Allow me to be a bit cynical.
I think it was Montesquieu who formulated and clarified the idea of “separation of powers.” Basically, you have three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The doctrine of separation of powers ensures that all branches of government cooperate with each other without one impinging or curtailing the responsibilities of another. As a bastardization, here’s how checks-and-balances would work:
- Executive: enforces and upholds the laws of the land.
- Legislative: makes the laws of the land.
- Judiciary: determines the scope and jurisdiction of the laws of the land.
Don’t get me wrong, platforms and such are great and high-minded, but I sometimes think we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves and our expectations – and the ought-to-be, for that matter – when we stress it.
A platform is relevant when:
- The platform is the defining factor that provides a clear distinction between political groups running for government positions.
- The political system acts in such a way that all the members of a particular party are voted into elected positions without the benefit of opposition against any part or portion of the platform.
The first, you’ll find in mature democracy: something you’ll not find in the Philippines. The second, you’ll find in dictatorships and fascism: something that is abhorred by Filipinos.
Since platforms are what we expect of Presidentiables – and many of us do take up the patient, admirable, and unenviable task of analyzing and dissecting them – we go back to the checks-and-balances. The task of a President is to enforce, uphold, and execute the laws of the land: not to make them, and not to determine the scope and jurisdiction of these laws. No amount of campaign promises by an elected President would be made possible or evident because all the actions and decisions of the Executive are checked and balanced by the Legislature and the Judiciary, and that the Executive is held accountable not to a set of promises, but to the public good.
For a platform or a set of campaign promises to work (and be truly relevant in an election), we have to go to a “Vote Straight, Vote Wisely” perspective and practice we’re used to in school elections: to vote where the slightest, most minuscule possibility of opposition to a set of campaign promises would not even exist. The business of the President is to uphold the law – the “platform” being the laws of the land and the Philippine Constitution – and to execute it within the powers of the Executive. “How” is answered not by campaign promises, but by the law. “How” is not answered by platforms, but by the synergy of the branches of government to address a promise or premise in the Constitution, where all platforms are based anyway. “How” is not answered by publications of agenda, but by popular sentiment and more importantly, the public good.
Platforms are great material for PR, promotions, and campaigns. Everyone has one. Yet when it all comes down to it, the application of the actual platform is not the be-all-end-all of a political choice. In the end, the best President for the Philippines is someone who can execute and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. The President is not a legislator, and he or she is not an adjudicator. The President is an executor. So far, our past Presidents have failed to deliver on that.
At the end of the day, after decades of Presidencies that have tried to subvert the law and undermine the Constitution, what we truly need is a President who can stand up to it and uphold it. Not because platforms are irrelevant – they are very useful – but because a President is supposed to execute, uphold, and defend the law. To expect any more is to impinge upon the responsibilities of the other branches of government, and to expect any less is to condemn the country.
The best campaign promise for a Presidentiable is all encapsulated in the statements and articles of the Philippine Constitution. I guess not yet, at least here, when platforms turn into a do-or-die political requirement.
That’s what we need from a President. As the motto of Bret Hart would put it, excellence of execution.