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Sotto not keen on postponing 2019 polls to make way for Cha-cha

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By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is not totally convinced that the May, 2019 elections should be deferred to pave way for the government’s transition to a federal system.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

Concerns on the possible postponement of the midterm polls floated anew as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that it would be “practical” to postpone the elections so that Congress can focus on tackling the proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution and shift to federalism.

The House leader made the statement as the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) submitted a copy of its draft federal constitution to the Lower Chamber Wednesday.

But Sotto said Alvarez’ idea would only be possible if existing laws, particularly the present Charter, will be revised to move the mandated date of elections; and most especially, if majority of the lawmakers would agree to it.

“It’s difficult because we have to amend the Constitution to do that,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.

“That can only be possible if we will be able to amend all pertinent laws mandating elections on the second Monday of May every three years! The question is: are we willing to do that?” he added.

Article 6, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution states that “the regular election of the Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May.”

Con-Com chair Reynato Puno earlier said that the plebiscite for the draft federal charter should be held mid-2019 so that the transition to a federal government can start within the Duterte administration. President Duterte even said that he can resign next year if the ideal target was favored, saying he is not interested to stay in power.

Sotto, however, had admitted that the Senate cannot easily prioritize the draft federal constitution even if Duterte transmits it to Congress in their resumption on July 23.

The Senate chief said they would not start discussing matters on the proposed Charter change (Cha-Cha) unless the two houses of Congress settle their dispute on how to vote on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Sotto added that the Senate constitutional amendments and revision of codes committee has to finish and report on its public hearings on Cha-Cha and federalism before the Senate can discuss the matter in plenary.

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