were to acknowledge Mr. Esposo’s flawed knee-jerk reasoning, then why are the teeny-weeny countries of Europe – much smaller than the Philippines – such as the Benelux countries (Belgium,Netherlands, and Luxembourg – all of whom have zero restrictions on foreign land ownership), as well as Monaco (zero restrictions), Liechtenstein (foreigners must be residents to buy land), and Andorra (permits ownership based on certain requirements), all allowing foreign ownership of land(Caveat: Liechtenstein & Andorra have certain requirements)

Why does teeny-weeny Singapore allow foreigners to own land? (There is, of course, a need to get certain approval to qualify for owning landed property, but usually, business owners operating in Singapore who create jobs easily get it.)

(Since mid-2005 foreigners can buy apartments (known as strata-titled properties) in all buildings without needing approval from the Singapore Authorities. Previous rules about the apartment block needing to be higher than six storeys and classified as a condominium no longer apply.

A foreign person (any person who is not a Singapore citizen, Singapore Company, Singapore limited liability partnership or a Singapore society) will still need approval from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to buy land-titled property such as houses, bungalows and vacant plots of land.)

Why does Malaysia allow foreigners to own land? (There are size restrictions that require special government approval or opting into special programs for investors, retirees, or others. In general, Malaysia is even ranked as being more liberal with foreign land-ownership than Singapore.)

Taiwan and South Korea both allow foreign land ownership based on a reciprocity principle: Citizens of countries that allow Taiwanese or South Koreans to own land can also own land in Taiwan and South Korea.

Thailand, for instance, also allows full foreign land ownership, albeit there are certain requirements such as investor status or special approval from the government.

Jurassic leftists who don’t understand economics showing their ignorance once again

Outside of the Philippines, a large number of developed countries as well as highly-progressive and fast-rising developing countries have provisions that allow foreigners to outright own real property or land or allow them to meet certain requirements that would qualify them to legally purchase and own land. In the Philippines, foreigners are specifically limited only to being able to purchase condominiums. On the other hand, foreigners who are permanent residents or are married to Filipinos / Filipinas are forced to purchase land in their spouses’ names because there is a total ban on foreigners owning land – even for business purposes that would help create jobs for Filipinos.

Just the same, Billy Esposo still went on to spew out some more factual inaccuracies as he said:

“It also did not occur to the legislators pushing for this that China and Vietnam — two Asian countries that are attracting the bulk of foreign investors — do not allow land ownership by foreigners.”

Firstly, both China and Vietnam – being Communist Party-controlled, and being based on Socialist principles of collective ownership – subscribe to highly “Georgist” (based on the philosophy of Henry George) or “Geoist” principles where man can only own that which man can make. Since land is not made by man, it cannot be owned by man. And thus, land is ultimately under State custodianship and then merely leased out in “sub-custody” to long-term lessees or owners of transferrable (and resalable) “land-use rights.” In short, no one owns the land – not even Chinese or Vietnamese citizens, only the State does.

That being said, the systems in both China & Vietnam recognize that the improvements (physical structures, houses, buildings, factories, etc) made on top of leased land as well as the land-use right can be owned, and thus, a system that is, for all practical purposes, similar to land-ownership actually exists.

If we were to consider this as a “time-bound” alternative form of “ownership” of land-use rights and the improvements made on land, we thus find that Mr. Esposo’s sweeping generalization that Vietnam & China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” iswrong. From here on, when talking about “land ownership” in Vietnam or China, we will be referring to land-use rights which are transferrable (often called “leasehold property”) and can be purchased and sold just like any normal property under the default “fee simple” model of land ownership common in the USA and the Philippines.

外灘 – The Shanghai Bund was a result of foreign investment; When they left China, the foreigners couldn’t take the buildings or the land with them. But Esposo clearly didn’t know that.

Certainly, both China and Vietnam do not match the liberal land-ownership schemes found in countries like the USA and several others (including several European countries previously mentioned), where foreigners even those without special residency status may purchase, own, and sell “freehold” fee-simple land. However, to say that both Vietnam and China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” is definitely wrong as both countries have created schemes that allow foreigners to own leasehold residential property as well as property related to running a business (a factory, etc) at full 100% ownership. Moreover, foreigners who buy leasehold property are easily able to sell-off their property at a profit, which essentially makes the distinction between freehold (fee-simple) and leasehold property irrelevant.

Even before 2007, China had already allowed expatriates who lived in China for a year to be eligible to purchase leasehold property as personal residence, as long as they could prove that they were going to be the primary users of the residential property and were likewise limited only to one property. Foreigners wanting to purchase property for commercial purposes could still do so, except that this had to be done through a Corporate-Entity known as a “Wholly Foreign-Owned Entity” (WFOE) or through an Equity or Contractual Joint Venture (JV). The WFOE scheme allows full 100% ownership by foreigners, and also required certain residency and business-visa status.

In 2007, China made changes that further relaxed such restrictions.

Saigon Night Skyline

As for Vietnam, we find that leasehold property is treated somewhat similarly to pre-2007 China’s laws which allowed foreigners who had residency status were allowed to buy, own, and sell one residential leasehold property. The Vietnamese Law Consultancy website states:

In accordance with the legal provisions currently in force, foreigners permanently residing in the country are only entitled to ownership in respect of movable property, but not real property located in Vietnam except residential houses. In accordance with Decree 60/CP issued in 1994, a foreigner who is a permanent resident in Vietnam can only have ownership in respect to one house for himself/herself. Foreigners who are not permanent residents in the country are not entitled to ownership in respect of real property located in Vietnam. (In accordance with article 181 of the Vietnam Civil Code, real property is the type of property which cannot be moved or relocated and includes items of property fixed to residential houses and residential building works; other assets fixed to land and other assets provided for by the laws.)

Foreign investors in Vietnam are categorized as foreigners who do not permanently reside in the country, but in practice, they enjoy a particular status in respect to ownership of real property in the country notwithstanding the absence of specific provisions of Vietnamese law. In particular, foreign investors are entitled to joint ownership in respect to factories, enterprises, warehouses and other types of real property that they contribute to the capital of joint venture enterprises. The ownership of foreign investors in these cases is proportionate to their capital contribution to the joint venture, and, as a matter of course, they are also entitled to joint ownership in respect of the products produced by and other types of movable property of the joint venture. Where foreign investors invest 100 percent capital to establish the factory, enterprise and warehouses and/or other real property in Vietnam, the property and products produced by their enterprises are absolutely in their ownership.

Foreign investors do not have the right to own land in the country; this applies even to Vietnamese individuals and organizations pursuant to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam which stipulates that land is of the state under the ownership of the whole nation.

It is noteworthy that only during the duration of investment in Vietnam the foreign investors have the ownership in respect to the real property that they contributed as capital or which was 100 percent created by their invested capital. Upon the expiration of their investment duration, if no extension is granted or the foreign investors do not apply for any extension, the foreign investors are not permitted to maintain their ownership in respect to the real property they contributed as capital or invested 100 percent in its establishment. In those cases, the foreign investors must deal with their property by way of transferring it to a Vietnamese party or by other means in accordance with the provisions of Vietnamese law.”

The concept of LEASEHOLD properties is common in the British Commonwealth

It was essentially made clear that land per se cannot be owned by individuals – both locals and foreigners. Therefore, there is no real preferential treatment in both China or Vietnam with respect to land ownership. No one truly owns the land except the state, and this paradigm helps immensely in preventing or at least drastically-reducing speculative purchases of land.

Fee simple “Free hold” land is oftentimes in danger of being purchased by speculators with no intention to develop the land for productive use, and this is unfortunately the situation in the Philippines as numerous Filipino speculators buy land, keep it idle, and wait years on end without developing the land while waiting for the value to appreciate before selling it at a profit. The leasehold concept introduces a time-bound concept that forces land-use right buyers to make calculated purchases that coincide with real land-development plans.

As everyone can see, Mr. Esposo has clearly attempted to misrepresent the facts regarding land ownership. He tried to use land-size as an excuse to explain away why the USA can afford to allow land-ownership by foreigners, but he failed to take into account how small principalities of Europe or countries smaller than the Philippines such as Belgium, the Netherlands, or Malaysia actually allow foreigners to own land. He also tried to use the examples of both China and Vietnam, conveniently ignoring the fact that for all intents and purposes, both China and Vietnam have prohibited free-hold of land for all individuals – both foreign and local, yet they allow the purchase, ownership, and sale of leasehold properties by foreigners just like they do locals.

Either Mr. Esposo is someone who simply does not know the facts and is too lazy to do the necessary research or he is a malicious liar out to deceive the public.

But it doesn’t end there. Billy Esposo continues on in spreading ignorance by stating:

“It is also reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations. We are in our worst economic situation at this time and removing this provision is tantamount to giving foreigners the full run of our economy. We need more Danding Cojuangcos, Manny Pangilinans, Jaime Zobel de Ayalas, John Gokongweis et al and not the Donald Trumps et al.”

Esposo foolishly insulted MVP, Mr. John, and Don Jaime by implying that they require protectionism for them to succeed.

Mr. Esposo once again blatantly displays his ignorance of the facts and of history. He pontificates by telling us that it is “reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations” (As found in the current Constitution), yet he does not even attempt to explain why! He expects us thinking people to just accept his word without providing proof, facts, evidence, and information to back his statements up.

More importantly, he totally ignores the fact that the rest of the progressive world and all fast-growing economies have already either allowed foreign investors to come in with 100% ownership of the companies they set up or are quickly dismantling whatever protectionist policies some of them may still have.

The man simply has zero knowledge of the strategy that Singapore made use of as a means to create massive employment opportunities for their people at a time when the British Military bases were about to leave and were threatening to leave tens of thousands of Singaporeans jobless as a result of the pull-out. Lee Kuan Yew simply refused to listen to the prevailing developmental dogma of the time which was that “protectionism was necessary to keep patrimony in the hands of local citizens” and that “foreign multinational corporations” (often referred to by Filipinos Leftist & Pseudo-Nationalist dinosaurs as “Transnational Corporations”) were “evil.”

From pages 57-58 of “From Third World to First”, Lee Kuan Yew says:

Lee Kuan Yew tapped MNC’s in order to create jobs and develop Singapore’s economy from Third World to First

The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNC’s were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNC’s continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries. MNC’s controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma. Anyway, Singapore had no natural resources for MNC’s to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNC’s could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNC’s.”

Following the advice of Dutch economist and UNDP economic planning consultant Dr. Albert Winsemius, Lee Kuan Yew developed an open-economy strategy of allowing 100% foreign ownership of companies, molding governmental policies to comply with the preferences and requirements of said multinational corporations in seeking to make Singapore a highly attractive location for investment, with the obvious intention of continuing to create more and more employment opportunities for Singaporeans. This was meant to cause jobs and corporations to compete against each other by raising salary offers to applicants. It’s all simple law of supply and demand: The more jobs there are, competing against each other for the few job-seekers, the higher the wages become. Conversely, if there are more job-seekers than there are jobs, it is the job-seekers who compete against each other for the scarce jobs, and thus, salaries are bid downwards.

The latter is obviously the case in the Philippines.

In a shameless effort to ingratiate himself to the handful of Filipino tycoons and rich families, Esposo even sought to flatter Danding Cojuangco, Manny Pangilinan, the Zobel de Ayalas, and John Gokongwei, when the problem of the Philippines is simply that there are just too few of these rich enough people to invest in businesses and corporate expansion, and our 95+ million people, including the 10+ million overseas Filipinos do not have the luxury of time to wait for new Filipino tycoons to emerge.

Worse, he was actually insulting “Mr. John”, MVP, and Don Jaime when Esposo implied that these tycoons require Constitutional Protectionism in order to survive and thrive in the Philippine economy, instead of recognizing that their competence and acumen is such that they can actually compete regardless of foreign competition. John Gokongwei’s Jack & Jill, for instance, is sold and exported abroad and is a strong product that non-Filipinos enjoy.

(On a side note: The Chan family’s snack brand Oishi, known in China as 上好佳 – “Shang hao jia”, is China’s children’s most popular snackfood. When I was living in China and people found out I was Filipino, they always said “Shang hao jia!” …Competent businessmen do not need protectionism to succeed!)

Filipinos need jobs now, and to paraphrase Deng Xiaoping’s favorite Sichuanese proverb:

Original:

不管黑貓白貓,抓到老鼠就是好貓

(“buguan heimao baimao,      zhuadao laoshu   jiushi   haomao”)

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, if it catches mice, that’s a good cat.”

Deng Xiaoping

My version:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a foreign company or a local company, if it creates jobs for Filipinos, that’s a good company!”

It truly is jobs that matter. If Esposo learned to analyze properly and decided to open his eyes to the obvious reality, he would have noticed that Filipinos are desperately trying to leave the Philippines in droves just to find overseas employment. Be they Filipinos with high-flying qualifications and desired skills who emigrate together with their entire families to countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or to a lesser extent, the USA (they’ve made it harder to go there), or individual Filipinos forced to leave their families in the Philippines while they work abroad in the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, or elsewhere, the fact remains that Filipinos leave the Philippines simply because of economic reasons and the obvious dearth of jobs in the Philippines.

Mr. Esposo is one such person who simply cannot see how much better it is to bring in hundreds or thousands of Foreign Companies to come to the Philippines and massively create local jobs for millions of locally-based Filipinos, than it is to send Filipinos abroad and away from their families and loved ones to foreign lands in order to be employed by foreign companies.

Unbeknownst to Esposo, the biggest show-stopper that prevents foreign companies from coming to the Philippines to create jobs is the Philippine Constitution. Whereas China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and many others do not have Constitutional Restrictions on foreign ownership of corporations, the Philippine Constitution continues to block a large number of foreign companies from coming in by imposing 60/40 protectionist requirements. Either they find a rich oligarch to partner with or they simply can’t invest.

In the meantime, Vietnam is happily taking in all the companies who have all tried to come to the Philippines to take advantage of our English Ability and relatively high quality of human resources, by simply telling the would-be entrants to the Philippines that “The Philippines does not allow 100% foreign ownership, we in Vietnam do…  Plus we’re willing to give you tax holidays and other freebies: Come to Vietnam!” Many such companies would have preferred the Philippines over Vietnam because of our English ability and greater affinity to Western or American standards, but because Vietnam’s economic provisions are way more pro-business and pro-foreign investor than the Philippines, Vietnam scoops up a huge number of investments originally meant for the Philippines.

Going back to the Singapore story, Esposo is obviously ignorant of the fact that China’s economic boom is actually directly traceable to Singapore’s open-to-foreign-investment strategy.

Mao Zedong was a pathetic failure when it came to Economics

After having suffered pretty much two decades of economic mismanagement under Mao Zedong’s Communist planned economy – some 10 years of the Great Leap Forward (which actually went backward), and another 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, China was ready for change when Deng Xiaoping came to power after Mao Zedong’s death.

(Mao used the Cultural Revolution as a means to punish his own fellow Communist Party leaders who had criticized his failed policies during the Great Leap Forward by tapping into the clueless, young, rabidly frothing-at-the-mouth Red Guards by building a Mao-centered personality cult around himself, and used the Red Guards to denounce, humiliate, and exile those Council Members who had proposed corrective measures against Mao’s disastrous economic policies. One of those who was denounced, purged, humiliated, and exiled to the countryside was Deng Xiaoping)

Deng did state visits all around the region and the World in order to learn more about what other countries did to develop their economies. One country that totally struck Deng Xiaoping was Singapore. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Singapore was one of those states that Maoist Propaganda denounced as being “Capitalist running dogs” and tools of Imperialism.  The propaganda tried to present all those countries as being weak, poor, exploited by colonialists, and unable to get their acts together. But during Deng Xiaoping’s visit, he saw a rich, prosperous, well-ordered society that was heads and shoulders above China in all ways. And he asked Lee Kuan Yew what their secret was and Lee answered without hesitation: Foreign Investors and an Open Market Economic System.

Deng was convinced. He no longer needed to read through 50 page “business value proposition” plans that would recommend shifting to Singapore’s free market system. He saw the difference between Mao’s China and Lee’s Singapore and saw how far behind China was. He endeavored to get his fellow Communist Party Council Members agreeing on the need to adopt Capitalism and the Market Economy as well as the need to bring in Foreign Investors, and of course, he got weird looks from all kinds of dyed-in-the-wool fellow Communists who believed in “From each according to his ability, to each according to need.” It was in such an instance that Deng Xiaoping famously wittily issued his retort by citing his favorite Sichuanese Proverb of the Black Cat and the White Cat.

Shenzhen before the 1980’s

Hesitantly, his party-mates accepted his proposal by allowing him to create a small pilot test-site to serve as a kind of proof of concept. He then proceeded to choose a small fishing village not too far from then British-controlled Hong Kong. The sleepy village, known as Shenzhen, saw China’s People’s Liberation Army cordon off a huge area of unused land with barbed-wire fences, and then went on with the task of building roads and other infrastructure.

Right after the project, Deng persuaded thousands of Hong Kong businesses and other foreign-owned companies operating out of the then British-controlled Crown Colony of Hong Kong to set up their manufacturing plans and facilities in Shenzhen in order to take advantage of the lower cost of land-lease as well as the much lower labor costs.

Shenzhen today

As years went on, the project was a success. Shenzhen became a modern city and served as a showcase of how Capitalism and the Free Market Economy could help Mainland Chinese lift themselves out of poverty. Shenzhen also showed how a vibrant Capitalist-run economy could end up having more funds for the city government (as a result of taxation) for many social and infrastructure projects. Not long after, the lessons learned from Shenzhen’s success story which all ultimately came from Singapore’s “pro-Foreign Investment” economic system was replicated throughout China. Today, China is the 2nd largest economy in the World, surpassing Japan, and clearly, the rapid economic boom continues on.

Fast forward to 1991, India itself was on the verge of economic collapse and bankruptcy. The IMF and World Bank had told then prime minister, the late Narasimha Rao, that they were not going to be able to lend any more money unless major structural reforms were undertaken to change the highly sluggish and over-regulated protectionist economy of India. Back then, India had long subscribed to the concept of Gandhian Minimalism, preferring small-scale locally-owned villeage-based cottage industries. Home-spun cloth was seen as “more Indian” than industrially woven cloth. Small-scale businesses were more in line with Gandhi’s philosophy than big business. And the laws of the land reflected this. Not only were importing and foreign companies heavily restricted or outright prohibited, special laws were set up to prevent large companies from emerging. The moment a company became large, it was required to spin-off into smaller companies.

Gandhi’s idealism didn’t work as far as economics was concerned

It was because of this highly idealistic but impractical economic strategy that an Indian economist Dr. Raj Krishna described India in the 1970’s as having a lethargic “Hindu Rate of Growth”, evoking images of Fakirs, Sadhus, and Yogis doing self-denying stationary poses, being steady and unmoving – just like India’ economic growth rate.

But since the IMF and World Bank wouldn’t allow these to continue, PM Rao decided he needed professional help. He immediately tapped into the highly competent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh to become Finance Minister and asked him for a plan of action. Aside from immediately easing certain business restrictions and economic policies, Dr. Singh proposed studying “the other large country” – China – and thus an Indian delegation was sent to China to observe how they did what they did.

The difference was staggering: China’s airports were well-maintained, after getting off the plane and out of the airport, the roads were first class. The Indians wondered what it was that allowed China to enjoy such high standards of infrastructure. Deng Xiaoping told them about the foreign-owned corporations who hired millions of Chinese laborers and office workers, whose tax contributions helped fund all the infrastructure developments as seen in the airports, roads, and bridges.

Narasimha Rao’s decision to liberalize India in 1991 turned it into an emerging major economy

Immediately upon returning to India, reforms continued on at break-neck pace. Whatever protectionist restrictions that used to exist were now dismantled and foreign companies came into India. Looking for low-hanging fruit to dangle to foreign, especially American companies, India presented its highly-educated, professional, and English-speaking white-collar workforce to American companies. The proposal was simple: Whatever white-collar job that Americans could do, Indians could do at a fraction of the cost.  Be it answering phones, processing accounting forms, encoding data, etc, India pioneered the Call Center and Outsourcing industry as a means to save its economy, provide jobs for millions upon millions of its highly-trained English-speaking new graduates and underemployed citizens and to move away from India’s decades-old “Hindu Rate of Growth.”

If Mr. Esposo read more books and did more research, he would have been cured of the ignorance that he has recently displayed in his Chairwrecker column. He’d have seen that the secret to China’s and India’s success was their decision to follow Singapore’s “100% Foreign Investment” model as a means to create job opportunities for their people. In the 1980’s, when Malaysia’s Mahathir bin Mohamad became Prime Minister, he too took his cue from Singapore and actively pursued a policy of allowing 100% foreign ownership in numerous economic sectors, thus creating Malaysia’s highly-competitive manufacturing and IT sector.  In a bid to compete with Singapore, Malaysia even went on to provide numerous incentives for Multinational Companies who would set up their 100% foreign-owned Asian Regional HQ’s in Malaysia instead of Singapore. This move once again created so many new jobs.

Esposo needs to get himself a copy of Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First” so that he can read for himself the story of Singapore’s tapping into Foreign Investors and MNC’s as a means to create jobs.  That way, Mr. Esposo will read the following quotes from Lee Kuan Yew’s book, from page 62:

Esposo should have gotten a copy of this book

And from page 66:

“We did not have a large group of ready-made entrepreneurs such as Hong Kong gained in the Chinese industrialists and bankers who came fleeing from Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), and other cities when the communists took over. Had we waited for our traders to learn to be industrialists we would have starved… It is absurd for critics to suggest in the 1990’s that had we grown our own entrepreneurs, we would have been less at the mercy of the rootless MNC’s. Even with the experienced talent Hong Kong received in Chinese refugees, its manufacturing technology level is not in the same class as that of the MNC’s in Singapore.”

Billy Esposo clearly belongs to the dinosaur generation. The man simply does not have what it takes to be relevant in this day and age and should just retire from spreading false information and lies.

But his ignorance did not stop there. He went on to say:

“The biggest argument against Cha cha at this time is this — it is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. We can revise our Constitution again and again in the next 10 years but that won’t get us anywhere if we do not repair our damaged culture and improve the Filipino mindset. The real problem is not what the Philippine Constitution allows or disallows but what is in the minds and hearts of Filipinos — how we think, feel, act and react as a people.

Cha cha will not reform the people and political players who suffer from a damaged culture. A good, strong president has better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture. The problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people.”

The question needs to be asked: How can a president have better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture if the manner in which a Philippine President emerges is itself damaged so that instead of the most competent candidate(s) emerging at the top, those who do emerge happen to be those with the highest winnability rating, that is, they are the ones with the most name-recall or the most popularity, yet more often than not , they are also the candidates who are utterly lacking in competence and ability?”  Worse, how can that be possible with the current 1987 Constitution when the presidents who emerge are always turning out to be minority presidents because there is no run-off election to trim down the contenders to only two if there are so many candidates?

Indeed, we can all see that Mr. Billy Esposo has done nothing but pontificate without providing a single shred of evidence to back up his extremely weak claim that the “problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people”, especially since it is obvious to Social Scientists, Political Scientists, Anthropologists, Organizational Development & Human Resource Professionals that Systems influence (and sometimes even determine) Culture, and on the macro “society” level, it is the Constitution that determines the type of system that we end up with.

Systems can change destiny since systems change culture!

Mr. Esposo is another one of those people who knows very little about the social sciences or culture, as he is unable to see how culture is by itself a system and realize that cultures are the products of different systems. He also fails to see that the 1987 Constitution, with all its flaws in creating a system that consistently produces weak minority presidents plus a non-constituency Senate, explicitly specified economy-hindering protectionist economic provisions (when it could have instead just kept mum on it just as a majority of the world’s constitutions do not make economic restrictions in their constitutions). Most other countries of the world, instead of making explicit mention of specific economic restrictions in their respective constitutions, chose instead to relegate economic policy-making to the realm of legislation in order to have more flexibility in making changes if and when conditions change.

Since Mr. Esposo is grossly uninformed and ignorant about the facts of “Culture Change”, he needs to read a bit more about how cultures can be improved. He needs to arm himself with a copy of B.F. Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom & Dignity” to learn more about Behavioral Modification, and Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First”, where the esteemed Singapore Statesman was able to change the cultures of a mostly impoverished rag-tag motley crew of numerous racial groups and oftentimes mutually-antagonistic ethno-linguistic groups who originally had extremely disorganized, messy, dirty, and unhygienic habits (spitting, urinating, and defecating anywhere) and successfully created a new prosperity-compatible, highly organized, and extremely hygienic Singaporean culture.

