THE PHILIPPINES – AN OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF THE OLDEST DEMOCRACY IN ASIA
Formally, Republic of Philippines is the oldest democracy in East Asia. Democratic institutions were introduced here at the very beginning of XX century by Americans. Years earlier, the Filipinos themselves had created a constitution, modelled on French (1898–1899), with supreme legislature, divided powers, liberties for citizens and with church separated from the state. The so-called Malolos Constitution was in effect briefly as American colonial powers imported its own constitutional democracy. Even if process of rooting of western type democratic institutions had back clashed with traditional and conservative socio-political structure, for many years, Philippines were branded “the showcase of democracy in Asia”. The presidency of Ferdinand Marcos (1965–1986) had hampered the process and had practically turned the country back from its path.
Philippines needed a revolution, the People Power movement of masses, to overthrow autocratic rules in bloodless street protests in 1986. The re-democratization of country’s political system initiated by president Corazon Aquino – and followed by her successors – was in fact a restoration of old institutions, legitimizing and conserving the ancient status quo; not many significant changes to its socio- economic and political base has been made.
Today, the long history of democratic constitutional development in the Philippines is entering into a new phase. American style presidential system is being increasingly contested in favor of parliamentary one. Recently the idea of change has gained support from president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – thus making it more feasible – but question stays, whether possible introduction of parliamentary system would be able to address Philippines social and economic problems in more effective ways.