When the Congress Isn’t Enough: The Participation and Role of the Philippine Executive Department in the Lawmaking Process*

Image
“The role of the executive department in the lawmaking process must not be shrugged aside since the President also wields essential powers which can significantly, if not drastically, change the tides of policy outcomes.” (Picture taken from http://www.philstar.com)

The famous political theorist David Easton (1957) defines politics as the “authoritative allocations of values in a society” (p. 383). He goes further by stating that life in the political sphere revolves around a process in accordance to the dynamics of policy formulation. In his Systems Theory, Easton (1957) laid down the processes involved in the policy formulation. Indeed, it can be said that rule-making is so complex a process, yet so essential in a political system. The political comparativist Gabriel Almond (1960) has went on by asserting that rulemaking must be the primary concern of the Legislative branch while the rule application is for the Executive branch. However, in the Philippines, the norm is slightly different. The participation and role of the Philippine Executive Department in the lawmaking function (which has long been deemed as a sole function of the Legislature) will be discussed in the succeeding sections.

 

Bridging the Connection: The Nature of the Philippine Executive-Legislative Relations

In evaluating the relations of the Philippine executive and legislative departments, Takeshi Kawanaka (2010), in his paper entitled “Interaction of Powers in the Philippine Presidential System”, mentioned two frameworks which deal with the study of this phenomenon. The first is the “Strong President” Framework which posits that the policymaking process in the Philippines is dominated by the president who wields superior power emanating from the Constitution. The second type is the “Strong Congress” Framework which implies that the policymaking process is dominated by the Congress entitled by a veto power to uphold the maintenance of the status quo. Contradicting as this may seem, Kawanaka (2010) affirms that these two aforementioned frameworks reflect the present Philippine executive-legislative relations.

Given this as the foreground of this paper, it should not be said then that a single political actor holds a sole responsibility for the lawmaking function in the Philippine political system. In other words, the legislative department does not solely own the unilateral right in shaping the policymaking process, as the lawmaking process does not entirely revolve within the confines of the Senate and the House of Representatives (HOR). The role of the executive department in this so pivotal a political exercise must not be shrugged aside since the President also wields essential powers which can significantly, if not drastically, change the tides of policy outcomes. As Mendoza (2010) declares, “…the interaction between the president and the legislature play a leading role in the policymaking process.” In a presidential system, the executive and legislative departments play preeminent roles in the policy agenda. However, one must not further presuppose that either the Congress or the President holds unilateral influence in the policy processes. The legislature holds dominance in the proposal of ordinary legislations while the President assumes exclusive power in the budget enactment. This just depicts that the Congress is dominant in a particular policy area, while the President dominates in the other (Caoili, 1993; Kawanaka, 2010).

The lawmaking powers of the President can be classified into two types. The first type is the proactive power which aims for the establishment or the attempt of establishing a new legislative order. An example of this is the budget enactment. The Philippine president holds exclusive power to introduce and appropriate budget proposals and allocations to the Congress. The Congress is not allowed to amend the proposal and alter the allocations beyond what was indicated. The second type falls under the reactive type which aims to defend the status quo against the attempts of the legislature to change it (Mendoza, 2010). The veto power of the President exemplifies this type of power. Further, the President’s veto power can be subdivided into two kinds: (1) The pocket veto, where the President refuses to promulgate the entire legislation; and (2) The partial veto, where the President rejects specific elements of the legislation while promulgating the rest (www.dss.ucsd.edu, n.d.). Aside from these, the President has the power over legislators’ “pork barrel” appointments, agenda setting and drafting of some proposed legislations. In the Philippine context, the Cabinet, which is composed of the heads and secretaries of the executive department, play a key role in advising the President over different state affairs and assessing the country’s present situation.

