‘No-el’ finds scant support in House
Members of the House of Representatives will not support plans for the cancellation of next year’s midterm elections as part of the Duterte administration’s push for a shift to federalism, two lawmakers said on Thursday.
“We will not support No-el,” 1-Pacman Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero said, using a shortcut for “no elections.”
“[It will not be supported] by all parties. There will be elections [next] May, that’s for sure,” Romero said in a radio interview.
He said one reason for the fall of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez from the leadership of the House on Monday was his support for the proposal to scrap the midterms to give way to the amendment of the Constitution for a shift to federalism.
“Many were unhappy [with him], especially [about the postponement of] the elections. That is one of the issues [behind his downfall],” Romero said.
Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao also said it was Alvarez’s insistence on the cancellation or postponement of the midterms that did him in.
“I firmly believe holding election in May 2019 is necessary for the continuity of our democracy and the further stability of its institutions,” Siao said in a statement.
“[T]he no-election scenario is not a priority of the Filipino people,” he said.
Romero said discontent with the leadership style of Alvarez caused cracks in the supermajority and even within his own Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
No Senate support
But moves to amend the Constitution would continue in the House, he said.
Not in the Senate, where, according to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, there is little support for the proposal.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pimentel said he remained supportive of the federalism proposal, but would understand if his colleagues in the Senate would not back it.
He said federalism was among the priority measures of the chamber when he was Senate President.
“Maybe out of respect that I was Senate President, they allowed it when I included it among the priority measures,” Pimentel said.
But when he checked, he said, only four senators actually supported federalism.
“If Senate President (Vicente) Sotto will say it’s not a priority, I understand,” he said, adding that he may just be the lone supporter of the proposal now.
The Senate as a whole agreed on Tuesday not to rush any moves to amend the Constitution for a change to federalism.
The caucus also opposed the postponement or cancellation of the 2019 elections to pave the way for the revision of the Charter.
The senators, however, decided to let the committee on constitutional amendments continue with hearings on proposals for the amendment of the Constitution.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate’s position was to resolve first if there was a need to amend the Constitution.
“If the decision is yes, how do we amend it? We amend it through a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly? If the latter, how will we vote, jointly or separately?” Drilon said at a news forum in the Senate.
As for the draft federal Constitution submitted by Malacañang’s consultative committee, Drilon said it was just a “term paper” as far as the Senate minority was concerned.
“The proposal of the consultative committee will only come in once there is a decision to amend the Constitution. Then it is one of the study groups that would submit its proposal,” he said.
Malacañang is unfazed.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday that the government had formed an interagency task force to conduct a massive information campaign on the proposed shift to federalism.
“We will bring down our dissemination level to the level of the barangay. We will focus on training the trainers and we will utilize mass media as well for this dissemination,” Roque said.
Members of the information group include Roque, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
The group was formed in response to findings by a recent Pulse Asia poll that most Filipinos were unaware of federalism.
“We have accepted the challenge and we will embark on this massive dissemination drive,” Roque said.
The campaign will get an initial budget of P90 million, with the funds coming mostly from the savings of the consultative committee that drafted the proposed federal Constitution.
About P10 million will go to the Presidential Communications Operations Office for the production of campaign materials.
“The consultative committee has savings of about P50 million, but they’re not sure on how they can actually spend it since the life span of the committee ends in August,” Roque said. — WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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