Parliamentary practice fundamental principles is our topic for today, and I wish to welcome all of you, my dear young parliamentarians! Parliamentary practice fundamental principles discusses the basic and inherent right principles which serve as the foundation of the parliamentary law. These principles underwent various phases and challenges along the way as it gradually evolved and has taken shape as to its present form nowadays. With this lesson, let us examine each fundamental principle and try to understand the situation into which each of these form part of what we now know as parliamentary practice and procedure. So, join me now and together, let’s enjoy learning online!
“It is impossible to practice parliamentary politics without having patience, decency, politeness and courtesy.” ~ Khaleda Zia
Intended learning outcomes (ILOs)
At the end of this topic, you should be able to:
- Discuss the Parliamentary practice fundamental principles
Parliamentary practice fundamental principles
The principal aim and function of parliamentary procedure is to maintain decorum, ascertain the will of the majority, and facilitate the orderly and harmonious transaction of business of the assembly. This systematic procedure of doing business is observed in most of the deliberative assemblies of the world; from the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Security Council, European Union Parliament, US Congress, Senate of the Philippines, down to the Rotary Club of Midtown Cubao among others. All of these follow a prescribed parliamentary practice fundamental principles to ensure the smooth and orderly disposition of their affairs.
The parliamentary practice fundamental principles may be summarized as follows:
- Members have equal rights and obligations. Every member has the same right as those of any of his colleague. Each one of them has the right to vote and be voted upon, propose motions, discuss and debate questions, and exercise any of the prerogatives attached to his membership in the organization. However, not any of these rights are absolute in nature. A member’s right may be revoked, restricted or even denied anytime if this member exhibits actions and utter words that are inimical to the interest of the assembly. Hence, in order for a member to continue enjoying his rights and privileges, he must abide by the rules and be dutiful to his obligations.
- The Majority Rules. Majority rule is an essence of democracy. In a deliberative assembly, the majority has the right to decide the action of the entire organization and the attending power to have its decision carried out and respected by every member including those who may have opposed in the deliberation. The term majority may be surmised as a total of at least one-half plus one of a certain number. In some groups, there may be special considerations where and when a majority is determined.
- The Minority must be Protected. Complementary to the doctrine of the majority rules is the principle requiring the protection of the interest of the minority. The minority has the right to speak and be heard on any measure brought about in the assembly, as well as the right to employ parliamentary device and action to oppose and cause the approval or disapproval of some motions they act upon. The term minority refers to 1) the aggregate of the members are regularly organized to fiscalize the actions of the ruling majority, and 2) any member or group of members, though belonging to the majority, hold contrary view on a particular question or issue.
- Singularity of Subject. This principle means that only one issue/subject must be deliberated before the assembly at a time. One reason for this is to maintain order and decorum during the deliberations. Besides, members cannot intelligently discuss two or more issues at the same time together. This principle finds expression in no less than the Constitution of the Philippines which provides that: “No bill which may be enacted into law shall embrace more than one subject which shall be expressed in the title of the bill.”
- Full and Free Debate must be Allowed. This principle is founded on the theory that there are at least two sides to every question, and that all sides must be heard before any decision is made on it. Hence, the proponents of the question are given the opportunity to present the virtues of the motion, while the opponents are given as much chance to expose its faults. This way, the entire assembly is properly guided and enlightened and therefore, can proceed to vote intelligently. There are, however, special rules and procedure to expedite a deliberation and appear to curtail this freedom of debate but such rules are promulgated for the greater welfare of the assembly.
- Every Motion must be Voted Upon. Although there are some exceptions, all motions must be disposed of by voting for their proper disposition. A motion or question may be voted upon to dispose temporarily or permanently, affirmatively or negatively, but in any case, it should be put to vote because it only through this voting process that the will of the assembly may be determined. There are, however, parliamentary prerogatives that deals with motions specifically which conforms to the kind of motion in which a motion may be disposed peculiar to voting proceeding.
- Group Interest must Prevail. Every member is an integral part of the organization; each one plays a vital role in the collective effort of the entire group. A member’s personality must be subordinate to that of the organization. Every member, therefore, should strive to effect teamwork with the other members. If every member were to insist on his own personal desires and ideas and wishes, and in opposing the views and desires of others, the resulting lack of unity and harmony would seriously hamper the ability of the organization to transact business and may even cause its dissolution.
- The Presiding Officer must be Impartial. The presiding officer’s task involves great responsibilities and requires not only parliamentary skill but also the delicate exercise of profound judgment, discretion, and tact. Aside from steering the meeting, the P.O. is likewise tasked as moderator in heated debates in which personalities and opinions oftentimes clash. He should not take sides in a debate, and should volunteer information or advance his personal opinion only when the need arises. As a member of the organization, he is still entitled to participate in the proceedings only after relinquishing his chair to other member.
These principles are universal. Assemblies convene with the implied understanding that their proceedings will be conducted in accordance with these fundamental rules.
- Orendain, A. (1992). Parliamentary Rules 10th Edition. Quezon City: Alpha Omega Publications.
- Roberts, H. (2010). Robert’s Rules of Order 11th Edition. New York: American Legal Publishing.