Presidential or Parliamentary?
MANILA, Philippines - The recent Senate hearing chaired by Senator Miriam Santiago has again revived the controversial issue on Charter change. This, and calls for constitutional reforms in several Middle East countries (Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, etc.) undergoing civil unrest, are valid arguments for bringing it up for public debate. Six eminent constitutionalists - former CJ Reynato Puno, former Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, former UP President Jose Abueva, former AJ Adolf Azcuna, former Law Dean Merlin Magallona, and former AJ Florentino Feliciano who were invited to the hearings, presented their views on either a parliamentary-federal or presidential structure. The first three favor a shift, the other two are neutral, and the last, against, if not cautionary about any change. Columnist Winnie Monsod, citing studies by experts, suggests further analysis of studies on the parliamentary structure, and especially of its potential impact with regard to corruption, democratic survivability, government spending, ability to implement structural reforms, and economic performance. Since there is not much significant correlation between the structure of government and these variables, Monsod asks whether there indeed is a compelling need to change to a parliamentary system.
Let me review some of those comparisons that have been brought up in early debates. One states that parliamentary democracies tend to last longer than presidential democracies. The difference in their survival rates is not, however, due to the country's wealth, economic performance, or conditions under which they emerged. The instability of presidential democracies is explained by the separation between the executive and legislative - deadlocks, lack of a constitutional principle that can be invoked to resolve conflicts (vote of no confidence) present in parliamentary regimes. Extra-constitutional means are resorted to, causing instability (Jose Antonio Cheibub, 2001).
Another study testing the relationship between a measure of parliamentary rule and 14 indicators in 3 policy areas - political development, economic development, and human development, show a strong relationship between parliamentarianism and good governance. (John Gerring et al, 2008) According to Tsebelis, (2000), the only difference is that because of greater institutional fragmentation, presidentialism offers greater resistance to change. Parliamentary systems foster stronger political parties, have more institutionalized, centralized decision-making and hierarchical administrative structures, and are more decisive, while presidential systems foster a more personalized and free-floating style of leadership centered on individual politicians. …