Drilon slams ‘plot’ to postpone village polls
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday denounced an alleged plot by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives to railroad the amendment of the 1987 Constitution for a shift to federalism so they could cancel next year’s midterm elections and extend their terms.
In a radio interview, Drilon said he learned about the plot from sources in the House and at least two had spoken to him about a plan to move the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, set for May this year, to October or November, during which a plebiscite on a new Constitution would also be held.
“My information is clear. Two sources have told me that the barangay [and SK] elections will be postponed. The mayors will be the ones to seek postponement. That’s not right,” he added.
Other senators, however, said they were against another postponement of the barangay and SK elections and any bid to railroad constitutional amendment.
The barangay and SK elections had already been postponed twice, from May 2016 to October 2017 and then to May 2018.
No-el moves under way
An opposition member of the House also spoke about the alleged plot on Sunday.
In a radio interview, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said moves were under way to synchronize the elections scheduled in May with the plebiscite on a new Constitution to be held in October.
The strategy would allow the cancellation of the May 13, 2019, midterm elections under the transitory provisions of the new, federal Constitution and the extension of the terms of incumbent congressmen and local officials, Erice said.
“That’s the purpose of the postponement of the barangay elections: so that a plebiscite could be held on constitutional amendments that would provide for No-el (no elections),” he said.
“Supposedly to help the President, this should be postponed. If possible, the plebiscite could be held in October . . . so there would be no elections in May and the constitutional changes would proceed,” he added.
Erice said Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the justice committee chair, asked Metro Manila representatives during a caucus last Tuesday to get their constituents to support the move for the amendment of the Constitution at the Liga ng mga Barangay convention on Feb. 27 and 28.
He said Umali told the caucus that his bid for the cancellation of elections did not have President Duterte’s blessing.
In a separate radio interview on Sunday, Umali confirmed talking about the postponement of the barangay elections during the caucus but not the midterm vote.
Umali, however, said the No-el scenario could still be discussed.
In his radio interview, Drilon said a senator had confirmed the plan.
“The supermajority will railroad within two months between August and October [the constitutional amendment bill] and submit it to [a] plebiscite together with the barangay and SK elections in October or November,” he said.
Drilon recalled that President Duterte had formed a study group headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno to recommend amendments to the Constitution and instructed it to complete the task in time for his address to a joint session of Congress in July.
No budget for plebiscite
Drilon said there was no budget for a plebiscite this year but this would not be a problem if the plebiscite would be held simultaneously with the barangay and SK elections.
This will ensure there will be no midterm elections in May 2019 and the terms of congressmen will be extended, he said.
More than 80 percent of current House members are now serving their last terms, he added.
“This is bad for our democracy. We will deprive our people of their right to choose their leaders. You cannot rush in two months’ time Cha-cha,” Drilon said, using the shorthand for “Charter change.”
The House has adopted a resolution for a constituent assembly (Con-ass) that will amend the Constitution for a shift to federalism, but the Senate still holds hearings to decide whether the amendment of the Charter should be done by a Con-ass or by an elected constitutional convention (Con-con).
For the House plot to succeed, Drilon said, the Senate has to agree to the postponement of the barangay and SK elections before Congress goes on recess on March 23.
There are only 12 session days left, but no senator has introduced a bill that would postpone the two elections, Drilon said, adding that it would be difficult to approve one anyway.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he had never heard of the House plan.
Senators oppose plan
Other senators said they opposed postponing the two elections for a third time.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he would not support a move for the postponement “especially if the sole purpose is to accommodate a plebiscite for Charter change.”
Sen. Francis Escudero said he was against postponement “if the only reason is to wait for their supposed attempt to amend the Constitution.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he had heard that congressmen wanted the postponement of the barangay and SK elections to clear the way for the cancellation of next year’s midterm elections.
“If this is true, we will oppose [the] proposal,” Pangilinan said.—WITH A REPORT FROM PATHRICIA ANN V. ROXAS
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