Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez speaks during his birthday celebration at the Tagum City Hall in Davao Del Norte on Jan. 12, 2018.
Robinson Niñal Jr./Presidential Photo, File
Alvarez bats for term extension if charter change proceeds
Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - July 18, 2018 - 3:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said they are proposing for the extension of the terms of government officials if the proposed shift to a federal form of government would push through.

President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing for a shift to a federal form of government which he said was needed to address the unequal distribution of economic and political power in the country.

His 22-member consultative committee has already submitted its proposed draft of the federal government constitution, but recent surveys showed that many Filipinos were opposed to the idea.

Alvarez said a transition government would be needed after the ratification of the new charter, whose first local and national elections were targetted to be held in 2022.

The House speaker likened his proposal to extend the terms of officials to former President Corazon Aquino's appointment of local government officials right after the ouster of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

When asked if he was against the appointment of officials, Alvarez said in an interview with DZMM radio: "Yes. Our proposal, in fact, is don't appoint. Just extend (their terms)."

Alvarez, a close ally of the president, will lead the deliberations in the Lower House on proposals to change the 1987 Constitution.

He said that elections next year should be canceled, and this postponement should be announced before the filing of the certificates of candidature in October.

The speaker said Congress would have a tight schedule, and postponing the 2019 midterm elections would ensure that charter change would happen before the president relinquished power in 2022.

If the 2019 elections would be held, congressmen and senators would be busy with campaigning by the start of next year, making it difficult to talk about proposed changes to the Constitution, he said.

Alvarez explained that Congress would be busy tackling the budget after Duterte's annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.

The budget should be passed by November, he said, leaving lawmakers with little time to tackle the consultative panel's proposed charter.

The speaker also doubled down on his comment on Tuesday that a people's initiative could be held to suspend next year's polls.

Alvarez also stood by his opinion that the House could propose changes to the constitution even without the Senate for as long as they would have the votes of three-fourths of all the members of Congress.

This was contrary to the opinion of some members of the president's consultative committee such as retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., retired Justice Jose Eduardo Nachura, Julio Teehankee and Edmund Tayao.

"Our position is, three-fourths votes of all its members, it means we get three-fourths of all congressmen and senators," the speaker said.

He said that even without the Senate they would continue their deliberations on charter change.

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