Democratic System of Government

Published 18 Aug 2016

The essence of a democratic system of government is that the three main powers of government are constitutionally divided into three:

  • a) the power to propose, enact, amend and repeal the law;
  • b) the power to execute the law;
  • c) the power to interpret the law.

The United States Constitution has delegated these three important functions to three separate departments each department is co-equal and supreme within its own sphere. The legislative branch has the power to propose, enact, amend and repeal the law. The executive branch has the power to execute the law. The judiciary has the power to interpret the law.

It bears stressing that the principle of separation of powers as mandated by the US Constitution seeks to prevent the over-concentration of authority in one person or group of persons that might lead to an error or abuse to the prejudice of the whole state. Austin Ranney (1995) once said that any concentration of powers in a single branch is tyrannical and only true separation of powers will protect the liberties of the people against the aggressions of government. (Austin Ranney)

It should be emphasized however that the principle of separation of power is not one of isolation or animosity. The US Constitution has likewise provided for a system known as the checks and balances by which one department is allowed to resist encroachments made by one department against another or to rectify mistakes and errors committed by the other department.

One particular example is the veto power of the president which serves as a check to the power of the Legislative branch to make laws by exercising its veto power. If the president thinks that the law is not timely or not proper, the president may not sign the same into law or veto a particular bill. One particular example is HR 810 or the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2006 which authorized the Secretary of State to conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic cells. This bill was vetoed by the president. (“Message to the House of Representatives”) In his veto message dated July 19, 2006, President George W. Bush states that as much as he wants to explore the potentials of the research on stem cell, he, however, is apprehensive about the ethical repercussions of the said research. Signing this bill will allow the deliberate destruction of human embryos for the purpose of research which is damaging to our nation.

The legislative branch may also remove the president by means of the political process called impeachment. One particular example is the case of the former Philippines President Joseph Estrada who underwent the process of impeachment after being elected in 1998. (Keith Morgan & Peter Symonds) Under the Philippine law, the Impeachment complaint must be supported by 1/3 of the House of Representatives before the complaint may be forwarded to the Senate for trial. In the case of former president Estrada, the impeachment complaint was supported by more than 73 members of the House of Representatives out of 218-member House of Representatives. He eventually resigned from his position during his trial and was succeeded by the then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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