PRRD only willing to lead transition to federalism within his term
By Azer Parrocha
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — President Rodrigo R. Duterte is only willing to lead the Transition Commission should the country shift to a federal system of government if the execution of the transition plan will be until the end of his term on 2022.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark in a Palace briefing to allay concerns of the opposition anew that the shift to federalism would allow for Duterte’s term extension.
Roque also confirmed that Duterte is set to receive his Consultative Committee’s (ConCom) draft Federal Constitution on Monday afternoon.
“Noong ako’y inimbitahan ng Consultative Committee, ang tanong nila, mapapayag ba ang Presidente na magsilbi sa transitory leadership? Ang sagot po ay kung ‘yan ay within 2022, yes (When I was invited by the Consultative Committee, their question was, would they be able to convince the President to be part of the transitory leadership? My answer was if it is within 2022, yes). But if it is beyond 2022, definitely not,” Roque said.
“He (Duterte) has made a personal decision. It’s only until 2022, earlier if possible,” he added.
Roque, however, said that the transitory role which will be given by the ConCom to the President will be within his term.
Earlier, the President himself urged both the ConCom and Congress to make changes in the draft federal Constitution providing his term as coterminous with the beginning of the draft law.
“Make final the changes and make me president only next year — 2019. I would be willing to accept the proposal,” Duterte said during the 2018 National Science Week opening last week.
Duterte said that he wanted to witness the election of a new president during the transition from unitary to a federal form of government.
“Basta ang sabi nga niya kung mayroong possibility na beyond his term of 2022, hindi na siya ‘yun (He said that if there is a possibility that transition will go beyond his term of 2022, he won’t be leading it). If needed he will take part in a transition, but only until his term of office in 2022,” Roque said.
Roque also clarified what Duterte meant by his willingness to step down by 2019 while the transition process is ongoing.
“Ang sinabi niya siguro is kung magbabago ang Saligang Batas (What he probably means is if there will be changes in the Constitution), then he will serve in a transition capacity until 2022 but kung (if) under the existing Constitution, kung magkakaroon ng bagong Saligang Batas (if there will be a new Constitution) then he can serve until 2019 under the ‘87 Constitution or until the validity of the 1987 Constitution,” Roque said.
ConCom chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the Transition Commission is a body that will “formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government, as provided for in the new Constitution.”
For proper execution of the transition plan, Puno said it shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations, orders, decrees, proclamations, and other issues, do all acts to implement a transition plan, and resolve all issues and disputes that may arise.
The Transition Commission will also organize, reorganize, and fully establish the federal government and the governments of the federated regions in accordance with the Constitution.
Roque, meanwhile, said that Duterte himself will also ask Congress to include a provision in the proposed federal Constitution that bars the incumbent President from seeking reelection.
This, despite the ConCom’s proposed federal Constitution which allows one reelection.
ConCom spokesperson Ding Generoso earlier said that any form of reelection prohibition would be “undemocratic, discriminatory, and it would constitute class legislation and infringement of the people’s right to choose their representatives and leaders.”
“…with a special request sa (to the) Congress na maglagay na talaga ng (that they include a) provision that the incumbent President shall be barred from running or seeking reelection under the new Constitution,” Roque said.
Meanwhile, Roque confirmed that the 2019 mid-term elections will push through as scheduled and that Duterte will not interfere.
“The President has said that he will not have any hand in any elective position not being subject to election in 2019. So that is his position. He will implement the current Constitution insofar as it calls for general elections this 2019,” Roque said.
Once the President receives the draft federal Constitution, Roque said it will also be made available to the public.
“I believe this is the first time they (ConCom) will be presenting the final draft to the President and this is also the first time it will be made public,” Roque said.
Roque said although he had been invited by the ConCom to discuss some aspects of the transitory provisions, he has not yet seen the final draft.
He refused to comment on criticisms coming from the opposition, the most recent one coming from ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who stressed that reforms under the federal Constitution can already be done under the current 1987 Constitution.
“Commenting on Chief Justice Sereno, I don’t know what she’s commenting on because they have not actually, officially released their draft to the public,” Roque said.
“When we get the final copy this afternoon, we will study the provisions,” he added.
Roque also pointed out that despite the ConCom’s proposed federalism character, it is still the constitutional power and duty of Congress to propose revisions to the Constitution. (PNA)