By Mike Frialde
Published November 23rd 2005 in Phillipine Headline News
MANILA - The presidential consultative commission (con-com) tasked to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution is pushing to dismantle the political dynasty system under its plan for a federal, parliamentary form of government.

Con-com chairman Jose Abueva said that under their proposal, no elected public official may be succeeded by a relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or cousins.

"There should be free access to public office. It should not be dominated by dynasties," noted the former president of the University of the Philippines.

According to the con-com, this proposed provision would bar close relatives of any public official from succeeding him or her in office and allow others an opportunity to take office.

Abueva added the 54-member panel is also eyeing penalties for members of parliament guilty of turncoatism, or switching political party for personal advantage, which is also aimed at discouraging personality-driven politics and strengthening political parties.

"You should not move from one political party to another or you will lose your seat (in parliament). We want to strengthen the political party system. We want the party to amount to something, not just (be) for personal convenience," Abueva explained.

"We want political parties to be taken seriously. For the party to be taken seriously by the people, it should be taken seriously by the members. Political parties should be accountable to the people."

Under the proposal, the public would vote for their district’s representative to the parliament and for the political party of their choice.

Abueva said that members of the political party that garners the most votes would then elect the prime minister who would become the head of government.

Under the proposed setup for a new government, a president would also be elected by the people. The president, however, would only serve as a figurehead.

The con-com is also proposing that the number of "party-list" seats be increased to 100.

Under the parliamentary setup, these seats would be known as the "proportional representation" seats.

Under the proposed setup, the parliament will have 230 members who would be directly elected by voters per district and the 100 "proportional representatives."

According to Abueva, these "proportional representatives" would also be members of political parties but do not have to run. He said members of the winning political party would be the ones to select these "proportional representatives."

"In this way, members of parliament will not just be limited to the politicians."

In her State of the Nation Address in July, Mrs. Arroyo called for a shift to a parliamentary form of government, saying it would speed up passage of needed legislation and make the government more efficient.

Critics, however, argue that a parliamentary system needs strong parties to work properly and that a strong party system is something the Philippines’ personality-driven politics notably lacks.

They say political parties in the Philippines are merely vehicles for prominent personalities, many of whom come from political families.

Elected officials switch parties with ease, making parliamentary governments vulnerable to being toppled anytime.