By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III maintained Friday that the 2019 midterm elections cannot be postponed merely by legislation if members of Congress intend to extend their terms to have more time taking up the proposed Charter change (Chacha) and shift to federalism.
Sotto issued the clarification after he said on Thursday that Congress can possibly pass law that would hold off the national and local polls, reverting to his original statement dismissing a “no-election” scenario in 2019.
The Senate chief said only the date of the election may be changed by law as stated in Section 8, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution.
“However, if the amended date will be set beyond the term of office provided by law, those members of the Congress (both Houses) whose term ends at noon of June 30 cannot have a holdover capacity. Thus, their term of office cannot be extended as an effect of the law changing the date of the election,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.
”If the intention of changing the date of election is to extend the term of office of the members of both Houses to afford them time to change the Charter, federalism, then amendment to the Constitution must be made,” he added.
Sotto, when specifically asked about the proposed postponement of the 2019 elections, said it will be “unlikely.”
Sotto added he is still unaware of his fellow senators’ view toward the planned revision of the Constitution to pave way for the government’s transition to federalism.
Sotto said he has yet to get the pulse of fellow senators on whether or not they would tackle the draft federal constitution handed to them by the Consultative Commission Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri had admitted that many of the majority senators are still cold to Chacha. Although some members of the minority are supposedly open to amending its provisions, Zubiri doubted that they will favor an overhaul of the present Charter.
“Even among ourselves in the majority, there are many who are not in favor of constitutional change. I personally am a federalist. I’m from Mindanao. I believe in the federal system. But I am only one. I believe Tito Sen, Senate President (Sotto), is open to this. And Senator Koko (Pimentel) and Senator Manny Pacquiao. There’s only four of us. Definitely, we do not have the numbers,” Zubiri told reporters in a briefing at the sidelines of the Congress bicameral conference on the poposed Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday.
He maintained that the revision of the Constitution requires the three-fourths vote of the Senate majority, reiterating the Upper Chamber’s position that Congress should vote separately on Chacha.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised that the Constitution need not be revised to spur the development of regions.
“If the objective is genuine decentralization and devolution, why revise the PH Constitution and divide the nation? We only need to implement the Local Government Code and achieve the same purpose,” Lacson said on Twitter Friday.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proposed the possible deferment of the 2019 polls to allow Congress to focus on Chacha and the smooth transition to federalism.
Senators Francis Escudero, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva had also thumbed down Alvarez’ supposed “no-el” scenario in 2019.