Palace asserts Duterte wants no term extension under charter change

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2018 03:27 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the Malacañang Palace on December 19, 2017. Albert Alcain, Malacañang Photo

MANILA - Congress must ensure that transitory provisions of a new Constitution would not provide for President Rodrigo Duterte's term extension beyond 2022 as staying longer than six years in his post does not interest the Chief Executive.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this Tuesday, echoing Duterte's disinterest in extending his term if Congress manages to change the country’s Constitution towards a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.

“Kung ano man ang mangyayari na transitory provision, consider him out of the question ‘no. I don’t think majority would want constitutional succession, so they better provide for a transition that would mean that the President will step down in 2022,” Roque said in a news conference.

Roque explained that Vice President Leni Robredo would have to take over during the transition period if Duterte opts out and a new leader has yet to be installed by the end of his term.

“The latest pronouncements of the President is clear: He’s out of office by 2022. Unless they want Leni Robredo to take over, we better have a new leader by 2022,” he said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III earlier this month said extending Duterte’s term beyond six years is a possibility as it may be part of a transition period once an amended Constitution initiates a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.

Duterte has said several times that he would step down ahead of the end of his 6-year term once the shift happens. 

PALACE: LET SENATE, HOUSE RESOLVE IMPASSE

The Senate and House of Representatives have started working on changing the charter, but there has been an impasse between the two chambers on whether they should vote jointly or separately on proposed amendments.

Several framers of the 1987 Constitution have said the two legislative chambers must vote separately in observance of the bicameral nature of Congress.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, however, said the Constitution is clear in specifying that the chamber should vote jointly on charter change.

He said even without the Senate, the House could satisfy the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote of all members of Congress in approving the proposed changes in the Constitution.

Roque said only the two chambers could resolve the impasse.

“Talagang indipendiyente ang Kongreso at Ehekutibo so hahayaan namin silang magresolba ng hindi nila pagkakasundo sa isyu na ito,” Roque said.

“Sa usaping ito, pati ilang mahistrado ng Korte Suprema ay nagsasabi na pati hudikatura eh hindi puwedeng manghimasok sa isyung ito. Talagang tanging Kongreso lang ang maaaring magresolba ng isyung ito.”

Despite saying that the House was not rushing to amend the charter, Alvarez announced Monday that it has started amending the Constitution without the Senate.


LACSON, PANGILINAN HIT CHAMBER'S MOVE

Senator Panfilo Lacson said members of the House "should not allow themselves to look pathetic and worse, ridiculous" with their action.

Lacson, who filed a resolution that would require the Senate to convene as a constituent assembly separate from the House, said members of the other chamber should read the Constitution, which refers to "Congress" as both houses.

"Interpreting 'the Congress' under Article XVII to refer to one chamber only is at best self-serving. They pride themselves as lawyers in good standing but it only takes a layman who knows how to read and understand simple words and literature in order to appreciate what is right and wrong," he said in a statement.

Lacson said the House can propose amendments as they wish, but a plebiscite, to be led by the Commission on Elections, would have to be included in the budget.

"Without the Senate, how can such appropriation materialize?" he said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, also hit the move, saying the House seemed keen on forcing the issue and seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court, which it expects to rule in its favor.

"The administration has bullied the political opposition, its critics, the chief justice, the media, selected business interests, and now it wants to bully the Senate," he said in a statement.

"The bullying of the House is an abuse of those in power. We should not let it pass. If the Senate allows itself to be bullied, then our democracy and respect for the law will be thrown out the window and anyone can be a victim of the abuses of those in power," he added.