MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday asserted that President Rodrigo Duterte would not have any hand in proposals to cancel next year’s mid-term elections to give way to the plebiscite for the proposed federal charter.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte instead prefers that the plebiscite for charter change and the elections be held at the same time, as he dismissed the "no election (no-el)" scenario.
“I will quote the President, ‘I will not have any hand in that.’ Talagang hindi po siya payag sa no-el para lamang sa charter change,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“Naniniwala po siya sa demokrasya, naniniwala siya sa eleksiyon at ang nais niya isabay na nga itong [plebiscite] sa eleksiyon.”
(I will quote the President, ‘I will not have any hand in that.’ He is not amenable to postponing the elections just for charter change. He believes in democracy and the elections and he wants the [plebiscite] and midterm elections to be done simultaneously.)
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a staunch ally of the President, has pushed for the postponement of next year’s elections and the extension of the term of incumbent officials to allow the conduct of a charter change plebiscite.
Critics, however, say this move would violate the present constitution.
Drawing flak for his proposal, Alvarez then floated the idea of a people’s initiative to amend the provision in the 1987 Constitution requiring that elections be held every three years.
Duterte has repeatedly stressed that he would not stay beyond the end of his term in 2022. He asked the consultative committee tasked to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution to include a provision calling for the election of a transition president and vice-president.
Despite Duterte’s pronouncements, critics remain unimpressed.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide said several provisions in the draft constitution for a federal government could weaken democracy in the country.
Davide noted that while the draft charter says Duterte cannot run anymore in case it gets ratified in a plebiscite, it does not state a prohibition against him running as transition president.
The president picking losing vice presidential candidate and former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as his running mate "could easily happen," said Davide when asked of such a scenario.
Davide warned that Vice President Leni Robredo’s term might be cut short in case a Duterte-Marcos tandem wins as transition president and vice-president.
Roque said Robredo’s fate is the least of the Palace’s concerns, even as critics warned of a “reverse power-grab” against the incumbent vice-president, who belongs to the opposition Liberal Party.
“Hindi binibigyan masyado ng Palasyo ng pansin naman iyong karera ni Vice President. Bahala naman si Vice President sa karera niya,” Roque said.
“At paulit-ulit sinasabi ni President Duterte nais niyang maging legacy sa taong bayan iyong charter change patungo ng federalism at matapos makamit iyan ay bababa na siya sa puwesto ‘no.”
(The Palace does not pay too much attention to the career of the Vice President. Her career is none of our business. The President keeps on saying that he wants charter change for the shift to federalism to be his legacy, and he will step down once this is achieved.)
Roque said that the President, by declaring his lack of intent to stay in power after the passage of a new charter, is setting an example for his party-mates.
“He has asked the Consultative Committee to include the provision that would ensure that he will not benefit from charter change. He would like to see all his allies do the same thing – not to benefit from charter change, leading by way of example,” Roque said.