By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that nothing will be able to change President Duterte’s mind in rejecting any provision in the proposed federal constitution that may extend his term as Chief Executive.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement days after Duterte said he would want the 22-man Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution to insert a provision in their draft charter that would make him step down before the transition.
In his Monday Palace press briefing, Roque, when asked if there’s a chance that Duterte might change his mind similar to what happened during the Presidential elections, said that Duterte already made up his mind.
“Wala po (There nothing that can change his mind),” Roque said. “He has made a personal decision. It’s only until 2022, earlier if possible.”
The Palace official also said that the ConCom even asked him if there will be a chance that the President would agree to taking a role in the transitory government.
“Ang sagot po ay, kung ‘yan ay (The answer is, if that is still) within 2022, yes. But if it is beyond 2022, definitely not,” Roque said.
Roque said that Duterte would want the Congress to create a provision that would bar him from seeking reelection under the new constitution, contrary to the version of the ConCom.
“OK siya (He’s fine with leading a transitory government) if within 2022, within his term of office. With a special request sa Congress na maglagay na talaga ng (to the Congress that they would really put a) provision that the incumbent president shall be barred from running or seeking reelection under the new constitution,” he said.
“He wants that. He will communicate it. Because he will transmit the final product of the consultative committee,” he added.
ConCom’s draft federal constitution was submitted to Duterte Monday afternoon. Roque earlier said that the submission is a significant step forward towards Duterte’s promise of a federal shift.
When asked if Duterte would be endorsing the draft to the Congress in full, Roque said that the President may still review it before submitting it to the Legislative.
“I believe so. But I think the President is also entitled to review the final work output,” he said.
On Friday, Duterte tasked the ConCom to add a provision that will force him to step down before the country even forms a transition government.
“The constitution now being crafted, it’s being reviewed by the Congress, but the Consultative Committee of Justice Reynato Puno can make this correction and I will suggest: Make my term coterminous with the beginning of the draft constitution,” Duterte said Friday evening.
“Make me stop being president during the transition. In other words, elect a president before you make the transition from the unitary to federal. I urge Congress and Puno to make the final changes,” he added.
Duterte fate as President
Following Duterte’s pronouncement of wanting to step down once a federal government is established, Roque said that the fate of Duterte’s presidency, even if the shift happens within his term, still lies in the provisions of the new constitution.
“Well, it depends on the transition provision. ‘Yan ‘yung pinag-uusapan natin (That’s what we’re talking of). He’s willing to serve in a transition capacity, in that scenario, provided it is only until 2022,” he said.
“Whatever will be his position, will depend on the transitory provision, and depends on whether or not the people will ratify it,” he added.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism to address the overconcentration of power in the national government, and the territorial dispute in Mindanao.
Duterte’s critics have been claiming that the President wants a federal government so he can stay in power. Duterte has repeatedly denied the allegations.