The Coming Fall of the “Noynoy Project”

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

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

special uncle

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

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

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

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

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

Benigno Aquino III, Mar Roxas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Noynoy Aquino…

The writing is pretty much on the wall:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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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.

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

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

Sen. Claro M. Recto on the Presidential System

The late Senator Claro M. Recto, president of the 1934 Constitutional Convention which drafted the 1935 charter, describes the Philippine political system this way:

The late Senator Claro M. Recto

“Our Constitution was frankly an imitation of the American charter. Many of the delegates were products of an American system of education and consequently were obsessed with the sincere belief that Democracy can be defined only in American terms. Necessarily, therefore, the Philippine presidency became a copy of the American presidency, with its vast concentration of powers and only periodical accountability to the people. Like the man in the White House, the man in Malacañang is now safe from immediate responsibility. And like the men on Capitol Hill, the men on Taft and Lepanto (the old Congress) do not have to render accounts for the fixed limits of their terms. A bad President and a bad Congress may not, in Lincoln’s phrase, fool all the people all of the time. But they can make fools of the people – they can make fools of themselves – for at least four years.

Only God and impeachment can remove the President from high office, no matter how incompetent or dangerous he may have proved himself to be in the eyes of the majority of the electorate. He may quarrel with his Congress. Congress may rebel against him and systematically obstruct his administration. But the issue must remain unresolved for the duration of their arbitrary terms. Neither the President nor the Congress may be changed although those two active powers of government may be stifling the Nation in a stubborn and unbreakable deadlock.

Under the Constitution the Presidency is potentially more powerful. I do not believe it an exaggeration to state that the President of the Philippines could easily convert himself into an actual dictator within the framework of the Charter. With his control of local governments and all that it signifies in terms of elections, with huge sums and unlimited sinecures to distribute, with emergency powers to rule by executive decrees as a last resort, he is restrained only by his own conscience from perpetuating himself or his party in power.

I do not recall any considerable discussion in the Constitutional Convention on this ancient and persistent problem of governmental responsibility. I believe we were too deeply under the spell of the American system to give much thought to any alternative. But now that we have presumably been freed by the declaration of our independence… the Filipino people may soberly consider (another) system… to harness the power of government to the will of the people.”

Taken from: http://www.iper.org.ph/documentation/parlshift.pdf

(Note: Recto was commenting on the 1935 System which was better than the 1987 System. What would C.M. Recto say if he were talking about the 1987 System which is a much more degenerated and defective system than the 1935 one?)

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Here are some useful articles on the Parliamentary versus Presidential Systems:

1) Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

2) Sen. Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

3) The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

4) Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

5) Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

6) Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change? 

Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

(First published on antipinoy.com on July 7, 2010)

At the time of this writing, millions of people around the world are obsessing about the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the noise of the annoying Vuvuzela horn. From every continent, people speaking almost every language, coming from practically every race, creed, and color are excitedly watching the game called “Association Football.”  Unfortunately, there’s been relative calm in the Philippines, as hardly anyone, save for a few die-hard soccer fans, actually watched the World Cup closely.

Soccer, (coming from the word “association” in the sport’s full-name “Association Football”), called “Football” by everyone else, is also known as the world’s Beautiful Game. It is one of the most democratic sports ever – as Time Magazine recently described it. Anyone can play and excel in it: Rich or poor, light-skinned or dark-skinned, and most importantly, tall or short.  That last one is of utmost importance, considering that we Filipinos, most of whom are not very tall, are crazy about basketball – a sport that obviously favors tall players.

It has caused numerous ceasefires in many conflict zones as Israelis and Palestinians (Soccer is the biggest sport in the Middle East) or Rebel guerrillas and Government troops in continents like Africa or Latin America, often stop fighting just to watch the World Cup or other high-profile soccer matches on TV or listen to live commentaries on radio. During World War I, an informal Truce on Christmas Day in 1914 witnessed one of the most amazing displays of human fraternity as warring sides – British & French versus the Germans came together and played Soccer. After having played the game, made friends, and exchanged names & addresses, the soldiers simply could not shoot at each other once the truce ended, forcing their respective angry generals to send all of them to other fronts to fight against other enemies.

