Our government’s response in handling the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the inefficiencies of our current system. Why?
- Under the unitary system, the national government sets rules and guidelines while the local government units cannot independently act on their own and are being micromanaged from the top levels of leadership despite the fact that these local governments have more knowledge on the ground.
- Under the presidential system, the president either lacks power or is being given too much power over handling this crisis, as he has to rely on the legislative branch in order to be granted powers. And because of this, there is a lack in accountability, and even if a government official is being incompetent, he cannot be immediately replaced as the said official serves under the pleasure of the president.
- Under the 40/60 economic restrictions, we have to rely on loans, higher taxes, development aid, or austerity measures in order to fund emergency measures as we lack additional taxation revenue deriving from foreign direct investments.
Now that is getting clearer and clearer that we are being messed up by our current system of government, what should we do? Replacing our incumbents will not be enough because even a good politician can be eaten up by the rotten system. We have to have a new system in place so that it is assured that meaningful change in this country will last beyond a politician’s term.
What are these key reforms needed?
- Adoption of federalism – The Philippines is a multi-ethnic society so concentrating political and economic power in one area is not a good idea. Political and economic power should be devolved for faster delivery of services, more efficient local governance, and for the country’s diversity to be respected.
- Adoption of a parliamentary system – Countries using the parliamentary system are proven to have stronger accountability because of constant parliamentary debates where government policies are scrutinized in real time, and have stronger independent institutions that check graft and corruption. The Philippines deserve to join the ranks of these countries too.
- Removal of 40/60 restrictions – The Philippines has to be opened up to foreign direct investments from all countries as these investors will provide additional jobs and taxes that will contribute to our economic growth, and provides the skills necessary for us to develop our own industries.
Adoption of these three key reforms is not an easy task. It requires extensive amendments to our Constitution, the fundamental law of the land, for these to be implemented. Some people may be averse to the idea, but in a functioning democracy, changes to the Constitution will be necessary for the maturity of our political processes and to make sure that our fundamental laws are in tune with the changing times.
May this pandemic be a time of reflection for us that we should think of long-term solutions on how to make our country a better place.