Change in system of governance equals prosperity? Think again

Certain advocates of “constitutional reform” make use of two cornerstone arguments to support their position that a change in form of government will necessarily translate to an improved probability that the Philippines will prosper as a society over a given period: (a) a correlation between systems of government and evidence of prosperity in today’s nations, and (b) an “algorithm” for demonstrating how differences in systems of governance determine the quality of leaders elected into office.

constitutional_reform_philippinesThe above approach taken by constitutional reform “advocates” to persuade their audience to embrace their hypothesis hinges on the flawed notion that changing the Philippines’ system of government from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary form will necessarily spell a future of prosperity for the nation.

The cornerstone of my counter-argument revolves around a simple problem statement (what I will refer to henceforth as the proposition being tested):

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Statement A: Does a society’s system of governance strongly determine its ability to prosper?

In short, is..

SoG => P

(where: SoG = system-of-governance and P = prosperity)

… a valid argument?

The term prosper in the context of the above (and for the purpose of this article) I define as a society’s collective ability to tap natural capital, create and accumulate non-natural capital, and apply both to realise economic-added-value productivity gains to realise an improvement of its people’s standard of living.

My hypothesis is just as straightforward:

Statement B: System of governance is not a strong determinant of ability to prosper.

Before I go on to explore my hypothesis in greater detail, I shall first articulate a bit of what I think of the two persuasion approaches I cited above that serve as the cornerstones of these advocacies’ proposal to consider a change in the form of political governance over the Philippine state:

(1) Association does not imply a causal relationship

Asserting that the number of the top ten-odd most prosperous nations on the planet make use of the parliamentary system and the bottom ten-odd most impvoerished nations on the planet make use of a presidential system establishes a correlation but does not conclusively establish causality between a system of governance and an inclination to prosper.

(2) The algorithmic framework establishing the impact of a system of governance to the prospects for prosperity of a society proposed by advocates of a shift to the parliamentary system stops at the quality of leaders elected.

Some of the more developed literature on the proposal to change the Philippines’ system of government to a parliamentary one establishes a clear causal relationship between system of governance and quality of leadership.

To put this concept in its proper perspective, let us break up the problem statement, Statement A, into two of its relevant component parts:

Statement A(1): System of governance determines quality of elected leaders.

Statement A(2): Quality of elected leaders determines ability of a society to prosper.

In short:

SoG => QL and QL => P; therefore SoG => P.

(where QL = quality of elected leaders)

Let is suppose for argument’s sake that the first half of the proposition (Statement A(1)) being tested has been proven to be correct:

System of governance determines quality of elected leaders; or,
SoG => QL (proven to be valid!)

That then leaves the second half of the proposition being tested open for debate:

Quality of elected leaders determines ability of a society to prosper; or,
QL => P (not proven to be valid!)

That is where this “logical gap” is. A space that, in the venerable words of Captain Kirk, is the final frontier.

Indeed, my electioneering magnum opus Platform, plezâ„¢ is built around around a component structure consistent with Statement A and its components: (1) elect the right leader using world class thinking; and (2) hold said leader accountable using world class thinking. Perhaps, the nature of our system of governance is proven to be an enabler — or hindrance — to doing the earlier. But is it a factor in the latter?

In fact I had, a while back, already put a bit of rigour in fleshing out that last question in my article Who cares if Gloria is president after 2010?, thus:

* * *

Is there some kind of evidence or at least some kind of logical construct that convincingly describes some kind of causal relationship between (A) the character or even identity of the President of the Philippines and (B) the prospects of the Philippines achieving some semblance of sustainable prosperity?

Can we, infer from a value of A, what the probability distribution for a set of values of B might be?

For example, what many people claim to be a certainty can be expressed like this (using the conventions I loosely spelled out above):

IF A = GMA and Year > 2010,
THEN B = Disaster for the Philippines

My question is this: Is there an A=>B relationship?

* * *

Therefore the question in Statement A remains debatable and, hopefully, a convincing answer will emerge over a continued process of free enquiry.

Does a shift to a new system of governance necessarily imply a significant change in the probability that the Philippines will be a prosperous country, say, in ten years time?

Or for that matter in 50 years?

It’s another one of those things that make you go hmmmm

28 Replies to “Change in system of governance equals prosperity? Think again”

  1. your arguments reminds me of my logic class… A lot of modus ponens thingy and such still boggles on my mind and i always got stuck up in the middle… Hahaha Anyway, nice write-up 🙂

    1. Oligarchy + Monopoly= Disaster This equations can be in any system parliamentary or presidential. So just remove this and we’re fine Ilda.

      My symphaties scalaberch, but Ilda’s writing is really good.

      1. they both write good write-ups as far as i’m concerned… it’s just how we weigh the points they ponder… :)))

        and i’m still stuck in the middle… :3

  2. Well, there are, irrefutably, seventeen angels on the head of that pin, and they are dancing the samba.

    But let’s try an utilitarian approach.

    The 1987 constitution, whilst appearing to be modelled on the 1935 constitution, which appeared to be modelled on the US Constitution, has proven to be a very odd one in practice.

    In the Philippines we find political parties with neither an agenda nor any ability to control the elected representatives who claim to belong to them, whilst real power lies in the hands of a handful of extremely wealthy families. This is, to put it bluntly, pretty unique, and it has been, to put it politely, pretty unsucessful – under the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions the Philippines has slithered down the table of per capita GDP in East Asia from second to almost last.

    Papua New Guinea has something of a similar system under the guise of a parliamentary system.

    In most other nations, political parties have a “platform” that ordinary voters can understand.

    1. (sorry po, clicked the wrong button – let me continue…)

      Now, can we do anything to put right the very evident abuses?

      Is there any good reason for the Senate to be elected on a national franchise? The practical effect of this is to make the cost of a campaign for the Senate fearsomely high. Surely, senators elected regionally would be better?

      The “slate” to be voted for at an election is fearsomely long and complicated, so that the elector votes for a President, some Senators, a Congresscritter, his barangay captain and Uncle Tom Cobley and All.

      There is approximately no chance of the average elector, in any country, remembering “who is who” with such a long slate. With politicians changing their Party affiliation at the drop of a hat, Juan de la Cruz hasn’t a hope of remembering who he is voting for,let alone why, but he might remember the name of a basketball player, a boxer or a film star…

      Control of election spending is notoriously lax, with outright bribery of voters very common.

      Proceedings in the House and in the Senate are modelled on the US system with filibusters, privilege speeches and the Lord knows what.

      The Executive’s powers are far, far too weak, as they have been since the 1936 Constitution, and the Supreme Court is not respected as it should be.

      The Judicial branch is, frankly, in need of a complete overhaul,from top to bottom, which could usefully start by requiring Judges to hear cases without delay and which could continue by outlawing the Temporary Restraining Order.

      A comprehensive revision of the criminal code could be undertaken at the same time.

      The Executive needs to be given real power -if the parliamentary system were to be adopted and the Executive elected by the Legislature such increase in power would follow.

      This power is needed in order to raise the tax revenues to a sensible level and to spend them doing what Governments ought to do – providing defence, law and order, education, health and social security and building an effective infrastructure.

      A Parliamentary system will necessarily move control of election funds from the candidates themselves to the Parties, and “pork barrel” can usefully be abolished at the same time…

      So, what is this starting to look like?

      Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand?

      1. That is definitely a good take on the use of the Parliamentary System. I do merit the point of the post especially on the logic of causality and correlation. I think the article was meant to hit some(maybe just a few) advocates of changing the government system that simplifies it too much and that it will inevitably will cause “prosperity”. No wonder I see the points of the CoRRect movement as appealing, as it does not limit the notion of reform to the political arena alone. I think another article is in order to clarify this one.

    2. The 1986 Edsa “revolution” moved the country from being a dictatorship into a relatively free-wheeling “democracy”. That was a big step of a change, and yet the country at a fundamental level remained the same.

      Moving the country from a presidential into a parliamentary form of government, by comparison, is but a small tinkering just a change in form rather than a change in SUBSTANCE.

      The question then is this: if da Pinas failed to improve after the major change of 1986, what makes us believe that there will be significant improvement after a MINOR change as proposed by these ‘constitutional reform’ “advocates”?

      1. Benigno – I believe you to be that admirable thing, a moralist, one who sets out to improve the morals and manners of his nation, in the manner of Voltaire, Doctor Johnson and indeed Jose Rizal.

        I on the other hand am a pragmatist – I believe that many of the systems that we have now are an encouragement to people to behave badly, and that if they were changed people would be tempted to behave better.

        If taxes were collected efficiently government servants could be paid properly and would not have to have recourse to “tea money£ bribes. They would feel better about themselves and do a better job of work.

        If control of election funding were in the hands of parties, not individuals, more people would know what went on, so it would be harder to bribe voters and fake accounts.

        If Judges were not permitted to endlessly defer hearings, justice would be seen to be done and the jails would not be full of innocent people languishing on remand.

        If TROs were very severely restricted…

        If the Senate franchise were more practical…


      2. @Andrew, My observation comes from obvious examples, like the system of traffic laws and road marking in place in most Philippine cities, and the laws and ordinances in place to exact penalties from those who violate them. Yet all these are routinely flouted. You wonder then where this lack of any inclination to work with systems rather than against them is coming from.

        But you make a good point. Perhaps the bad behaviour is a response to a flawed system that does not serve its users well — like how we do not follow road lane markings when we drive in Philippine cities because we do not trust this system of markings to guide us safely and efficiently through traffic. So there may be a case for changing the sysem.