It’s a real shame because while Filipinos were glued to the NBA Finals at about the same time that the World Cup was just about starting, one unfortunate fact continues to be ignored by basketball-crazy Filipinos: We are never going to excel in sports that require height. Unlike most basketball-loving Filipinos, millions of average-height, barely middle-class, or even impoverished Africans and Latin Americans who play and practice soccer can actually dream of one day playing professionally for local or internationally-famous professional teams such as Manchester United (England), Juventus (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), or Galatasaray (Turkey) – to name a few – and live a life of fame and fortune. These are dreams which are feasible as long as whoever plays and practices the sport has the competence, talent, and commitment, because the game-dynamics of soccer simply does not require height. It needs to be said that soccer legend Diego Maradona of Argentina became a soccer superstar with his very Filipino height of 5 ft 4.

In stark contrast to the meritocratic nature of soccer which does not care much about being born with the genes for height, the fixation that Filipinos have for basketball creates so many shattered dreams. Millions of young Filipinos are raised to love a sport that does not love them back. Many waste inordinate amounts of time practicing the game, wishing that they would be just like Kobe Bryant when they grow up, only to grow to their full height which might be just a few inches taller than Diego Maradona – a height that is just not cut for competitive basketball.

Filipinos even love to watch the NBA play-offs, but even if the Philippines is perhaps the most basketball-crazy country in the World (Americans are more obsessed with American Football and Baseball), countries with much more diversified sporting interests such as Mainland China and the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Croatia, etc, who all watch more soccer than they do basketball, have successfully sent players to the NBA. The Philippines has never sent a Filipino to the NBA!

Numerous honest discussions and debates have erupted about the need to shift the Philippines’ team sports focus from the excessively height-centric basketball towards the more height-agnostic soccer in order to focus on a sport in which every ordinary Filipino can excel. However, the rebuttals to the contrary range from such excuses as “The cultural temperament of Filipinos makes them prefer basketball because it has a faster-pace of point-scoring while soccer’s scores are low and goal-scoring is rare” to other excuses like“soccer requires a huge field in order to play while basketball needs a much smaller space.”

Who says you need a field to play soccer?

Both excuses fall flat considering that Filipinos are ethnically and even temperamentally similar to the Malays of Malaysia and Brunei (except in religion), both of whom enjoy and excel in soccer within the ASEAN region. It can be argued too that most Latin Americans, with whom Filipinos share common Spanish colonial history vis-à-vis Hispano-America and a very similar Iberian heritage with Portuguese-speaking Brazil, are somewhat culturally similar to Filipinos (especially in their sense of humor) and yet they too enjoy the sport immensely and are perhaps among the most excellent players of the Beautiful Game in the World. Most importantly, millions of impoverished Latin-Americans and Africans often practice playing soccer just about anywhere, be it on a small field, a dusty road, or even a small backyard. Some of the world’s highest-paid soccer stars come from such an impoverished background and they often cherish their childhood memories of growing up, playing soccer barefoot with plastic bottles or anything they can kick around as their ball, drawing lines on the ground to serve as their “goals.” It is just not true that Filipinos cannot shift to soccer.

The unfortunate fact is that Filipinos prefer to stick to whatever status quo they’ve grown used to. The real problem here is Inertia: the resistance to change.

Resistance to Change

Indeed, there is something really flawed about the situation, and Filipinos have to immediately correct it. Unfortunately, there seems to be something about us Filipinos that exacerbates our resistance to change: We have a tendency to refuse to admit that a problem exists, and often prefer to just ignore it and sweep the problem under the rug. In case that problem stares squarely at us, thereby making it impossible to ignore, quite often, we just outright refuse to do the work that would fix that problem and just endure the resulting mediocrity. Worse, many Filipinos prefer to make excuses that seek to justify such refusal to fix the problem, oftentimes reasoning – using intellectual dishonesty – that trying to fix the problem would actually make things worse.

We need not look far to see that this problem is not solely confined to the world of sports, in which increasing attention is being placed on the Soccer versus Basketball debate. Just recently, journalist and current Ambassador to Greece, Rigoberto Tiglao, recently wrote a two-part special on why Filipinos are not into Soccer.

The Tall Man’s Game

In it, he likened the need for Filipinos to carefully consider shifting from basketball to soccer and the difficulty in convincing Filipinos to do so, with the fact that many Filipinos still stubbornly refuse to at least attempt to consider the objective merits of the Parliamentary System as a possible option to replace the current Philippine Presidential System. It has been observed that the Philippine Presidential System’s skew towards popularity and name-recall , coupled with the Philippine Electorate’s preference for form over substance that unfortunately brought about perhaps the most embarrassing stain on the Philippines’ international reputation in 1998, when celebrity actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada won as President of the Philippines. The Philippines had another close call in 2004 when his fellow celebrity actor and close friend, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. almost won. And just recently in May 2010, the convicted-of-plunder ex-President Estrada who was deposed in 2001 ran again and took second place.

In the meantime, numerous politicians aspiring for the Presidency jockey for positions in the equally useless and non-representative Philippine Senate (whose Senators do not represent constituencies unlike in the USA, where Senators are elected per State), and as a result, the Philippine Senate has numerous “Senactors” (Senators who are actors) as well as politicians married to actresses or celebrities.

We continue to be a basketball-crazed society that is isolated from the soccer-loving rest of the world and yet we can’t even excel in this game we so love, nor can we send talented Filipino players to the NBA because basketball is a game that clearly favors height and we simply do not have the height that would at least give us a fighting chance.

In almost the exact same way, we continue to clamor for improvements in our lives, our economic livelihood, and the quality of our politics, yet because of a system of government whose electoral procedure (choosing the name of an individual candidate running for President) clearly favors “winnability” (popularity and name-recall) over competence, we end up with incompetent people who become President only because of their celebrity status or famous surnames. At other times, we also end up with leaders who – though sometimes competent – are forced to pander to the public lest they risk being unable to govern if they fail to play the popularity game.

When will we Filipinos realize that for us to excel in team sports, we need to choose a sport where competence and real talent are much more important than one’s height?

When will we Filipinos realize that for our society to be better-run, more efficient, and more responsive to our people’s needs, we need to choose a system of government in which quality policy-making, platform relevance, and competence take overwhelming precedence over petty traits such as celebrity-status, personal popularity, and name-recall?

Knowing that both basketball and the current Presidential System are not good for us, why then do we Filipinos continue to insist on sticking it out with the both of them instead of making the necessary changes that would correct the problems that these two Problematic American Imports continue to cause?

Once upon a time, Albert Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

Basketball & the Presidential System: Problematic US Imports

There is absolutely no doubt that an objective and honest discussion on the merits of soccer over basketball most certainly parallels the discussion on the merits of a Parliamentary System over the Presidential System.

Both Basketball and the Presidential System are largely American inventions which they brought along with them during the almost 50 years that they occupied our country and we Filipinos took to both of them as if they were our own.

Unfortunately, both basketball and the Presidential System have pre-requisites that Americans often meet which Filipinos don’t: Basketball inherently favors height for a player to be considered eligible for competitive play because the hoops are high. On the other hand, the Presidential System requires that the electorate be naturally issues-centric and platform-oriented in order to counterbalance the inherent personality-centered exercise of voting for a presidential candidate.

They want to be like Kobe

Incidentally, both basketball and the Presidential System have brought Failure to Filipinos: Basketball has shattered the dreams and self-esteem of millions of young Filipinos who’ve continued to aspire to be just like their idols Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, practicing basketball for hours on end, only to be rendered ineligible for competitive basketball all because they were too short.  On the other hand, the current Philippine Presidential System (based on the 1987 Constitution) has shattered the lives of millions of Filipinos who – because the system favors candidate winnability (popularity, and name-recall) over competence and a sound platform for governance – often end up with leaders who merely have popularity but no competence. Sometimes we end up with leaders and lawmakers who have no choice but to pander to the public instead of focusing on doing what is the correct and beneficial course of action in the long-term, even if it may appear to be unpopular in the short-term. Most politicians with presidential ambitions (except for a select few) therefore tend to focus too much on short-term popularity by engaging in publicity stunts in order to have the name-recall and media attention they need just to have a stab at the Presidency when the time comes to run for it.

In the end, Philippine Society as well as its Government is often unable to make the hard decisions necessary that would bring about a better economy, more jobs, more prosperity, and more improvements to the lives of the people, all because the focus on popularity-based personality-politics always manages to derail society away from focusing on the most important aspects of governance.

In a manner of speaking, it can be said that both basketball and the Presidential System are skewed towards traits which Filipinos either do not have in abundance (height for basketball) or towards traits that Filipinos are extremely obsessed about (popularity and celebrity-status for the Presidential System), both of which lead to Mediocrity and ultimately, towards Failure.

