The Pitfalls of the current Presidential Form

Change may not entirely be coming after all as far as the proposed constitutional reforms are concerned.

Majority of the members of the Charter Change Consultative Commission voted to retain the Presidential form of government under a Federal-Presidential system. Senior members of the body cited 'familiarity' as a major ground which influenced their vote to retain the presidential setup.

The presidency is loaded with overwhelming and burdensome powers and responsibilities. I have come to realize and experience this reality during my years in political work. This unenviable task includes the appointment of over 50,000 government officials and management of over 400 government agencies. This does not even include the indirect control of the President over both the Senate and House of Representatives.

In reality, one of the unwritten tasks of the President is also to balance the numerous interests of over 100 million Filipinos. However, when about only 40 families have control over the country's political power and economic resources, a President will always be bound to appease and work with the elite. Otherwise, he/she may experience a highly-stressful tenure, removal from office may it be through legitimate or illegitimate means, or assassination at worst.

In addition, the President also has to ensure that the entire government is properly and efficiently functioning. While fulfilling his/her appointing duties is a critical component in managing the bureaucracy, attracting the best and brightest in government remains a challenge. This is due to the purported unprofessional working environment in government offices, nepotism, and low pay for non-appointive positions.

The demands levied to a President are far greater than his/her stated mandate. This is why I'm personally in favor of a hybrid (semi-presidential) system where executive powers are shared between the President and Prime Minister.

It is clear and apparent that the Presidential form has not worked and will not work given present and future circumstances. The 'familiarity' argument raised for the presidential form has actually been used by political blocs and personalities to play around with the current system in order to satisfy their vested interests. If we weigh the costs and benefits of retaining the presidential form, the variance will likely be high in favor of its costs.

As some federalism advocates have claimed, tweaking shall be done on the extent of the executive powers which can be exercised by the President under the proposed Federal-Presidential model. Tweaking, however, will not likely ease the burden imposed upon the Presidency and facilitate improved governance at the same time.

At the end of the day, we must not go for piecemeal reforms in governance. Change may have risks but it presents greater opportunities for reform.

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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