‘President’s request for transitional leader complicated’
President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to be replaced by a transitional leader before the change to federalism in 2022 may be complicated, the head of the consultative committee tasked with proposing amendments to the 1987 Constitution said on Tuesday.
“Declaring that he [the President] is not allowed to run in 2022 is easy. But there are complications if you call … elections after a new Constitution has been ratified,” former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, head of the consultative committee, told reporters.
“That’s his [the President’s] special request. He will be barred from running because that’s what he wants,” Puno said.
Division of powers
For one, he said, the authority of the incumbent President may overlap with that of the elected leader of the transitional government.
“That could be difficult. What’s their division of powers? That’s why we have to discuss it,” Puno said.
Puno, one of the principal figures behind the moves for a shift to federalism, presided over a special plenary session of the 22-member consultative committee a day after the body submitted a draft federal Charter to Mr. Duterte in Malacañang.
Following up on his oft-expressed desire to step down before his term ends in 2022, the President requested a provision that would bar him from running for a fresh term in the federal government and that would authorize the election of a transitional leader.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday that Puno’s committee agreed to rewrite the draft to put in the provision.
Old and tired
“[T]he President is thinking of general elections for our transition leader. The new government under the new Constitution will take effect on June 30, 2022, and, if this is ratified, the President said he would step down in 2019,” Roque told reporters in Indang, Cavite province.
There has been speculation that the proposed federal Constitution is designed to allow the 73-year-old Mr. Duterte, who has faced growing criticism over his bloody war on drugs and human rights record, to cling to power beyond the end of his six-year term in 2022.
Roque told reporters on Monday that the President had told his Cabinet that he no longer wanted to serve in the transitional government, that he was “tired,” and that the temporary leader should be “someone younger.”
He said the President decided to step down as early as next year to defuse speculation that he wanted to stay in power.
On Tuesday, Roque said cutting the term of the President would be legal.
“It will be constitutional, because it will be pursuant to the transitory provisions of the Constitution which the people may ratify,” Roque said.
“In other words, the new Constitution, if it will be ratified by the people, will be the instrument that will cut short the term of the President,” he said.
Any citizen who is qualified to run for President can run for the position of transitional leader, he added.
“But let’s wait for the consultative committee’s declaration. They will redraft it to provide for the specific provision that the President wants for the transitory provisions,” he said.
How about Robredo?
Asked if Vice President Leni Robredo could take over the President’s post instead of electing a transitional leader, Puno raised doubt about it.
“Maybe. But you should ask her if she supports federalism,” Puno said.
“They are against federalism,” he said, referring to the political opposition. “How can she be the transition head if she does not support federalism? But maybe she will change her mind now that President Duterte said he will not run.”
Puno expressed confidence that the President’s instruction would finally quell speculation that the proposed shift to federalism was really geared toward extending his term beyond 2022.
‘That is a trap’
But Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Filipinos should not allow themselves to be fooled by the President’s remarks about cutting his term.
“That is a trap,” Trillanes, an unrelenting critic of the President, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“[Look at it] like his promise to resign if he failed to deliver on his promise to rid the country of corruption, crime and illegal drugs in three to six months,” Trillanes said.
He said the President only wanted to bait the Senate into supporting the revision of the Constitution for a shift to federalism.
“If he really wants to resign because he is tired, he should just do it without any drama or conditions,” he said. —With reports from DJ Yap and AP
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