Duterte on new term: I can step down in 2019

Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado - The Philippine Star
Duterte on new term: I can step down in 2019
In a speech last night in Davao City, Duterte asked Congress and members of the consultative committee (Concom) reviewing the 1987 Constitution to make sure that a new president is elected even during the transition from presidential to a federal system of government.
AP / Aaron Favila, File

Concom member backtracks, says Duterte can’t run

DAVAO CITY – President Duterte is ready to step down next year, or as soon as a federal charter is in place.

In a speech last night in Davao City, Duterte asked Congress and members of the consultative committee (Concom) reviewing the 1987 Constitution to make sure that a new president is elected even during the transition from presidential to a federal system of government.

“Make me president only until next year, 2019, and I will accept it, if that will satisfy the critics,” he said, adding Vice President Leni Robredo could have his post if she wanted. “Make my presidency co-terminus with the beginning of the new draft constitution. Make me stop being president during the transition.”

This developed as Julio Teehankee, chairman of the Concom’s sub-committee on political reforms, clarified that Duterte cannot seek reelection under the proposed federal charter.

Teehankee said he “misspoke” when he said in an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News that Duterte can seek a new term under the proposed federal system.

“Apparently, I misspoke during the interview,” Teehankee said in a statement.

“The term of the president and the vice president shall not be extended. This covers re-election for the incumbent president,” he added, citing Section 16 of the draft charter that has not been made public.

The Concom will submit the draft Charter to the President this Monday. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said they need to check what the draft says regarding the terms of incumbent officials.

Duterte, in a speech during the National Science and Technology Week celebration for Mindanao at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City, said he wanted the federal charter approved and did not want its passage hindered by disputes over his stay in power.

“Elect a president before you make a transition from a unitary to federal. I would be willing to accept the proposal, galing na sa akin yan (this is from me). So I urge Congress and the Puno committee to make the final changes,” Duterte said, referring to Concom chair retired chief justice Reynato Puno.

In the proposed federal charter, all elected officials will have a term of four years, with one possible re-election.

The president and vice president will be elected in tandem, preventing instances when the top two highest officials come from different parties.

Duterte convened the Concom in February to review the 1987 Constitution and draft a federal charter.?Concom members have expressed belief the President won’t seek term extension – as he had promised – even if he’s allowed under the draft federal charter to aim for another term.

“Theoretically it is true (Duterte can seek re-election), but in Digong’s case, I am convinced that he does not want to run again. He has been saying that once it is approved, he will resign,” Concom member former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said.

“I’m sure he meant what he said,” he added, but laughed when reminded of Duterte’s flip-flopping in the past.

Puno is also convinced that the President will keep his word.

“I think that is a moot question. He has repeatedly said in public and also in private that beyond 2022, he’ll be out of public office – meaning he does not want any re-election,” Puno said.

He even expressed doubt the President would accept the Concom’s recommendation that he lead the transitory committee that would facilitate the formal shift to federalism.

The 10-man transitory commission will have experts in the fields of economy, law, fiscal management and governance as members.

Pimentel said a provision banning incumbent officials from seeking re-election was not included in the transitory provision in the draft federal charter because “Duterte has given the impression not to run again.”  

Warning raised

Militant lawmakers said President Duterte will exercise legislative power – much like what the late president Ferdinand Marcos did when he declared martial law – during the period of transition to the envisioned federal system.

Bayan Muna party-list chairman, former congressman Neri Colmenares, said Duterte’s legislative authority is contained in Article XXI Section 2 of the federal charter drafted by Puno’s committee.

He said the section creates a “powerful transition commission” chaired by Duterte, who also gets to appoint its members.

He said such provision mandates the commission to formulate a transition plan and “grants it legislative power to promulgate rules, regulations, orders, proclamations, decrees and other issuances to implement such plan.”

He added that Bayan Muna views “with concern the creation of a commission that could centralize power in President Duterte.”

“The President, through the transition commission he heads, can practically exercise critical governmental powers, replacing the entire government,” he stressed.

Colmenares also warned of the possibility of Duterte declaring all government positions vacant through his transition commission.

He said Article XXI Section 8 provides that “all officials of the government under the 1987 Constitution shall continue to hold office and exercise their respective powers, under such terms and conditions as may be provided in the transition plan.”

“The federal constitution does not prohibit him from running again in 2022. Under President Duterte, charter change is not about federalism. It is about dictatorship,” Colmenares said.

The committee is scheduled to submit its draft to the President on Monday. Duterte in turn is expected to transmit it to Congress.

But before the final push for federalism proceeds, Abra Rep. JB Bernos asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to conduct more information campaigns to raise public awareness.

“While the machinery of the administration is clearly doing its job to push for a federal form of government, there is a need to double our efforts to sway the peoples’ perception of the proposal,” Bernos stressed.

Separate court

Concom’s Teehankee said the draft charter also provides for the creation of a separate court to handle election cases – as proposed by the Duterte administration.

Speaking to One News last Wednesday, Teehankee said the creation of a Federal Electoral Court (FEC) is among the judicial reforms included in the draft charter.

Based on Teehankee’s description, the FEC will take over the mandate of the electoral tribunals that settle complaints against sitting elected officials.

Teehankee also confirmed earlier reports that the proposed charter will redistribute the mandate of the current Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday clarified that it is not against the proposal by Concom to give it prosecutorial powers under the proposed federal system of government.

CHR chairman Chito Gascon said they recognize the efforts of some members of the Concom to strengthen the human rights body. – With Janvic Mateo, Jess Diaz, Robertzon Ramirez, Artemio Dumlao







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