To strengthen executive-legislative relations and to facilitate the pursuance of the legislative agenda to the Congress, the establishment of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) during the Ramos Administration became inevitable. Through the Republic Act 7640, the LEDAC was formed as an advisory and consultative body to the President and the Legislature which intends to pursue consultations and offer advices on certain policies essential in the fulfillment of the goals of the national economy (www.ledac.neda.gov.ph, n.d.).

But as the course of events revealed, the LEDAC has somehow failed to fulfill its mandate during the preceding regimes. During the Estrada administration, the establishment of the Economic Coordinating Council (ECC) made the LEDAC nearly inconspicuous since the aforesaid council seems to serve as a small LEDAC group. On the other note, fewer LEDAC meetings have been held during the Arroyo administration because then President Arroyo would prefer the services of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and her political adviser, Gabriel Claudio, to supervise her relations with the Congress (Mendoza, 2010).

The birth of LEDAC signified two things: (1) It has now become clear that the President is a force to reckon with when it comes to shaping policy outcomes; and (2) It has become more evident that the President is an influential figure in the Philippine political system as he/she enjoys a vast array of powers which influence the policymaking process. But as the implications of the executive role in the lawmaking process might appear affirmative, there are still negative implications which must be further evaluated.

 

Identifying the Implications: The Pros and Cons of the Executive Participation

Delving on the Positive

The participation of the executive department in the legislature can be viewed in a positive light since this exemplifies that the system of checks and balances in the government is fully functioning. It can be further implied that the democratic ideals rule in the government and, generally, in the country. Since the Executive Department implements and administers the laws of the land, the President can preponderantly check the quality and soundness of the laws which the Congress enacts (Kawanaka, 2010).

Also, the assertion of the President’s supremacy as the head of state and the government can be sustained by the continued participation of the executive department in the lawmaking process. As a consequence, there is a greater possibility that the president’s legislative agenda will be pursued in the Congress. Elected by the national constituency, the President assumes the responsibility and accountability for the country’s present conditions. Thus, he will more likely be reinforced to push for public-regarding policies which will expectedly benefit the majority as his reputation and presidency are at stake. Moreover, the President holds more encompassing interests which veer towards the policy performance at the national level, more particularly in the fields of fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability, in order to stabilize his rule (Caoili, 1993; Mendoza, 2010). While the President is pushed to pursue policies which take into consideration the public welfare, the legislators, on the other note, are more likely to foster private-regarding policies in order to gratify certain constituents, political supporters and other particularistic interests (Mendoza, 2010). This interplay of factors makes the President’s role in the legislation more pivotal. This could be the reason why the LEDAC has been created. The need for legislative support in the President’s legislative agenda serves as an impetus to formulate polices which are not merely reflective of the interests of the few. 

Dealing with the Negative

As the preceding section of the paper tackled, the executive-legislative relations can be characterized into two schools of thought. These perspectives can lay down the disadvantages which the executive participation in the lawmaking process might induce in the long run (Kawanaka, 2010).

The “Strong President” Framework implies that there is a high possibility for the President to garner extreme dominance when it comes to influencing policy outcomes. In the Philippine political system, one of the legislative powers of the President is the budget enactment. As the Executive Department holds responsibility in controlling the release of the legislators’ pork barrel funds, the President can purchase support for legislations which he/she prefers. As Mendoza (2010) puts it: “In the Philippine context, the more relevant power that the President has that affects lawmaking is his power over the sources of legislators’ patronage… The president controls the release if pork barrel funds and can therefore buy legislative support for preferred legislations or punish recalcitrant of unsupportive legislators.” It must be remembered that during the Estrada Administration, then President Estrada attempted to constrain, if not abolish, the pork barrel funds of the members of the Congress. This ignited a spark of conflict between the President and the Congress which further resulted to anti-president sentiments (Ruland, 2003).

While it might be stated that the president takes into higher regard the public will in proposing solutions, Kawanaka (2010) asserts that the president will only tend to “consider the problem in the short term as he can stay in power for six years only” (p.4). Policy instability is then expected to emerge in this case since the tenure of the president lasts only for six years which then consequently begets to the inconsistency of policies in the Philippines (de Dios & Esfahani, 2001, as cited in Kawanaka, 2010).

