MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of extending his term beyond the 6-year limit set by the Constitution, just as the Philippines' emerging partner China recently proposed abolishing a rule limiting Beijing’s top leader to two five-year terms.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque refused to draw parallelisms between Duterte and China’s Xi Jinping - two leaders who have gained a reputation among critics as having autocratic tendencies - amid moves in their countries to change their respective Constitutions that could alter term limits of government officials.
“That’s a marked difference because the President has said he wants to step down earlier if possible and will not stay one minute longer beyond 2022… He may step down… earlier if the Constitution is amended,” Roque said in a news conference.
Roque said Xi may seek a fresh term after his 10-year rule, “but as far as President [Duterte] is concerned, that’s out of the question.”
Charter change critics have raised alarm over alleged attempts to extend Duterte’s term, but the chief executive himself has said he would step down once the government manages to change the country’s form of government to from unitary to federal.
Duterte has also thumbed down the proposal for him to lead a transition government if the shift to federalism succeeds.
CHINA SEEKS TO REMOVE TERM LIMITS FOR PRESIDENT
China's Communist Party has handed Xi an open path to indefinite rule -- a move analysts warn carries enormous risks by abandoning a succession model that brought stability after turbulent decades under Mao.
Xi, who has concentrated power, accumulated titles and purged potential rivals since becoming head of state in 2013, could remain president for life after the party proposed abolishing a rule limiting the top leader to two five-year terms.
But giving all the levers of power to one man could further erode human rights, unsettle other nations and even set up traps for Xi's rule at home, analysts warn.
"The two-term limit was supposed to increase stability. By ruling beyond the standard 10-year tenure, Xi will be subject to much closer scrutiny by Chinese citizens and the political elite," said Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, Sydney-based co-author of "China and the New Maoists."
The announcement made abruptly on Sunday further chips away at the era of "collective" leadership that was championed by reform leader Deng Xiaoping to prevent the return of another Mao-like cult figure.
Xi's two predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, both served two five-year terms, providing a smooth succession that accompanied China's rise to become the world's second-largest economy.
But Xi, 64, has adopted Mao's playbook, tightening his grip with a relentless crackdown on civil society and corruption, enshrining his name in the party constitution and building his own personality cult.
Remaining in power beyond 2023 gives Xi a chance to push through his vision of a rejuvenated China with global clout, a prosperous society, a revived Silk Road trade route and a powerful military.
China's rubber-stamp legislature is expected to give Xi his second term and remove the 10-year limit at its annual meeting opening on March 5. -- with Agence France-Presse