July 22, 2018, 11:46 pm
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Palace quashes No-El talk

PRESIDENT Duterte will ensure that the 2019 mid-term elections would push through, unless a new constitution is ratified before the polls happen, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

Roque gave the assurance after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez suggested that there be no elections in 2019 so that Congress could concentrate on Charter change.

Duterte has committed to endorse the proposed constitution drafted by the Consultative Committee, which would pave the way for the change of government to federal form.

Roque also expressed confidence that Malacañang has enough allies in Congress to support the Charter change moves.

“I think we have a very good working relationship with many of our senators,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate does not yet have the numbers to amend the Constitution. 

“You’ll need three-fourths vote which is 18 votes,” Zubiri said.

Senators Zubiri, Francis Escudero and Grace Poe said amendments to the Constitution should first be undertaken before postponing the elections.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said postponing the elections is possible if all laws related to the conduct of elections every three years are amended.

Escudero said suspending the midterm polls requires the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the term of a congressman is three years and there should have an election every three years.

“Senators have a six-year term, and there should be an election every three years for the 12 members of Senate,” he added.

But Sotto said the 1987 Constitution need not be amended to defer the national elections because of the line in the Constitution “unless otherwise provided for by law.”

“Therefore, we do not need a plebiscite to postpone the elections. A law, by both houses of Congress, may be able to postpone (the elections),” he said.

Sotto, however, clarified that members of the Upper Chamber have to agree with it. 

He said he will call a caucus to discuss the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, including the draft federal charter, before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 23.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), in a statement titled “We cannot say ‘Amen’!”, said they strongly disagree and are worried over the efforts to change the 1987 Constitution due to the manner it is being pushed as well as the person behind the move.

“There is a monstrous threat to democracy and human rights unfolding in our midst. This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte’s government forcefully rams into the Filipino people’s throat the proposed Federal Charter that will supersede the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” said the EBF, a fellowship of bishops from different churches.

“EBF calls on Mr. Duterte to stop misleading the people into believing that his federal charter will work for the good of the country. In reality, it is far worse than the Charter change that the past Philippine governments have sought to put forward,” added the religious leaders.

The EBF said they suspect that something “sinister” is behind the big rush to change the form of government.

Another reason for their opposition, the EBF admitted, is that Duterte has been repeatedly showing dictatorial tendencies.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will continue to prepare for the May 2019 midterm polls despite talks of No-El and Charter change.

Eric Alvia, secretary general of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), said the country must always have regular elections. – With JP Lopez and Gerard Naval
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