MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3:57 P.M.) Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez categorically denied on Thursday, January 3, that the possibility of putting off next year’s elections amid the push to shift to a federal government would pave the way for the extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s constitutionally mandated single six-year term.
At the same time, he accused the opposition of looking to sow confusion over the “No-el” scenario, which he stressed is only intended o allow for the smooth transition should the administration succeed in its push to a federal government.
“Taktikalidad (sic) lang po ‘yan (That’s just a tactic),” Alvarez said of No-el as he stressed that Duterte himself has categorically said he has no intention of staying in his post a minute longer when his term expires in 2022.
“Malinaw po ang sinabi ng Pangulo na ‘yung kanyang termino mag-e-end (The President has clearly said that his term will end) on or before (2022.) Kasi kung kinakailangan niyang mag-resign bago mag-2022 para (sa) ating bagong Saligang Batas, ‘yung bagong sistema ng gobyerno, ay kaya niyang gawin ‘yon (Because if he needs to resign before 2022 for our new Constitution, the new system of government, he can do that),” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he is convinced Duterte will honor his word.
“Matagal ko ng kilala ‘yan, talagang pagod na rin at kung pupuwede nga lang bukas (I’ve known him for a long time, he’s really tired and if he could do it tomorrow) …” Alvarez said, echoing an oft-repeated statement of Duterte’s.
Alvarez said his proposed “No-el” scenario merely concerns the terms of senators who would otherwise be up for election in 2019, since winning candidates would then have terms good until 2025, which might pose legal complications should a new Constitution be drafted and ratified in a plebiscite simultaneous with the barangay polls this May.
For practical purposes, Alvarez said senators whose terms expire in 2019 can be allowed to stay on in a holdover capacity during the transition period to the federal form of government, or until 2022.
Among the senators are up for reelection in 2019 are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe.
On the other hand, Senators Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, and Antonio Trillanes IV, will be completing their second terms on June 20, 2019 and will no longer be eligible for reelection.
The terms of the remaining senators elected in the 2016 elections end in 2022.
Alvarez said the 2019 elections for local government officials and members of the House of Representatives could still push through since they all have three year terms that expire on 2022.
He said once Congress resumes session on January 15, he would talk with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III about convening Congress into a constituent assembly that would draft a new Constitution to make way for the federal form of government.
DUTERTE SHUNS TERM EXTENSION: ROQUE
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Alvarez’s view that Duterte is not interested in having a term extension.
“The President is the chief implementor of the Constitution and the laws of the land. unless and until the constitution is amended and ratified by the people, elections will push through in 2019, and what the President promises is that if elections push through, we will have a credible and honest election,” Roque said in a press conference in Davao City on Thursday.
“On the possible term extension, he has said it before: if we can amend the Constitution, and provide for provisions that would minimize graft and corruption, he will even resign prior to the end of his term of office in 2022. So the President is considering shortening his term but has definitely rejected even the idea of prolonging his term,” said Roque
“The President has no wish to extend his term. If the Constitution can be amended to provide for federalism, and to provide for provisions that would strengthen public accountability, he said he is willing to cut short his term. So the idea of prolonging his term is out of the question,” added Roque.
Then, echoing Alvarez anew, the Palace official said: “Walang pagnanais si Presidente na pahabain pa ang kanyang termino. Gusto nga niyang paikliin pa kung pupwede [The President has no desire to extend his term. He’d want it shortened, in fact, if such is possible].” – With a report by Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon