MANILA - A congressman defended Tuesday his proposal to lift term limits for senators, congressmen, and local officials, saying the opportunity for officials "to shine is being limited by the number of years they have to serve."
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, chair of the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments, said lifting term limits for these positions would allow politicians "to shine."
"If there were term limits in the 1935 Constitution, we wouldn't have the great names of Tañada, Recto, Diokno, Tolentino because their stay in the Senate would've been limited," he said, referring to senators Lorenzo Tañada Sr., a prominent figure in the Martial Law resistance; Jose Diokno, founder of the Commission Human Rights; nationalist and academician Claro M. Recto, and law scholar Arturo Tolentino.
"The opportunity for them to shine is being limited by the number of years they have to serve... What is really bad in term limits? It's only our Constitution that has term limits," he added.
His committee had earlier endorsed to the plenary, without amendments, a draft federal constitution filed by House Speaker Gloria Arroyo and other lawmakers.
The current Constitution bans a senator from serving for more than 2 consecutive 6-year terms. It also bans congressmen from serving for more than 3 consecutive 3-year terms.
But under Veloso's Committee report 881, lawmakers from both chambers of Congress will no longer have limits on the number of consecutive terms they are allowed to serve.
This means, for example, House Speaker Arroyo, whose term ends after this Congress, can run again for Pampanga representative and may allow her to retain the chamber's leadership.
The House's proposed draft federal charter is different from the one proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte's Consultative Committee on Charter Change.
Consultative Committee spokesperson Ding Generoso earlier warned that the House's proposed charter would be "worse than the 1935 Constitution" because of the lifting of term limits.
Worse, Generoso said, the House's proposed charter also did not include the ban on political dynasties which is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
No ban on dynasties in House draft
Veloso explained that political dynasties, a phrase used to describe families with members occupying multiple government positions, are just an offspring of term limits.
"This dynasty provision is merely an offspring of term limits. If you do not have any ban on terms, you can have great senators, congressmen," he said.
The current constitution has a provision banning political dynasties but for more than 3 decades, lawmakers failed to pass a law to implement this.
The Consultative Committee plans to resolve this by adding a self-executory ban on political dynasties in their version of the draft federal charter.
"If it couldn't pass in Congress for 31 years, how could it pass in my committee... It's not a case of surrender to the ban. It's a case of surrender as a matter of wisdom. You yield to reality," he said.
"Look at the electorate in the provinces. They don't really mind if we have dynasties. The ban on dynasties is a matter of philosophical argument of those who are not engaged in politics," he added.
In the end, Veloso stressed, it is the people who will decide to proceed or not with the amendments to the Constitution that will pave the way for federalism, a key campaign promise of Duterte.