AS the Executive Council resumes its deliberations on the Governor's constitutional reform package tomorrow, the mood is one of frustration and indecision. Mr Chris Patten's new-look Exco is apparently chafing under the public perception that it is merely a rubber-stamp body for the Governor. Most particularly resented is the implication that it is a body of yes-men and women appointed to do the Governor's bidding and keep any dissenting views it might have to itself. Yet, in the current political climate, opportunities to demonstrate independence of mind are limited by the knowledge that to voice any opposing opinion would be regarded as unprincipled and disloyal. The political package was not presented to Exco before the Governor announced it in the legislature in his policy address last October. On the contrary, the new Exco was itself first announced in the Governor's speech and all but two of its members wereinstalled in office after it had been delivered. Thus the Council can legitimately claim that it bears no responsibility, collective or otherwise, for any of the proposals in it. Theoretically, its freedom to criticise and amend is absolute. Some members would dearly like to flex their muscles before the package goes to Legco, not only to show that freedom is real but because they have real doubts about the wisdom of Mr Patten's proposals. In practice, they should have no such option. If Councillors, either from conviction or simply to prove they are not a rubber stamp dared to amend the Governor's proposals, they would be seen to be undermining his position. The Governor has frequently made it clear that it is for Legco to decide on his package. Since the freedom to amend or reject is Legco's prerogative, any prior intervention by Exco would be seen as an unwarranted interference in Legco's affairs. Moreover, if Exco were to shift the goal-posts at this stage, it would be impossible to avoid the suspicion that the Governor was behind the move. If Exco chose to water down the proposals, it would appear as though Mr Patten had decided to compromise in the hope of pacifying Beijing. If they were strengthened, those who believe Britain is deliberately seeking confrontation with China would similarly suggest the invisible hand of Mr Patten pulling Exco's strings. No matter how uncomfortable individual Executive Councillors may feel about Mr Patten's present package - so far only former CRC stalwart Professor Felice Lieh-mak has publicly hinted at herambivalent position - Exco cannot afford to meddle with the proposals before it goes to Legco. The best way for Exco to show it has a real role in the process of government is to take the pragmatic view that the proposals are not its own to alter. Instead of tormenting itself with the wish to exercise some independent influence, the Council should come to terms with the vulnerability of its position and pass the package on to Legco without amendment. Only then can Exco members who have, with the odd exception, kept an awkward silence feel free to speak up and take part in debate. Those who feel comfortable with the package can throw support behind the details. Others can, without loss of face or of their principles, concentrate on echoing the Governor's wish for discussion of the alternatives. The real difficulty for Exco will come not now but after the legislative process is over and Legco has put its seal on a package for Mr Patten's ''executive-led'' government to endorse or reject. It is at that point, that the principle of collective responsibility might become a burden to some Exco members. They would certainly be expected to defend the Legco package in public whatever their personal reservations about its wisdom and may be required to campaign for it actively in the face of Chinese opposition. How Professor Lieh-mak and other conservatives such as China adviser Mr Tung Chee-hwa reconcile themselves to that position remains to be seen. They will presumably have taken the risk into account before accepting a role in which, inevitably, they will be seen in some quarters as the willing tools of British colonial interests.