Palace: Duterte not interested in extending term

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace: Duterte not interested in extending term
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the only elections that can be deferred are those that are not stated in the Constitution like the barangay polls.
KJ Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte does not intend to stay in power beyond his term, Malacañang said yesterday, as it maintained that the 2022 elections can only be postponed if the 1987 Constitution is amended.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the only elections that can be deferred are those that are not stated in the Constitution like the barangay polls.

“It (postponing the 2022 elections) can never be an option for Malacañang unless the Constitution is amended,” Roque said, noting that the Charter specifies the date of election of the president, vice president, representatives and senators.

“The President is not interested in extending his term and he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people, to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to postpone the elections,” he added.

The Constitution states that the regular election for president, vice president, senators and members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May.

Last week, House deputy majority leader and Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo was heavily criticized for floating the idea of deferring the 2022 polls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, later clarified that deferring the polls may only be an “option of last resort” in case the health crisis worsens. Malacañang has rejected the idea, saying it presents “constitutional challenges” and would not sit well with the public. Roque said the mode of campaigning would change under the “new normal” but the elections would push through.

“I understand the Comelec (Commission on Elections), which is a constitutional body tasked with the supervision of elections, has already announced that they are considering modified form of elections, less physical contact. Under the new normal, under the new situation, perhaps what will change is the manner of campaigning,” the Palace spokesman said.

Asked whether the Palace supports the proposal to implement mail-in-voting, Roque said: “Well, of course the decision lies with the Comelec.

We won’t preempt the Comelec. But as I said, we have to consider ways... (that) have been used in other countries. Perhaps Comelec will consider that for the first time.”

‘Postponement possible with enabling law’

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Comelec admitted yesterday that postponing the May 2022 polls is possible, provided that there is a law mandating this.

At a press conference, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said making a decision on whether or not the elections should push through is beyond their mandate.

However, he noted it is difficult to rule this out because even in the Constitution, there is a provision that sets an election on the second Monday of May in an election year “unless otherwise provided by law.”

“So extension is possible but there must be a law on that. There might be a problem on another provision that the term (of office) of the incumbent officials ends on June 30 (2022),” he added.

According to Abas, postponing the polls will also have to be approved through a plebiscite.

“In order to be able to amend the constitutional provision, it has to be approved by two-thirds of our congressmen and will need also for a plebiscite to be held,” he said.

This was echoed by Comelec spokesman James Jimenez but he underscored that it was “ironic” to have a plebiscite to determine whether or not the elections should be postponed.

A plebiscite is also a form of election wherein the voters will vote “yes” or “no” to express their opinion on a certain proposal.

“You also need to hold an election if you conduct a plebiscite. So you’re gonna hold an election (plebiscite) to postpone an election. That seems to be ironic if ever,” Jimenez added.  – Sheila Crisostomo

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