By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte wants general elections in 2019 — the scheduled midterm elections under the present Constitution — for the federal government’s transition leader, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said Tuesday.
“General elections ang iniisip ng ating Pangulo para dun sa magiging (The President is thinking of general elections for our) transition leader natin, dahil (because) under the proposed constitution po, the new government under the new constitution will take effect June 30 of 2022, at kung ma-aprubahan nga itong Saligang Batas na ito, ang sabi ng Presidente bababa siya sa kanyang position ng (if this proposed law gets approved, the President said he will step down in) 2019,” Mr. Roque said in his press briefing in Indang, Cavite on Tuesday, July 10.
In a chance interview in Pampanga on Tuesday evening, the President said he “will not resign because it will make [Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo] president,” noting that his resignation should be “addressed to the people.”
“Para makapili sila ng gusto nila (so that the people can choose who will replace me). Siya, I don’t think she can ever be ready to govern the country. Reason? Incompetence,” Mr. Duterte added.
He likewise stressed that the transitory leader should be elected by the people.
“Hindi ako papayag ng succession (I will not agree to a succession). Would you think that the other guy is better than [me]? Could be anybody. [There should be an] election. Maraming magandang lalaki diyan, mamili kayo (There are many good men there, you choose),” he said.
Last Monday, Mr. Duterte also said he instructed the Consultative Committee (ConCom) on charter change to prepare a transitory provision for an elected transitional president to finish the remainder of his term.
“I instructed Consultative Committee to elect a transitional President. I am willing to cut my term to be co-terminous with (the) start of (the) transition period. Committee agreed. It’s to remove all suspicions, and I am tired. [I am] ready to give it to somebody else,” Mr. Duterte said as posted by Mr. Roque on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon.
The President added: “Electing a transitional leader would enable a younger leader to take over.”
But under the 1987 Constitution, the vice-president steps in a vacancy in the presidency.
Sought for comment, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told BusinessWorld in a text message that the 2019 elections for a transitional president will be “very difficult.”
“It’s not that easy. There is procedure to follow. We first have to approve a joint resolution calling for a Constituent Assembly. Hence, we have to convene and tackle the proposed change of the Charter into a federal form,” Mr. Sotto said.
For his part, House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas said earlier on Tuesday charter change will not be prioritized by the House of Representatives.
“Timetable (for the charter change) is too far (from) the table as such Draft has not even been officially transmitted to the HoR, if so,” Mr. Fariñas told reporters over a phone message.
Also on this matter, Representative Roger G. Mercado, who heads the House committee on constitutional amendments when sought for comment, “It’s difficult to make decisions now. Prudence dictates that we wait until after the SONA. Congress (is) still on recess and the President might edit the inputs of the Concom.”
Magdalo Rep. Gary C. Alejano, for his part, said in a statement, “I would say that with our weak record of implementing laws there is a huge possibility that the proposed shift will suffer the same fate of RA 7160 (which has not been reviewed after 27 years and has not been fully implemented) and RA 9054 (which was considered a failed experiment which necessitates the passage of BBL).” Mr. Alejano was referring to the Local Government Code and the amended Autonomous Region of the Muslim Mindanao law.
For his part, retired chief justice Reynato S. Puno told reporters that Mr. Duterte himself requested to be barred from seeking a fresh term in 2022.
“Ilalagay na hindi na siya tatakbo sa 2022 (We will put that he won’t run in 2022),” Mr. Puno said.
On the other hand, incumbent officials under the 1987 Constitution can still run in 2022 elections under the new constitution, Mr. Puno said.
“Sinasabi namin ay di mo pwede pagbawalin ang opisyales sa ‘87 Constitution dahil bagong constitution ito eh (We’ve been saying that you cannot refrain officials from the ‘87 constitution to run because this is a new constitution),” he said.
“This is an entirely new government. We will not have a unitary government anymore. We will have a federal government,” he added.
Mr. Puno also said another request of Mr. Duterte is, “There should be a call for an election of who shall preside during the transitory period. Once the charter is approved in a new plebiscite, there will be an election for the transition president.”
As for Ms. Robredo, she won’t be barred from running in the 2022 elections. “She can even run for transition president,” Mr. Puno said.
As for the draft federal charter’s retaining the 60-40% rule on foreign equity in the 1987 Constitution, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman George T. Barcelon said when sought for comment, “Well in that case, I think they’re opening the possibility because Congress has been discussing this before. I think this is just a recommendation of the (ConCom). It may be too much of a big issue for them to tackle so they’re throwing it to Congress.”
“I think Congress will deliberate this properly. Because this has been up in the air for discussion for some quite time. I am confident that when it’s given to Congress, Congress will look at it and probably make some adjustments on the foreign ownership,” he added. — with Gillian M. Cortez, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Camille A. Aguinaldo