The Deficiencies of our Presidential and Vice-Presidential System

The relationship of the current President and Vice President has exposed not only their character flaws, but also the institutional deficiencies of our Presidential and Vice-Presidential system.

 

The level of political tension between the country's two highest elected public officials went up two to three notches higher following the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses. The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo became a trending twitter topic while the typhoon was ravaging Metro Manila and several parts of Luzon. On Tuesday night, 17 November 2020, President Duterte was visibly agitated after claiming that Vice President Robredo sought his physical presence in the middle of the typhoon. The President and Vice President's camps continue to exchange retorts on the issue.

The behavior being exhibited by the two highest officials of our country is only sowing further division among our people. At a time where people are looking for a unified response, they have instead resorted to blaming and shaming of each other's works and actions. The relationship is irreparable especially that President Duterte and Vice President Robredo each represents two different political groups completely polar to each other in terms of governance methods and political ideology. At the end of the day, harmony in government’s efforts are disrupted by the political conflict between its two highest institutional heads.

Historically, the relationship between Philippine Presidents and Vice Presidents has often been marred by lingering threats of the Vice President plotting to succeed or take over through constitutional or extra-constitutional means. This is especially true if the President and Vice President come from different political parties. In the Philippines, it is important to note that there is a separate electoral contest for the Offices of the President and Vice President. If no amount of calls for unity and cooperation have worked in the past until today, what institutional remedies are available to address this perennial political concern. 

More than expecting President and Vice Presidents to be civil and cooperative to each other despite party affiliation, institutional reforms are necessary wherein the President and Vice President are elected as a team and not individually. This system is currently being used in the United States where Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates are elected as a tandem and not separately. The single-ticket voting system for President and Vice President was considered by President Duterte's Charter Change Consultative Committee to ensure that politics does not interrupt and obstruct the work of government. However, this measure should be pursued along with the enactment of a strong political party reform law that penalizes party-switching.

Philippine Presidents do not get enough sleep not just because of the many problems that beset the country, but also with constant worries and concerns that their Vice Presidents would unseat them by hook or by crook. The relationship of the current President and Vice President has exposed not only their character flaws, but also the institutional deficiencies of our Presidential and Vice-Presidential system. The problem also lies with the system, not just with the personalities.

Institutions are known for motivating and influencing behavior. But for systemic and behavioral changes to take shape, we must elect leaders with a reputation for championing institutional reforms.

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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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