Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘charter change’

Proportionally Represented Parliament

Posted by butalidnl on 20 November 2011

I am not really proposing Charter Change, but if comes down to it, I would propose changing the Philippine system from a US-style winner-take-all district system to a system of proportional representation.

In a proportional representation system, people vote for the party of their choice, and the total seats in parliament are divided based on the percentages of votes for a given party. Thus, if the parliament has 100 members, a party that gets 10% of the votes will get 10 seats.

Why is a Proportional Representation System Better?
A proportional representation system will result in simpler, cheaper government, and the development of real parties. This system could be implemented so that not only is the national parliament elected this way, but also provincial and city officials. Thus, mayors and governors will be selected by city or provincial councils.

Simpler Elections. People would only have to remember the name of the party of their choice, instead of the names of a lot of candidates. This means that he/she would need to remember at most 3 parties (assuming that he prefers different parties for various levels) – for parliament, province and city. Simple.

Administering such an election is simple; the ballots are simple, and if ballot boxes are separated by level (national, provincial, city), counting is just a matter of piling ballots. It also means that less money would be used in the campaign. There would be no need for sample ballots, and advertisements need to only project a party name. Also, campaign machinery is organized per party, there would be no need for a personal campaign machinery.  And because campaigning is cheap, there is less chance that rich people would control the election.

Programs. Members of Parliament will represent the people who voted for their party. And this means that a party’s program will be more important than individual candidates’ profiles. In Europe, this has led to parties representing various parts of the population, with different policy proposals. Parties who are simply for ‘clean government’ or ‘change’ (and thus, no real program) will be voted out. Parties will stress on the policies in which they stand out.

Every Vote Counts. In a district system, minorities have no voice. If you don’t want either of the two choices for an office, you can’t do anything. You may also decide not to vote if you expect that your candidate has on chance of winning. In a proportional representation system, every vote counts towards the seats that the party will be alloted. In theory, even a single vote could result in a difference of one seat in parliament.

No Pork Barrel. Since Members of Parliament represent parties (and not districts), pork barrel allotments would no longer be necessary or even applicable. Members of Parliament will be more focused on the making of laws, and not on naming a school or bridge, or other specific ‘goodies’ for their districts.

Not District Parliamentary
A UK-style district parliament would not be as good as a proportional representation type of parliament. A UK-style parliament will not make every vote count, there would be more (not less) pork barrel, and the rich can still control the outcome of elections. The UK-style system would only be marginally better than a presidential system.

A proportional system of electing representatives already exists in the Philippines – in the form of the party-list system. The party-list system just needs to be expanded to include all the members of parliament, and it should be opened to all political parties.

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Constitution’s “national patrimony” provisions should be strengthened

Posted by butalidnl on 26 August 2006

One of the “charter change” proposals of the House of Representatives and the Consultative Commission (ConCom) is the opening up of most of the Philippine economy to foreign investors. And unlike the other, more debated, proposals e.g. federalism or the parliamentary form of government, the proposal to open the economy to foreigners does not seem too controversial. It seems that the majority of Filipinos accept the need for additional investment funds from outside the country, and assume that foreigners are the only source of such funds. Even some progressive groups are trying to tiptoe around this issue because they are afraid of getting marginalized if they defend the 1987 Constitution’s “national patrimony” provisions too energetically.

I disagree with the proposal to drop the “national patrimony” provisions. In fact, I think we can even strengthen these.
I believe that what the Philippines needs is not the money from foreigners, but rather their technology and market access. There is enough money from rich Filipinos in the Philippines, as well as from Overseas Filipinos to fund most investment projects. Of course, if a foreign company wants to set up a large airplane assembly plant or something as big as that, perhaps this would be a bit beyond the capacity of local and overseas Filipinos; but this kind of project will be so rare that the government could be authorized to allow this kind of exceptional projects. What the country needs is a good system to tap Overseas Filipinos’ investment funds.
As for accessing foreign technology, this is still best done through licensing, franchising, joint ventures or management contracts.
And access to foreign markets are a matter of trade negotiations. This could be exchanged for market access to the Philippines on a reciprocal basis. This is different from opening sectors to foreign ownership.

At present, with the government is doing all it can to get foreign investments, it is relegating Overseas Filipinos to minor development roles. Filipinos abroad who have other passports are treated worse than “white” foreigners, when it comes to investment incentives. This should be corrected, and Overseas Filipinos should be treated the same way as Philippine-based Filipinos when it comes to the rules that govern their investments.

Posted in charter change, Overseas Filipinos | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Charter Change and Overseas Filipinos

Posted by butalidnl on 25 May 2006

Charter change, or amending the constitution, is a proposal that literally does not include Overseas Filipinos. In the first place, we were not consulted in the process of proposing changes to the constitution. Also, if it finally comes to a referendum on whether or not to accept the constitution, we will not be able to participate. The Overseas Absentee Voting Law, which entitles us Overseas Filipinos to vote, excludes us from participating in referenda and plebiscites.

The government-sponsored proposed amendments to the constitution will also disenfranchise us from participating in Philippine elections. Under the present Overseas Absentee Voting Law, Overseas Filipinos could vote for national posts:i.e. president, vice president, senators and partylist members of the House of Representatives. Under the proposed shift to the parliamentary system these posts will disappear: the president and the prime minister will be voted on by parliament, the Senate will disappear, and even the partylist system will be replaced. This all means that the so-called Charter Change proposal will keep us Overseas Filipinos outside of the Philippine electoral process.

This is not to say that Overseas Filipinos do not have anything to gain from changing the constitution. It’s just that the proposed changes as they now stand will negate our gains so far. We would be more in favor of amendments that will improve our standing as Overseas Filipinos. For one, it would be good to have a number of congress (or parliament) seats allotted to Overseas Filipinos. Also, there could be a clearer framework that would protect our rights while at the same time encourage us to maximize our contribution to Philippine development. These kinds of provisions could all be part of an “Overseas Filipino section” within the constitution. Our role and potential contributions to Philippine society and its economy should warrant such a section.

Posted in charter change, Overseas Filipinos, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »