Vice President Robredo in her radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni,” on RMN-dzXL 558 on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. (Photo from a video posted on her Facebook page)
“Where’s the democracy in that?‘
Vice President Leni Robredo made this remark on Sunday as she opposed the “no-election” scenario recently floated by Congress leaders for seemingly “self-serving” reasons and contrary to the people’s right to choose their leaders.
In her radio program “BISErbisyong Leni” on RMN-dzXL 558, Robredo said elections were the “ultimate [exercise] of democracy.”
“It’s the only way for the ordinary Filipino to take part in the process where he will choose who leads him,” she said. “Because we leaders are not your bosses, we are the voice of the ordinary Filipino.”
Robredo said the move to extend the terms of some current officials in a holdover capacity would “seem self-serving.”
“Where’s the justice? If we are going to benefit, our countrymen will always suspect why we pursue those [proposals],” she said. “It’s as if all we want is to prolong the power given to us.”
No-el ‘not definite’
In a television interview last Wednesday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said it might be practical not to elect new senators in 2019 so it would not complicate the country’s proposed transition to a federal system of government.
Instead of electing new senators for six-year terms ending in 2019, 11 senators elected in 2013 could just be retained in a holdover capacity under Alvarez’s “no-el” scenario so they could end their terms in 2022, at the same time as the 12 elected in 2016.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III went so far as to suggest on Wednesday that Congress “can extend the President’s term… if [he] is amenable to it,” although Alvarez said on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte would not be in favor of it.
In a Sunday radio interview with dzBB, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chair of the House constitutional amendments committee, said the Speaker’s pronouncements were misunderstood as being definite.
“What Speaker just said is, in case there’s a revision of the Constiturion, there might be a possibility,” Mercado said. “Ever since, we know, the Speaker knows the people are allergic to such moves, postponements, especially ‘no elections.’ Our countrymen really like to follow the definite date for elections on local and national officials under the Constitution. Even me, personally, we have to proceed [with] what’s in the Constitution.”
Four-year terms for local officials?
Mercado stressed the ongoing moves to create a federal constitution, now under plenary debate in the House and seen likely to reach the Senate for its concurrence in February, would only involve “surgical revisions” and not a “drastic” overhaul of the 1987 Constitution.
He said the current six-year term for the president and vice president and the senators would be enough since “they can do a lot,” even if the single-term limit for the president would be retained.
However, Mercado said a survey of House members showed around 60 percent of them favored the amendment of the three-year terms for local government officials to four years instead.
“They say three years is very short,” he said. “Because it’s election mode, and after three years, it’s elections again. Too divisive. It’s also not enough to finish or complete a project.”
Besides the amendment of the term limits, Mercado said the new federal constitution would devolve national government responsibilities over agriculture, infrastructure, environmental protection, education and health to proposed states that would be “knowledgeable on what is happening on the ground.”
The current constitutional restrictions on foreign involvement in the economy – such as land ownership and shareholdings in local corporations and public utilities – would also be lifted to “open up our economy,” said Mercado.
Sellout of economy
In a separate statement, former Rep. Neri Colmenares, chairman of the Bayan Muna party-list group, said the public should not only be concerned about the possible “no-el” scenario but also look out for the “surrender [of] part of our national sovereignty” to foreign businesses.
Colmenares noted that Duterte might be allowed to exercise legislative power – similar to dictator Ferdinand Marcos – under the transitory provisions of Resolution of Both Houses No. 8 being considered by Congress.
Such a power could be used in favor of foreign powers and corporations, he said.
“Instead of issuing an executive order to hasten legislative passsage of the law, all he has to do is to issue the law himself,” Colmenares said. “We’re going to be swamped with rapacious transnational corportations out to make superprofits and not to serve the public.”
“Countries like the US, China and Russia will not only control our information and telecommunication industry, but will even be allowed to buy lands, public utilities providing electricity and water to the people,” he added. “They can even enter media, education and banking because they have an edge on these sectors. Countries like China buying beach heads in Palawan is a national security threat.” /atm
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