Thursday, February 02, 2006

House body okays change in form of government

MANILA -- The House committee on constitutional amendments approved on Wednesday the shift in the system of government from bicameral-presidential to unicameral-parliamentary.

The committee adopted the proposal, principally sponsored by Davao del Sur Representative Douglas Cagas, with a vote of 27 to six in favor of the measure.

Ironically, two staunch administration congressmen--Salacnib Baterina Ilocos Sur and Exequiel Javier of Antique--voted against the shift to parliamentary system.

Baterina believed that under the parliamentary system, government will do away with checks and balances which are very much present under the present system.

"We do away with check and balances. One department, meaning the executive, the judiciary or the legislative, can no longer be checked by another department except by the judiciary," Baterina said.

Cagas, while insisting on the need for a shift from presidential to parliamentary, said it would definitely solve the problem on corruption.

"In the case of parliament, there is a good chance that emerging corruption will be stopped," Cagas said.

This, however, was immediately refuted by opposition Representatives Satur Ocampo (party-list, Bayan Muna) and Roilo Golez of Parañaque City.

Ocampo said the issue of corruption cannot be solely solved by a mere change of the system, claiming there are countries with parliamentary governments still racked by corruption.

"This would not resolve the issue of corruption," Ocampo said and this was echoed by Golez.

"I don't think we can blame it on the system of government," Golez said, referring to the emerging corruption, political, and economic instability.

Golez further explained that during the 1940s and early 1970s, the country emerged as one of the most accomplished nations in Asia. The country, being next to Japan, was more competitive compared to its neighboring countries.

"But when the government changed its system to parliamentary in 1973, that was the time when the country's golden years started to deteriorate," he said, adding that what the country needs now is "character change."

Prior to the approval of the shift of the system of government, constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas also appeared before a forum on Charter amendments to dismiss the stand made by Malacañang allies that they can pursue Charter amendments even in the absence of the Senate.

Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (Concom) and Ateneo Law Department, dismissed an earlier theory that a special Congress session be called so the Senate and the House of Representatives could jointly deliberate and vote on Charter amendments.

"The 1987 Constitution respects the independence of the two Houses of Congress. Each instance of votation shall always be done separately by the two Houses. Either House could agree or reject the proposals of the other," Bernas told the critique on Charter Change forum which was attended by 19 legislators, mostly from the opposition.

Leading the legislators were forum sponsors Ocampo, Joel Virador, Rafael Mariano (party-list Anakpawis) and Liza Maza (party-list, Gabriela Women's Party). Also in attendance were Representatives Ronaldo Zamora, Henedina Abad, Hermilando Mandanas, Roilo Golez, Gilbert Remulla, Eduardo Zialcita, Etta Rosales, Nereus Acosta, Darlene Custodio, Teofisto Guingona III, Rodante Marcoleta, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Manuel Mamba, Belma Cabilao and Agapito Aquino.

Dr. Temario Rivera, former chair of the UP Political Science Department and current board member of the Center for People Empowerment and Governance, focused on the merits and demerits of the models of government even as he stressed that discussions on which model is better should be well-grounded on the prevailing social realities.

Rivera said the blame for social, political, and economic problems should not be pinned on a single institution such as the bicameral Congress or the presidential system.

Also present in the forum was lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (Codal). He criticized the Malacañang-controlled House for pushing Charter amendments that would make the President less accountable.

He was referring to some provisions in the proposed Charter giving the President more power, at the same time making impeachment moves more difficult. (DBP/Sunnex)

No comments: