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Duterte not involved in ‘No-el’– Roque

Presidential spokesperson Hary Roque —JOAN BONDOC

President Duterte will not have a hand in any move to cancel next year’s midterm elections and hopes his allies will follow suit, his spokesperson, Harry Roque, said on Thursday.

But Roque also said Malacañang could not stop a people’s initiative being pushed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to pave the way for a “no-election” (No-el) scenario in 2019.

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In a press briefing, the Palace official said he asked the President last month during a trip to Cagayan de Oro City about his position on a possible bid of the House of Representatives to push the cancellation of the 2019 elections to facilitate approval of the shift to federalism.

“I will not have any hand in that,” Roque quoted the President as saying.

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He said he wanted to tell the people that President Duterte would not allow a No-el scenario just to push for Charter change.

“[The President] believes in democracy, he believes in elections, and he wants that the referendum [on federalism] be held simultaneously with the midterm elections,” he told reporters.

Last week, Alvarez floated the idea that it would be “practical” to postpone the midterm elections to give Congress time to act on the shift to federalism, a major advocacy of Mr. Duterte, who is the first President from Mindanao.

The top House leader’s proposal drew protests from some sectors, including Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who said elections could not be postponed to extend the term of lawmakers for Charter amendment.

Alvarez was reported to be pursuing a people’s initiative now to revise the constitutional provisions requiring elections every three years.

Answer to Duterte

Asked to comment on this latest proposal, Roque said this could be Alvarez’s answer to the President’s position that he would not have a role in the cancellation of the midterms.

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“If that’s a people’s initiative, what can you do if that comes from the people?” he said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the basic law can be amended or revised through a constituent assembly composed of members of Congress, a constitutional convention composed of elected representatives, or a direct proposal by the people through an initiative.

Asked whether the President would allow the people’s initiative to happen, Roque pointed out that “that’s the nature of a people’s initiative.”

Roque also stressed that the President had asked the consultative committee that drafted the proposed federal Constitution to include provisions that would prevent Mr. Duterte from benefiting from Charter change.

“[The President] would like to see all his allies do the same thing—not to benefit from Charter change, leading by way of example,” he said.

 

Transition officials

Upon President Duterte’s instructions, the committee led by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno provided for the election of a transition president who would preside over the implementation of the shift to federalism in 2022.

This means that the six-year term of President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo will be shortened to three years and end in 2019 to pave the way for the transition.

The final draft also prohibits Duterte and Robredo from running again in the 2022 elections.

But Roque on Thursday denied that the Duterte administration was pushing for the federal government in order to cut short Robredo’s term.

“That makes no sense because it’s clear that the Palace does not give much attention to the career of the Vice President,” he said.

The President has a rocky relationship with Robredo, even saying he will not step down from office as she is “incompetent” and not fit to lead the country.

Roque added that the President had no ulterior motive in pushing for federalism.

“What is clear is where the President’s leadership will take us. The President has repeatedly said he wants to leave the legacy of Charter change toward federalism to the people, and that he will step down from his post,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO

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TAGS: Charter change (Cha-cha), no election, No-El, President Rodrigo Duterte
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