It is only because Singapore was able to have an extremely competent, brilliant, and hardworking leader in Lee Kuan Yew due to the meritocratic Parliamentary System bequeathed to them by the British (as opposed to the popularity-centric American system bequeathed to Filipinos by the Americans), that Singapore was able to transform itself. The same can be said of Malaysia, where the brilliant, extremely competent, and equally hard-driving Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad was also able to emerge at the top of Malaysia’s leadership structure thanks to the meritocratic nature of the Parliamentary System that Malaysia inherited from the British, and was thus able to improve the nature of Malaysia’s (and especially the majority Malay-Bumiputra) culture.

Mr. Esposo needs to enlighten himself further by thinking about the views of the late Harvard political scientist Dr. Samuel Huntington who in a speech delivered at Colorado College on February 4. 1999, said:

The late Dr. Samuel Huntington

“…many studies have ranked countries in terms of their levels of corruption. Again, they breakdown in terms of cultural groupings. The least corrupt countries are Nordic, Scandinavian, or English-speaking; the most corrupt are Asian and African. There is, however, one interesting exception to this pattern, which illustrates an important point. Singapore always ranks right up there with Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and New Zealand as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, while its Asian neighbors, Indonesia, China, Thailand, the Philippines are among the most corrupt. How can this be explained?

The answer of course is political leadership. Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled Singapore for decades, was determined to create a non-corrupt society and in large part did. He thus exemplifies a most important insight about culture, articulated by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” And that is what happened in Singapore.”

Before a culture can save it from itself, it really needs to make sure that it gets the best types of leaders. And that means the most competent and most capable candidates, not necessarily the most “winnable.”

Mahathir & Lee Kuan Yew

As such, it is necessary to put in place a system that can more easily cause the most competent and most capable among a country’s leaders and thinkers to emerge on top. Can the Philippine Presidential System in its current form easily allow the best candidates to emerge on top when the dynamics of the Philippine Presidential elections are such that it is “winnability”(name recall, popularity/celebrity-status), not competence, not track-record, not ability, and certainly not platform, that causes a candidate to win, when we don’t even have a run-off election in order to ensure that we avoid ending up with an electoral winner who merely gets a plurality among more than three other candidates and therefore ends up as a minority president?

Faulty Political System Produces Faulty Political Culture

Mr. Esposo needs to realize that ordinary Filipinos not only have a faulty, damaged general culture, we have a faulty and damaged political culture as well.

Juan Linz, PhD

Due to his refusal to do the necessary research in order to make an impartial and objective assessment on how making changes to the flawed political system can help to fix the damaged political culture of Filipinos, he holds the extremely erroneous view that shifting to a parliamentary system will not do much to improve the behavior and political culture of both the electorate and the politicians themselves. He had better arm himself with the work of Yale’s eminent political scientist Dr. Juan Linz, who in his book ‘The Failure of Presidential Democracy’ (volume 1) particularly in his essay entitled‘Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?’, said:

Political engineers, like engineers who build bridges, should plan for the most unfavorable conditions, although we might hope they will never materialize. Doing so maybe considered wasteful when the additional costs are counted, which in the case of political institution-building are the costs of the innovation, of challenging tradition. As the builders of bridges can never assure that the bridges will not collapse under some extreme circumstances, no constitution maker can assure that the institutions he creates will survive all challenges and dangers and assure a consolidated democracy. However, the accumulated evidence of the past in presidential systems, particularly in Latin America and Asia, and the success of contemporary parliamentary democracies in Western Europe show odds that seem to favor parliamentary institutions.

Innovation is not necessarily good, but to cling to the institutions of the past when they have failed too often and to choose not to innovate is to miss a historical opportunity… I think that the intelligent use of historical opportunity after many failures and dictatorships is evidence that innovation is possible and can be successful. No one in Spain between 1975 and 1978 could have been sure that the experiment would be successful. However, the experience of Spain and other European democracies, particularly the German Republic, shows that innovative leadership and thoughtful constitution making can greatly help to generate the conditions for a stable democracy…

Institutions lead the same actors to behave differently; they provide incentives and disincentives for certain behavioral patterns. My assumption is that parliamentarism would impose on parties and leaders patterns encouraging greater responsibility for governance, greater accountability, and at the same time the need to cooperate and compromise (except when one party gains an absolute majority). Parliamentarism also allows changes in leadership without a regime crisis and continuity without the fears associated with ‘continuismo’ in presidential systems.

In parliamentary system governments can demand from parties (either their own if it had majority or those in a coalition) support in votes of confidence, threatening them otherwise with resignation in the case of lack of support and ultimately with the dissolution of the legislature. The rule of each party and even of each deputy would be clear to the voters, who are unlikely to sanction destructive sanctions by parties. The party that fails to support its prime minister would have to pay a price. In the Spanish experience in recent years, an undisciplined, faction-ridden party (the UCD) was severely punished by the electorate. In fact, one of the main reasons for the UCD’s and the Communists’ loss of support in 1982 was the internal squabbling perceived by the electorate…”

As we zero in on the Philippine context, we all find that generally speaking, the best candidates do not win, and those candidates who do win are oftentimes not the best. Sometimes, in order for the most qualified and most competent candidates to win, they need to pretend to be what they are not. Instead of presenting themselves as the competent and highly intelligent philosopher-king types who can steer the country towards greater heights, the damaged nature of Philippine Political Culture forces competent candidates to pose as movie stars or do song and dance numbers just to get the much needed amount of attention among the public.

It has apparently escaped Mr. Esposo’s mind that the Philippine Political Culture, starting from the Philippine electorate’s general preference for popular incompetents to the Filipino politicians’ turncoatism and lack of party dynamics are all traceable to the very flawed features inherent in the Philippine Presidential System. Mr. Esposo would have known this had he decided to educate himself further by reading Dr. Yuko Kasuya’s book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines.”

He would have learned, for instance, that the extremely volatile nature of the party system where politicians frequently switch parties is traceable to the removal of the ability of the incumbent to run for reelection, as determined by Dr. Kasuya’s extensive data-gathering and statistical regression analysis, as she found that political parties have all become ad-hoc groups that work only during election campaigns.

In the older 1935 Constitution which allowed incumbent presidents to run for re-election, the presence of the incumbent always ensured that the opposition to the incumbent would consolidate themselves, so that instead of the current system where there are ten or more parties and candidates vying for the presidential elections, in the past, there was always just two or at most three parties fighting it out. As soon as reelection was banned in the 1987 Constitution, thus creating single 6 year term presidencies for duly-elected presidents (as opposed to presidents who were originally vice-presidents who took over as president), the number of contenders in the elections immediately exploded.

Based on the study she made on the Philippine situation which she checked-off against other countries, she concluded the following in the chapter entitled Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies:

“…limiting a president to a single term is more likely to destabilize the legislative-level party system than if presidents are allowed to serve multiple terms. Whether or not presidents are banned from immediate re-election affects the presence or absence of the incumbent in presidential elections, which is the driving force of this conjecture. In single-termed systems, the incumbent is always absent in the presidential race, while multi-termed presidential systems retain a higher possibility of incumbent entry. The absence of the incumbent contributes to the fragmentation of the presidential race, which then leads to party-system instability at the presidential level. Furthermore, higher instability in presidential competition destabilizes the legislative-level party system. I tested this claim using the data from 36 newly-democratized presidential countries with regression technique, and the results supported my claim. One implication of this finding is that it is more advisable not to adopt single presidential term limits if one wants to avoid party-system instability.”

There are far too many features that were discussed by Dr. Kasuya which reveal the inherent flaws of the current Philippine Presidential System as prescribed by the 1987 Constitution. It would simply be better for Mr. Esposo to head over to PowerBooks and get himself a copy as it merely costs 350 pesos and will totally enlighten him and cure him of his lack of information.  That way, instead of pontificating on matters in which he has absolutely no information backing him up, Mr. Esposo might be more capable of making informed opinions based on solidly-researched empirical evidence.

The Biggest Irony of Esposo’s Opinions

Last but not the least, Mr. Billy Esposo had one totally flawed opinion which actually went totally against his own anti-Constitutional Reform stand: He mentioned that he wanted to change the name of the Phlippines.

He said:

It is also time to change the name of the Philippines to complete the transformation. Name gives identity. The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. Parents give their children names that have the qualities they wish their children to emulate. No one names his child Lucifer or Satan.”

Has it occurred to Mr. Esposo that in order to change the name of the country, he needs to make changes in the Constitution? Apparently not.

It is thus for this very reason that Billy Esposo has once again exposed his ignorance and lack of analytical ability for the entire world to see. He goes against Constitutional Reform, and yet Esposo espouses changing the name of the Philippines to something else, conveniently ignoring the fact that with all the instances of the words “Filipino”, “Philippines”, and “Philippine” in the Constitution, changes will need to be made to the text.

Who – to use Esposo’s own term – is being “idiotic” now?

Q.E.D. – Quod Erat Demonstratum

This article probably contributed to William Esposo’s demise on April 7, 2013. He was so stressed by the fact that this writer clobbered him. Hey, it was Esposo who started it. He attacked first. This writer simply corrected all of Esposo’s wrong facts.

 

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

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

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

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

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

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

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

2 Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

Part of the reluctance of Filipinos to try something different has often had to do with the primordial fear of the unknown. Once Filipinos are used to one way of doing things, shifting over to a better paradigm or system which presents the better way of doing things is seen negatively. This kind of mentality used to kick in among a huge number of Filipinos whenever the subject of shifting from the dominant sport of Basketball to the more Filipino height-friendly sport of Football would come about. Excuses about Filipinos already being used to it or excuses like the so-called “cost of shifting from Basketball to Football would greatly exceed the returns” would be mentioned. This too is exactly the same type of knee-jerk thinking (or lack thereof) that kicks in every time a discussion pops up regarding the need to shift away from the extremely flawed and problematic Philippine Presidential System to the much more efficient, cost-effective, accountable, and stable Parliamentary System.

Thanks to the Philippine Football Team (fondly called “The Azkals” – a stylized slang term for “street dogs”) and their spectacular coming-from-behind performance from underdog to serious semi-finals contender, Filipinos are finally seeing the light! After years of seeing the Philippine Football Team continue to be the underdogs due to lack of support from the Filipino public and the dearth of financial sponsorship from companies, Filipinos now see hope in shining internationally with Football. This especially comes in the midst of many years of embarrassing international defeats in basketball despite “shooting hoops” being the Philippines’ national obsession. The “Azkals” have rightfully given Filipinos something to aspire to.

Thanks to the Philippine Football Team aka “The Azkals”, shifting paradigms is now possible

Filipino Excellence in Football is not new

Paulino Alcántara – “The Netbreaker”

The truth is that excelling in Football isn’t really new to Filipinos to begin with. The “Azkals” are simply reclaiming the history of excellence in Football that Filipinos have actually enjoyed at one point in our history. Unknown to many Filipinos, the greatest football striker in the history of the famous Spanish team FC Barcelona, fondly called “Barça” was a Filipino: Paulino Alcántara.

Born in 1896 in Iloilo to a Spanish father and an Ilongga mother, Paulino Alcántara y Riestrá was raised in the Philippines until he was between the age of 13 and 14 and moved to Barcelona where he was discovered and given the chance to join the professional FC Barcelona team where he became known as “El Romperedes” – the   “net breaker”, as he is known to have broken nets due to the sheer strength of his kicks.

To this day, Paulino Alcántara remains Barça’s record holder with a total of 357 goals having appeared with FC Barcelona 357 times, and no one has come close to beating his record as a phenomenal striker. He is most remembered for a game against France in 1922, here he scored a powerful goal from 30 yards away, with the French goalkeeper having been totally unable to prevent it from coming through.

Dr. Paulino Alcántara, MD

He had a little hiatus away from Barcelona when his family returned to the Philippines in 1916 where the young Paulino likewise played for the Philippine Football Team, bringing it to 2nd place against Japan in the Far East Championship Games in 1917. While in the Philippines, he also excelled in international table tennis!

In the meantime, with Paulino away from Barça, his old team wasn’t doing very well, since he was their star striker and there was no one else who could fill in his shoes. He later returned to Barcelona after his old team kept begging him to return and the team found itself winning once again. But lest we all think sports (football and table tennis) defined “El Romperedes”, it actually turns out that in the midst of his very successful professional football career, he was also studying to become a doctor. When in 1920, Paulino was scheduled to take academic examinations for his medical studies, he turned down the chance to play for the Spanish National Team as he needed to concentrate on studying for his exams.

