‘No-elections’ in 2019 possible says Senate President Tito Sotto - The Daily Sentry

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

‘No-elections’ in 2019 possible says Senate President Tito Sotto



Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto. Image credit to The Manila Times
With the goal of the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the government is in full charge of having the Constitution reformed. But with that desire comes the need for resources and Senate President raised a concern on Duterte’s ambition. He states that if the legislative branch would push with the pushing for the transformation of our current unitary government to a federal one then they’ll need the man power to do so. Which opens to the need to postpone the 2019 Elections.

A no-election (no-el) scenario so to speak, as Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez suggested.

In order to achieve a no-el or even start with transforming the government, there is also a need to amend the current Constitution since, as Sotto stated, in Article VI Section 8,

“…unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election of senators and the members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May.”

“Therefore, we do not need a plebiscite to postpone the elections. By law, both houses of Congress shall be able to postpone the elections,” Sotto stated.

Like a domino effect, in order to reach the end-goal one must put others into motion first.

House Speaker Panataleon Alvarez and President Rodrigo Duterte. Image credit to GMANetwork.com
The House Speaker also raised concerns on the availability of the Congress since they will be tied up with deliberations of the P3.757-trillion budget proposal of the President which would be a part of the Duterte’s 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA).

After that, if the elections push through, certain Congress candidates must also submit their certificates of candidacy and other requirements by the 2nd month of 2019 and actually start their electoral campaigns.

Sotto also mentioned the meeting that the Senate had with the President, whom asked them to start with the process but not necessarily prioritizing it. Basically, Duterte wants the new Constitution to be done with so he can stepdown from his position.

 “If we call for a constituent assembly, this is my opinion, this is not written in stone, if we did pass a joint resolution calling for one, then we can decide if we can finish it by December or not and postpone elections. Then, we can pass a law postponing the elections,” Sotto said.

But beforehand, the Congress must agree to actually meet on about amending the Constitution to push with a no-el.

“We will have to make time. The way I am hearing it from the (Concom) and the President, this is indeed a priority,” he continued.

Sotto assured that there will be a Senate meeting on the issue before July 23, 2018.

Draft of Federal Constitution handed to Senator Tito Sotto. Image credit to PhilStar
Draft of Federal Constitution handed to Senator Tito Sotto. Image credit to Remate
The Senate on no-el

Despite being able to hold a meeting, having the entire Senate to agree on convening as a constituent assembly would be hard to achieve. Moreover on having them agree to postpone the elections.

Senator Grace Poe stated that there is no need to prioritize the Constitution since the midterm elections is nearing. Other than that she expressed the dismay that the public might have with such a decision.

                           “We are reasonable here but I believe we don’t want to railroad this issue. It gives a bad impression about our country. What are we trying to do?” Poe stated.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero had a different take on it, challenging Sotto’s understanding of the aforementioned Constitution section on the midterm elections. He stated that the Constitution only pertains to the electoral date but it is still possible to have the elections moved to some other date through the power of the Legislative branch.

But the elections is impossible to cancel under Article VI since it has terms on the exact month of the elections and the specifications on the elected officials to assume office after a month.

Chiz pointed out that the barangay official’s elections is the only elections that the Congress is given power to move.

Then Escudero agreed with Poe, there is no need to rush amending the Constitution. But he is still in favor of change in this 31-year old Ultimatum Law. Cancellation of the elections and extending terms of elected officials are both in doubt of the Senator’s perception, he thinks that the Senate’s agreement is needed to push through.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, on another note, does not support Sotto’s proposal of cancelling the elections even if he’d benefit from it. This is because,

“Though I stand to benefit from the no-election proposal being a re-electionist, elections are a referendum of public officials. People look forward to electing their leaders. It will be very hard to justify postponement,” Ejercito explained.

“Running in a national election is very tedious, exhausting and, not to mention, very expensive. Who wouldn’t want a freebie for a term extension? But it will be hard to explain to the people why elections will not be held next year,” he continued.

Palace denies no-el

On the matter of no-el, the Malacanang Palace countered the legislative branch. As Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. stated, they will push with it since the 1987 Constitution is still intact and in effect.

“None. As we have repeatedly said, the President implements our Constitution. Unless the date of the election stated in our Constitution is changed, the election in 2019 would push through,” Roque stated.

“The only possibility (that the elections will not push through) is if the proposed new constitution is ratified earlier than expected, in which case the 1987 Constitution would cease to have legal effect. But while there is no new constitution, the President will ensure that there will be an election,” he continued.

The spokesman also believes that Alvarez needs not to explain their plans with the President since the Congress is part of an independent branch of the government.

“And the lawmakers are also aware that the President has the obligation to implement the Constitution and other laws,” Roque made it clear.

Palace look forward to reform constitution

Despite having no intention of hastening the transformation of the government by having the 2019 elections as collateral, the Malacanang is still enthusiastic about the upcoming Constitution reform.

“The President has said if it is finally ratified by the people then he will step down. And he is hoping that both the consultative committee and Congress will adapt his suggestion calling for a transitory provision, providing that the transition leader will be elected,” Roque said.

The Spokesperson also stated that Duterte, with full confidence in his senatorial allies, believes that the Senate would agree with their proposal for a Constitutional remake.

“I think we have a very good working relationship with many of our senators,” Roque pointed out.

He clarified though that the President isn’t asking the legislation to prioritize it though since there are other matters at hand.

“Anyway, the SONA (state of the nation address) will be there. So, the SONA will be the proper venue for him to lay out his legislative priority, and I’m sure it will include Charter change,” he continued.

COMELEC on no-el

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) didn’t even flinch at the reports of having the elections possibly postponed, they are fully confident with whatever outcome since the legislative branch has every right to exercise their jurisdiction.

COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez stated that the COMELEC is focused on preparing for the upcoming elections.

“The commission remains focused on the task at hand, which is to prepare for the May 2019 national and local elections,” Jimenez said.

National Movement for Free Elections (NamFrel) secretary-general Eric Alvia reflected Jimenez’ sentiments since the elections is a necessity in maintaining democracy.

                “We should adhere to periodic and genuine elections,” Alvia stated.

Multiple Worker’s Union on no-el

The multiple worker’s union however are both fazed and against the proposed postponement of the 2019 elections since it is a prerequisite to anarchic chaos.

“The proposal… is an invitation to chaos and anarchy in the streets, as it is dangerous and has no legal basis,” the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) stated.

They also mentioned that doing so defies the Constitution.

 “With due respect,  the proposal… is an alteration of the Constitution without authorization, by amendment or revision,” the FFW emphasized.

Although the worker’s union is keeping an open mind to amending the ultimatum law.

Meanwhile Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) confidently pointed out that sucha proposal by Alvarez would be turned down by the people.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes stated that the Charter Change would be a vulnerability to  a coup and military dictator by extension.

“Speaker Alvarez has provided the best argument to oppose Cha-cha. We will fight against term extensions and the lifting of term limits,” Reyes stated.

“We cannot allow such efforts to succeed. The public is encouraged to join the nationwide actions against Charter change on the day of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address,” he ended.

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Source: PhilStar