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Palace: Assure orderly transition in new Charter

By Ted Tuvera and Angie M. Rosales

President Duterte should be out of the equation during the transition period in the shift to a Federal system of government but drafters of the new Constitution should assure an orderly change in leadership by 2022, when the Mr. Duterte’s term under the current charter ends, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
“I don’t think majority would not want a constitutional succession, so they better provide for a transition that would mean that the President will step down in 2022,” he added.
Roque said it is unlikely that most of the lawmakers now allied with Mr. Duterte would leave out the fine details in the leadership succession that would have Vice President Leni Robredo to take over as Chief Executive in the transition phase.
Constitutional succession means that the Vice President can replace the President if he opts to forego the position, which Duterte had indicated during speeches in which he offered to step down once the Federal system is in place.
“They can provide for new transitory provisions. Unless they want Leni Robredo to take over, we better have a new leader by 2022,” he added.
Roque reiterated Mr. Duterte’s appeal albeit done in jest to the military to shoot him if he dares to go beyond his term.
“Whatever happens in the transitory provision, consider Mr. Duterte out of the equation,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque added the Palace will not make any move to mediate in the current friction between the Senate and the House of Representatives on the manner of voting under a constituent assembly (con-ass) in drafting the Federal charter.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House will go solo on cha-cha amid the Senate’s resistance to the joint voting of con-ass.
“Cha-cha is the priority of the President. It is an administration initiated bill. But the President has not said how to do it. We leave it to the leadership and the members of Congress,” Roque said.
“I can’t speak for Speaker Alvarez, but I reiterate and confirm that this is a priority of the administration,” he added.
Senators, meanwhile, jabbed at House leaders for statements that the chamber will proceed itself with con-ass to amend the Constitution even without Senate concurrence.
They insisted that Congress as stated in the Constitution means both the Senate and the House.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that the Constitution only provided that three-fourths of Congress is needed for charter change that could mean only the House members since they will constitute more than what was required even without the Senate.
No plebiscite without Senate
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that even if the House chooses to proceed without the Senate, no plebiscite can happen since the funding for the holding of a plebiscite will need the approval of Congress through an item in the General Appropriations Act
“For their own sake, they should not allow themselves to look pathetic and worse, ridiculous. Having said that, they should read the 1987 Constitution in its entirety, or at the very least, Art XVII, Sec. 1 (Amendments or Revisions) in relation to Art VI Sec. 1 (Legislative Department) that explicitly refers to ‘the Congress’ as the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Lacson said.
He said interpreting “the Congress” under Art XVII to refer to one chamber only is at best, self-serving.
“They pride themselves as lawyers in good standing but it only takes a layman who knows how to read and understand simple words and literature in order to appreciate what is right and wrong,” he added.
“As for questioning the House’s move before the Supreme Court, there is need, and we will not. They can propose amendments or revision all they want but at the end of the day, a plebiscite would necessitate an item in the General Appropriations Act to be appropriated for the Commission on Elections to conduct such plebiscite,” he said.
“Without the Senate, how can such appropriation materialize?,” he added.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said charter change cannot be done by the House of Representatives alone. The House of Repesentatives cannot dance “cha-cha” without the Senate.
“The Constitution provides that Congress, upon a vote of three fourths of all its members, can amend the Constitution,” he said.
Drilon added the Constitution is crystal clear with regard to the composition of Congress. Under Article VI, Section 1, ‘Congress of the Philippines’ shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
“Thus, the House of Representatives alone cannot constitute themselves as a constituent assembly and by its own three fourths vote, cannot amend the Constitution. They cannot do it without the other house which is the Senate,” he said.
“The participation of the Senate is required by the Constitution and therefore necessary,” Drilon said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who is Liberal Party (LP) President, said the strategy House appears “to force the issue and have the Supreme Court step in and decide in their favor.”
The administration has bullied the political opposition, its critics, the chief justice, the media, selected business interests, and now it wants to bully the Senate, Pangilinan said.
He added the bullying of the House is an abuse of those in power and should not be allowed.
“If the Senate allows itself to be bullied, then our democracy and respect for the law will be thrown out the window and anyone can be a victim of the abuses of those in power,” he added.
Pangilinan recalled the last three attempts at cha-cha during the administrations of Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo were all thwarted because the people themselves vehemently opposed it for being self-serving and meant to benefit only those already in power.
“If they want to talk about Charter change, let’s talk about it in a proper, legal manner. We will not be bullied or rushed into it,” Pangilinan said.

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