The Legend of Paulino Alcántara, a Filipino – born and raised in the Philippines who also had the chance to represent the Philippines in both Football and Table Tennis – is solid proof that Filipinos have excelled in football and that the Beautiful Game is not some new undertaking in which we have no experience.

Filipino Excellence in the Parliamentary System is not new either

Azcárraga, in younger years

While it is clear thanks to the example of Paulino Alcántara that Filipinos have it in us to succeed in Football and that the Azkals’ recent performance is really just all about reclaiming our glory in a sport more suited to us, there actually also exists a solid example of the ability of Filipinos to perform well within the parliamentary system. While we’ve had a Filipino figure prominently in Football as FC Barcelona’s all time highest goal-scorer, we’ve also had a Filipino excel within Spain’s own Parliamentary System by becoming a three-time Prime Minister of Spain!

originally called “Azcárraga” after the family of Marcelo Azcárraga, small-minded Filipino politicians renamed it to C.M. Recto

Born in Manila in 1832 to a Basque Spanish father (a general, later turned bookseller) and a mestiza-Bicolana mother from Albay, Marcelo de Azcárraga y Palmero – just like Paulino Alcántara – was raised in the Philippines, and studied law at the Universidad de Santo Tomás in Manila (“UST”) before moving on to the Nautical School and then transferred to Spain to attend a military academy. Thanks to a distinguished military career where he rose to become a general in the Army, upon retirement from his military carreer, Azcárraga shifted to Spanish politics and became a leading member of the pro-Monarchy Conservative Party.  From being a Senator, he later became the top-ranking Minister of War in the Conservative Party’s cabinet and succeeded on to become the interim Prime Minister of Spain after his party’s leader, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, was assassinated in 1897. He again went on to become Prime Minister in two separate incidents.

Respected and remembered in Spain, where he was given the Golden Fleece award for defending the Spanish Monarchy and is the highest possible award that any person can be awarded in Spain, Azcárraga was originally honored  in Manila with a long avenue that was named after his illustrious family. That avenue, originally called Calle Azcárraga, is now known simply as “Recto” after a series of name-changes were pushed  in 1961. Nevertheless, numerous Tondo and Manila natives still refer to Recto as “Azcárraga” just as practically everyone in Metro Manila still calls “Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue” by its original name “Buendía.”

Born and raised in the Philippines, excelled in Spain

Would Juan Luna win 3 gold medals for the arts if Spain was racist?

The existence of both prime examples of Filipino excellence in both Spanish Football and the Spanish Parliamentary System not only prove that Filipinos have had past experience in both fields of endeavor, it also confirms that Spain has also never had any real issues with allowing Philippine-born Filipinos to meritocratically rise up to the top of the food chain in “la Madre Patria.” (Spain)

It will be recalled that during the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts, the famous Filipino painter Juan Luna won three gold medals for his famous masterpiece “Spoliarium” and was accompanied by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo’s silver medal. Would these Philippine-born Filipinos who were not European creoles been awarded and showered with accolades had the Spaniards been the “racist chauvinists” certain historians with flawed pseudo-nationalist political agendas make them out to be?

Pilipina Kay Ganda: Isabel Preysler’s exotic Pinay look is why Spain loves her

The 1884 awards for Fine Arts were not going to be the one and only time when Spanish egalitarian attitudes towards Filipinos would become evident, as this was followed up with half-Pinoy and Manila-born (and raised) Marcelo de Azcárraga’s ascent to Prime Minister in Spain’s Cortes in 1897, half-Pinoy and Iloilo-born (and raised) Paulino Alcántara’s cult-following as FC Barcelona’s (and the Spanish Football Team’s) star striker, and in more recent history with Manila-born (and raised) Isabel Preysler’s emergence as Spain’s most famous media celebrity to consistently grace the pages of Spain’s glossy magazines.

(Tip: Any showbiz, fashion, or glossy lifestyle magazine randomly taken off a stand in any major Spanish city is 100% sure to have at least one picture of Isabel Preysler found within its pages.)

Incidentally, Isabel Preysler – who in 1991, 2002, and 2006, was voted “most elegant and best-dressed woman in Spain” – is the ex-wife of ex-footballer and singing sensation Julio Iglesias and the mother of world famous half-Spanish, half-Filipino singing sensation Enrique Iglesias.

Rethinking our US-only focus & rediscovering our Spanish heritage

NBA’ers Le Bron James and Anthony Carmelo looking sad after losing to the Greek team which did not have any superstars

Basketball and the deeply-flawed Philippine Presidential System are two examples of colossal failures for Filipinos which were bequeathed to us by the United States of America. Far too many misguided Filipinos have continued to defend such an infatuation with everything American, using the tired old argument that since the USA is currently the world’s largest economy and world’s foremost superpower, whatever the USA does is “the best.”

This needs to be seriously re-evaluated as the performance of the USA itself in Basketball has proven to be an even greater colossal failure on the world stage as US Basketball Teams, in all categories – youth, adult, and even professional – continue to consistently get clobbered by so many other teams primarily from Europe and even Latin America. Ever since the year 2000, European-style basketball, whose general playing philosophy is heavily rooted in Football’s heritage of heavy ball-passing,  strong-defense, and an almost extreme emphasis on cooperation and teamwork, has on the average reigned supreme over America’s Basketball players’ superstar attitudes and egotism.

Game after game, whenever the US faces a European basketball team, the “unthinkable” happens: The US Basketball Team loses most of the time. Whether the USA plays against the basketball powerhouses of the former Yugoslavia – Serbia or Croatia, or against Spain, Greece, or even Latin American teams like Argentina – usually known more for Football than Basketball, the results are usually the same: The USA consistently and pathetically loses.

(Luckily, many Americans do tend to be self-critical enough to admit when something needs to be changed, and thus articles do get written which focus on highlighting the problem in order to get everyone realizing the need to solve it.)

Team USA being beaten by Serbia in the Youth Olympics in Singapore — Score on the board: Serbia 30; USA 27

This has extremely broad and intense implications for the future of Philippine Basketball as Pinoy players and fans continue to be uncritically infatuated with and transfixed on America’s NBA games, which have consistently promoted individualism and egotistic playing-styles where selfish monopoly of the ball is the norm and ball-passing assists are considered only as a “last resort.” The end-result of this NBA-centric paradigm has resulted in the Philippines’ consistently mediocre results in international basketball meets against countries where basketball is not even one of the top 3 sports played or followed.

Be it a basketball game pitting the Philippines against Kazakhstan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Lebanon, or others, all of whom are primarily Football-centric countries, the result is the same: The Philippines loses to them in Basketball!

Clearly, this consistent barrage of slaps-on-our-faces should serve as a wake-up call to our continued unthinking infatuation with the American way of doing things as our failure in Basketball is not only a result of our obvious lack of height in a game that mandates it as a minimum requirement, but it is also clearly the result of our collective refusal to look at and learn from other paradigms coming from other societies (such as European or other societies) which may actually be better-fits with our inherent cultural tendencies or inclinations.

Lebanon – 93 clobbers the Basketball-crazy Philippines – 75: That’s because we copy the USA’s Primadonna Paradigm

The American Primadonna Paradigm has always been one that exalts personal glory and individual achievement above all else. Not only does this extend to the American Political System and American Sports, this also extends to American Pop Music, where solo artists abound in America whereas the British are a lot more into bands.

By itself, an emphasis on Individualism is not bad. However, it tends to spell total disaster in team sports where cooperation is supposed to reign supreme over ego and personal glory. Furthermore, Filipinos are actually much more predisposed towards collective undertakings as evidenced by our tendency to do things as a group (something which we actually share with fellow Asians and even with Southern Europeans/Latins), as exemplified by the oft-touted Bayanihan spirit. The heavy emphasis on rugged American individualism is again, by itself, not bad, but it actually does come in direct conflict with our natural tendencies and therefore contributes to a certain level of confusion.

On the one hand, our models for sports – based on the individualistic nature of American Basketball as seen in the NBA – confuses us to go against our own inherent group-based tendencies, and this too is very much evident in our model for governance which is also based on the American Presidential System, itself a highly individualistic, primadonna-based, and personality-heavy system that exalts one individual (the Presidential Candidate) over and above the team (the Political Party).

Fareed Zakaria, PhD

On the political system front, the US Presidential System is itself under intense fire from among America’s very own intellectuals. Leading intellectuals from the USA such as Dr. Arend Lijphart, Dr.  Juan Linz, and even CNN’s and Time’s Dr. Fareed Zakaria all point to the US Presidential System as being fundamentally-flawed and in fact serve to hobble the US from reaching its full potential.

In one of Dr. Zakaria’s recent articles on Time Magazine, entitled “How to Restore the American Dream”, he writes towards the end of his piece:

“People often note that America’s political system is broken. Perhaps the truth is more awkward: America needs radical change, and it has an 18th century system determined to check and balance the absolute power of a monarchy. It is designed for gridlock at a moment when quick and large-scale action is our only hope.”

Another political and policy commentator from the USA, Craig Ruff, has also criticized the US Presidential System and clearly points out the superiority of the Parliamentary System. In his article “Parliament Works Better”, Ruff states:

Craig Ruff

America’s love affair with separate powers assumes strange things: a) a leader cannot be both a maker and implementer of policy; b) it is wicked to entrust the well-being of people to a coherent political party, as opposed to special interests piecemealing public policies; c) one party’s good showing at one election breeds irreversible despotism; d) cults of personality are healthier to democracy than intelligible reasoning and a coherent, guiding philosophy; and e) a bedsheet ballot of nondescript individuals defines the public will.

In stark contrast, consider a parliamentary system that produces: a) robust and seasoned thinkers who understand the making and execution of law; b) accountable leaders of parties, as opposed to unaccountable associations and lobbyists; c) elections whenever a leader loses the public’s and party’s faith and trust; d) ennobling philosophical disputes instead of du jour flaming; and e) unified but reversible law making.”

 

Another American PhD, Dr. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy institute and managing editor of ProgressiveFix.org  wrote an article entitled “Dismissing Gridlock: A Case for Parliamentary Systems” where he interviewed two political science PhD’s from Boston University, John Gerring and Strom Thacker and wrote:

Lee Drutman, PhD

“The United States is not about to up and rewrite its constitution to create a parliamentary system.

But if it were up to Gerring and Thacker, it certainly should. As Gerring put it, “There’s very little to defend the current system.” Thacker, meanwhile, noted that for a country with our level of economic development, the United States doesn’t do nearly as well as we might be expected to do across a broad range of human development outcomes. “For a rich country, we should be doing better,” he said.

Still, constitutional reform is a live issue in many countries around the world, as well as for those who think about nation-building. And the lessons from Gerring and Thacker do seem clear: Parliamentary systems that institutionalize coordination and compromise consistently produce better outcomes than presidential systems that institutionalize conflict and confrontation.”

Altea, Alicante, Valencia, España ————- Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Filipinas             The Commonalities are obvious!

Quite clearly, there is an ever-increasing number of US-based intellectuals who have decided to look squarely at reality and determine what exactly it is that has enabled the USA to succeed. As a result, more and more Americans are in fact realizing that America’s success happened despite (not because of) its use of the Presidential System.  Truth be told, America’s success is directly a result of being the World’s Largest Immigrant Nation, where an overwhelming majority of today’s Americans are themselves first-generation immigrants, sons and daughters of immigrants, or people who can easily trace themselves as being 5th or 6th-generation immigrants, and thus are still quite conscious of the need to excel and live up to the hard-working immigrant ethos of their immigrant ancestors.

Evidently, two of America’s “gifts” to the Philippines – Basketball and the US Presidential System – have unfortunately bombed when transplanted to our shores and worse, are likewise areas where the USA is itself having major challenges as US Basketball Teams continue to keep losing against teams from countries steeped in more cooperative and team-based traditions of Football (Soccer) as their primary sport, and where the United States’ own Presidential System is now increasingly coming under fire from within the entire US Political Science Academia  and Intelligentsia for its unwieldy and gridlock-prone structural set-up.

Instead of looking only to the US for inspiration, it may actually serve us well to derive inspiration from numerous other societies and more importantly re-embrace our Spanish heritage. After all, Spain is both a Football-centric country and uses a Parliamentary System and we share a much deeper set of commonalities with Spain than with the USA.

Spain is a better model for Filipinos to emulate than the USA

Filipinos have much to learn by simply looking further back to our history and looking past the over-hyped American influences in both Basketball and the Presidential System.