In the former case, Americans have a bigger pool of tall people to select from who may excel in professional basketball, while Filipinos clearly do not. In the latter, Americans have the required cultural and political maturity, policy and platform focus, issues focus, and the ability to zero-in more on the message rather than the messenger in order to counteract and counterbalance the inherent skew towards popularity and name-recall that is inherent in the Presidential System. Filipinos, sadly, are more culturally pre-disposed towards personality, celebrity-status, and popularity, so that winning Philippine presidential elections is more about fielding candidates who are deemed “winnable” rather than determining who among the prospective candidates is the most competent, possesses the necessary qualifications that would enable him to perform his duties successfully, and who has done the best job related to governance in the past and as such, is therefore most likely going to do a splendid job.

Regarding the sport of basketball, it is also no wonder that Filipino basketball players are not exactly NBA-quality (and therefore explains why no Filipino has ever gone to the NBA). In the Philippines, many basketball players who get chosen to go professional are often those who are of towering height, never mind that they may not exactly be the best among the entire pool of available players. There are oftentimes people who play basketball really well and can shoot hoops accurately, but simply because they are too short and unable to do slam-dunks, they are totally ignored by recruitment scouts for professional or semi-professional teams.

In fact, stories circulated in the past about some UAAP basketball teams whose alumni associations recruited players who were not really basketball prodigies, but just plain “tall giants” from their respective high schools. It was evident from their on-court performance: These were extremely tall players who always missed getting the ball through the basket during free throws. No mystery there: Such players were recruited for their height, not for their prowess in basketball.

Product of the Philippine Presidential System

Once again, this parallel zeroes in on the main problem that the Presidential System has brought on the Philippines. Very similar to basketball’s unfair preference for tall people, the  Presidential System has an inherent skew towards winnability  (popularity and name-recall), coupled with the cultural inclination of Filipinos to gossip more about popular celebrities and their private lives or marital woes, and discuss less about the most important issues related to the economy and governance. It is therefore not difficult to see why numerous actors and showbiz celebrities end up as politicians and why professional politicians often end up marrying famous actresses or TV personalities just to gain media mileage and rapport with the voting public. It also shows precisely why the discussions in Philippine Politics tend towards vacuity and pettiness, rather than on real practical problem-solving. For this reason, the Philippines continues to be unable to fix the same kinds of problems that have hounded it for decades, while other countries are zooming ahead leaving the Philippines in the dust.

In other words, the system of government in the Philippines is set up so that the people who are most favored to win in national elections tend to be those candidates who have the necessary popularity and the name-recall (actors, showbiz celebrities, children of well-known politicians, politicians married to celebrities, controversial public figures who get excessive media exposure, athletes and basketball stars, etc) required to win said popularity contests, to the detriment of those people who have the requisite expertise, competence, track record, vision, and most importantly, the relevant platform of governance that matches the needs of the country at a given point in time.

It doesn’t help much that the Philippines continues to make use of the direct popular vote in stark contrast to the more indirect voting system of the US Electoral College, which was set up by America’s Founding Fathers with the express intention of moderating and mitigating the tyranny of popularity, name-recall, and emotionalism that is the unfortunate negative tendency of direct democracy. In addition, there also is the fact that the two-party system of the USA makes use of party-based Caucuses & Primary Elections to ensure that – as much as possible – the best man (or woman) for the job is chosen by each party.

To be absolutely honest about it, there is a steadily increasing dissatisfaction and growing base of evidence worldwide against the dismal operational efficiency and low degree of accountability resulting from the Presidential System. Case in point: There is a large number of disadvantages that the Presidential System is described to possess by numerous political scientists and economists, particularly by renowned political scientist and expert on political systems Dr. Juan Linz, PhD of Yale in his famous essay “The Perils of Presidentialism) as well as a recent joint World Bank and University of Chicago study entitled “Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter” – authored by three Latin American economists namely, Dr. Daniel Lederman, PhD – Chile, Dr. Norman Loayza, PhD – Peru, and Dr. Rodrigo Soares, PhD – Brazil, correlating the Presidential System with greater levels of corruption on the one hand, and much lower incidences of corruption with the Parliamentary System on the other.

