Draft charter allows Duterte to seek new term
The draft constitution replacing the presidential system with a federal form of government opens up the possibility for President Rodrigo Duterte to stay in power until 2030, the spokesperson for the 22-member consultative body that wrote the proposed federal charter said on Sunday.
But Conrado Generoso quickly clarified that a term extension for the President was not a cat in the bag that the members of the consultative committee headed by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno tried to hide from the public.
Rather, he said, it is an unintended result of the change in the form of government.
‘Fresh start for all’
“When you change the Constitution and the system of government, it becomes a fresh start for all. That’s the natural effect,” Generoso told the Inquirer by phone.
“Under that perspective, he [the President] can run for office again,” he said. “That’s a natural consequence of changing the Constitution.”
Should Congress, which is controlled by the President’s political allies, adopt the draft charter, it would give the chief executive an opportunity to seek two four-year terms as President of the proposed federal government.
Generoso stressed that the provisions in the draft charter were mere recommendations that the President and Congress may or may not approve.
He said he was perplexed by the clamor on social media for the consultative committee to immediately release to the public the draft charter that was unanimously approved by the panel on July 3.
“All of a sudden, it has now become the most sought after document in the universe,” Generoso said. “What’s the reason for that? Will the system of government change today that’s why everybody is shouting this and that?”
Interestingly, Puno had previously said that the draft Constitution prohibited the President , whose strongman-style of leadership has been compared with that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to hold on to power beyond his six-year term, which would end on June 30, 2022.
Draft submitted today
The committee has yet to release the approved draft, which will be presented to the President today, fanning speculation that the body was trying to keep some of its contentious provisions from the public.
Generoso said precluding the President from seeking the presidency under the proposed federal government would be “undemocratic” and “discriminatory,” as it would be tantamount to “class legislation.”
Generoso noted that the 1987 Constitution, which was written after the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution toppled the Marcos dictatorship, did not prevent then President Corazon Aquino to contest the presidential race in 1992.
He said changes in the 1935 and 1973 charters likewise did not rule out the possibility for then President Manuel Quezon and Marcos, respectively, to aim for a fresh term.
“The (new) Constitution or any other law cannot have a provision that bars a particular individual from enjoying the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers on all,” he said.
“That is the principle of democracy,” he said. “It was solely the personal decision of then President Corazon Aquino not to run in 1992.”
‘Only country should benefit’
But Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, president of the ruling PDP-Laban party, said no politician, not even the President, should benefit from the proposed federal constitution.
“It’s only logical in the exercise of revising the Constitution that we don’t want any person to benefit. Only the country should benefit,” Pimentel said in a radio interview.
“If you are disqualified from running already, the new Constitution should not revive your qualification to run,” he said.
Pimentel said the committee had already clarified that Mr. Duterte would no longer be qualified to seek the presidency under the proposed new Constitution.
The President has often said he would not stay beyond his six-year term.
On Friday, amid speculation in the media that the proposed federal constitution would lift the single-term limit, the Presi9dent said he was not seeking such an outcome.
Speaking in his hometown, Davao City, he directed the Puno committee to put in a provision that would require him to step down before the formation of a transitional government.
“Make my term coterminous with the beginning of the draft constitution,” the President said.
“I urge Congress and Puno to make the final changes,” he said. —With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, DJ Yap and the wires
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