Duterte wants Constitution change but dispels fears of holding onto power

Duterte wants Constitution change but dispels fears of holding onto power

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the Anti-Corruption Summit 2017: 'Breaking Chains of Corruption 2017' at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on November 28, 2017, reads the International Narcotics Control Board's 2014 report on the frequently used illegal drugs as he explains how some drug addicts turn violent when they are accosted by authorities. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to dispel claims of his supposed strongman tendencies, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday urged Congress to limit the powers of key government officials, including the chief executive, when amending the Constitution.

Duterte made the remarks in a speech during the birthday celebration of Atty. Alfredo Lim where the leader emphasized the need for a legislation that would “stop corruption.”

“I am addressing myself to Congress. Let us amend the Constitution. Shorten or restrict the powers of everybody, including the presidency but make a Constitution that would mandate more accountability and responsibility of officials,” Duterte said.

“If you can craft a law wherein I would also put my own inputs there and it would guarantee everybody or stop corruption, do not be afraid to amend the law,” he added.

“Just do it and do not be afraid. Do away with the presidency or give me a limitation that by the end of this year, you are considered out.”

In order to prevent a repeat of dictatorship, the 1987 Constitution set shorter terms for Congressmen and local government executives from four to three years. It also set a maximum of three consecutive terms for the same public offices.

Senators were limited to two consecutive terms of six years each while a president was only allowed a single term of six years.

The shift to federalism is among the centerpieces of the Duterte administration, along with the war on drugs.

READ: Federalism: What Filipinos need to know

The amendments to the Constitution, particularly the shift to federalism, were among the 27 priority bills identified during August’s Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting.

The country currently employs a unitary form of government with much of the power emerging from the central government.

Federalism provides more powers to local governments, including the power to establish courts, implement business regulations and impose taxes.

READ: Rody completes list of Con-com members

In the same speech, Duterte then dismissed speculations that he would use the shift to federalism to prolong his stay in power.

“Do not be afraid of dictatorship. I am not aiming for it. I do not ask it and I do not like it,” he said.

In an earlier speech on Tuesday, the president offered to tender his resignation as early as the end of this year if an acceptable charter would be written by December 31.

"Maybe it's a dream, but after that, and it's a Constitution that will suit our way of life and correct the evil things there, I will tender my resignation," he remarked.

The issue of amending the Constitution is a sensitive topic in the Philippines, a country once under Marcos rule for two decades, over fears that it will be used to prolong the term of the chief executive. A move to amend the charter during President Gloria Arroyo's term was met with protests as concerns that it was intended to extend her term loomed.

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