Most senators against federalism, 'no-el'

MAJORITY of the country's 24 senators do not support federalism and have expressed strong opposition to a no-election (no-el) scenario and term extension, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

He said only four, including himself, support a constitutional change to federalism.

“There’s only four of us. Definitely, we do not have the numbers and it is a given fact that the revision of the Constitution requires the three-fourths vote of the Senate majority,” Zubiri said.

Others who support federalism are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.

The senators held a closed-door caucus on Wednesday, July 25, during which Zubiri said they vowed to scrutinize the draft federal charter prepared by the Consultative Committee (ConCom).

Zubiri also said the senators maintained their strong stand against convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly.

The senators insist that Congress should vote separately on constitutional change.

At the same time, Zubiri said there should be no more talks of "no-el," which is unconstitutional.

“Come rain or shine, elections will push through,” Zubiri said, referring to the mid-term elections scheduled for May 2019.

Sotto earlier said only the date of the election may be changed by law as stated in Section 8, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution.

Sotto said the proposed term extension is not possible.

If the amended date will be set beyond the term of office provided by law, he said “those members of the Senate and House of Representatives whose term ends at noon of June 30 cannot have a holdover capacity. Thus the possible extension of their term of office is not possible and legal as an effect of the law changing the date of the election.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the consensus of the senators is for the committee to continue its hearings on the proposed shift to federalism.

“My reading is that a great majority of senators are against it. Federalism will only add to the bureaucracy, red tape, more taxes, greater tension in government. It will only promote political dynasty, will put our credit standing down and this is really bad for our economy.” Recto said.

The government, instead of putting their effort in moves to amend the Constitution or a no-election scenario, should focus instead on creating jobs and reducing the inflation rate.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said a term extension for elected officials is self-serving and will not help curb the many problems that the country is facing today.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, for his part, said postponing the 2019 election and extending the terms of office of elective officials would be "an assault to our democracy."

Drilon noted that President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that he does not want a longer term.

Earlier, former House Speaker and Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez floated the possibility of scrapping the mid-term 2019 elections to allow lawmakers to focus on moves to shift to a federal government. (SunStar Philippines)


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