By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that President Duterte has already made up his mind to step down from office as early as 2019 if the proposed federal constitution would be favored in a plebiscite next year.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement hours after Duterte received the draft federal charter from the Consultative Committee (ConCom) Monday.
According to Roque, Duterte made it clear to the ConCom before the Cabinet meeting that he wants a provision in the draft charter that would seek the election of a new leader for the transitory government.
“Ang sabi nga po niya, ‘pag naaprubahan na ito sa 2019 bababa na siya sa pwesto at nais na niyang maghalal ng taong bayan ng bagong pinuno na maninilbihan bilang (He said that if the federal constitution gets approved next year, he will step down and he wants the people to elect a new leader to serve as) transition President,” Roque said.
The Palace official also said that Duterte mentioned that he is tired already and he wants to clear allegations that he wants to stay in power.
“‘Yan ang kanyang proposal unang una para mawala ‘yung suspetsa na meron siyang ibang binabalak para dito sa Charter change, at pangalawa dahil siya’y pagod na pagod na (That’s what he said. First, to clear suspicions that he has another motive for the Charter Change, and because he’s tired already),” Roque said.
“He said he was very tired, he’s old and siguro itong (and maybe this) electing a transition leader would enable a younger leader to take over,” he added.
According to Roque, the Cabinet members were shocked by Duterte’s announcement as it was the first time that he said it as if his mind cannot be changed anymore.
“Well medyo nashock siguro yung Gabinete kasi parang this is the first time na nagsalita talaga ang Presidente na ayaw na niya no, beyond 2019. So ako mismo nalungkot ako na dahil parang definite statement na ‘yun na magbibigay na siya sa isang mas batang leader (I think the Cabinet members were quite shocked because I think this is the first time that he said that he really does not want to stay beyond 2019. Even I am saddened because it seems like a definite statement that he would give way to a younger leader),” he said.
When asked if Duterte’s proposal would be legally possible since he is an elected official, Roque explained that if such provision in the new constitution exists and gets approved, Duterte’s term as president would end as well.
“Kapag approved na ‘yun ibig sabihin tapos na rin ang kanyang termino, magkakaroon na ng bagong halal na pinuno (If that gets approved, it would mean the end of his term and we would have a newly elected leader),” Roque said.
The Palace official added that he thinks Duterte’s allies in the Congress would grant the President’s request.
“Sabi niya [President Duterte], pararating din niya ang kanyang kagustuhan sa miyembro ng Kongreso na kung pupwede, ganun na ang ilagay sa transitory provision ng Saligang Batas (He said that he would relay his request to the Congress to put such provision in the new Constitution),” Roque said.
“I think the allies at least of the President will honor his wish, kasi parang (because it seemed like) it’s a clear statement na ayaw na niyang manilbihan (that he does not want to serve) as transitory President,” he added.
Roque also said that Duterte also seemed to not care who would take the position in the transitory government that is supposed to be for him.
“He said it with conviction eh, that’s why ako medyo nalungkot ako (I am saddened)… parang (like) he said it with finality. That’s his final wish.,” he said.
“He doesn’t really care who [should lead the transitory government], basta gusto na niya ng bagong elected na (but he said he wants a newly elected) transition leader,” he added.
Roque said that the ConCom will grant Duterte’s wish and would revise the draft constitution before it goes straight to Congress as soon as possible.
“Pinabago na niya ‘yung draft at sumang-ayon naman daw ang consultative committee, and then direcho na sa Congress (He asked the ConCom to revise the draft already and the ConCom heeded his wish). And he will persuade his allies in Congress to provide for the same provision,” he said.
A shift to a federal government was one of the pillars of Duterte’s presidential campaign two years ago. He said that this will solve the overconcentration of powers in the national government and would solve the territorial conflict in Mindanao.
Since assuming the Presidency, Duterte has consistently denied claims of his critics that he wants to stay in power.