The Filipino Football Legend in action

First off, we need to remember that the Azkals are not the first group of Filipinos to do well in the sport of Football. We’ve had a Filipino – born and raised in the Philippines – who rose to become a football hero in Spain, and holds the distinction of being F.C. Barcelona’s all-time highest goal-scorer in all of the club’s history and a committed doctor of medicine: Dr. Paulino Alcántara y Riestrá.

Secondly, we’ve had a Filipino – born and raised in the Philippines – who excelled in Spain’s Parliamentary System. This Filipino started off in a military career, became a high-ranking general, rose to become a high-ranking Minister in Spain’s cabinet and even went on to become a three-time Prime Minister of Spain: Marcelo Azcárraga y Palmero.

Marcelo de Azcárraga, born & raised in the Philippines, became Spain’s Prime Minister

Two questions need to be asked regarding our infatuation with all things American:

(1) Have we ever had a Filipino basketball player get into the NBA?

(2) Has a person of Filipino descent ever become President of the USA or at least become a high-ranking US cabinet secretary?

The answer is clearly a big NO on both counts.

(Having a Filipina Chef serve in the White House does not count for number 2!)

Between the two former colonizers, Spain has proven to be the country that has treated Filipinos – regardless of racial background – as true equals, granting all Filipinos with full Spanish citizenship and giving equal opportunities for Filipinos to excel and reach the top as exemplified by high honors presented to Juan Luna and Félix Resurrección Hidalgo in the arts and the rise of Philippine-born Filipinos (who at the time were full Spanish citizens) such as Azcárraga and Alcántara to the top of their fields.  With these facts, it thus comes as no surprise that José Rizal and many of his friends and fellow Filipino expats in Spain and Europe such as Antonio Luna were said to have staunchly advocated integration into Spain rather than outright independence: It was clear to them that better political integration and assimilation with Peninsular Spain would  have allowed competent Filipinos to easily rise to the top.

(In fact, Antonio Luna remained a pro-Spain loyalist  – like Rizal – until after the Spaniards surrendered to the Americans in 1898 and it became clear that the Americans were planning to take over the Philippines. It was at that point when officers and soldiers of the Spanish Army, along with other Spanish loyalists joined forces with Aguinaldo’s Katipunan forces to repel the Anglo-Saxon invaders just as Filipinos and Spanish authorities had done much earlier when another Anglo-Saxon invader – the British – tried to take over the Philippines.)

It’s high time we Filipinos acknowledged that not only do we have much more in common with Spain – in terms of culture and heritage – than with the USA, but also that we Filipinos have had the opportunity to excel in two things that are more associated with Spain than the USA, and are more appropriate to our situation: Football and the Parliamentary System.


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Here are some related articles:

1. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System by yours truly

2. Sen. Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System by yours truly

3. Parliament Fits the Philippines by yours truly

4. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed by yours truly

5. Should the Philippines Turn Parliamentary? by Florencio “Butch” Abad

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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 and spearheads the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

Among the “occupational hazards” of being an advocate for the Philippines’ eventual adoption of the parliamentary system is to be on the receiving end of irrational and unfounded charges that the Philippines is “unfit” to use such a system because – according to the detractors – it is “incompatible” with who we are as a people. Countless times has this issue cropped up with different people bringing up our almost 50 year colonial “tutelage under the Americans” as being a major reason for us to have to stick to what – at first glance – appears to be a carbon-copy of the U.S. Presidential System.

1268630440-malaysian-parliament-house-in-kuala-lumpur276816_276816

If Malaysia – whose majority ethnically resembles Filipinos – can thrive within a Parliamentary System, then the Philippines can too

Needless to say, consistent with the observations made by Stanley Karnow in his book In Our Image, I have very often responded that the extent to which the Filipino is “Americanized” is largely superficial, limited mostly to Hollywood, Disney Cartoons, American Pop Music & Pop Culture, and other American cultural icons. Moreover, I also mentioned that most of the more relatively thorough cultural “Americanization” was often limited to members of the middle, upper-middle, and upper classes who almost exclusively speak English at home.

If anything, I’ve had to point out that the vast majority of Filipinos, particularly those who are classified as members of lowland Christian Filipino ethno-linguistic groups, are essentially indigenous Malayo-Polynesian (at the sub-stratum level), Hispanic (at the cultural super-stratum), and were  predominantly raised  as Catholics. In other words, the DNA that a majority of Filipinos have is mostly of Austronesian and Malayo-Polynesian origins, similar to the DNA of the Malays and other indigenous “Bumiputras” of Malaysia, the “Pribumi” Indonesians, the diverse Gaoshan “aboriginal” hill-tribes of Taiwan, Chamorros of Guam, Samoans, Tongans, and even the Maoris of New Zealand, and most grew up in a culture that was essentially formed under centuries of Spanish influence and direct Catholic tutelage.

Are we Pinoys really as American as Apple Pie? Or do we just think we are?

But are we American to the core? Obviously we are not. We are especially lacking of that inner “ethos” that defines what “typical American” was supposed to define for a very long time. In fact, even among the small minority of predominantly English-speaking privileged classes, their culture is not exactly “American” to the core. If we looked at the external manifestations of taste, perhaps yes. If we looked at the general work ethic and manner of interpersonal-relations, we’ll find that Filipinos are not at all like Americans. If we were to look at how to characterize the dominant culture of the USA, it would have to be essentially immigrant Northern European (what they call “White”), Anglo-Saxon, and predominantly Protestant.

In essence, the characteristics of the dominant culture of the USA are not exactly the same as the dominant characteristics of the dominant culture of the Philippines. Now lest anyone try to contest the common definition of the dominant culture of the USA, let me preface that with a disclaimer: While the modern-day USA is a melting pot of so many other cultures that fall outside of the traditional “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” categorization as today there are many Italian, Hispanic, and Irish Catholics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, and many others, the operant word is “dominant.”

The dominant culture of the USA – the same culture of the Founding Fathers rallied around by most of the colonists who declared American Independence in 1776 – was predominantly Northern European, Anglo-Saxon (from England and other parts of the British Isles), and Protestant. Obviously, the cultural and historical difference of the dominant Malayo-Polynesian (which many of us refer to as “kayumanggi”) origins and Spanish-influenced cultural identity of most Filipinos against the dominant White and Anglo-Saxon cultural identity of most Americans in itself actually explains why US-style Presidentialism hasn’t exactly worked in the Philippines the same way it works in the USA. So how about looking for real alternatives that fit our culture?

Originally Malay: We obviously did not get the “mano” custom from the Americans

Since the adoption of a system of government should best reflect our character as a people – from a majority perspective (without necessarily neglecting the identities of fellow Filipinos who form cultural or religious minorities), we should therefore define exactly what characteristics describe the majority and “dominant” culture of the Philippines.

I have devised a scheme that would allow us to determine, based on our predominant cultural identity, what options are available to us in adopting an appropriate form of government that would suit our temperament, our history, and cultural inclinations. This would, in essence, be parallel to adopting a sport that would suit us better, based on our physique as well as our country’s climate (since the Philippines has no winter, we obviously cannot expect to be competitive in skiing), as opposed to blindly copying another country’s sports preferences without determining its appropriateness to our situation.

Religious Procession in Spain: You find this in many Philippine towns, but you won’t see this in stereotypically “American” towns

First, we shall define ourselves based on our country’s predominant ethno-racial, cultural, or religious identity and even try to examine other possible categories which we may share with other countries so that we can find comparisons. As a predominantly Catholic country, for instance, we will then need to look at the list of all other countries that have a predominantly Catholic identity, even if only nominal.

From there, we will look for which are the best countries under a particular category by making use of the latest 2009 ranking according to nominal GDP per capita. From that, we shall look at the forms of government used by those countries that emerge at the top of each category we happen to belong to.I must add also that nominal GDP per capita is a fair ranking as opposed to the absolute size of a country’s economy, as it removes the bias for large countries against small but well-run ones and evens it out according to population size.

Moreover, using that measure as a basis is consistent with my view (also Get Real Philippines’ view) that per capita Economic Performance is an indication of the quality of a country’s ability to govern itself.This exercise in comparing the Philippines with other countries which fall under categories where the Philippines also belongs is a very simple one that does not even require complex statistical regression analysis which often seeks to reveal trends and correlations which are not always easy to spot. In this particular case, the comparisons are actually simple side-by-side comparisons which generally reveal a straightforward easy-to-spot trend.

The Dominant Filipino Identity & Categories that Define the Philippines

Now let’s define which categories Filipinos as well as the Philippines should belong to:

1. Malayo-Polynesian: We have an Austronesian and Malayo-Polynesian sub-stratum core heritage, which we can even further break down into both Malayan and Polynesian

Part-Malay, Part-Hispanic: Filipinos share the “mano” custom with Malays and Indonesians, while a Hispanic piñata-like “farol” Christmas Lantern hangs in the background

2. Southeast Asian: We geographically belong to Southeast Asia, are members of ASEAN, and in fact we do share a few traits common to other Southeast Asians, such as having a rural peasantry whose houses are usually made of bamboo and use thatched nipa leaves or cogon grass.

3. Predominantly Catholic: More than 70% of Filipinos identify as Catholic or were raised in a Roman Catholic background

4. Hispanic-Iberian: Although Spanish has virtually disappeared as a language spoken by Filipinos for everyday discourse, the Filipino’s Hispanic cultural identity (among the lowland Christian majority) remains and is still essentially stronger than the highly superficial American influence.

5. English-speaking: While English is not spoken natively by the majority of Filipinos, English is the official language for purposes such as business, education, and intellectual discourse.

6. Formerly occupied by the USA

7. Archipelagic

8. Ethno-linguistically Divided

9. Population Size

10. Land Area

Noting all these categories, let’s now look through the GDP per capita rankings of 2009 look for the countries which fall under each category and pick out the top ones.

1. Core Heritage: Malayo-Polynesian

Since Malayo-Polynesian is a huge ethno-linguistic family under the even bigger Austronesian family, I’ve decided to break Malayo-Polynesian down into two sub-sets: Malayan – representing the countries of the Western side of the Malayo-Polynesian realm including the Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and East Timor; and Polynesian, essentially covering the Eastern side of the Malayo-Polynesian realm which includes a few sovereign and independent island or archipelago countries.

Under Malayan we find that of several “Malayan” countries found in the region, the one with the most dynamic, most cosmopolitan, and most advanced economy is Malaysia. While Brunei is actually higher on the nominal GDP per capita scale, it’s an outlier because its wealth is predominantly dependent on oil alone with hardly any real economic diversification.

In fact, its public infrastructure is not as impressive nor as advanced as Malaysia’s at all. Moreover, Brunei is an absolute monarchy which has a British-influenced parliamentary system playing a subordinate “advisory” role to the Sultan. That being said, Malaysia is the best-run “Malayan” country (based on GDP per capita) and it uses a parliamentary system.

Under the Polynesian category, we also find that the best-run independent/sovereign “Polynesian” countries, namely Samoa – immediately followed on the IMF GDP per capita ranking by Tonga – happen to use Parliamentary Systems. There certainly are other Pacific Island countries as well, like Fiji and Vanuatu, but they are Melanesian, not Polynesian. Filipinos are more ethnically and culturally-similar to Polynesians than Melanesians. Samoa and Tonga both use parliamentary systems.

2. Geographical: Southeast Asian

Under the Southeast Asian heading, we essentially join in the Malayan ethnic family that we are in, but we also include other countries in the region – most of whom were just as poor or much poorer than us back in the 1960’s. Automatically, the model country in the region is Singapore, followed by Malaysia, both of whom use parliamentary systems.

3. Majority Religious Background: Predominantly Catholic

The Philippines, being predominantly Catholic –  as more than 70% of its  population identifies as having been raised with a Roman Catholic upbringing – should also find itself compared among other predominantly Roman Catholic countries.

These need not necessarily be countries in which church attendance is high, but instead,  should point to the predominant culture as having been highly influenced by Roman Catholic traditions. The top four predominantly nominally Catholic countries from the 2009 GDP per capita rankings of the IMF and World Bank list are Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, and Belgium. As it turns out, the top ranks of predominantly Catholic countries are countries that use parliamentary systems.

4. Majority Civilizational Alignment: Hispanic – Iberian

Due to more than 300 years of Spanish influence, lowland Christian Filipinos can be culturally categorized as Hispanic-influenced, and therefore majority of Filipinos fall under the Iberian category.

