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Highlights of the Forum on Semi-Presidentialism and a Dual Executive

The forum titled “Dual Executive and Semi-Presidentialism” is part of a bigger initiative to raise awareness and disseminate information on Federalism and alternatives to the present setup. It was attended by several House Members, Congressional Staff members, Secretariat employees, and representatives from various government agencies. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, in a message read by Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, reiterated his support to Federalism, seeing it as a means to spread development across the country.

The forum put Semi-Presidentialism forward as an alternative to the present setup. Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) Director General Romulo Emmanuel Miral, Jr., in his opening remarks, talked about revisiting the existing powers of the executive. Four distinguished resource persons shared their ideas for the rest of the day.

Mr. Edmund Tayao’s presentation focused on the reasons why Federalism was a much-needed reform in the Philippines. This was based on his observation that the country’s capacity to correct market failures was weak due to the state of its political institutions. Piecemeal reforms resulted to unintended consequences. Tayao argued that Federalism could provide the necessary political space appropriate for a democracy, such as the Philippines, as democracies require some level of autonomy within which political decision-making can take place.

Dr. Julio Teehankee defined concepts and presented pros and cons of the different variants of Semi-Presidentialism. He focused on the need to look closely into Philippine institutions, particularly through the lens of executive-legislative relations. Political models were presented and Semi-Presidentialism was put forward as a viable model. Teehankee explained that while SemiPresidentialism can be a mechanism to prevent the emergence of dictatorships, it also poses risks that compromise the effective running of government, especially in instances of cohabitation, where the President and Prime Minister are from opposing parties. In closing, Teehankee offered principles to guide the country in its move towards reform. These include (1) limited presidential power, (2) effective legislature oversight, (3) meaningful power-sharing between Prime Minister and President, and (4) presidential leadership during crises. At the end of Teehankee’s lecture, Tayao presented a proposed framework for a Semi-Presidential system in the Philippines, developed by the PDP-LABAN Federalism Institute.

Dr. Eduardo Araral spoke on the benefits of the Semi-Presidential system over a Parliamentary or Presidential type. He said that a Semi-Presidential system is effective because of a decisive leadership and accountable because of the checks and balances between parliament, political parties, and the presidency. It is also effective in restraining executive leadership and preventing unchecked dictatorship. Araral expounded on the issues in a Semi-Presidential system, including how the government is formed and dismissed, how parliament is dissolved, the limits of the Presidency, and the distribution of powers. The lesson is to be careful when choosing the design of government because it will be hard to reverse the effects of wrong decisions. Lessons can also be drawn from country experiences.

Mr. Ramon Casiple dealt directly with the proposed Semi-Presidential design, with the President heading the state and the Prime Minister heading the government. Aside from head of state, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and top diplomat. The Prime Minister looks after the day to day domestic operations of government. The bicameral legislature is composed of the Federal Parliament and the Senate. Regional senators are representatives of the states or regions. Direct election makes the President the only nationally-elected official, able to represent the entire population on matters of policy. On the other hand, the Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament and is chiefly responsible in implementing federal laws and appointing senior federal officials.

Two sessions were allotted for questions from participants, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. One question touched on run-off elections and a two-round electoral system. Speakers answered that this had not yet been carefully considered. Another question dealt with terms of elected officials. The speakers answered that the proposal was to lengthen terms from three to five years. This applies to the President, who will be allowed to run for a one-time re-election. The likelihood of overlap between the President and Prime Minister was explored. The speakers explained that this is a likely scenario but that cases must be evaluated based on whether they are domestic or international in scope. While the President deals with foreign relations, the Prime Minister is in-charge of domestic policy. 

Questions in the afternoon sessions came mostly from House Members. Rep. Ronald Cosalan, Lone District of Benguet, asked about the status of special regions, like the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), in the proposed setup. Speakers responded that autonomy will remain, if notexpanded, not only for CAR but for the rest of the regions.

Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, 2nd District of Davao City who is concurrently Deputy Speaker, asked if there would be major deviations when comparing the proposed regions with the current ARMM setup. The resource persons gave a positive response, citing the expanded powers of the regions to be created, with wider authority on matters of revenue generation and spending.

Rep. Ben Evardone, Lone District of Eastern Samar, asked what will happen to other subnational government positions if regional governments are created. In response, the speakers said that one level will be taken out. They contemplated on either provinces or barangays. Asked if there is a timetable for the proposed reforms, the speakers replied that there is no clear timetable but that the ideal period is within the first three years of President Duterte’s administration.

Rep. Sharon Garin, AAMBIS-OWA Partylist who is concurrently Deputy Speaker, asked on what will happen to the Partylist System. One resource person replied that it will be integrated to the proportional representation system where partylists will compete with major parties. Rep. Garin noted the disadvantageous nature of the proposal, which Partylist Representatives would find hard to support. Another resource person pointed out that nothing in the proposal is etched in stone since these will go through Congress if a Constituent Assembly is convened. Given that setup, members of Congress will decide the details of the reform.  


Round Table Discussion
  The Dual Executive and Semi-Presidentialism
Speaker Nograless Hall
House of Representatives, Batasan Hills, Quezon City
01 February 2017, Wednesday
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

   P R O G R A M M E



HON. PANTALEON ALVAREZ, Speaker, House of Representatives
Opening Remarks
Director-General, Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD)
9:50-10:00 Introduction of RTD Speakers
Executive Director, Local Government Development Foundation
10:30-10:40     Break
Dean, College of Liberal Arts, De La Salle University
11:10-11:50     Open Forum
11:50-12:50     Lunch
DR. EDUARDO ARARAL, Vice Dean and Associate Professor
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
Executive Director, Institute for Political and Electoral Reform
2:00-2:50        Open Forum
Closing Remarks
Executive Director, PDP-LABAN Federalism Institute
Director, CPBRD
Master of Ceremonies 


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