        Therefore like any project to change or replace a system, we need to understand whether the cost associated with the change is commensurate to the benefits expected. In this case, the proposal is to move from a presidential to parliamentary system. What are the benefits?

        As I pointed out in my earlier comment, there were great expectations for the future after the downfall of Marcos in 1986. The thinking there was that freedom would translate to more representative leadership in government, presumably “better leaders” who were freely chosen by popular vote. But this is the same “benefit” claimed by the proposal to change the system of government — “better leaders”. If it is the same claim and the earlier did not result in fundamental improvements in our ability to prosper from 1986 hence, what is our basis for assuming that it will be different under today’s proposal?

        1. @benign0 – agreed.

          A simple move to a parliamentary system achieves nothing of itself, but as a part of a programme of reform it is useful.o

          It is always a good idea to minimise opportunities for dishonesty and to maximise transparency – for the reasons I’ve given, these objectives are a bit more easy to attain in a parliamentary system.

          But a parliamentary system is no answer in itself…I had lunch today with a Singaporean friend – from a very well connected and wealthy Singaporean family – who spend most of lunch railing against the arrogance and stupidity of the “third generation” PAP leaders who, he says, have become focussed on lining their own pockets at the expense of the interest of the ordinary Singaporeans , and who in particular have not thought through their immigration proposals – he’s not against the proposals per se but points out that there is no plan to expand the housing stock to meet a population of 5 million by 2030 – he foresees that anti immigrant tensions will explode. Watch this space for a demonstration tomorrow…

          So nowhere is perfect – but Singapore has been very good for a long time.

          We need a system which encourages people to behave well..

        2. @Andrew: True, “encourage” being the key word here. One can lead a horse to water but one cannot necessarily make it drink.

          Filipinos presumably because they are “free” enjoy an abundance of options to choose from. But they exercise this “freedom by” electing idiotic politicians to whom they delegate the task of selecting which of said options to take.

          That’s what Pinoys are — lazy thinkers. Hey wait, that statement implies that Pinoys do think…. 😀

  3. I’m not against a system change. I’m willing to try it out, willing to go for it. How we go about it though seems to be one thing that needs some careful thought.

    But I remember someone saying that some communities run themselves. The leader seems to be irrelevant. A town for example replaces its mayor every 3 months, but it keeps running smoothly. People know how to run themselves in this, and don’t think like Filipinos saying, “give me a good reason to work properly!” They just work properly, because they know it’s the way to avoid the problems of the Philippines.

    1. That is something that I would like to happen in our country too. To be realistic though it would be the nice that the towns and cities be in the lead of such initiatives. A sense of “camaraderie” can be done much easier at the municipal level. I can cite Davao as an example. Being called the Republic of Davao City gives me the hint to cite them for such, along with the supportive stance of the citizens to most policies done in the city without much flak.

  4. any ‘change’ will benefit the wealthy but most likely try to appear to help the needy.
    you want change? try going to another country.
    wanna know where you stand? go climb a ladder, u kno?
    BTW, what are the ‘chaterring classes’? I mean, really, exactly what?

    a senators wife convicted of dollar smuggling, uh-oh! severe punishment? HA HA HA HA, NOT!!!! the beauty of the country lies in what money, real money…can buy! scandalous, and brazenly so!

  5. A parliamentary system ( which i personally prefer ) will still be populated by the same crooks so it is not the system per se that matters, but the mechanisms which stop and punish the erring politicians, combined with a true opposition, a balanced and independent media, and an educated electorate. Not very likely, unfortunately.
    The more objective represent a small percentage so the outcome of elections are determined by the uneducated majority who will always vote on name, free t-shirt, 200 pesos etc.
    we are stuck with the jungke monkeys

  6. Changing the form of government will not magically solve all of the country’s problems but that does not mean that it shouldn’t be done. It is just one of a collection of things that need to be changed to improve this country. Of course it’s not a silver bullet that will fix everything, changing the constitution is a very tedious process in of itself, but replacing a system that rewards mediocrity with one that rewards excellence is a very good start.

  7. Change in system of government will never change anything…same people governing…same political family dynasties…same provincial warlords…same corrupt people…we are already a basketcase in Asia…

  8. So you’re saying the problem is the Filipino people? That we’re incapable of producing great leaders? I think the real reason we don’t have any great leaders is because the system makes anyone with an ounce of integrity fail. To win a seat in our government, a candidate must show up on TV, have an easy recall name, and make lots of empty promises. They have to sell their souls to our rich and powerful local families before they even have a chance of winning. The only way to get rid of political dynasties is to adopt a system that would weed them out.