Incidentally, numerous political scientists looking for a control group for variables in trends analysis often put the Philippines side by side with other Latin American countries due to the obvious similarities in temperament and cultural inclinations. Under both the Hispanic and Iberian categories, Spain is consistently at the top of GDP per capita ranking. Spain is the only Hispanic and Iberian country that uses a Parliamentary System. All other Hispanic (the whole of Spanish America, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines) and other Iberian countries like Portugal and Brazil) all use presidential or semi-presidential systems.

5. Official Language: English-speaking

Most people would guess that that in the English-speaking realm which includes countries that speak English as a native language (USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ) as well as countries that use English as an official language (including India, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, etc) it would be the USA, which uses a presidential system that tops this list.

As it turns out, the IMF, World Bank, and CIA Factbook 2009 rankings show that Ireland is at the top of the nominal GDP per capita ranking among all sovereign and independent English-speaking countries, and Ireland uses a parliamentary System. Incidentally, Ireland – like the Philippines – is also predominantly Roman Catholic, and moreover has a large percentage of actively-practicing Catholics.

For the IMF ranking, Ireland was preceded by Bermuda and the Channel Islands (Jersey & Guernsey), but those are not sovereign countries but are actually British dependencies. In the CIA Factbook ranking, Ireland was preceded by Jersey. In the GDP per capita ranking based on purchasing power parity, Singapore – which, like the Philippines, uses English as an official language of education and business but has a majority population whose native language is not English – does even better than the USA or Ireland. And Singapore, as mentioned, uses a parliamentary system.

6. Recent History: Formerly occupied by the USA

People are likely to think that all formerly US-occupied countries use the American System, but not really. There aren’t that many such countries that had once been occupied by the USA (without co-occupiers) and are now independent, and currently the list includes the Philippines, Palau, Japan, and the Federated States of Micronesia. From that list, the country that comes out on the top of that list for GDP per capita in 2009 is Japan – which uses a parliamentary system.

7. Territorial Type: Island States + Archipelagos of Two or more Islands

The Philippines is an archipelagic and “island” country. As such, a comparison of all countries falling under such a category should also be done. Under this category, we find ourselves among a group of sovereign and independent countries that includes Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, the UK, Iceland, Ireland, Mauritius, the Bahamas, Malta, Sri Lanka, Kiribati, etc.

Ireland – which uses a parliamentary system – comes out on top of the IMF nominal GDP per capita list of island and archipelagic countries and is followed on the list by Iceland, which also uses a parliamentary system. However, since both countries are essentially single-island states, a separate analysis that excludes single-island countries and looks only at archipelagic countries yields parliamentary Japan, which is an archipelago with three main islands plus numerous other small islands at the top of the list.

8. Ethnic Homogeneity / Heterogeneity: Countries with Three or more Ethno-linguistic Groups

As the Philippines is a country that is composed of numerous ethno-linguistic groups, with the majority of lowland Christian Filipinos alone being subdivided further into groups such as Ilocano, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray, and many more, plus “highlander groups” such Ibaloi, Ifugao, Kalinga, Manobo, and others, as well as Bangsamoro groups including the Maranao, Tausug, Badjao, Iranun, etc, the Philippines is clearly an ethnically heterogeneous one, not only limited to ethnic identification, but more importantly including the reality of having numerous local languages (not mere dialects) in use.

Such a category thus requires a comparison to be made with other countries whose people are similarly ethnically-divided. Excluded from this category are melting-pot immigrant nations such as the USA, Brazil, and Argentina – to name a few – whose predominantly immigrant populations have extremely diverse origins, but mix together and essentially assimilate into a single mainstream. This category concentrates on countries in which ethnic identification predominates (instead of being just a matter-of-factly) and different languages are used for everyday purposes for at least three different groups. In this category are countries such as India, which is divided into different states who often have their own state languages and have cultural distinctions as against other states.

The same would include Switzerland, which is divided into Swiss German, French, Italian, and smaller Romansch-speaking areas, and names all four as official languages. Belgium qualifies too as is divided into three parts: A Dutch-speaking Flemish north, a French-speaking Walloon south, and a small German-speaking area. Belgium has three official languages.

Moreover, included in this list are countries such as Singapore whose people, though not separated regionally, are essentially divided into Chinese (further subdivided into Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hokchew, Hokchia, Hainanese, Hakka, and others), Malays (who, though united through the use of the Malay language, sometimes subdivide themselves into Melayu, Javanese, Bugis, Baweanese, Minangkabau, and others), and Indians (who are subdivided into Tamil, Malayalee, Hindu-Punjabi, Sikh-Punjabi, Konkani, Gujarati, Parsee, and others).

Singapore has four different official languages. Also included in this category are countries such as the UK and Spain, both of whom contain different regional ethno-linguistic identities who in recent history have tended to more strongly assert their separateness from the dominant culture of their respective capitals, such as the Scottish, Welsh, and Irish Catholics from Northern Ireland who assert their distinctness from the dominant English culture of the capital of London in the United Kingdom, on the one hand.  On the other hand, Spain has “separate groups” such as the Catalans, Basques, and Galicians, who assert their distinctness from the dominant Castilian culture of Madrid in Spain.

Indonesia, too, is included in the group, as it is a country which – like the Philippines – is composed of numerous ethno-linguistic sub-groups, such as the Javanese, Riau Malays, Balinese, Minangkabaus, Ambonese, Baweanese, Bugis, and even Papuans from Irian Jaya. Though Indonesia officially recognizes only “Indonesian” which is based on Riau Malay based on mostly Dutch-based borrowings (as opposed Malaysia’s use of Malay which has mostly English borrowings), but most people still use their own local languages when among friends.

Canada finds itself in the list as it consists of three main blocs: Anglophone Canadians, Francophone Canadians, and the indigenous First Nations. While Anglophone Canadians and Francophone Canadians tend to assimilate other groups of people, such as the children of Filipino and Chinese immigrants in Vancouver becoming Anglophone Canadians on the one hand, whereas the children of Lebanese, Vietnamese, and Haitian immigrants in Montreal becoming Francophone Canadians, on the other, the distinction between these two main groups based on linguistic affiliation continues, and Canada continues to consider both languages official.

Within this category of countries ethno-linguistically divided into more than three groups, the IMF nominal GDP per capita ranking of 2009 shows Switzerland, on top, followed by Belgium, Singapore, and Spain following. All these countries use the parliamentary system.

9. Population Size: Countries 5 places higher and lower than the Philippines in total population

Another category would be population size. Since there are no countries that have the exact same population size as the Philippines which based on mid-2010 estimates is around 94,013,200, it’s best to pick out the five countries that rank higher in terms of population size as well as the five countries that rank lower than the Philippines.

In the list of countries that rank five places immediately above the Philippines in terms of population size, we have the following:

  1. Bangladesh    –   164,425,000            156th place in nominal GDP per capita
  2. Nigeria            –   158, 259,000           133th place in nominal GDP per capita
  3. Russia              –   141,927,297             59th place in nominal GDP per capita
  4. Japan               –   127,380,000            17th place in nominal GDP per capita
  5. Mexico            –   108,396,211              61th place in nominal GDP per capita

Among those that rank five places lower than the Philippines, we have:

  1. Vietnam        –    85,789,573               137th place in nominal GDP per capita
  2. Germany      –    81,802,257               16th place in nominal GDP per capita
  3. Ethiopia        –    79,221,000              172th place in nominal GDP per capita
  4. Egypt             –    78,888,000              114th place in nominal GDP per capita
  5. Iran                –    75,078,000              85th place in nominal GDP per capita

Of this list of countries combined, the top two countries in terms of nominal GDP per capita are Germany and Japan, both of whom use parliamentary systems.

10. Land Area: Countries 5 places higher and lower than the Philippines in total land area

Lastly, we check out the group of countries that are similarly sized in terms of total land area as the Philippines (299,764 km2) by combining the group of  5 countries bigger than the Philippines and 5 countries that are smaller than it. In the group of countries 5 places higher and 5 places lower than the Philippines in terms of total land area, the size-based ranking for those above the Philippines (bigger land area) are:

  1. Norway          –   323,802 sq.km       2nd place in nominal GDP per capita
  2. Ivory Coast  –   322,463 sq.km       138th place in nominal GDP per capita
  3. Poland            –   312,685 sq.km       49th place in nominal GDP per capita
  4. Oman              –   309,500 sq.km      36th place in nominal GDP per capita
  5. Italy                –   301,336 sq.km       21st place in nominal GDP per capita

Likewise, for the countries that are smaller than the Philippines, we find the following:

  1. Burkina Faso    –  274,222 sq.km       157th place in nominal GDP per capita
  2. New Zealand    –  270,467 sq.km       27th place in nominal GDP per capita
  3. Gabon                 –  267,668  sq.km       64th place in nominal GDP per capita
  4. Ecuador             –  256,369  sq.km       89th place in nominal GDP per capita
  5. Guinea                –  245,857  sq.km       414th place in nominal GDP per capita

After joining both groups, the top 3 countries which come out on top economically (as per nominal GDP per capita) happen to be Norway, Italy, and New Zealand – all of whom use parliamentary systems.

Analysis of the Results:

This 10-point comparison among countries that fall within categories representing characteristics that define the Philippines has instructively revealed a simple and easy to spot trend.

“Éirinn go brách” –  Parliamentary Ireland beat Presidential USA to get top GDP per capita in the English-speaking category

As we can clearly see, there is even no need for complex statistical regression analysis to prove that the countries that come out at the top of each category happen to be countries which use Parliamentary Systems. Personally, the most surprising result of this simple comparative exercise was the revelation that the USA – the most well-known highly-developed country to use the Presidential System – did not have the highest per capita GDP among all English-speaking countries, and was instead bested in this category by Parliamentary-based Ireland.

By reviewing the results of this simple comparative exercise, it is clear for all to see that the Parliamentary System is by and large associated with superior economic performance, with higher per-capita GDP acting as the indicator. Since the categories used are clearly linked to characteristics associated with the Philippines, there is absolutely no merit in the mistaken notion that “the Philippines is not fit to try out the Parliamentary System.”

This simple exercise has proven with very easy-to-spot results that for the Philippines to at least attempt to emulate the best-performing countries within each of the 10 different categories representing characteristics shared with the Philippines, it needs to consider the option of switching over to the political system which has consistently produced better-performing economies with some of the highest per-capita GDP’s per year.

The Best are Parliamentary, The Worst are Presidential

The proof of the  pudding is in the eating, as they all say, and the eating is all about economic performance versus economic non-performance. By just looking at the raw and unprocessed listing of the top 20 countries based on GDP per capita, we can easily spot the trend. This is not to say that all of the countries top of the nominal GDP per capita list use  parliamentary systems. It’s just that out of 20 countries  on the IMF list, 15 of them use parliamentary systems. On the World Bank listing, 17 out of the top 20 countries use parliamentary systems. In both the IMF and World Bank lists, only the USA uses a full presidential system.

No need to explain anything…

Moreover, we  also just  need to simply compare the top 20 listing with the bottom 30 to see the other trend. Again, this is not to say that all countries at the bottom rung in terms of nominal GDP per capita use Presidential Systems. Indeed, countries like Ethiopia and Bangladesh which have long been associated with mass poverty use parliamentary systems.

However, on the World Bank listing, out of the bottom 30, only 6 countries use a parliamentary system.  Likewise, in  the IMF listing, only 4 countries out of 30 use the parliamentary system. The rest use full-presidential systems, semi-presidential systems, and military dictatorships.

Once again… No need to explain

By simply looking at both listings, it is easy to spot the fact that the Parliamentary System is generally associated with higher chances of economic success and lower chances of economic lethargy and failure. In fact, certain countries, such as Mongolia, Moldova, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan have consciously decided on shifting away from presidential forms (most of them came from semi-presidential or full-presidential systems) to adopt the parliamentary system in order to streamline their economic development through better policy-making.

Conclusion

“…parliamentary government works better than presidential government” – Dr. Arend Lijphart

Countless numbers of world-renowned political scientists such as Arend Lijphart, Juan Linz, and many more have pointed out trends which have revealed the superiority of the parliamentary system over the presidential system. Using statistical regression analysis, some economists such as Daniel Lederman, Norman Loayza, and Rodrigo Soares published a study entitled Accountability and  Corruption: Political Institutions Matter which revealed very telling correlations between the use of a parliamentary system and lower incidences of corruption. A separate, though similar study by John Gerring and Strom Thacker, entitled “Political Institutions and Corruption: The Role of Unitarism and Parliamentarism” reveals the same results. Indeed, there really are so many advantages to adopting a parliamentary system over the more inefficient and gridlock-prone presidential system, yet so many ordinary Filipinos without much of a sincere desire to objectively understand the real merits of considering a shift to the Parliamentary System just easily dismiss it without even having intelligent reasons to justify their rejection.

