Prominent Church, academe leaders declare fight vs No-el
Prominent individuals and groups in the Church, academe and civil society stepped into the limelight to counter what appears to be an effort to suspend elections in 2022 and instead extend the terms of all elected officials in the process of changing the Constitution.
The individuals and groups issued what they call a unity statement, entitled “Toward a C-22 (Covenant for the Elections)”, calling on “those in power to categorically disown and dismiss speculations about a no-elections (No-el) scenario.”
The statement said the scenario was “created by the push for Charter change and the proposed shift from presidential to parliamentary system.”
Setting up a federal system of government was among the more controversial promises made by President Rodrigo Duterte when he was still campaigning in the 2016 presidential elections. Duterte has disowned the call to junk elections in 2022, his last year in office, and form a revolutionary government. But his spokesperson, Harry Roque, said Malacanang would not stop the groups calling for a revolutionary government because their advocacy was protected by the right to free speech.
“The right of suffrage should never be compromised. All of us should remain committed in promoting and upholding safe, free, fair, credible and transparent elections,” the group’s unity statement said.
At least 70 individuals and 62 groups from various sectors, including the religious, academe and civil society, signed the covenant.
They include Manila Archdiocese apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Prof. Danilo Arao of Kontra Daya, former Commission on Elections Commissioner Luie Tito Guia, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and economist and professor Solita Monsod, among others.
The groups included Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP), Alliance for the Common Good-Kapatiran Party, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines, Kontra Daya, Automated Elections System (AES) Watch, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg), Church Urban Poor Solidarity, IBON Foundation, Caritas Philippines, Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, among others.
According to Arao, as in the past, the Noel scenario is being driven by the desire of some government officials to perpetuate themselves in power by removing term limits in the Constitution.
The term limits give local elected officials up to only three consecutive terms of three years each term, senators only up to two consecutive terms of six-years each term and the President and Vice President only one six-year term. But many politicians found a way around the rules by running for a different elective post if their terms come to a close and run for their old posts after serving at least one term in their new positions.
Arao told INQUIRER.net that Kontra Daya, a watchdog against fraud in elections, had already “issued this warning in the past and the scenario remains in 2022.”
“That administration allies are pushing for a ludicrous ‘revolutionary government’ right now makes the scenario even more real,” Arao added.
A group called the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) earlier launched a movement calling for a revolutionary government to be led by Duterte to fast-track the transition to federalism. It could, however, entail first overthrowing Duterte then installing him as revolutionary government leader.
Several senators have “squarely” opposed the call for a revolutionary government.
The military and police have both expressed opposition to a revolutionary government, saying they would not support it.
The signatories to the Covenant for the 2022 Elections said the national and local elections should be held on May 9, 2022 as mandated by the Constitution.
“Any and all attempts and excuses to postpone the elections as scheduled are unacceptable,” the group said.
“As the country adjusts to the effects of the global pandemic, we should vigilantly protect and uphold our basic rights, including the right of suffrage,” the signatories said.
“We therefore declare our commitment to preserve our democratic institutions and constitutional rights which freedom-loving Filipinos have fought so hard to restore, even at the cost of their own lives. Let not their struggles and deaths be in vain,” they added.
“Let us resist and denounce all efforts to dispense with the elections by insidious means such as the proposed extension of the term limits of incumbent officials and the amendment of the Constitution,” they said.
They also asked Duterte and members of Congress, as well as all political parties, party-list groups, Comelec and “all Filipinos who value democracy,” to declare a similar commitment to holding the elections on May 9, 2022.
“We urge all to sign the Covenant for the 2022 Elections (C-22) which should unequivocally declare: ‘We commit to holding safe, free, fair, credible and transparent elections on May 9, 2022,” they said.
The group also called on people to register as voters.
“May this serve as proof that we want elections to push through,” the unity statement added.
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