  9. Few points:
    The goal of the advocates of constitutional reform is no doubt is for prosperity (per definition above). Subtly driving home a point that their effort is inclined heading into the wrong destination, by latching the change of SoG is equal to Prosperity without declaring the other advocated reforms (e.g. economic protectionism), is definitely not giving justice to the stance of Pro-constitutional Reform camps.

    A holistic approach is deemed fit to reflect unbiasedly. Let’s say if one desires to know if a party can cook “adobo”, then it’s only just to bring in all the party’s secret “ingredients (e.i. chicken, sibuyas, toyo)” for fair analysis.

    chicken = liberal economic policy
    sibuyas = SoG
    toyo = “probinsya muna” development
    adobo = road to prosperity

    The piecemeal approach of this article is seem to be a strawman attempt to deconstruct the effort of constitutional reform advocates. By positing an analysis of SoG => P, in the CONTEXT of constitutional reform advocacies, is akin to saying that sibuyas is equal to adobo 🙂

    1. @Aman: Seems like you have one particular “movement” in mind here. 😉

      As I clarified at the introduction, the scope of this article is that aspect of “constitutional reform” that is about the proposal to change of system of governance. So, as you seem to have not noticed, the “deconstruction” you cite is indeed specifically questioning the notion that changing a country’s system of government necessarily leads to prosperity.

      Another article of mine questions the “if-you-open-it-they-will-enter notion we apply to foreign direct investment (FDI)”. That one, will also certainly be considered by you to be a “piecemeal approach” of an article on the basis of its scope being clearly defined as covering in its discussion specifically the idea of foreign direct investment as necessarily something that will lead Pinoys down the road to a future of prosperity as well.

      Thing with lazy thinkers is that despite an abundance of information they still fail to connect the dots — an important part of synthesizing sound conclusions. Rather than doing that work, they’d rather rely on half-witted sloganeers to do their thinking for them.

  10. Aman is right

    chicken = liberal economic policy
    sibuyas = SoG
    toyo = “probinsya muna” development
    adobo = road to prosperity”

    The prosperity of any country doesn’t solely rest on any one thing, but a combination of elements that come together to make its economy competitive. You’re saying that a change in the system isn’t needed, and that we don’t need foreign direct investments, but that is simply not true. Relaxing foreign restrictions will of course attract foreign investments, it’s just common sense. And companies that setup here, will of course hire Filipinos.
    You can try to make adobe without soy sauce but it wouldn’t taste the same.

  11. To begin with what is the meaning of “Quality Leader” in (general) Filipino mindset? Having free, restless, carefree and least responsible mindset this phrase alone would be so exhaustive to the majority of Filipinos.

    Very explicit example is how irresponsible, tactless and incapable of thinking things through (as benign0 stated in his earlier commentaries) was when 24 Oras aired last night the romantic “achievement” of the two UP students of vandalizing the government property to begin their courtship. 24 Oras should have rounded up their clip having the two vandals charged of appropriate disciplinary action (if UP has a policy on this offense) or would not have aired it at all. Now we can expect all school desks would be similarly vandalized. Thanks to 24 Oras.

    My point is with the current level of the moral values of the majority of Filipinos it would be near to impossible to have QL in any government institution, and even on most private agencies.

    If residences can sleep in their homes without caging themselves in steel bars up to the roof of their houses, and anybody can place their garbage bins outside their premises without being stolen, then perhaps we can see positive change in the moral values of the Philippines society, and perhaps quality leaders would be available in most government and private institutions.

  12. No government system in world could bring up good leaders in the Philippines government and even in most private agencies, much more to stop the squandering of people’s tax contributions.

    What the Filipino culture needs is correct discipline to enhance deeper sense of responsibility first to country, Maker and lastly self. But for now the deepest sense of responsibility of most is towards self, self then just self.

    For now although each of us hopes for the best, however, expecting to have quality leaders to pop up is like trying to reach for the most distant stars.

  13. The criminalisation of politics.

    Despite the cultural differences, philippine politics closely mirrors india in practice, which was one of my previous postings. Another flawed democracy.
    – family dynasties increasing their power base and stranglehold on all facets of life – business, media, sport, entertainment
    – politics offering legal immunity
    – 50% of assembly ( congressmen) charged with major crimes, but never processed, including rape, murder, robbery
    – increasing concentration of wealth
    – wholescale corruption , almost accepted as way of life, but not by youth
    – increasing wealth gap
    – elections – in public a theatre, but in private a well planned fraud
    – social unrest increasing

    And on my travels in philippines i see a mirror of indian politics with an increase in the organised criminalisation of politics. Not just individuals with local scams, but something much more organised and disconcerting which is clearly known by and involves key players at malacanan

    As in india those in power like to paint themselves as whiter than white, promise change, and blame previous administration. The facts expose their hypocricy.

    The philippines and p-noy administration seem to have plagiarised the indian model of public hypocricy and private greed.

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