âDuterte can run again under federal Charterâ

“He can run again under a federal Charter,” said Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments.   File

‘Duterte can run again under federal Charter’
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — Restricted to a single term under the Constitution, President Duterte can run again for the highest office under new federal Charter, according to the leader of the House panel spearheading efforts in the chamber to change the Constitution.

“He can run again under a federal Charter,” said Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments.

Mercado told reporters yesterday the one-term limit would no longer apply to Duterte if the people ratify a new Constitution.

However, he noted that the President has repeatedly expressed his intention to no longer stay in office even an extra minute once his tenure expires on June 30, 2022.

Under a federal Constitution Mercado’s committee is drafting, the new government would have a president elected nationally for a term of five years with one reelection.

The president would serve as head of state with powers over foreign affairs, while a prime minister would head the government with the help of a Cabinet he would choose.

Duterte would be 77 years old by the time he steps down in 2022.

On Tuesday night, the House voted to adopt a resolution convening Congress as a constituent assembly (con-ass) in preparation for work on a new Constitution for a federal system of government.

The Senate is against the House proposal that they work jointly on Charter change (Cha-cha). Senators are suggesting that they do Cha-cha separately, and vote on proposed amendments separately as well.

They fear that if they agree to the House con-ass idea, congressmen would insist on joint voting and they would easily be outvoted.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reportedly claimed that if just one senator accepts the House proposal and shows up in a joint session, the House would push through with joint voting on Cha-cha.

Congressmen are hoping to convince at least three Duterte supporters among senators to attend the House-initiated con-ass.

Opposition and leftist lawmakers denounced the expeditious adoption of the con-ass resolution on Tuesday night.

“It confirms the critical view that the supermajority will railroad Charter change,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said. “The con-ass resolution was summarily approved even as many more solons were registered and lined up to interpellate.”

He said what took place on Tuesday “will certainly happen in the projected con-ass.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the House leadership has promised to be “open and transparent” on Cha-cha.

“Where is transparency when they abruptly terminate debates? There are no elections, no term limits and no debates,” he said.

Don’t rush

Vice President Leni Robredo has appealed to lawmakers not to rush deliberations on Charter change, as she stressed the importance of public consultations on the matter.

“I hope they would not rush it (Cha-cha) because this is for our country’s future,” Robredo said in an interview on Tuesday.

A lawyer, Robredo said the Constitution is “the sole basis of all the rights and obligations of every Filipino.”

She said she hopes lawmakers would spend time to “study thoroughly” each provision that they would like to amend.

On the abolition of the Office of the Vice President as part of amendments to the Constitution, Robredo said “only the Filipino people can take her office back.”

Also being eyed for abolition under a new charter are the Office of the Ombudsman and the Judicial and Bar Council.

“When we ran for office and were elected, in my case as vice president, what I know is I was given six years to serve. The only people who can remove this mandate are the Filipinos. That’s why all proposals to amend the Constitution should ask the people if they are in favor of all these,” she said. – Edu Punay, Helen Flores

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