By Ben Rosario
The law that prohibits lawmakers from personally benefiting from measures they pass does not cover the “no election” scenario being contemplated by congressmen under the proposal to revise the 1987 Constitution.
House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro aired this legal opinion as he confirmed that the proposed Charter is expected to contain Transitory Provisions that will allow all incumbent officials to be on holdover for another three years until the Constitution is fully in effect by 2022.
An extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term of office is also seen as another possible outcome of a new or revised Charter if crafted by Congress acting as a constituent assembly.
Interviewed following a guest appearance in a Quezon City media forum, Castro said he also expects the President to campaign for “yes” votes during the constitutional plebiscite.
He stressed that there nothing unlawful or morally questionable if Duterte, who might benefit from a term extension, campaigns for support for a new Constitution.
“The President is a principal proponent of federalism which is one of the principal reasons why the 1987 Constitution is being amended. He has every right to campaign for it,” the senior administration lawmaker said.
Castro, president of the second biggest political party in the Lower House, the National Unity Party, said senators and congressmen cannot also be held liable for approving a new charter that would allow them to remain in office for another three years without being elected.
“Remember that we are crafting not an ordinary legislation. This is the Constitution. The law you are citing does not apply in this case,” he said.
Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said only senators whose term will end in 2019 may be expected to gain from the transitory provisions of a new charter.
In a press statement, Alvarez said that for practical purposes, the 2019 senatorial elections could be scrapped and the senators whose terms are expiring that year could be allowed to stay in their post in a holdover capacity during the transition period to the federal form of government or up to 2022.
“So pupuwede sabay-sabay na lang sa 2022 (matapos ang term ng mga senador) under the new structure of government,” Alvarez said. (It is therefore possible to hold elections simultaneously in 2022 after the terms of the senators expire.)
In the press statement, Alvarez said that among the senators who are up for re-election in 2019 include Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, and Grace Poe.
He added that senators Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, and Antonio Trillanes IV are not eligible to re-election since their terms of office will expire on June 20, 2019.
The term of the remaining senators, who were elected in the 2016 national elections, will last until 2022.
On the other hand, Alvarez said the 2019 elections for officials of local government units and members of the House of Representatives could still push through since they all had three-year terms, which would expire on 2022.
Castro disagreed with Alvarez’s opinion, saying elections under a transitory process of government is not advisable and may only sow confusion.