Notwithstanding all those operational disadvantages of the “separation-of-powers” Presidential System, coupled with the inherent tendency towards personality-politics found in it, at the very least, it can be said that the USA has specific safeguards such as the use of Primaries and the Electoral College which clearly mitigate the negative traits associated with the Presidential System’s popularity-centric electoral procedure.

Alas, no such safeguards such as a “Two-Party System”, “Party Primaries” and the reliance on an “Electoral College” exist for the current Philippine Presidential System based on the 1987 Constitution. It is for this reason that the full unadulterated impact of the tyranny of popularity bears down heavily on Philippine Society.

* * *

Defects of the 1987 Constitution’s Presidential System 

Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ: Forgot to consider the Problem of having a Minority President

Unfortunately for Filipinos, the Philippine Constitutional Commission of 1986 which created the current 1987 Constitution – of which one of the most vocal members is revered Constitutionalist and Jesuit Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ – set up a system that has consistently produced presidents who do not have a majority mandate. The 1987 Constitution did not support the creation of a two-party system which would enable the electoral winner to emerge with an absolute majority, and instead, allows for multiple candidates to run for president. The real dilemma here is that allowing multiple candidates to run for President of the Philippines invariably results in splitting the vote in three ways or more, in which there is a big possibility that the candidate who emerges with the most number of votes merely wins with a plurality but unfortunately does not have a majority (more than 50%) of all votes cast. A President who does not get a majority of all votes cast is a Minority President.

Having a minority president is obviously a major disadvantage and creates a crisis of governance. In fact, it is a curse. Minority Presidents are always disadvantaged, because Philippine media has always had the tendency to pander to the preferences of the public. A minority president with say, 40% of the vote, will have 60% of the electorate stacked against him as they did not vote for him, making him vulnerable to gripes, complaints, and negative articles published in the papers.

Every single Philippine President who came after the late President Cory C. Aquino has been a minority president. Former President Fidel Ramos only had 23.5% of the entire vote thanks to so many rival candidates running for the presidency in the 1992 elections. Ousted former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was a minority president, having just around 40% of the entire number of votes cast. And in 2004, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also a minority president with around 38% of all votes cast. It is no surprise, therefore, that all of them were often presented unfavorably by media during their term.

In fact, our popular new president, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is himself a minority president as his mandate is said to be just around 42%, with roughly 58% of the electorate having voted for another candidate.

Now, lest we think that Minority Presidents are extremely common around the world, the fact is that in a majority of countries that allow for multiple candidates for President such as France, numerous countries in Latin America, countries using a presidential system in Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and even East Timor, the prospect of a Minority President (a president with less than 50% of all total votes cast) is thoroughly avoided through provisions for a second round of elections called the “Run-Off.”

Le Pen took 16% versus Chirac’s 19% in 2002’s first round as the vote was split among 16 candidates. After the Run-off: Chirac won 82%, Le Pen took 18%

The dynamics for holding Two-Round elections are simple: The first round of elections pits all candidates, say, 3 or more candidates for President against each other. After they slug it out in the first round, the top 2 candidates who emerge from the first round are then pitted against each other in the Run-Off election, where a week or more after the first round, everyone goes back to the polling stations to vote in the second round “Run-Off.” Since there are only two candidates in a run-off, a clear majority-winner will emerge. It is in such an electoral system where people who voted for other candidates during the first round are then forced to “choose the lesser evil” during the “Run-Off” round. At the very least, voters can choose whom they really want during the first round, and if their favorite candidate was eliminated after the first round, it’s during the run-off where they throw their support behind one of the two candidates.

Here is an example: France’s 2002 Elections. The first round of elections saw numerous candidates slugging it out with Gaullist re-electionist Jacques Chirac coming out on top and with Right-wing “Neo-Nazi” and anti-immigration Front National candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen snatching second place. As there were too many candidates, Jacques Chirac did not get a majority of the vote, so a Run-Off had to be held exactly one week after, pitting the top two candidates from the first round  against each other. The Run-Off was an amazing display of solidarity among the French in order to avoid allowing a “Neo-Nazi” like Le Pen to emerge victorious. Everyone from the Left – Communists, Socialists, even people who had formerly hated the right-of-center Gaullists with a vengeance, went in all-out support for Jacques Chirac in order to ensure the defeat of far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Front National candidate Le Pen.

Alas, the 1987 Constitution made absolutely no provisions for a run-off election, nor did the Constitution’s framers find it important to avoid having a minority president. That is a major defect.

