Senatorial midterm elections are scheduled to take place in The Philippines in May of 2019. Currently, there is a move to cancel the elections and instead go forward with a People’s Initiative – a public vote to amend the current 1987 Constitution of The Philippines in order to move forward with proposals for either a federal republic or a federal-parliamentary republic.
As President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to change the political system of the country before leaving office in 2022, there remains a clear impetus to make the desired changes sooner rather than later. Against this background, there is nothing undemocratic in cancelling midterm elections that will in any case simply put a new set of lame ducks in power for a necessarily limited period before a new political system takes over.
Once again, the enemies of political reform in The Philippines are using the language of democracy to stifle what could be the most meaningful democratic vote in modern Philippine history – one to forever change the very political framework and organisation of the country as a whole. A public referendum on proposed constitutional changes is a far more meaningful vote than that for Senators whose position will irrevocably change when the new system comes into play.
The entire argument over whether to cancel the 2019 midterms and replace the vote with a People’s Initiative is itself a new argument in favour of the establishment of a federal-parliamentary democracy for the country. Unlike in US style presidential/congressional systems such as the current one in The Philippines, parliamentary elections are not based on fix dates but rather, elections are held when a government leader calls for new elections or when the opposition win a vote of no confidence against the current government, thus forcing a change in government and the inevitable calling of new elections.
Such a system is based on realities on the ground rather than on arbitrary dates which do not account for the real-time political life of a nation. The fact that an arbitrary election date looks set to prolong the much needed reform process by effectively postponing a vote on political change in order to elect a new batch of lame ducks means that the country’s genuine political progress is being held back by a Congressional system whose rote predictability has a chilling effect on a dynamic democracy that is able to be actively shaped by political opinion rather than be restrained by arbitrary rules.
While senators continue to argue about their narrow interests, such tactics serve as a distraction from the central debates that should be taking place in the country, namely those exploring the difference between a presidential and parliamentary system. Orion Perez, a campaigner for a federal-parliamentary system in The Philippines recently conducted a countrywide media blitz where he debated his position in front of the cameras. Below is a collection of clips in which Perez makes the case for why a parliamentary-federal republic will help to ensure a brighter economic and social future for the country while promoting more political accountability.