Rodrigo Duterte supports Cha-cha if…

Diana Lhyd Suelto - The Philippine Star
Rodrigo Duterte supports Cha-cha if�
Former president Rodrigo Duterte and son Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte deliver speeches during a prayer rally in Cebu City late Sunday.

MANILA, Philippines — After staunchly opposing the proposed Charter change initiative and even berating President Marcos over the issue, former president Rodrigo Duterte has said he is now open to amending the Constitution – including the term limit for the president – as long as the changes do not apply to incumbent officials.

The former president earlier insisted that the Constitution was already perfect and did not have to be changed.

“I will support the changes in the Constitution – its economic provisions and even the term of the president, I am OK with it, as long as it does not favor the incumbent leaders or those who will be elected in the coming elections,” Duterte said at a prayer rally in Cebu City organized by supporters against people’s initiative Sunday night.

He said he would not go against Cha-cha if President Marcos would promise not to run again.

“Do not change the Constitution if you are doing it for your own favor and you just want to extend your term,” Duterte said, addressing Marcos.

He also said that any changes in the Constitution intended to extend the terms of the incumbent elected officials would not sit well with the people.

“You do not tinker with the Constitution, because if you are going to change it just like what Marcos (Sr.) did, it will not end well,” he said.

“There is a time limit, stick to it so that everything will be well,” Duterte maintained. “Do not follow in your father’s footsteps, because you will really stumble.”

While claiming he is against constitutional changes that would extend the term of incumbent elected officials, Duterte said he is willing to compromise if such an endeavor would turn out to be for the good of the people.

“I would support whatever changes in the Constitution if that would enhance, improve or whatever that would make the Filipinos happy. I am for it, as long as they will not insert their personal interest in securing their future in politics,” Duterte said.

The former president would be leading seven more prayer vigils against a Cha-cha that would only benefit politicians, former spokesman Harry Roque said.

“As you heard from the speech of PRRD that he was focused on Charter change, he said that the Constitution can be amended or revised but it cannot benefit the incumbent,” Roque told The STAR.

“The term of the current president should not be extended because of it. If there should be an amendment, it should not be given effect as to the incumbents. The president’s focus was people’s initiative (PI),” he said.

Roque added that the people should remain vigilant, as PI proponents appear determined to push their way through.

“We will continue our prayer vigils. We will continue our dissemination campaign. In fact, after Cebu, preparations are being done for the next one where president Duterte will also attend. There are at least seven cities vying to be the next venue,” Roque said, without giving details.

‘P20/K rice a scam’

At the same prayer rally, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte again lashed out at Marcos, calling his campaign promise of P20 per kilo rice a scam.

“You know what’s the funniest thing in all of these? That you would lie about lowering the price of rice to P20/kilo... That is called a scam,” Mayor Duterte told the crowd.

He said the President was giving Filipinos false hopes. “If you are a politician, whatever you say on stage will be remembered by the people,” he said.

“The P30 difference is a big deal to those whose stomachs are empty. It is easy for you to say that you’ll lower the price of rice to P20 because it will not matter to you if you can’t make it happen. But to the hungry, those living in the mountains, the poor, it is a big deal for them,” he said.

Rice price is expected to stabilize in 2024, but nowhere near the P20/kilo promised by Marcos.

Rice watchdog group Bantay Bigas said the elder Duterte also failed to fulfill his promise to bring down the retail price of rice to P25 per kilo during his incumbency.

Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo noted that the Duterte administration had claimed that the cost of the staple would go down to P25 per kilo with the passage of Republic Act  11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

“For the farmers and Bantay Bigas, it was not only during the administration of President Marcos where it was promised that the retail price of rice would go down. Under the administration of his father, former president Duterte also promised that the retail price of rice will go down to P25 per kilo once Republic Act 11203 is passed into law,” Estavillo told The STAR.

Mayor Duterte, meanwhile, also called out proponents of Cha-cha through people’s initiative. “It has just been a year and the concern of this administration is how to increase their term of office through Charter change,” he said. “Don’t fool us. You have no shame.”

He added, “If I were you, I would work harder and show the people you are doing your job. You show them that you care about the people, especially those who are poor.”

He also called on Speaker Martin Romualdez to shut up and not to defend the President, who is a cousin.

“I do not know you. Don’t answer for your cousin because I do not know you,” he said. “You are brave now because you are the Speaker. You became the Speaker just because your cousin is the President.

The mayor appeared to challenge Romualdez to a fistfight. There was no immediate comment from the Speaker. — Delon Porcalla, Bella Cariaso

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