3 Questions to Ask Before Voting in The Philippine Election

This coming week, Filipinos will vote in Congressional/Senatorial elections whose process is needlessly complicated, lacking in transparency and that under the worst possible scenario will result in the perpetuation of a political system that is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Some Filipinos still do not realise that when compared to straightforward parliamentary elections, their voting process is something of a minefield. Countries with parliamentary systems tend to have much simpler electoral processes than those in presidential systems, let alone a presidential system as needlessly convoluted as that in The Philippines.

Whilst a Philippine ballot often looks like a university level statistical examination, in parliamentary systems, one generally simply puts a check mark next to the party name (and or logo) that one supports. The entire process takes less than a minute. Easier voting processes encourage democratic engagement and guarantee that votes are conducted in a straightforward and transparent manner, rather than in a strategic or even devious manner.

In many ways though, the needlessly complicated voting process in The Philippines is somewhat appropriate considering that once elected (on idiotically staggered terms), Congressional representatives, Senators, a President and a Vice President can all openly conflict with each other, thus resulting in hardly anything getting done for the nation’s people.

If a nation can only produce one majoritarian democratic mandate at any given time, it is absurd to elect rivalling legislative bodies and rivalling chief and vice executives who can in theory and often times in practice have several conflicting sub-mandates that serve only to obscure the collective opinion of the country as a whole.

Inversely, in a parliamentary system, a straight forward election in which all men and women get to vote for the party of their choice will determine which faction controls the legislature and gets to form an executive drawn from that same legislature. Such a system not only accurately reflects the majoritarian mandate of the people, but it does so in a manner that is simpler, more cost effective and because parliamentary systems do not produce deadlock between competing branches of government, the government can produce results for the people in a more rapid and efficient fashion.

Because of this, Filipinos most vote carefully in forthcoming elections as a fundamental issue of governance is at stake. This is ultimately far more important than which group of policy makers is elected to govern within a system that is objectively poor at delivering the results that people desire.

As such, beyond all else, one must consider the position of parties, candidates and mangled party lists when it comes to the all important issues of fundamental reform. The simple questions that must be asked are:

1. Do you or your party support a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system? 

2. Do you or your party support a shift from a unitary to a federal model of governance? 

3. Do you support or oppose constitutional reforms to remove restrictions on prosperity creating foreign direct investment (FDI)?

These questions, over and above all other considerations ought to be the crux on which this election is fought. In an ideal world, the 2019 election in The Philippines will be the final one ever contested on the basis of the current broken system. In order to make this a reality, one must strive to locate, endorse and support men and women who are up to the task of pushing for the reforms that The Philippines has required for decades.

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