Opposition bets fear House proposed charter may cancel 2019 elections
MANILA, Philippines—Two senatorial candidates from the opposition groups have warned that the proposed federal charter might create a scenario where the 2019 elections will be canceled.
Oposisyon Koalisyon stalwart former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said on Wednesday that Charter change (Cha-cha), paired with a nationwide declaration of martial law, may be used to disrupt the scheduled elections.
“Cha-cha, especially if combined with martial law, can be a tool to prevent the elections of 2019. Sa tingin ko isa ‘yan sa mga rason kung bakit talagang kinakasa, lalo na ngayong Disyembre, kung saan nag-iiisip na ng Pasko ‘yong mga tao, ‘yong pagpapalit ng Saligang Batas,” Hilbay said in a press briefing in Quezon City.
“Ine-extend nila ‘yong batas militar doon sa Mindanao, mukhang pinaplano naman talaga nila at makahanap ng rason para itawid ‘yong martial law sa buong bansa, eh ‘yong cha-cha na halos patapos na, pwede nilang ituloy para maiwasan ‘yong elections sa 2019,” he added.
In a separate statement, Bayan Muna senatorial bet Neri Colmenares also emphasized that Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15 does not focus on creating a federal state. Instead, it prioritized lifting term limits and canceling elections.
“This Cha-cha is not about the benefit of the people or development of the country. It is about term extension, cancellation of election and institutionalizing political dynasty,” Colmenares said.
“This is devious considering people’s wariness to federalism and it is also dangerous because the people are blind as to the federal structure that Congress will create,” he added.
Elected officials have issued contrasting views on postponing the 2019 midterm elections. Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that it would be practical to cancel the polls to speed up the federal shift, but Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said that it is merely a reward for lawmakers who support federalism.
Most senators on the other hand, believed that a “no-el’ scenario can only be done by amending the 1987 Constitution.
According to Article VI, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution, members of the House of Representatives “shall be elected for a term of three years.”
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed on second reading its version of a draft federal charter, minus the anti-political dynasty provision, and three days left before the House session goes on a break.
Despite claims from critics, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo denied railroading charter change for their own benefit.
However, Hilbay even said that Arroyo in effect disrespected President Rodrigo Duterte by pursuing Charter change without prioritizing federalism.
Duterte, a long-time advocate of decentralizing state services, promised during the campaign period of the 2016 elections that he will step down if the country adopts a federal form of government.
“Sa tingin ko nga parang binastos pa ni Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ‘yong ating Presidente, dahil ‘yong rason para buksan ‘yong ating Saligang Batas, para isulong ‘yong Cha-cha, ay federalismo. ‘Yon naman ‘yong pangako ng ating pangulo,” Hilbay said.
“Pero kung titignan niyo po ‘yong Cha-cha na isinusulong ni GMA, ito lamang ay para buksan ‘yong Saligang Batas para maibaon ang sarili nilang interes. Ni hindi man lamang kinokonsidera na core na project ‘yong federalism,” he noted.
Colmenares urged senators and members of the Constitutional Committee (Con-com) to stand against the House’s version of Cha-cha.
“We urge the Senate to persevere in their previous position against Cha-cha despite the enticing provisions of RBH 15 including its liberalization provision,” he asked.
“We urge former Chief Justice [Reynato] Puno and the Constitutional committee to openly oppose Cha-cha and throw this in the dustbin where previous self-serving Cha-chas lie,” he added. /jpv