By Genalyn D. Kabiling
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not interested in leading a transition government once the country shifts to a federal form of government.
The President said he even prefers to cut short his term if a federalism system will be put in place by 2020, rather than extend his stay in office.
“If there can be a working federal setup by the year 2020, I am going to step down. I do not want any transition position,” he said during the oath-taking of new government appointees, including the new members of the committee tasked to review the Constitution, in Malacañang.
“I do not have any plans of perpetuating myself in power. It ain’t in my system,” he added.
Duterte, who has a constitutional mandate to lead the country until 2022, said he was actually “in a hurry to go down.” He said he has even ordered the military to shoot him if he overstays in power.
“I have told the military time and again as good as any other time that if I overstay even for 24 hours here in Malacañang, you can arrest me and shoot me,” he said.
“It is your duty to see to it if I go before this time to see to it that the rules of succession in our Constitution be followed. I could not be more clear on this and I would rather abbreviate my term rather than extend it,” he added.
The President made a strong pitch for federalism in the presence of the consultative committee led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno at the Palace.
He proposed a French-style federal system that will have both a president and prime minister.
He also said a shift to a federal government would help prevent a “fissure” in Mindanao. “What I’m saying is that we are trying to avoid a fissure in Mindanao because we need peace to move forward,” he said.
And given that position, Duterte said that neither did he have any intention of meddling in the work of the consultative committee tasked to review the 1987 Constitution.
The President said he would give the group led by Puno “enough leeway” to do their job, believing it would “not do anything harmful to the country.”
“At this time, I am not ready to inject anything there. I do not want you to have second thoughts about this,” he said during the oath-taking of the new government appointees in Malacañang.
“I’ll leave it up to you kung ano ‘yung gusto ninyo para sa bayan natin [on what you want for the country] and I know that you would not do anything harmful to the country,” he added.
The President, however, expressed hope that the committee would produce “a working document that will ensure something like for good for even just about seven generations.”
He likewise expressed confidence in the wisdom of the committee members in reviewing the Charter.
“In the matter of the commission that I have appointed to give us the advice, the wise experience that you have had to stir something that will guide us for the future,” he said.
He acknowledged that the public will eventually have the final say on the proposed Constitution. “Beyond that, we’ll leave to them the final decision,” he said.
Apart from Puno, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and former Supreme Court justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, and several members of the committee took their oath before the President.
Duterte earlier said he hopes the committee could submit their recommendations on Charter amendments before the end of the year.
At the same Palace event, the President made a renewed push for a shift to federal form of government to avoid an outbreak of violence in Mindanao. “The sole singular reason why really I want a federal setup or at least a change in the reconfiguration it’s because we want to avoid a fissure in Mindanao,” he said.
“I’m not saying it will be a war, I’m not saying it will be a battlefield but there will be trouble,’ he said.