By Camille A. Aguinaldo
A SUBCOMMITTEE of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution has proposed that elective officials, including the president, the vice-president and lawmakers, serve for four years with one reelection under the proposed federal government.“The members of the committee felt that three years (for congressman) is too short. So it was turned to four, even for the president. This is a return to the 1935 Constitution, four years,” former Supreme Court justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, chair of the subcommittee on the structure of the federal government, said during a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. “Manuel Quezon was elected under the 1935 Constitution that provided for six-year term without reelection. When he ended his term, he said six years was too long for a bad president but too short for a good president. So the (1935) Constitution was amended where they changed it to four years with reelection,” he added.
Under the present Constitution, the president and the vice-president serve for six years without reelection. Senators serve for six years with one reelection. Congressmen serve for three years with two reelections.
The ConCom’s proposal is similar to the terms of office under the 1935 Constitution.
The late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was elected twice under that Constitution, but declared martial law in his seventh consecutive year in office, soon after effectively discarding the 1935 Constitution with the 1973 Constitution, a ratified under controversial circumstances by a constituent assembly.
The current 1987 Constitution, crafted by a constitutional commission organized by President Corazon C. Aquino and ratified in a plebiscite a year after Mr. Marcos’s fall, stipulated a six-year single term for both the president and vice-president. But in the succeeding administrations of Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and now President Rodrigo R. Duterte, there have been efforts to change the present Charter, targeting the terms of office and other provisions.
Aside from the terms of office, Mr. Nachura also presented other recommendations of the subcommittee for the structure of the executive and legislative branch in the proposed federal government.
It added a provision that the president, the vice-president, and lawmakers should hold college degrees.
Under the executive branch, the subcommittee also proposed that the president and vice-president to be elected as a tandem.
It also called for a mandatory appointment of the vice-president to a Cabinet position. But the vice-president, as well as the president, members of the Cabinet and their undersecretaries and assistant secretaries cannot hold other government positions.
In case of vacancy in the position of vice-president, the subcommittee proposed that the president appoint a vice-president among members of the Senate and the House with the same political party or coalition. The appointment would require no confirmation from Congress, unlike the present Constitution.
The bicameral Congress is thus retained, which would be composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senators would be elected per region depending on the federal regions which have yet to be finalized by another Concom subcommittee. Two to four senators may serve per region. Members of the House of Representatives would either be elected by legislative district or chosen by proportional representation composed of political parties and sectoral representatives from the five major socio-economically disadvantaged sectors: labor, peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and urban poor. As for the judiciary, Mr. Nachura said the subcommittee’s recommendations remained under deliberation.
The proposals of the subcommittee would be voted upon by the ConCom en banc on Monday, Apr. 16.