“Presidentialism is ineluctably problematic…” – Dr. Juan Linz

Worse, there are numerous members of the oligarchic political élite who resist any proposal to shift to the Parliamentary System because they feel that they have much to lose from shifting to away from the familiar and easy-to-manipulate Philippine Presidential System.

This is simply because such a shift will immediately change the rules of the game. Instead of the current status-quo Philippine Presidential system which makes heavy use of patronage politics, the politics of name-recall, popularity & celebrity-status, the disbursement of largesse through the Pork Barrel fund, as well as the promotion of personality politics as  opposed to party-centric and platform-based  politics, a shift to the parliamentary system will immediately shift the political dynamics so that competence and track-record, not popularity, name-recall, or family heritage makes individual politicians rise within the ranks of their respective parties, and moreover, causes the parties with the most relevant platforms  and the most feasible proposals, policies and programs to gain their numbers in parliament.

While the current Philippine Presidential System, with its propensity to consistently produce minority presidents allows vested interests from the oligarchy, powerful religious blocs, and other influence-peddlers to hold a single person – the President – hostage to their demands, such can never work in a parliamentary system. Within a Presidential System, the “supremacy” (power that is “over and above”) that the Office of the President holds over all other decision-making bodies as well as holding veto powers over the legislature, a President can be influenced, cajoled, harassed, pressured, or bribed into making a yes or no decision, regardless of whether this decision reflects the views of the wider public spread out across the entire country.

Presidential-System-Single-Point-of-Failure1

In IT-speak, we call this a “Single Point of Failure”

On the other hand, a Parliamentary System – in which the legislature itself controls the executive cabinet (cabinet members are themselves members of parliament) – works based on consensus, as the Prime Minister does not hold “supremacy” over different members of parliament. Instead, all a Prime Minister has is “primacy” (purely a position of “first among equals”) so that he/she may not ram down his/her own opinions or preferences over the other members of parliament, and instead, must carefully convince the members of parliament on the merits of each position to get their agreement.

ex-Aussie PM Kevin Rudd lost the premiership when he irked members of his own party when he tried to ram down a controversial mining tax proposal

(It will be recalled that it was the manner in which Australian PM Kevin Rudd tried to ram down his unpopular mining tax proposal to members of parliament which got his own party mates withdrawing support for him as Prime Minister, thus replacing him with Julia Gillard)

In other words, in a Parliamentary System, it is much harder for unscrupulous vested interests, such as rent-seeking monopolistic members of the oligarchy to influence public policy through special deals and bribes because they will have to influence a majority of members of parliament just to influence policy. Such unscrupulous vested interests, as much as they may try, cannot easily influence the Prime Minister, because a Prime Minister cannot make decisions alone and instead can only propose courses of action which need to be confirmed through a deliberative assembly.

In a Presidential System, unscrupulous vested interests need only to harass, intimidate, influence, or bribe one person: the President. In a Parliamentary System, vested interests will find it difficult (and far too expensive) to harass, intimidate, influence, or bribe a majority of members of parliament because there are too many of them.

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

In IT-speak, Parliament acts like a Redundant-Array with no single point of failure

In the end, it is obvious why many members of the old oligarchy, extremists from some religious sectors, as well as other vested interests who seek to influence or control the public policies of the Secular State are against moves to shift over to the superior, more stable, more efficient, more accountable, and less-prone-to-corruption Parliamentary System as these vested interests will instantaneously lose their ability to influence or control public policy and subvert the public interest for their own selfish interests.

Product of the Philippine Presidential System

These have not even considered the fact that the Presidential System the Philippines is a highly personality-based system that unduly favors celebrities and people with popular surnames, as opposed to ensuring that the most competent people emerge on top.

While both India and Malaysia have many among their poorer classes of people generally exhibiting identical personality and behavioral characteristics with the “starstruck” masses of the Philippines such as a hero-worship of pop-stars, actors, and other celebrities, Malaysia and India have never ended up with actors,  pop-stars, and incompetent-but-famous people ever having become Prime Minister. These differences in political dynamics very clearly explains why the Parliamentary System is ultimately more generally associated with much lower levels of corruption, superior economic performance, a better quality of life, and a much higher GDP per capita.

As everyone can see, the evidence is overwhelming as to the obvious superior performance of societies which use a Parliamentary System over those using a Presidential System. Filipinos who truly wish the Philippines to become a better-performing society with a much better economy, a higher GDP per capita, a much more stable political system, better public policies, and a better quality of life for its people should definitely make themselves intellectually open to the option of shifting to a system which is more generally associated with success. At the very core of our culture and identity as a people who are essentially a cross between Malay-Austronesian & Hispanic, we really have much more in common with Malaysia and Spain both of whom use the Parliamentary System and have progressed because of it than with the United States of America which uses the gridlock-prone Presidential System. It really is about time the Philippines shifted over to the Parliamentary System.

Counter-Clockwise from top-right: Kuala Lumpur, M’sia – Parliamentary; S’pore – Parliamentary; Bilbao, Spain – Parliamentary;  Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines – Presidential… It’s your choice…

* * *

Useful readings:

1. Accountability and  Corruption: Political Institutions Matter (PDF File) by Drs. Lederman, Loayza, &  Soares

2. Political Institutions and Corruption: The Role of Unitarism and Parliamentarism (PDF File) by Drs. Gerring & Thacker

3. Perils of Presidentialism (PDF File) by Dr. Juan Linz

4. Parliamentary Democracy Offers Better Representation by Peter Akies

5. Parliament Works Better by Craig Ruff

6. Should the Philippines Turn Parliamentary? (PDF File) by Florencio “Butch” Abad

7. The Philippines’ Road Ahead: Changing the System of Government by Benjamin Kritz

8. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System by yours truly

9. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System by yours truly

10. From F  to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed by yours truly

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“Half the faculty at Yale Law describes the American Presidential System as one of this country’s most dangerous exports wreaking havoc on over 30 countries across the globe… It is a recipe for Constitutional Breakdown…”

–  quoted from “The West Wing” character “Toby Ziegler”, Season 6 Episode 15

Sen. Pangilinan & the Parliamentary System

Sen. Francis Pangilinan & his Megastar wife Sharon Cuneta

Just before I published my recent essay that related the soccer versus basketball issue to the presidential versus parliamentary debate, a few statements made by Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan which appeared in the July 3, 2010 Manila Standard caught my attention, and I quote the Manila Standard article as follows:

“Personally, I am against a parliamentary system. It is not the form of government that is important. It’s like you are being made to choose between a sedan and a truck. What if you do not know how to drive? I believe that it is not the form of government but the political leadership we should be concerned about,” he told newsmen at the Balay Aquino-Roxas, the LP headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.

He argued that if the presidential system has its flaws, the parliamentary system has its flaws too. In Australia, he said legislators are now debating whether they should shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system.”

I am essentially trying to pull my punches as I write this because two of my own sisters are friends of one of Senator Kiko’s own staff members. I must admit that it is extremely difficult for me to do so because a highly-educated and intelligent person like Senator Kiko should not be making such errors of analysis, or worse, errors of fact.

I sincerely hope that Senator Kiko takes the time to read through my recent essay entitled “Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System” because by simply doing so, he may learn to understand that his bias against proposals to shift towards the Parliamentary System is extremely misplaced and unfounded.

For one thing, different systems very often do yield different results. Some systems are better – or worse – than others. Coming from an IT background, I have had to deal with this fact all the time as some operating systems like Microsoft Windows Vista, are technically faulty and cause more system crashes than others, causing end-users to avoid such operating systems like the plague and either prefer to downgrade to its predecessor – Windows XP, upgrade to its newer successor – Windows 7, while still using the same piece of hardware, or decide to make a wholesale shift to Apple’s MacOSX platform.

(Note: I used to work for Microsoft and still maintain a certain loyalty to the company, yet I cannot pretend that MS Windows Vista wasn’t a lemon.)

Yes, the system matters: Windows Vista and a time-wasting system error

As much as people may want to insist that “it’s not the system, it’s how you use it” or “it’s not the system, it’s who’s using it”, ceteris paribus, the fact remains that a competent and expert user who knows what he’s doing can still waste a lot of time having to deal with system crashes that are no fault of his own. Between using a system that is prone to crashing on the one hand, and using a more robust and stable system that seamlessly works on the other, an expert user will clearly get a lot more things done using the stable system. Obviously, as some systems are indeed better than others, the more stable systems allow users to get more things done without interruption.

The good Senator also needs to realize that some systems favor certain traits over others. A Presidential System, due to the manner in which the Philippine electorate tends to choose the President based on “winnability”, clearly favors popularity and name-recall over competence. In other words, popularity greatly determines whether a candidate wins within a Presidential System and everything else is secondary. Of course, the ratios are not the same. France and the United States, for instance, both use Presidential Systems (France is sometimes described as “semi-Presidential”), yet competence and platform figure a lot more than in the Philippine setting – albeit a presidential candidate’s popularity is still the major determinant – in how presidents in those countries get elected. A Parliamentary System, on the other hand, favors parties with the most relevant platforms (as well as the overall competence in getting things done) that the per-constituency electorate can identify with versus parties whose platforms and lower levels of competence the electorate will avoid.

Axes of Competition: Diagram shows how the best person makes it at the top of his party (vertical) and how the party with the most relevant platform gets majority of all parliamentary seats (horizontal)

Moreover, due to merit-based competition within the various parties in a Parliamentary System, the most competent party members with the best leadership skills emerge at the top of the party’s leadership as “Front Benchers.” Within a party, the best member among the best gets on top (vertical competition), while the others become deputies and hold important positions within the party. In short, there is very little chance that an incompetent member of parliament can ever become Prime Minister. The intra-party competition that has more to do with competence and ability, rather than popularity ensures that.

Popular Bollywood demigods like Shah Rukh Khan do not become Indian Prime Minister

By gaining a better understanding of how the Parliamentary System works, Senator Pangilinan will better understand why India, despite having millions of ordinary people who worship Bollywood Stars and Cricketeers has never ended up with any of them ever becoming Prime Minister. He would realize that it is totally possible for an extremely competent technocratic economist like Manmohan Singh to end up Prime Minister without having to do song-and-dance numbers for India’s masses, and on the other hand, while the Filipino masses – who like India’s masses, also worship our movie stars, TV celebrities, our basketbolistas and boxing legends, ended up voting for an incompetent movie star in 1998 and almost made him win again just last May (despite having been deposed in 2001 and convicted of Plunder). In 2004, his good friend and fellow movie star, the late FPJ, almost won as well.

Republicanism in Australia: Shift from the British Monarch to an elected President as Head of State

This brings me to the next part: Senator Pangilinan’s mention of Presidentialism in Australia.

Let us review the good Senator’s statement: “…the presidential system has its flaws, the parliamentary system has its flaws too. In Australia, legislators are now debating whether they should shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system…”

I’m afraid that Senator Pangilinan is grossly misinformed. Get Real Philippines itself has Australia-based members on the ground who have explicitly confirmed that his allegation that “In Australia, legislators are now debating whether they should shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system” is either a grossly deliberate misrepresentation of facts or the result of faulty research.

Competent & Mandarin-fluent: Rudd improved ties w/China but resigned due to a controversial Mining Tax proposal

To set the facts straight, Senator Kiko needs to be corrected for him to realize that Australia has no quarrel with the Westminster Parliamentary System it currently has in place. Indeed, he is right that no system is perfect, but Australians generally acknowledge that their current Westminster Parliamentary system works for them – quite well, in fact. In contrast, an ever-increasing number of Filipinos are now beginning to acknowledge the role that the Presidential System has played in the country’s poverty, underdevelopment, and inability to fix its own problems.

Was it the recent high-profile change in Prime Minister where the Australian Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd vacated the Premiership and his deputy, Julia Gillard became Prime Minister that led the good Senator to mistakenly proclaim that “legislators are now debating on whether they should shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system?”

Australians have accepted that such is exactly how a Parliamentary System should work!

