Monday, April 18, 2011

Culture change through constitutional reform or If I start wearing smaller clothes, I'll get thinner.

Arguing for change only assures 
you'll get arguments and no change.

The last paragraph in the previous post "Oh God!" generated a comment which I feel compelled to give some space of its own.
"But, then again, I realize, that's just like saying people will change when you change the system of government -- because this assumes a culture where people follow the rules."
Now, the thought behind this is simple:  I know how most of my fellow Filipinos behave and one type of behavior I witness everyday is the inability or unwillingness to follow rules.  This behavior is displayed whether you are talking about simple rules or a complex system of rules like laws.

Exhibit A:

And the more ingenious Filipinos will find either find a loophole or place themselves in a position to create loopholes.

Exhibit B:

In fact, there are people who've actually made a career out of making laws (systems of rules) with loopholes that they can exploit for the benefit of their clients.

It is this understanding of Filipino behavior that I believe will thwart any attempt to manage or cultivate more productive and constructive human behavior.

As an example, let us look at the automation of the 2010 elections.

Automated Elections is part of a "political reform agenda" which I think may have been first talked about during the latter years of the Ramos Administration.

The nationwide automation of the 2010 elections was actually the fruit of a succession of efforts that resulted in the first automated election law, which was later amended by RA 9369 and the amended law eventually paved the way for the 2010 automated elections.

In tandem with the Comelec's biometric Voter ID system, the Automated Election System would have done away with most of the flaws of the manual election system that we had been so accustomed to.

On one hand, the Automated Election System would do away with whole sale cheating (dagdag bawas) and on the other hand, the Biometric System (coupled with major rectification of its voter databases) would prevent flying votes (assuming that the Automated Election system would prevent multiple use of a single ID or that an individual wouldn't be able to use more than one ID).  Such a system would also perhaps prevent or make it very hard for people to just manually shade all the ballots and feed them into the machines.

Such a system would still perhaps leave other means of controlling the vote such as intimidation, coercion, bribery, and out right disruption of the elections.

Along with reforms in the electoral system, other areas for political reform identified:

--- Political party reforms.  This includes proposals to prevent party switching, provide state funds to develop and maintain political parties, and other measures.

--- Re-organization or rationalization of various elective posts.  This includes proposals to create more seats in the Senate (one for every district), the abolition of multiple legislative legislative positions at the local level, and other measures.

Now, going back to the automated elections of 2010.

The particular automated election system looked great in the show room, but its implementation was encumbered with a number of problems -- some crucial and some less critical but had the effect of eroding whatever confidence had been built up.

Even as implementation issues surfaced and were dealt with, there were those who sought to 'game' the system to increase their chances of winning.  One national candidate changed their name, various groups offered various candidates ways of stuffing ballots or keeping the machines from transmitting the right results, etcetera.

Now, the idea behind automated elections was simple: If the election process could be made fast and accurate (resistant to any attempts at wholesale manipulation), then perhaps the election would enable our people to more accurately express who they thought would be the right leader for them.

Vox populi, vox dei. Or so, it has been claimed.


Okay, so, we changed the system? Where's the change in culture?

The easiest answer is: Culture change doesn't come about immediately, but only through continuous reinforcement of the desired behavior. (And while we're waiting for culture change to happen, we'll also see those disenfranchised by the change find ways to keep the next election from being automated or find loopholes in the automated election system.)

The more difficult answer is this: Culture change, if it can actually be done, might be a more complex process that would involve multiple approaches.

The thing is, before you even open your mouth and say that cultural change will happen with a change in the system, you have to actually try doing it first.


(To be continued...)


Chino said...

The system change is supposed to bring more economic health to the people. That's supposed to translate into culture change as the people have more money, or rather, can afford more of what they need, and thus change their priorities. Give people more jobs and more money, culture will change. I believe that there have been a lot of studies on that. As Arnel said, "nagbabago ang culture kapag yumayaman ang tao," as a whole. Culture change is also happening in India thanks to its change to being an open economy, and that could be an answer to the question, will culture change?

Even in enforcement of laws, some problems in the system in the noted. Perhaps some system changes that address enforcement are needed... as seen, it's not just a few things, but nearly every aspect of Filipino society that needs change.

Anonymous said...

so questions:

1. how did gordon change the culture of olongapo & subic?

2. how did bayani change the culture of marikina?

did they not set up a stricter system which had the right set of policies and where the rules were thoroughly enforced compared to the ones that were in place before?

the right answer is: they put up systems that caused a change in culture.

Paul Farol said...


A lot of things can bring about cultural change.

In South America, a national geographic documentary noted the changes in behavior among indigenous tribes when they introduced to:

1. clothing
2. metal tools: machettes
3. processed food

Another source of cultural change is media (entertainment media which is the more popular genre). There are studies upon studies that show a rise in promiscuity and violence with the surge in popularity of shows dish out sex and violence.