Unfortunately, this inherent defect in the 1987 Constitution cannot be fixed unless the Constitution is amended. That is exactly what a Constitutional Amendment is all about: If something is missing, needs to be removed, or changed in the Constitution (never mind if it’s a word or a punctuation mark), the Constitution needs to be amended. There is unfortunately no real way around it. The 1987 Constitution is defective and needs thorough revision, if not an overhaul.

The Better Way: Soccer and the Parliamentary System

Fortunately, since it is clear that both basketball and the current Philippine Presidential System are more and more proving to be inappropriate and extremely non-conducive to success for Filipinos, we now have the opportunity to look at the clear alternatives. For our “national team sport”, we definitely should consider soccer. For our form of government, we should bid Adieu to the Presidential System and move on towards the highly recommended Parliamentary System. (Recommended by Ivy League Political Scientists and Economists)

We already know the issue with basketball. Basketball requires height and average Filipinos just don’t have height. Rather than continuing to produce heart-broken basketball-loving youngsters whose dreams of going professional are shattered by their inability to grow to at least 6 ft tall, it’s about time our society – led by our Government, Media, Schools, and our Businesses who sponsor sporting events – decisively shifted over to soccer.

There should be no turning back. Soccer is clearly the World’s Beautiful Game, loved by almost everyone of all creeds, colors, cultures, languages, races, and continents. It is a sport that can allow Filipinos to excel because it does not require nor does it even favor height in order for players to be successful. It is a sport that promotes more teamwork as there is much more ball-passing that goes on than in basketball. In soccer, most goals are scored as a result of teamwork and last-minute ball-passing, in contrast to basketball’s tendency to promote keeping the ball to oneself selfishly in order to reap the glory of scoring.

We also know that the Presidential System has the tendency to promote personality politics due largely to the electoral procedure of choosing an individual candidate to become President. During such Presidential campaigns especially in the Philippines, candidates are extremely likely to promote and differentiate themselves from their opponents by talking more about their own personal traits. Instead of playing up their party-affiliations and their party platforms, advocacies, and policy proposals, Presidential candidates in the Philippines, are forced to play the popularity game simply because it is ultimately popularity, winnability, and name-recall that gets voters picking a candidate’s name on the Presidential System’s ballot. Worse, the Philippine Presidential System creates Minority Presidents.

Question Time: You need to know your stuff well to be Prime Minister

In stark contrast, the Parliamentary System requires the formation of majority governments, through either of two ways: a party can win an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats, and immediately, the majority party’s leader immediately becomes the Prime Minister. Another way such a majority government is formed is through coalition-building. Coalition-blocs can be formed, so that if one bloc gains a majority of all seats in parliament, that coalition then forms the government, and the leader of the party with the most seats within that majority bloc emerges as Prime Minister. Prime Ministers in a Parliamentary System, therefore tend to have more majority-support and therefore a clearer mandate than minority Presidents emerging from the runoff-less Philippine Presidential Elections.

Moreover, the Parliamentary System is a much more party-centric system whose campaigns tend to be much more issues-advocacy, ideas-centric (as opposed to personality-centric), and platform-focused as the electoral dynamics do not involve the Pubic Electorate directly choosing who the Prime Minister will be. This does not even talk about the Parliamentary System’s bias towards leaders with competence and solid knowledge of all the relevant details regarding the country’s affairs: A Parliamentary System features a weekly Question Time session where the Prime Minister and his Front Benchers (Cabinet) are grilled by members of the opposition to make sure that all angles relating to policy-making and functioning of the government and cabinet have considered the best options and are also running properly. A Prime Minister must therefore be on his toes, totally knowledgeable, and able to respond extemporaneously as he is often expected to answer most questions without deferring to other members. For this reason, not all ordinary MP’s aspire to become PM and members of the majority party often cooperate to help brief the PM and the front bench on what they need to know so that they can properly respond. This Parliamentary feature further promotes more solid team dynamics as party members close-ranks to support their PM and party front-benchers.

