By Vanne Elaine Terrazola and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III is proposing to include in the draft federal constitution a provision that will prohibit President Duterte from seeking a fresh term under the new government system.
Pimentel, on Monday, expressed support for Duterte’s appeal for the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) to revise its proposed charter for the planned shift to a federal form of government and bar him from staying in office during the transition.
“Since si President Duterte naman talaga ay hindi naman interesado to stay a second longer than the term to which he was elected, tanggalin nalang natin yung provision nayan na allowing the incumbent president to run again for president under the new constitution (Since President Duterte is not interested to stay a second longer that the term to which he was elected, let’s just remove the provision allowing the incumbent president to run again under the new constitution),” Pimentel said in an interview at the sidelines of the Congress bicameral conference committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Pasig City.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that nothing will be able to change President Duterte’s mind in rejecting any provision in the proposed federal constitution that may extend his term as Chief Executive.
“Wala po (There nothing that can change his mind),”Roque said. “He has made a personal decision. It’s only until 2022, earlier if possible.”
Con-Com member Julio Teehankee said in a recent interview that the draft federal constitution does not contain a provision prohibiting Duterte from seeking re-election and may be allowed to stay in office until 2030.
While Con-Com chair and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno denied such pronouncements, preventing Duterte from seeking re-election would be discriminatory for the incumbent Chief Executive, according to a report quoting Con-Com member ConradoGeneroso.
To address this, Pimentel proposed that all presidents elected under the 1987 Constitution be prohibited from running for the same position in the new charter.
“Para namansabihinnatinnahindilang din yansakanyanaka-focus, to disqualify him, gawinnatin the incumbent president as well as all persons who held the position of president under the 1987 Constitution shall be ineligible to run for president under the new constitution. Eh di ganyan, patas (So they will not say that we are not focusing on him, to disqualify him, let us make the incumbent president as well as all persons who held the position of president under the 1987 Constitution be ineligible to run for president under the new constitution. That would be fair),” he said.
“We are not favoring the incumbent president but we are not targeting for disqualification only the incumbent president,” he added.
Pimentel also appealed for the re-focusing of attention to the non-controversial matters of the draft constitution so that the benefits of the proposal could also be discussed.
“As much as possible,iwasanang controversial provisions na not about federalism kasi otherwise angusapanmada-divert ang attention ngtaong-bayandoonsa controversial provisions na ‘yon (As much as possible, let’s veer away from the controversial provisions that are not about federalism because otherwise, the public’s attention will be diverted),” the staunch advocate of federalism said.
“Hindi tuloynapapagusapananganoangpagbabagonadadalhinngpederalismo.Nagaway-away langtayo kung pwedetumakbo o hindi,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said he does not believe that a possible term extension for Duterte will be allowed in the new charter.
He also reiterated that the contents of the draft charter will still be reviewed when it is forwarded to Congress.
“I mean nothing is written yet in stone as far as that proposal is concerned. Pwede naming baguhinangkahitanodoon (We can change anything),” Sotto told reporters in a separate interview.
Besides, Sotto noted, Congress has yet to decide whether or not to tackle the proposed charter change thru a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).
Most lawmakers prefer to take up Cha-cha through Con-Ass than a Constitutional Convention, which they say would be more tedious and expensive.
No price tag on federalism
Leaders of the House of Representatives asked yesterday the critics of President Duterte not to put a price tag on federalism, saying that its projected cost will be outweighed by unquantifiable economic growth and development it would deliver to the country, especially in the countryside.
Deputy Speakers Fredenil Castro of Capiz and Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu made the call, as a government think tank estimates that the government’s shift to federalism could cost P44 billion to P72 billion a year.
“We cannot put a price tag on whether or not we should shift from the present system to federal system. The bottom line is, what is best to attain peace and development to uplift the living condition of the Filipinos,” Castro said.
“We believe that federalism is best for the Filipinos, based on objective and honest to goodness studies and not, on purely experimental, if not, speculative motivation,” he said. (With a report from Charissa Atienza)