Duterte term extension ‘out of the question’

The Philippine Star
Duterte term extension âout of the questionâ

“The President has been very clear about it, that he does not wish to extend his term,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing here at the Malacañang of the South in Barangay Panacan. “The idea of prolonging his term is out of the question.” AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File

DAVAO CITY, Philippines  —  Prolonging his term is “out of the question” for President Duterte, his spokesman said yesterday, disputing a scenario raised by his top allies in Congress that he may have to stay in power after 2022 if the push for a federal form of government succeeds.

“The President has been very clear about it, that he does not wish to extend his term,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing here at the Malacañang of the South in Barangay Panacan. “The idea of prolonging his term is out of the question.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier floated a no-election scenario come 2019 while Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said a term extension for the President is possible to ensure a smooth transition to federalism.

Roque stressed that the President’s vision of a federal state does not require his staying in power beyond 2022.

He said Duterte has also made it clear that midterm elections will push through in 2019 as mandated by the Constitution.

“The President has spoken on these issues. No. 1, the President is the chief implementor of the Constitution and the laws of the land. And unless and until the Constitution is amended and ratified by the people, elections will push through in 2019, and what the President promises is that if elections push through we will have credible and honest elections,” Roque said.

“If the Constitution can be amended that would provide for federalism, provide for provisions that would strengthen public accountability, he said he is willing to cut short his term,” he pointed out.

Asked what Duterte would do if amendments to the charter would require him to remain as president during the transition period, Roque maintained the Chief Executive had even voiced his wish for a shorter term.

“The President has stated clearly that if there are provisions that would intensify the fight against corruption, he would not mind if his term is shortened,” he said.

“He did not say that he wants a term extension. The President was very clear on that and even the Senate President said that the President would have to (give his) consent and given the emphatic statement of the President that he does not wish to stay one minute longer than his term, I don’t think it is something that he finds attractive,” he added.

Lessons ignored

For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, proponents of Charter Change (Cha-cha) as springboard for federalism are in effect killing their own initiatives by raising no-election and term extension scenarios.

He said proponents of Cha-cha appear to have learned nothing from history, especially regarding the electorate’s shunning attempts to extend the terms of elected officials through constitutional change.

“The opposition need not invent the best antidote to Charter change. No less than the two leaders of both houses of Congress have started campaigning against it, albeit subliminally,” Lacson said.

The senator said floating no-election and term extension scenarios, “as recent history would suggest, won’t help their advocacy to shift to a federal form of government, inevitably via an amendment of the Constitution.”

Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said that based on information from colleagues in Congress, several possible amendments to the Constitution would allow lawmakers to extend their term.

He said the transition period to federalism could be as long as 10 years, or longer than the term of office of elected officials.

Pangilinan said the President would be granted the power to create laws just like what the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos did using powers introduced in 1976 through amendments to the 1973 Constitution.

He said there would also be amendments to provisions regarding the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by foreigners.

“Are we seeing the ZTE NBN, Northrail scandals part 2? Defend our democracy! The people want jobs, affordable food and higher wages, not Cha-cha,” Pangilinan said, referring to controversies that hounded the Arroyo administration.

Asked to comment on Pangilinan’s concerns, Pimentel said it would be a waste of time to respond to it as he was very busy.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said that it might be difficult to make the people accept a no-election scenario.

“People look forward to elections which is a referendum of all elected officials,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said that it would be difficult for the proponents of Cha-cha to revise the Constitution within a few months or before the 2019 elections.

“For starters I have not read any details on federalism, etc. I expect to have elections on 2019,” Recto said.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), through spokesman James Jimenez, said the people should not be deprived of their right to suffrage in the pursuit of federalism.

“The Comelec remains confident that such a shift –should it happen – can be accomplished without depriving the sovereign Filipino people of their constitutionally guaranteed right to select their own leaders through free and fair elections,” Jimenez said in a statement.

He said Alvarez might just be citing a “no elections” scenario as one of the possible outcomes of a successful shift to a federal form of government.

He added the Comelec is committed to fulfilling its mandate of conducting free and fair elections in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

He also appealed to the public to participate in national discourse concerning constitutional amendments, particularly in connection with federalism.

He said the people should be fully informed when the time comes for them to vote for or against federalism.  – Alexis Romero, Marvin Sy, Mayen Jaymalin

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