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…

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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