A parliamentary system ejects Prime Ministers who ram down proposals (like Rudd’s proposed Mining Tax) to Parliament without properly consulting the ruling party’s own Members of Parliament. Ordinary MP’s from Rudd’s own party, for instance, feared that if Rudd pushed through with his Mining Tax proposal, they would lose the support of their own constituencies (since Australia is heavily-dependent on mining) in the next elections, and that’s why Rudd was asked to resign. That is precisely the beauty of the parliamentary system: Prime Ministers have to listen to their own members of parliament, otherwise, those who put their own party at risk face the prospect of losing their position as leader of their own party.

Competent, Charismatic, & Eloquent: Blair “retired” because of his decision to join Bush in Iraq

Kevin Rudd’s departure from the Australian premiership is paralleled by Tony Blair’s retirement and replacement by his deputy, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Tony Blair, like Kevin Rudd, enjoyed a certain level of popularity due to personal charisma in addition to personal competence, yet largely because of Tony Blair’s unfortunate decision to go along with George Bush’s adventures in Iraq, where Weapons of Mass Destruction were eventually not found, the British Labour Party gradually suffered a massive diminution in the party’s popularity ratings as a result of Blair’s decision on Iraq. Sensing that the Labour Party was going to lose its majority if it continued on with Tony Blair at the helm, Blair was politely advised by his own party members to “retire.” And retire he did – his swansong as PM being the conclusion of Peace Talks with the Irish Republic Army in Northern Ireland. And it was there that Gordon Brown, Blair’s then second in command, took over.

(Note: While the British spell “Labour Party” the British way with “ou”, in Australia, the official name of the “Australian Labor Party” is spelled the American way without the “u.”)

Thus, parties who continue to enjoy majority support from the population by continuing to win a majority of parliamentary seats reward their leaders who continue to lead them well by granting them longevity as Prime Minister. But on the other hand, Prime Ministers who make fatal mistakes such as Kevin Rudd’s controversial Mining Tax or Tony Blair’s miscalculated involvement in Iraq find themselves “punished” with retirement or ouster. That dynamic within the Parliamentary System of parties causing their own leaders to resign or retire is the “check-and-balance” that ensures that a parliamentary system continues to be more representative and responsive to people’s real needs, much more than a Presidential System could ever be.

The Australian Republican Movement wants to replace Queen Elizabeth II with a ceremonial President

Thanks to a superior system such as the current Parliamentary System already in place in Australia, there really is no talk about shifting from Australia’s parliamentary form of government to a presidential one. What exists, on the other hand, is a relatively strong movement to shift Australia away from being a Constitutional Monarchy with the reigning British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State (currently represented by an appointed Governor-General) towards becoming an Independent Republic with a President – elected by Parliament – to act as a ceremonial Head of State.

That movement has less to do with the form of government than it has to do with expressing Independence from Australia’s “personal union” with the British Crown. That movement is called the Australian Republican Movement. There are others within the movement who propose having a directly-elected President (elected by the people, as opposed to the dominant proposal that the President be elected by Parliament) as Head of State, who will also be powerless and ceremonial just like the role of the Queen (proxied in Australia by the Governor-General).

The Australian Republican Movement also wants a newer Aussie flag

Of course, there does exist an extremely infinitesimal number of people within the Australian Republican Movement who have floated the idea of having an American-style President (who is powerful and holds executive powers) , but that faction is marginal, and such a proposal has not even reached the critical level of intra-parliamentary debate that would get ordinary citizens talking about it. Instead, the debate that does continue to be pervasive regarding the word “President” is still firmly within the proposal to replace the British Monarch with a non-hereditary President as ceremonial Head of State.

To reiterate, there is no debate about shifting from a parliamentary form of government towards a US-style Presidential one within parliament nor is there one that attracts the general Australian citizenry’s attention. Besides, such a direction from Parliamentary to Presidential is extremely unlikely considering that there are actually more countries that have already shifted from Presidential to Parliamentary, such as Moldova (transitioned in 2000), Lebanon (transitioned many many years ago during the late Rafik Hariri’s term), Kyrgyzstan (newly-transitioned – April 2010), or Ukraine (currently in transition).

Moreover, there are other countries who are currently considering making the shift; Afghanistan (proposed by opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah), Nigeria (proposed by a Nigerian ex-Justice in the UN World Court), and of course, the Philippines (since FVR’s time).

Parliamentarism: Newer, More Evolved; Presidentialism: Older, Less Evolved

One of the things that can actually help Senator Pangilinan understand the relationship that the Westminster Parliamentary System and the US-style Presidential System have with each other is to look at the historical context of their evolution. (See diagram)

Firstly, the Presidential System of the Philippines is obviously a take-off from the American presidential system, and the American presidential system – having been a product of British colonialism – is a take-off from an earlier incarnation of the British System. Rather than thinking that the British System has always been based on what we currently refer to as the modern Westminster Parliamentary System, it is worth noting that the British System had been in a constant and steady state of gradually ceding power from the Crown towards the Parliament ever since King John of England signed the Magna Carta all the way until the British System arrived at its current form a little after the reign of Queen Victoria.

Absolute Monarchy is the most primitive & least evolved; the Parliamentary System is the most evolved

To review, the British System evolved essentially from an original state of Absolute Monarchy in which the English Monarch had full power over the domains he held and was later on assisted by a group of nobles, assisted by selected town and village leaders acting as a council of advisers which later became known as the “Parliament” during the French-speaking Norman occupation, as the word derives from the French word “Parler” (“to speak”), and “Parliament” (taken from the French “Parlement”) is where such speaking takes place. Much later, that parliament evolved so that its commoners and nobles split into two components, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, so that eventually, the House of Commons became the more powerful between the two. Much later, that system gradually ceded power from the Monarch towards Parliament.

The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I held more power over Parliament than many later British Monarchs

In other words, today’s essentially powerless and merely ceremonial monarch had at some point in time held vast amounts of real executive power. It can be said, for instance, that Queen Elizabeth I of England (late 1500’s) was a vastly more powerful Monarch than, say, Queen Victoria (late 1800’s), and that Queen Victoria had much more power (or influence) than her own descendant, Queen Elizabeth II (present-day).

By recognizing this fact, we can see that the US-style Presidential System was actually an attempt to recreate or imitate the British System of a much earlier era on the American Continent. In fact, the US Founding Fathers originally thought of making George Washington a King, in the same way that Britain had a King. The colonists living in North America were used to having proclamations made in the name of the British King long before they declared their Independence on the 4th of July, 1776. In many cases, they didn’t really even know that the British Monarch was no longer that powerful, and instead, only seem to have remembered their forebears’ stories about how Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen” (for whom the states West Virginia and Virginia are named) was very powerful. Suffice to say, the American colonists wanted a government that seemed to be as mighty as how they perceived Queen Elizabeth I’s and subsequent British Monarchs’ reigns were.

In the end, it was decided that instead of setting up a medieval-like Hereditary Monarchy, the United States of America would instead have a more modern, elected President in line with the more democratic ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. The President, in other words, would be no different from a King who still held real power (as did much earlier incarnations of the then English System), except that the position was not to be inherited and was instead to be democratically-elected, chosen by members of an Electoral College popularly chosen from among the various Congressional districts.

His Mightiness King George I: US Founding Fathers originally proposed making Washington King

That relatively early breaking away from the constantly-evolving British System that was brought about by American Independence thus insulated the United States from the continuing shift towards ceding more and more powers from the Crown (or “Head of State”) to the Legislature (referred to as “Congress” by the Americans), so that a century after America was founded, the American President continued to have the same executive powers, while the British Monarch had continued to become less powerful, and more ceremonial.

It can be argued, therefore, that if America had hypothetically broken away from the British much later – say, one full century after the actual Declaration of Independence, then America’s system would probably not have adopted the presidential system it is today, and would instead, be more similar to the Victorian system where the Parliament was calling most of the shots and the British Monarch had gotten relegated to a much more decorative role. That hypothetical United States of America would have certainly done away with hereditary monarchy and replaced it with an elected “President”, but that President would have had a similarly ceremonial position as the one that Queen Victoria held at the time.

Conversely, “colonies” that currently remain within a personal union with the British Monarch such as Australia or Canada would probably end up with a more American-style presidential system had they hypothetically declared independence from the British at around the time of 1776 or much earlier than that.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was a “fairly strong monarch” as he had more power than Parliament – led by the Chancellor

This then brings us to the conclusion that the Presidential System is merely a vestige of an older and less-evolved form of the British System, where the hereditary Monarch still had much greater say over decision and policy-making than the legislature, while the present-day Westminster Parliamentary System is actually a more thoroughly-evolved form of that same system, brought to its inevitable logical conclusion, where the parliament was eventually ceded full control over decision-making, and where the Monarch was turned into a powerless and merely ceremonial figurehead.

It is also worth noting that numerous older systems that were in place during the earlier half of the 1900’s which featured a “strong President”, such as Germany’s Weimar Republic, mostly involved a parallel transition from a much older Strong Monarchy-based system that still gave certain powers to the hereditary monarch, and once the monarchy was dissolved, the resulting Republic’s elected President took on the position of power that the dissolved hereditary monarchy once held. Since the pre-World War I German Kaiser Wilhelm II was not exactly a powerless ceremonial monarch, and instead held real executive power, the Weimar Republic which followed the dissolution of Germany’s Imperial Monarchy continued on as a Semi-Presidential System with a strong President having more overriding powers over the old Reichstag and its Chancellor.

The Weimar Republic’s Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg had similar powers to the former Kaiser who abdicated in 1918

In fact, of the numerous monarchial systems that were in existence at the first quarter of the 1900’s, it is the Parliament-domimant British System that appears to have been the most evolved of them all. It was the only one at the time which fit the description of today’s modern “Constitutional Monarchy” where the Monarch is relegated to a mostly ceremonial and powerless role, and real executive powers are given exclusively to the legislature. Everywhere else, vestiges of the more anachronistic powerful hereditary Monarchy holding sway over a more representative legislature persisted. Rather than ceding full control of all decision-making to the representative legislative bodies, the older, less-evolved systems merely sought to moderate the immense executive power of the hereditary Monarch by balancing it off with the influence of the representative legislature. When you merely replace a strong hereditary monarch whose executive power is moderated by the legislature with an equally strong elected President, you have a Presidential System.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the present-day Westminster Parliamentary System – being the more evolved incarnation of the British System between the two – always comes out superior to the Presidential System in numerous studies made by international scholars when correlating both systems with higher stability (as per Dr. Juan Linz, PhD), lower levels of corruption, and greater efficiency and accountability (as per a study by three economics PhD’s commissioned by the World Bank and the University of Chicago).

With this, it needs to be underscored and emphasized that from the historical perspective of the development of systems of government, the Presidential System is comparatively more “primitive”, while the Parliamentary System is relatively more “evolved.”

Seek the Best Advice within the Party

It would greatly benefit the good Senator to carefully coordinate his personal pronouncements on Charter Change or the Parliamentary System with one of his own fellow Liberal Party-mates, current Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad.

Liberal Party loyalist Butch Abad: advocates shifting to the Parliamentary System

Many years ago, when Butch Abad was a Liberal Party congressman from Batanes, he wrote a whitepaper that explained the urgent need for the Philippines to move away from the current problem-ridden Presidential System based on the 1987 Constitution’s prescriptions and towards the more stable and better-evolved Parliamentary System  His focus on the need for the Philippines to shift away from Presidentialism and on to Parliamentarism was soundly researched and totally spot-on, drawing largely upon the work of Dr. Juan Linz, PhD of Yale, who dealt mostly with the aspects of system stability.

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan needs to realize that personal preferences are irrelevant when a public servant talks about the Greater Good of Society. What he personally prefers may be based on emotion, sentiment, whims and caprice and as such is highly subjective. The Greater Good of Society, unfortunately, does not belong to the realm of subjectivity & bias and instead, requires objectivity and rational thought. The good Senator, therefore, needs to ensure that he carefully, objectively, and dispassionately studies all the relevant literature in order to more fairly compare both systems against each other so that instead of relying on subjective personal preferences, Senator Kiko – who at this moment is fighting for the Senate Presidency – can be more capable of making the right decisions as well as push for real improvements for the Greater Good of the Filipino People.

by: Orion Pérez Dumdum

This will continue to be the reality of the Philippines if we persist with the current Presidential System

Click here to read the predecessor of this essay.

You may also want to check the related links below:

1.From F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in Order to Succeed

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

3. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

4. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

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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.