Communications technology also impacts on culture.

The thing is, almost everything has an impact on culture and I'd think that it takes a particular set of circumstances to effect cultural change.

Given the complexity of human behavior, I am not at all certain if cultural change can be manufactured at all just by tinkering with one factor that conditions human behavior.

Laws per se do not condition human behavior, but its enforcement does.

We have to make a distinction between the law as it is written and the law as it is applied.

With respect to laws that govern politics, you'd have to consider if proposed laws affecting those concerned with politics is acceptable or not acceptable.

Why? If such proposed political laws do not have support, (1) It will not pass (2) if it does get passed, it won't be enforced properly.

RA9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act is an 11 year old law which like the Clean Air Act has been enforced in parts and there are a number of factors which make its enforcement problematic.

Conversations with Chito Macapagal, Unilever, pointed at behavioral factors as the biggest hindrance to the implementation of the law.

Littering is one problem and another is in-house segregation.

These things could not be addressed by the law itself, but by implementing agencies using various means.

What you will find is that implementation of RA9003 is not consistent in all cities and municipalities.

Marikina is a good model, but even in Marikina the implementation of RA9003 did not bring about a change in the waste disposal behavior of all its citizens. Not that a 100% compliance, though ideal, is not necessary.

But do we see the same thing happening in other cities and municipalities?

Did it result in cultural change? The answer, I would bet, is mixed.

Did the cultural change catch on? Did the cultural change condition the behavior of others?

Perhaps empirical evidence can be found to support views that go either way.

Now, this is just waste disposal.

Just imagine the kind of implementation problems you'll encounter with political laws.

Look at our election laws on advertising.

There was a time when Comelec was pretty clear that advertising prior to elections was prohibited. In 2004, 2007, and 2010, what did we see? Advertising before elections.

The powers that be managed to pressure Comelec into allowing what was previously prohibited.

Now, before I get accused of saying that things are hopeless, let me just clarify that while we have mountains of data and arguments to support the view that changing the political system leads to a change in political culture, it won't mean a thing until you factor in the culture that is the target of those changes.

The fatal assumption here is that (1) the culture to be changed cannot resist change (2) that there will be someone to enforce the desired change.

I think that it has already been acknowledged that there will be resistance to any proposed change in political behavior. The thing that we have to consider in such a situation is whether there will be more or less resistance.

In a situation where those who are supposed to make the rules also enforce the rules, there should be a strong and unbiased arbitrator -- an oversight functionary.

Chino said...

"In South America, a national geographic documentary noted the changes in behavior among indigenous tribes when they introduced to:
1. clothing
2. metal tools: machettes
3. processed food"

If this means exposure to better technology can lead to improvements in the lives of people, then all this can come about in a positive way thanks to economic improvement brought about by changing economic provisions in the constitution.

"Another source of cultural change is media (entertainment media which is the more popular genre). There are studies upon studies that show a rise in promiscuity and violence with the surge in popularity of shows dish out sex and violence."

This is true. But one solution; allow media to get out of the hands of pure Filipino ownership. Our media is limited to 100% Filipino ownership in the constitution. No wonder it stays in the hands of those who abuse media's power. I want this provision broken up. But if you have other ideas... let's use them. Challenge the evil that is local Philippines media. Especially that A BullShit Company Broadcasting Nonsense. If it doesn't change its ways, it should close down.

"I think that it has already been acknowledged that there will be resistance to any proposed change in political behavior."

Then plow through it. Break the resistance. Kill it, and kill it again. System change is actually one way to do it. Because sometimes the resistance can be found in the existing system itself, like the constitution.

"Marikina is a good model..."

Eh yun pala, then take from it what works and do it. System change is very much the way to do this.


It never was, but still Constitutional Reform is still a necessary step. Constitutional Reform is not so simple either, but should we stop it just because it's not so simple?

Hey, read Orion's latest post on the Get Real Post, about Excuses. You can help other people disabuse themselves of stupid arguments against such solutions with this article.

We should do everything, Constitutional Reform, enforcing the laws, choosing the right leader, challenging media, etc... It's really not that simple... but still, it all must be done.

If you're complaining about Orion's article length, then just skim through the main statements in the items and bullet points and you'll get what they say. Those who are not able to pick up the gist of his articles because they are put off by his length may either be lazy or just resistant to his ideas just because of a bias against him.

terence_18 said...

good one.

Lbrto said...

Exhibit C:

isa pang halimbawa ang kung papaanong si Mikee Defensor ay naging representate ng mga partylist ng mga sikyu kahit ala namang alam sa buhay ng mga yun... 

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