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Concom to ban reelection for Duterte

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Concom to ban reelection for Duterte
The Concom approved the arrangement late yesterday afternoon despite an earlier warning from panel chairman former chief justice Reynato Puno that there might be chaos if the transition team would elect its leader instead of letting the President assume the role.
Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines — As President Duterte himself had supposedly requested, the consultative committee (Concom) tasked to review the 1987 Charter is banning him from seeking re-election under a new charter or even sitting as head of a transition team that would clear the way for a federal system of government.

The Concom approved the arrangement late yesterday afternoon despite an earlier warning from panel chairman former chief justice Reynato Puno that there might be chaos if the transition team would elect its leader instead of letting the President assume the role.

Puno said the committee agreed to include Duterte’s entire request in the transitory provision, including electing the president and vice president of the transition team within six months after ratification of the new constitution by Congress.

“We agreed to put all these instructions of the president in this draft constitution. We shall still be meeting tomorrow to fine-tune the details, but in principle we will follow the instruction of the President,” Puno said.

Asked why the Concom has included a vice president in the transition team, Puno said there should be replacement in case the president is forced to step down for whatever reason.

It was also agreed yesterday that Vice President Leni Robredo would have to vacate her post after the election of a transition team vice president. But she would be allowed to run for vice president of the transition team.

Senators, meanwhile, would have a holdover position. Details of the election would still have to be discussed by the Concom.

Furthermore, the elected president and vice president of the transition team are barred from seeking re-election under a federal government.

As far as Duterte’s appointees are concerned, Puno said they all have to vacate their posts once the transitory president is elected.

“The transitory president shall only be there until 2022. So his term of office will be short – until 2022,” he said.

Asked about the terms of office of incumbent officials and court officials, Puno replied: “The moment there is a new constitution, the terms of office of everybody in the old constitution would cease. That is the natural course of events.”

Earlier yesterday, Puno said his panel met with the President who expressed his wish to be banned from seeking reelection or leading the transitory team.

“Iba-ban nga siya sa pagtakbo dahil yun ang gusto niya (he’ll be banned from running because it’s his request),” Puno stressed.

He had also said electing someone to lead the 10-man transition team might create discord in the group – especially over division of powers.

He also couldn’t tell if Robredo could lead the transition team, as she is perceived to be against federalism.

Full approval

President Duterte approved without changes the draft federal constitution prepared by the 22-man Concom. Spokesman for Concom Ding Generoso said that while Duterte did not make any changes in the proposed constitution, he asked the Concom members to convene anew to revise the transitory provisions.

“At the meeting of the President with Concom members after receiving the draft constitution, the President said he is approving and endorsing the draft constitution in toto,” Generoso said.

“He (Duterte) meant the rest of the constitution, but with changes in the transitory provisions,” he added.

Generoso said Duterte wants the Concom to elect a “younger president” who will lead the transition to federalism.

Malacañang earlier stressed Duterte was not keen on leading the transition team.  

The Puno committee handed over to Duterte his copy of the draft federal constitution on Monday.

Members of the Concom convened yesterday afternoon at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) to discuss details on the transitory provisions upon the request of Duterte.

Former senator and Concom member Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Duterte told them on Monday to check the draft charter and make some refinement if necessary, as there is enough time before his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

“He told us to go over the draft since his SONA is on the 23rd. He can make adjustments then get back to us for the refinement and submit it to the Congress,” Pimentel said.

Asked what he expects of a leader of the transition team, Pimentel said he or she should be “somebody who can be trusted with neutrality in the transition period.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made it clear Congress would have the final say on the draft charter.

“Of course we need to study and assess the draft charter. We just can’t accept or adopt it as a whole. Whatever revision of the constitution we need has to go through the right process,” the leader of the 292-member House of Representatives clarified.

Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur is calling on the Puno-led committee to “include” in its review of the 1987 Constitution the proposed “reforms” in the charter’s restrictive economic provisions.

“Reforming the economic provisions of the Constitution should be done now, given that the Concom has already approved the draft revised organic law, paving the way for a federal form of government,” Villafuerte said.

“Suggestion has been made to hold the plebiscite on Charter change in 2019; and an information drive will soon commence to reverse the low awareness level of Filipinos about federalism,” he said.

Relax economic provisions

Villafuerte maintained the Concom should work with a sense of urgency in seeking to relax the “protectionist” economic provisions of the 31-year-old Charter.

“Our protectionist economic policy is an anachronism under the new global free economy or borderless world. This is why FDI have remained relatively anemic despite the Philippines’ newfound investment-grade status as Asia’s bright star,” he said. FDI stands for foreign direct investments.

Villafuerte lamented that while the Philippines obtained “successive credit ratings upgrades” from the top three debt watchers, it is still lagging behind its Asian neighbors when it comes to FDI. Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings have consistently given the country positive ratings.

He said the 40 percent increase in FDI in 2016 to $7.9 billion was still the lowest in the region based on ASEAN data.

“This is small when compared to the $53.9 billion in FDI that went to Singapore the same year or the $11.3 billion that went to Malaysia. Even erstwhile tail-ender Vietnam got $12.6 billion in FDI, which is a third higher than what we got,” he compared.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said any talk about term extension or no election scenario is endangering the Charter change process.

Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said “any talk of term extension or a no-election scenario leaves a bad taste in the mouth.” 

“If we are to prioritize the interests of the politicians then we might as well not Cha-cha (amend the Constitution),” Pangilinan said.

 “We will not allow the basic right of the people to choose their leaders during elections to be disregarded,” he emphasized.

According to Pangilinan, what the people need right now is higher salaries and not an extension of the terms of politicians. “Elections must go on,” he said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the people should not believe President Duterte’s declaration about his lack of interest in staying in power, citing the Chief Executive’s record of breaking his promise.

“This is a trap. Let us not be fooled again by such promises of Duterte,” Trillanes said.

“He only wants to fool and trap the senators into agreeing to Cha-cha so that they could rape the Constitution and postpone the 2019 elections in order to remain in power,” he added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the primary consideration for Charter change should be “what should serve best the interest of future generations of Filipinos.”

“In fact, that should be our first and only consideration,” Lacson said.

“The proposed draft charter is not about one person, or for those opposing and supporting it. Neither is it about us in this present generation,” he added.   –  Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy

CHARTER CHANGE CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE FEDERALISM
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