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Draft Charter gives solons two 5-year terms

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 07:15 AM January 13, 2018

Members of the envisioned Federal Assembly—equivalent to the House of Representatives—could serve up to 10 years under a federal system of government proposed by the administration party.

A draft Constitution proposed by the Federalism Institute of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) said Assembly members could serve two consecutive five-year terms. At present, House members could serve for three consecutive three-year terms, or a total of nine uninterrupted years.

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Senators who were allowed by the 1987 Constitution to serve two consecutive six-year terms shall have the same length of service as Assembly members, or two years less than the 12 years under the current system.

Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares, a former House member who has been studying the two models being consolidated by the House constitutional amendments committee, on Friday expressed alarm at the “self-serving” term extensions in both proposals.

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The PDP-Laban draft Charter is one of two federalism models that are being consolidated by subcommittees of the House panel into a final draft of the proposed “Philippine Federal Constitution.” That draft would be submitted to Congress once it has convened into a constituent assembly.

Lengthening terms

“While we are busy debating on term extensions and no elections (scenarios) being floated, the Cha-cha (Charter change) of PDP-Laban actually and expressly provided for lengthening the terms of congressmen from three years to five years,” Colmenares said in a statement.

He said the term extension was in Section 4 Article VI of the proposed new Constitution, which stated: “The Members of the [DELETE House of Representatives] FEDERAL ASSEMBLY shall be elected for a term of [DELETE three years] FIVE (5) YEARS which shall begin, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following their election.”

Colmenares said a succeeding provision “opened up a possible elimination of term limits” for the lawmakers.

It stated: “A person who has served as a member of the Federal Assembly without interruption for period of more than three (3) years within the five (5) year term shall be considered to have served a term as a member of the federal assembly. No person who has served one term as a member of the Federal Assembly and who has served a second consecutive term as such without interruption for more than three (3) years shall be qualified for election for a third consecutive term.”

Colmenares said the clause meant possible term extensions beyond the envisioned 10-year uninterrupted service.

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“This play of words simply means that the term of a congressman whose five-year term was cut short to three years or less, is not yet counted as a term,” he said.

“What this provision further provides is that a person who has already served one term but his second term was cut to three years or less, is still qualified for election for a third consecutive term. This essentially makes term limits adjustable,” he added.

Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute, said Colmenares made “a clear misreading or misappreciation of the proposed amendment.”

“The provision simply wants to clarify what constitutes a full term,” he said. “This is for purposes of maintaining the term limits and NOT to lift term limits.”

Duterte opposes ‘No-el’

Addressing another issue connected to the planned Cha-cha, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said President Duterte was opposed to a possible cancellation of the midterm elections in 2019, a scenario being floated by some of his close allies.

“He wanted the elections in 2019 done and he even promised that it would be one of the most credible and cleanest elections in the country,” Roque told reporters in Malaybalay City.

On Jan. 3, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said a no election (No-el) scenario was possible if a shift to a federal form of government were realized this year through constitutional amendments.

“Let’s be practical,” Alvarez said. “If you shift to a different form of government—unitary to federal—you need a transition government.”

He also said all current senators could serve up to 2022.

Early this week, Roque said: “Unless the Constitution is actually ratified by the people and the President calling for the transitory provisions, the elections will push through.”

In a related development, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would call public hearings on the postponement of the May 14, 2018, barangay and youth elections in Mindanao following the one-year extension of martial law.

The first hearing would be held on Jan. 22 in Zamboanga City and the second on Jan. 29 in Cotabato City.

The Comelec said it could also conduct a third public hearing in Cagayan de Oro City later this year. —WITH REPORTS FROM ALLAN NAWAL AND JULIE M. AURELIO

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