Palace shrugs off as rumor Duterte term extension talks amid renewed Cha-cha push

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has branded as “tsismis” or rumor claims that the latest push for Charter change (Cha-cha) is meant to extend the term of officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Wala pong katuturan iyang mga tsismis na iyan. Tsimis lang po iyan. The President has made it clear, wala siyang kahit anong kagustuhan na manatili na kahit isang minuto man lang beyond his term of office on June 30 of 2022,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in his regular Palace press briefing.

Talks about changing the 1987 Constitution resurfaced after it was reported Wednesday that Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino, known allies of the Duterte administration, asked lawmakers to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) in a resolution filed December 7.

Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, also announced on Wednesday the lower chamber will resume Cha-cha debates this month focusing on “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Roque said the Palace respects lawmakers’ decision to renew calls of Cha-cha but stressed that the government’s top priority now is to secure and deliver COVID-19 vaccines to Filipinos.

“Nirerespeto po natin iyan at sa ngayon po ay number one priority natin ay ang COVID-19 lalong lalo na ang usaping vaccine,” the Palace official said.

“Wala pong ibang top priority kung hindi matapos ang pandemyang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng bakuna sa ating taumbayan,” he added.

Duterte had pushed for Constitutional amendments. A shift to a federal form of government was one of his campaign promises in 2016.