House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has once again floated the possibility of postponing the 2019 senatorial elections through a people’s initiative to facilitate the county’s projected transition into federalism.
Alvarez’s proposal has been met with strong opposition from the upper chamber of Congress, even from those known to be allies of the administration.
Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III
Sotto has been dismissive of Alvarez’s proposal on people’s initiative as a mode by which the constitution can be changed.
The new Senate president pointed to the absence of any provision in the 1987 Constitution which allows the holdover of positions—essentially what will happen should the elections be postponed or cancelled.
He has also pointed to the lack of an existing enabling law that would allow people’s initiative on the constitution.
“I think that is the question that needs to be answered first. Why is it needed? Maybe then you can convince most of the senators,” said Sotto about the proposal at a recent Senate forum.
Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III
The former senate president has yet to publicize his stance on Alvarez’s suggestion.
Pimentel, known as one of the most vocal proponents of federalism among the senators, has been rumored to have been ousted from the Senate presidency due to his opposition to a “no-el” scenario for 2019.
Lacson has been one of the most vocal in their opposition to the idea of postponing elections.
He recently said that blocking the 2019 elections was “wrong and self-serving” and said that majority of the senators would block postponement of the elections.
Leila de Lima
The incarcerated senator posted her thoughts on Alvarez’ proposal on her social media accounts.
For De Lima, Alvarez’s plan was a destabilization of democracy.
“It undermines the legitimacy and authority of local government officials because it makes their terms uncertain as hold-over officials,” said de Lima in her statement.
De Lima also said that the postponed elections could place LGU officials under duress from the president to accede to the administration’s directives, such as federalism.
The first-term senator slammed Alvarez’s proposal, calling on fellow legislators to prioritize more pressing matters such as repealing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law.
“It is a great disservice to the proposed new system of governance. Was that what the President’s federalism was all about all along? Prolong the term limits of his political allies?,” Hontiveros said in a previous report.
Gatchalian, a known supporter of the administration and several of its initiatives, has taken a hardline view on the charter change initiative. Previously, he asked for a concise time table on the process from federalism proponents. In January 2018, he warned Alvarez against easing the upper chamber out of its shared power to convene on charter change.
Gatchalian commented that Alvarez’s “people initiative” idea would be “a waste of resources.”
Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero
Escudero in a statement derided Alvarez’s plan.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know why he seems so obsessed with postponing the election when neither the people nor the Palace supports such postponement,” Escudero said on his Facebook account.
Escudero reportedly had warned that a postponement of the May 2019 elections would be a violation of the constitution.
The senate president pro-tempore expressed his disapproval of the no-el proposal.
Recto remarked that a people’s initiative pushed by Alvarez would actually be “a Speaker’s initiative or political elite initiative.”
The Liberal Party in a Twitter thread related how a good number of the senators opposed postponement of the election.
Many of us in the @senateph, cross-party, is not for a “No election”. Hindi pwedeng tanggalin ang karapatan na iyon sa ating taumbayan.
— Bam Aquino (@bamaquino) July 19, 2018
“This is a red flag, there is a move to remove election, you’re moving closer to an autocracy,” said Aquino in another tweet. He who is among those seen to seek reelection next year,
Aquino praised the intentions behind the proposed charter change but criticized the manner by which it was imposed on the country.
.@senatePH will not be railroaded. We will not fast-track it. We will give it the proper time. When we see people understand federalism, that will be the best time to discuss charter change.
— Bam Aquino (@bamaquino) July 19, 2018
The minority floor leader has been among those most openly critical of the no-el proposal. He has stated that the Senate’s minority bloc will contest any attempt to cancel the 2019 polls through people’s initiative.
Drilon has called the drive to amend the constitution a means to cancelling the elections and thus extending the terms of sitting officials.
He said that the Congress should not be rushed into charter change.
“As the saying goes, ‘the cat is out of the bag.’ Cha-cha is being pushed in order that the election could be postponed,” Drilon said.
Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan
Known to be critical of the charter change plan, Pangilinan had recently discussed the recent Pulse Asia survey on cha-cha and warned that the the transition could be “poisoned” by cancelled elections and term extensions for incumbent officials.
“The people will throw up force-fed (no elections) and Cha-cha,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Another known administration ally, Ejercito has rejected the idea of postponing the 2019 elections.
“Though I stand to benefit from the no-election proposal being a re-electionist, elections are referendum of public officials. People look forward to electing their leaders,” said Ejercito in a recent statement.
Juan Miguel Zubiri
Senate Majority Floor Leader Zubiri has surprisingly warned against fast tracking the cha-cha process and has raised concerns over the effect a postponed elections could have on the economy.
He recently urged other officials to stop talks on no-el, citing investor concerns.
“Dapat ‘wag munang pagusapan ‘yan (no-el) kasi natatakot ‘yung mga investors,” he said during a recent radio interview with DWIZ.
For Honasan, proponents should first make clear of what is the ultimate long-term objective of a no-election scenario in 2019.
He added that there were “variables to consider in deciding a no-election option or go ahead with the 2019 midterm election.”
Honasan cited the “financial, economic and political costs, and a productive timeline” for Congress to consider in such an event.
Antonio ‘Sonny’ Trillanes IV
One of the most outspoken administration critics in the Senate, Trillanes as of this writing has yet to speak out on Alvarez’s proposal.
However, the opposition lawmaker as early as January 2018 already warned against letting a no-el situation take place.
For him, a no-el would be a “trap” laid out by the administration and that the charter change proposal was just a plan to extend the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara
Angara in an interview with Business Mirror said that the Congress will most likely be divided on the issue of no elections.
While he has yet to confirm his stance, Angara echoed sentiments that the house speaker’s plan itself will require a constitutional amendment to be properly instituted.
Poe, noted for a centrist view on the charter change debate, has professed to block any “cha-cha express” move.
Poe has also criticized the speaker for his proposal.
“The speaker should not try any shortcuts and tricks if he believes the proposed charter is judicious and a true solution to the needs of our people,” said Poe in media interviews. — with reports from Jasmine Salanga