We must address urgent institutional reforms now!

MACAPADO A. MUSLIM, Ph.D.
University Professor (Ret,) &
Former President
Mindanao State University

Our current miserable national situation is a glaring result of the DEBACLE IN PUBLIC GOVERNANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES in the past seventy-five (75) years! There must be something terribly wrong with our foundational political institutions, aside from having many prebendalistic and bad leaders. Right political institutions are producers and enablers of good leaders and citizens, and they also impede bad ones.

For administrative reengineering or reinvention efforts to be more effective, our bureaucracy needs urgent refounding or refoundationing works first. We now have to consider seriously  the proposal for shifting from presidential to parliamentary and  from unitary to federal system. These proposed changes are deemed by many scholars to be more effective in divided societies like the Philippines. Another reform is the strengthening of our electoral and political party systems.

The country’s archipelagic nature, ethnocultural diversity, huge regional imbalances and inequities, and the need for more effective local autonomy and empowerment and fast delivery of services to the entire archipelago suggest an ecosystem warranting federalism.

The political institutional reforms (which should be customized to our country’s context) should be facilitative of the election of good leaders; the determination of right directions of growth and development of the country and the formulation of right policies, programs and services; and the efficient implementation of the above items.

The debates in the upcoming election campaign must address the above political institutional reforms. Candidates and political parties should craft reform packages or platforms beyond short-term Covid-19 recovery and poverty alleviation initiatives and symptoms-focused anti-corruption and anti-crime campaigns, and emphasize fundamental state capacity building interventions which are crucial to making the Philippines prosperous, peaceful, respectable and resilient in the 21st century.

In the case of the parliamentary system, illustrative of its efficacy is the fact that nine of the world’s Top Ten countries in terms of quality of life index are all parliamentary. These are Denmark (ranked 1st), Finland, Australia, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, New Zealand, Germany and Estonia. USA and the Philippines which are presidential ranked 15th and 78th respectively. 

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