MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte does not find a term extension "attractive" even as his allies in Congress floated the idea of prolonging his stay in power under the proposed federal Constitution.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s allies in Congress should know by now that the President is not keen on staying beyond the end of his term in 2022.
“He has said it before. If we can amend the Constitution and provide for provisions that will 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,” Roque said in a news briefing in Davao City.
“And given the emphatic statement of the President that he does not wish to stay one minute longer than his term, I do not think it is something that he finds attractive,” he said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III had on Wednesday said extending Duterte’s term beyond six years is a possibility as it may be part of a 3-year transition period once an amended Constitution initiates a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.
The Senate leader, also president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said this could happen if the Chief Executive is amenable to it.
Another PDP-Laban stalwart, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, said there could be no midterm elections in 2019 if Congress succeeds in changing the charter that allows a shift to a federal form of government.
Senators cast doubt on Alvarez's statement, with Pimentel saying a Constitutional amendment does not necessarily mean elections would have to be put off, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto saying Congress does not have enough time to amend the Constitution before the midterm polls.
Roque, for his part, said the 2019 elections have to push through “unless and until the Constitution is amended and ratified by the people.”
The idea of a term extension for the President and a no-election scenario have alarmed administration critics.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the Liberal Party president, said a 10-year transition period without elections and a term extension for legislators are among constitutional amendments that may be included in the proposed charter.
Under this scenario, all local officials will be appointed, the President will have the power to craft laws, and restrictions against foreign businesses may be lifted, he said.