Alvarez bats for people's initiative to postpone 2019 polls

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2018 03:36 PM

MANILA - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday reiterated his pitch for a people’s initiative to postpone next year's midterm elections.

Alvarez, who made the same proposal on Monday over a radio interview, said this could be an option in case the Senate refuses to pass a law postponing the elections. 

“Kung ayaw ng Senado, puwede naman ang taongbayan kung talagang naniniwala silang kailangan nang palitan iyan... may mga requirements naman doon. In every district, 3 percent. For the whole country, 12 percent. Puwedeng people's initiative. And then after the people's initiative, verification of signatures, then, pagkakatapos isasalang pa rin sa referendum," he told DZMM radio.

(If the Senate refuses, people can do it if they really believe that it must be changed. There are requirements there. In every district, 3 percent. For the whole country, 12 percent. It can be through people's initiative. And then after the people's initiative, verification of signatures, then, it will go through a referendum.)

But Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also maintained his chamber's position that deliberations on charter change cannot be rushed.

"As far as the Senate is concerned, hindi ito puwedeng madaliin (we cannot rush this). I've said it many, many times. My goodness! It took us a year to deliberate on the Bangsamoro organic law. And this is only for one region," Zubiri said when asked to comment on Alvarez's remarks.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are meeting in a bicameral session to reconcile disagreeing provisions in their versions of the law that would create a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

The Senate on Tuesday also resumed its hearings on proposed amendments to the Constitution under the draft federal charter submitted by the consultative committee to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Alvarez wanted the matter of postponing the elections finalized before the filing of certificates of candidacies in October. He said extending terms of elected officials to accommodate a transition is not a novel idea. 

“In fact, noong 1986, kung maalala niyo, talagang na-extend 'yung mga termino ng mga nakaupo dahil kailangan ng transition government," he said.

(In fact, in 1986, if you could remember, the term of the incumbents were extended because there had to be a transition government.)

The House Speaker was referring to the transition from the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorial regime to the restoration of democracy under then President Corazon Aquino. 

Alvarez is proposing that instead of appointing officers-in-charge, as what happened in 1986, the terms of incumbent officials be extended to 2022—which is when the first regular elections under the new charter is envisioned. 

The administration stalwart in the House of Representative appealed to the public to look at the matter objectively, stressing that the push for charter amendments could no longer be delayed.

“Tingnan natin, kung talagang gawin natin ito, let's do it right. Kasi kapag pinagpaliban mo iyan, matapos lang ang termino ni President Duterte, hindi po magagawa iyan," Alvarez said.

(Let's see, if we really want to do this, then let's do it right. If you delay that until the end of President Duterte's term [in 2022], that can no longer be done.)

He said letting the 2019 midterm elections pass before pursuing charter change will leave only over 2 years to amend the charter and transition to a new government. 

“Hindi po kaya...Mag-eleksyon tayo, gawin na natin iyan after elections... alam nila hindi na posible 'yun," he said.

(It can't be done. If we hold the elections and we do it after that, they know that it's not possible.)

The House leader estimates that Congress would need at least 6 months to amend the 1987 Constitution as debates could last longer.

“Kung 'yung Constitutional Commission ay inabot sila ng apat na buwan para gawin iyan, siyempre sa Kongreso, sa House of Representatives, sa tingin namin siguro pinakamaaga naming magagawa iyan mga six months," he said.

(If the Constitutional Commission took 4 months to finish this, the House of Representatives may be able to do it in 6 months at the earliest.)

Once a new charter is ratified, a massive information drive will be needed so that voters could have an informed choice when they vote to ratify or reject the proposed charter in a plebiscite. There will also be a need for a transition government to implement the shift to the new federal constitution.

The congressional calendar currently seems packed. Once the 3rd regular session of the 17th Congress opens on Monday, it will have to tackle the proposed 2019 budget. Once Congress is done with the budget, it will be Christmas time and soon the 2019 midterm election campaign season begins. 

Alvarez pointed out that since certificates of candidacies are set to be filed by October, it would be harder for them to muster a quorum since candidates would be launching their respective local campaigns.

The crafting of a new charter is part of the administration's move to shift to a federal form of government, among the President's campaign promises which he believes would help spur countryside development.