While the constitutional powers of the President legitimize his role in the lawmaking process, it can be assumed that the dominance of the Congress in the policy process is still deemed possible. As the Congress now becomes the powerful force in the legislation, there could emerge a strong sentiment of resistance to presidential initiatives. Also, as the defenders of the status quo, the Congress can prevent the passage of reforms which are essential for economic growth. As Kawanaka (2010) evaluates, policymaking gridlock will be inevitable should this phenomenon become prevalent since the veto power of the legislature is an essential political exercise which can significantly change the course of policy outcomes. Given that most of the members come from the ruling class, their elitist interests bank on the preservation of their class. Thus, it is just imperative for them to hinder policies and reforms, no matter how essential they are for the country’s betterment, in order to defend their interests.

 

Probing the Institution: The Impact of the Executive Lawmaking Participation in the Performance of the Congress

The role of the executive participation in the lawmaking process has induced impacts with regard to the image and performance of the Congress. Kawanaka (2010) explained that the policy outcomes in the Philippine legislature are being carried out through the “compromise exchange.” As mentioned in the introduction of this paper, no political actor is dominant in the process of lawmaking because both the President and the Legislature gain dominance in certain policy areas. If such will be the case, then how is the policy process being fashioned in these compromise ordeals? Kawanaka (2010) provides the answer to that inquiry. Thus, he stated: “[T]hrough offering compromises in the policy areas where one is dominant, each player seeks concessions from the opponent in other areas where the opponent is dominant. This ‘compromise exchange [is derived] from the dominant players in different areas…” (p.1).

Through bargaining, the executive and legislative departments coincide with their pursuits and interests. It was asserted that the barraging process is more likely to succeed if both actors have different goals in mind. When it comes to the general legislation, for instance, the president tries to alter the status quo by initiating reforms while the Congress tries to defend the status quo in order to preserve its class interests. On the other note, when it comes to budget-making, the President wants to restrain the budget expenditures while the Congress wants for the expansion of the expenditures. Through this “reverse power balance”, both actors become better off as their common interests are being advanced.

This behavior among the actors can be attributed to the fact that both the executive and legislative departments have limitations and restrictions in their mandates as stipulated by the Constitution. For example, the legislators cannot demand for a higher budget allocation in the Congress because, as enshrined in the pages of our Constitution, the President solely owns the prerogative of budget enactment (See Article VI, Section 25 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution). To free itself from restrictions, the Congress is opted to conduct compromise exchanges to attain its interests. The same case goes with the President who has no power to propose a bill in the Congress. The presidential control over the pork barrel fund and the dominance of the Congress in the general legislation provide an environment for this compromise agreement where the final outcomes which the actors expect are brought relatively to the ideal point.

However, this could somehow tarnish the reputation of both the Congress and the President. Indeed, there is a tendency that both parties may go beyond what they will actually intend to pursue and attain. In the process, this might somehow lead to the pursuit of their self-interests rather than the interests of the institution and the majority. Patronage system will more likely become eventual and political instability will more likely to come out in the political sphere.

Though there is a distinct separation of powers in a presidential system, it can be stated that the legislative department is heavily interrelated with the executive department. Also, the executive department is interlinked with the Legislature. Truly, the Constitution provides equality for the three branches of the government, but as far as the policymaking process in the Philippines is concerned, both the Executive and the Legislative Departments could prevail in the process of policy formulation.

 

Offering Solutions: Recommendations to Address the Overall Impact

The executive participation in the lawmaking process, undoubtedly, has already been considered as a governmental norm in the Philippines. Despite the negative implications of this phenomenon, this can be made more advantageous and beneficial to the government and the Filipino people by abiding to the following steps/actions:

(1)  Cultivation of a culture of professionalism in the Philippine government.