Listed below are two ways in which the Philippines can develop a True Party System where the politicians rally around ideas, platforms, and consistent policies, and form a loyalty to their parties and their core principles, and where the voting public can be made to look less at personalities and look more at the collective nature of parties and vote accordingly:

  1. Dr. Kasuya´s observation: 1 term only limit = weaker parties

     Removal of Term Limits – Allowing the top leader to continue to stand for elections more than once (removal of term limits) actually promotes stronger party dynamics as parties cease to be ad-hoc election clubs that get formed only to defray election-period campaign costs, and become more long-standing and consistent in rallying around a stable policy-platform in order to maintain continuity. This was the observation made in a research paper entitled “Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies as well as the book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines“, both authored by Japanese political scientist Dr. Yuko Kasuya, PhD when she observed that the party structure of the Philippines rapidly deteriorated after the idea of presidential re-election was banned by the 1987 Constitution, thus preventing an elected President (or Head of Government) from standing for more than one term.  This has caused presidential aspirants as well as those people running together with them in their parties to unfortunately regard each election as essentially a one-shot deal. In case a presidential candidate does win and becomes President, there is hardly any real sense of continuity as that President and his staff only look at the specific 6 year term he has. One-shot deal thinking of that sort turns parties into ad-hoc “cliques of convenience” (my term), thereby eroding whatever sense of continuity and working for the same goals may have existed during the campaign. In short, the idea that an incumbent President may run for re-election develops a better focus on continuity among members of a party to act in support of the incumbent party-mate. Since Parliamentary Systems do not have term limits for Prime Ministers, the tendency for parties to act like one-shot, ad hoc, and temporary “cliques of convenience” is greatly reduced and in fact, practically eliminated, and it is thus no wonder that the party system is much stronger in countries using Parliamentary Systems. A Prime Minister who continues to enjoy his own party’s (or coalition’s) internal support, and whose party (or coalition) continues to enjoy a parliamentary majority stays on as Prime Minister. (Technically, under the Parliamentary System, the parties are bigger than the personalities involved, and so it does not matter who the Prime Minister should be, because it is the party or coalition and its accompanying platform that truly matters.)

  2. Strong Parties: a section of a US Ballot from the 1908 polls – Mark a circle in order to choose a Straight Party Ticket

    Forced “Straight Ticket Voting”– Superior party-dynamics emerges (or is further enhanced) when the ability to choose different candidates vying for different positions is eliminated, and replaced with a system that forces “Straight Ticket Voting” or “Straight Party Voting(sometimes confusingly called “bloc-voting” as that term may also mean groups voting as a “bloc” as in the INC’s tendency towards telling their members whom to vote for: “voting as a bloc”) The use of the term “Forced Straight Ticket Voting” clearly refers to the scenario where voters are not able to split the ticket across to vote  for a candidate from party A to be President, a candidate from party B to be Vice-President, and a candidate from party C for their local district representative.  “Straight Ticket Voting” in the USA would clearly refer to voting straight Republican (for all positions) or voting straight Democrat (for all positions).  Modifying the ballots to remove the ability to choose different candidates from different parties for each position and instead determine the party that the voter chooses and all candidates from the same party are assumed to be selected for all the relevant positions. This feature forces the electorate to cease looking at individual candidates and instead forces the voters to look at entire parties. Since political parties are not human beings with “individual personalities”, the key differentiator between political parties then becomes their Party Platforms.

Mahathir: Product of Parliamentarism

When one carefully looks at both, it is obvious that number 1 forces Strict Party Dynamics among the Politicians themselves, as they end up having better party discipline as they seek to allow for more continuity of their party’s programs instead of seeing their “parties” as mere ad-hoc cliques that stand for nothing and come together every 3 or 6 years with the sole purpose of simply pooling campaign financial resources together to share and defray the costs of their poster printing, TV and Radio advertising, etc. Number 2, on the other hand forces Strict Party Voting among the Electorate. As mentioned, the inability of the voters to “extricate” the personalities from the parties forces the electorate to look at parties as a whole, rather than rely on the default Filipino tendency which is to look for individual superstars.

Both these features which promote better Political Party Dynamics can be done within a Presidential System. Term-limits can be removed *and* the ballots can be redesigned to force voters to choose only straight party tickets. In order to do this, ballots should no longer have individual names of candidates, and instead, only party names will be written down and selected by the voters.

However, when you do both 1 and 2 within a Presidential System, you’ve essentially turned that Presidential System into a Parliamentary System, because this time, the voting system fuses the choice of Executive (President) and Legislative (Senate and Local District Representative) together so that both choices come from the same party.

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