PARTY-LIST group Bayan Muna warned that the threat of a no-election scenario is real and that moves to amend the Constitution aim to extend the terms of incumbent officials and establish a dictatorship.
Malacañang brushed this aside, saying President Rodrigo Duterte has turned down calls to postpone the 2019 mid-term elections to pave the way for the shift to a proposed federal government.
In a press conference with Palace reporters Thursday, July 19, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the President would not back any attempts to make the "no elections" (no-el) scenario possible in 2019.
"Ito po ang napag-usapan talaga namin ni Presidente. I will quote the President: 'I will not have any hand in that.' Talagang hindi po siya payag sa no-el para lamang sa charter change," the Palace official said.
(This is what the President and I had talked about. I will quote the President: : 'I will not have any hand in that.' He's really not in favor of no-el just to give way for the charter change.)
"So unang-una, we would like to inform the people. Iyan po ang posisyon ni Presidente: 'I will not have any hand in no-el.' Naniniwala po siya sa demokrasya. Naniniwala siya sa eleksyon," he added.
(So first and foremost, we would like to inform the people. That's the President's position: 'I will not have any hand in no-el.' He believes in democracy. He believes in the conduct of the elections.)
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has floated the idea of postponing the 2019 mid-term elections to give way for the deliberations on the proposed Charter change and the planned shift to federalism.
Alvarez has claimed that it would be "practical" to cancel the polls to allow an "easier" transition to a federal system of government.
Roque said Duterte would not meddle in any plans initiated by Alvarez.
The Palace official, however, noted that Duterte could not oppose the possible cancellation of 2019 elections, if it is done through a people's initiative.
"Ang nais niya (Duterte), isabay na nga ang reperendum [sa bagong charter] sa eleksyon. So 'yun po ang posisyon ng ating Preisdente diyan," he said.
(He wants the referendum [on new charter] to coincide with the elections. So that's the position of the President there.)
"Eh kapag people's initiative na iyan, ano pa ang magagawa mo kung nanggaling na iyan sa taumbayan, 'di ba?" he added.
(But if it's a people's inititative, what can we do if the public already decide?)
On July 12, Roque said the suspension of 2019 polls could only be possible, if a new federal constitution is approved and ratified before May 2019.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna chair and former Representative Neri Colmenares said that Article XXI Section 5 of the proposed federal charter provides that "The first elections under this Federal Constitution shall be on the 2nd Monday of May 2022."
"This means that if they railroad Charter change (Cha-cha’s) ratification in 2018, the 2019 election will be cancelled since the new Constitution states that the first election is in 2022," he said.
“That is why many politicians want to rush this Cha-cha before the 2019 election to cancel the elections and extend their terms," Colmenares added.
Colmenares said the proposal of the Consultative Committee (Concom) that drafted the federal charter is not about federalism but term extension.
"Just like the other Cha-chas before, this Cha-cha is not about federalism. It is about no election (no-el), and term extension. Worse, it is also about the imposition of a Duterte dictatorship," Colmenares added. (SunStar Philippines)