It was said earlier that there is a tendency for the executive and legislative departments to go beyond their limitations in the process of lawmaking. Truly, both branches in the Philippine political system have been vested essential political powers which they can use to promote their own interests. Thus, professionalism is highly necessary in this case for it will ensure that both branches of the government adhere to their mandates as enshrined in the Constitution. More so, the interests of the public must rule in the government rather than the class interests of the privileged few. The President’s participation in the lawmaking process can effectively become a boon if the President duly recognizes first the public will rather than his/her own personal will.

(2)  Revival and strengthening of the LEDAC.

The LEDAC, as aforesaid, proves to be an effective tool in making the executive-legislative relations strong and dynamic. Moreover, it serves to be as an avenue where the President’s legislative inputs can be assessed and evaluated. The Presidential legislative agenda should not just be thrown into futility since the reforms and policies which the President engender might be considered more public-regarding and encompassing than the ones being passed by the Congress. Indeed, the past administrations, save for the Ramos administration, have failed to maximize the benefits of the LEDAC. Thus, it is recommended then that the LEDAC must be reestablished and revived in the Aquino Administration.

(3)  Introduction of a policy/set of policies which aims to improve executive-legislative relations

Lastly, it has been considered necessary that a formal set of procedures must be instituted to improve the relation of the executive and legislative departments. This policy/set of policies will serve as their guide to conducting interactions and forging relations. With this, it can be ensured that both branches will not go further and exceed to what they will actually intent to do.

 

CONCLUSION

Nigro & Nigro (1989) claim that there should have a clear distinction between the legislative and administrative powers, which further connotes that both branches must know where their responsibilities begin and end. This, they assert, is the defining characteristic of a political system. However, Nigro & Nigro (1989) fail to account the proliferation of the government agencies and programs over the past century which then resulted to the dualism and multifunctionality of structures in the political system. Much has already been said about the executive-legislative dichotomy, as this still remains a subject of political discourses. Some scholars claim that the Philippine government deviates form the liberal-democratic governmental norm of legislative control in the lawmaking process. This must not be viewed in a negative light because, in reality and in practice, the executive participation in the lawmaking process can prove to be beneficial and advantageous not only for the Philippine government, but also to the Philippine society.

 

REFERENCES

  • _________ (n.d.). Executive-Legislative Relations. Retrieved 20 February 2012, at                      http://dss.ucsd.edu/~jbaum/ps133d_lect9.pdf
  • _________ (n.d.). Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council. Retrieved 20 February 2012, at http://ledac.neda.gov.ph/.
  • Almond, G. (1960). Introduction: A Functional Approach to Comparative Politics. In G. Almond & J.S. Coleman (Eds.), The Politics of Developing Areas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Caoili, C. (1993). Legislative-Executive Relations in the Philippines and the  Parliamentary Alternative. QC: UP-CIDS & UP Press.
  • Easton, D. (1957). An Approach to the Analysis of Political Systems. Retrieved 3 March  2012, at                                                                                                                                                http://bss.sfsu.edu/sguo/Renmin/June2_system/Political%20SystemEaston.pdf
  • Kawanaka, T. (2010). Interaction of Powers in the Philippine Presidential System.  Retrieved 21 February 2012, at                                                                 http://ir.ide.go.jp/dspace/bitstream/2344/894/1/ARRIDE_Discussion_No.233_kawanaka.pdf
  • Mendoza, B. (2010). Executive-Legislative Relations and Policymaking. Retrieved 21 February 2012, at http://bongmendoza.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/executive-legislative-relations-and-policy-making/
  • Nigro, F. & Nigro l. (1989). Modern Public Administration. NY: Harper & Row Publishers.
  • Ruland, J. (2003). Constitutional Debates in the Philippines: From Presidentialism to Parliamentarism? In Asian Survey, 43(3), 461-484.

*Paper submitted during our Political Science 152 (Philippine Legislative System) class

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s