THE MANILA TIMES ROUNDTABLE
PRESIDENTIAL Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Friday assured the public and the opposition that the midterm elections would be held in 2019 with or without Charter change.
Andanar said a “no-election” scenario was highly unlikely especially in the Philippines where elections are considered the country’s “biggest fiesta” (feast).
“No matter what there will be elections,” Andanar said in said in a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times editors and reporters on Friday.
The no-election scenario was floated this week by House Speaker Pantaleon Alavarez, during a television interview about the proposed Charter change that would pave the way for the country’s shift to a federal system of government.
According to Alvarez, the midterm elections in 2019 may not happen if a shift in the form of government from unitary to federalism, through charter change, materializes.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd however contradicted the House speaker, noting that the scheduled 2019 mid-term elections would still push through even if Congress managed to come up with the new constitution this year.
Pimentel said the 1987 Constitution must be followed before the government could operate under the new constitution.
“Hence if there are scheduled elections under the existing constitution then this must be followed,” the Senate chief pointed out.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson for his part said floating a no-election and term extension scenarios won’t help in getting public support for the proposal to shift to a federal form of government.
People are turned off when issues like term extension and the cancellation of polls are inserted in charter change efforts, he said.
‘Pinoys could revolt’
Andanar said doing away with elections was not a good idea because the people might revolt against the government.
As for term extensions, Andanar reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte has no intention to stay as President beyond 2022.
In fact, the President even said he was willing to resign from office once the country shifts to federalism.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Duterte admitted he was only forced to run for president, Andanar recalled.
“The people of the Philippines can rest assured, especially the opposition, that the President has no desire to extend his term,” he added.
‘2018 won’t be a happy year’—de Lima
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima warned the public that 2018 won’t be a “happy year” because of the looming constitutional changes under Duterte.
“With the kind of Congress that we have, especially the House of Representatives which is a rubberstamp already and the supermajority, they can do whatever they want to do,” de Lima told reporters before her hearing on her “disobedience to summons” case on Friday.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Friday claimed the Duterte government was floating the possible return of Marcos wealth and term extensions through federalism to measure public perception and “condition the public’s mind.”
She said sudden talk of a no-election scenario, term extension and proposals to drop all cases against the Marcoses in exchange for a cut of the Marcos wealth was “part of an elaborate political communication strategy to measure and massage public opinion.”
“It comes as no surprise that the public is being bombarded with all these political prospects and scenarios coming from the key leaders of the Executive and Legislative branches of the government,” she said.
“After all, these twin political projects will determine the fate of the Duterte government,” said Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority bloc.
WITH GLEE JALEA AND BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO