House Speaker: Move 2019 elections to 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants to move the 2019 elections for Senators, House Representatives, and local chief executives, to 2022 to concentrate on writing and transitioning to a federal constitution.

Should this happen, the six-year term will provide a "carry-over" period for the next government under the new Constitution, Alvarez told CNN Philippines on Monday.

"Kasi kung magpapaeleksyon ka ng Senators sa mid-term, eh six years 'yun, so may carry-over ka…yun ang pinakapractical. No election ka sa 2019 tapos ang first election mo sa 2022, then concentrate dito sa gagawin nating revision," he said.

He maintained that holding the elections simultaneously with the Presidential Elections would be the most "practical" way to transition to the new form of government.

[Translation: Because if you hold mid-term Senatorial elections, there will be six years instead (if you postpone it), so there's a carry-over…that is the most practical (way). (With) no elections on 2019 and your first election is in 2022, then you can concentrate on the revision of the Constitution.]

The House Speaker's suggestion comes before President Rodrigo Duterte is reportedly expected to endorse to Congress a draft of the new Constitution from the Consultative Committee (ConCom).

However, the ConCom plans to push through with elections in 2019 -- and even hold the presidential elections then. ConCom member Edmund Tayao said they are targeting a plebiscite before May 2019.

"Ang tinitingnan namin dito, pagka may plebisito bago mag-midterm election, yung darating na eleksyon, under the new Constitution na," said Tayao.

[Translation: What we are looking at is if there is a plebiscite before the midterm election, then the upcoming election will already be under the new Constitution.]

Alvarez's proposal would signify a term extension for the Senators and local officials who were supposed to step down in 2019. However, he believes this is not an issue as there was also a term extension in the 8th Congress, the first Congress after the late president Ferdinand Marcos' was ousted.

"Ginawa 'yan ng 1987 bakit natin hindi pwede gawin 'yan? Nag-extend sila kasi nga binago yung Constitution. Kailangan talaga," he argued.

[Translation: This was done in 1987, so why can't we do it? They extended (their term) because they changed the Constitution. It is really necessary.]

Senators and Congressmen elected in 1987 held their position for five years, as opposed to a regular three-year term, as the 1987 Constitution prescribed elections to be held in 1992.

On the other hand, Senator Kiko Pangilinan contended that term extension only serves personal political interests. He added the cancellation will deprive citizens of their right to vote their chosen candidate.

"Trabaho at dagdag na sahod ng mamamayan, at hindi dagdag na termino at sweldo ng pulitiko ang sigaw ng taumbayan," Pangilinan said in a statement on Tuesday. "Hindi tayo papayag na balewalain ang sagradong karapatan ng mamamayan na piliin ang kanilang napupusuan sa halalan."

[Translation: Work and wage increase is what the people want and not a longer term and higher salary for politicians. We will not allow to dismiss the sacred right of the people to choose who they want for elections]


Time constraints

Apart from revising the Constitution, Alvarez said Congress is already bombarded with a full agenda before the filing of candidacies on October.

"Para sa akin lang [for me], if we are damn serious in really revising the Constitution, let's be realistic sa [with] schedule," Alvarez said.

He enumerated the tasks and events to be attended by the House of Representatives and the Senate, including the State of the Nation Address, the National Expenditure Program, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

"SONA tayo itong July 23, ibibigay sa amin yung NEP, National Expenditure Program, for next year so kailangan bigay ng oras diyan, tapos medyo maiksi yung sessions namin dahil may mga international commitment kami, yang IPU, kayo lahat ng mga ganyan na nagrerequire ng attendance at participation ng House at Senado...and then October magfifile ka ng candidacies mo, papaano yan?" said Alvarez.

[Translation: We have SONA on July 23, the NEP, National Expenditure Program for next year, then our sessions will be shortened because we have our own international commitments, like the IPU, that would require our presence and participation, while we're doing the budget, then on October we have to file our candidacies, so how is that possible?]

"So ang proposal ko diyan, dapat yung eleksyon 2022 sabay-sabay lahat 'yan…yun ang pinakapractical," he added.

[Translation: So my proposal is to move elections to 2022, all elections will be held at the same time…that is the most practical]

ConCom approved the draft of a proposed federal constitution on July 3. The President received the proposal Monday, and is expected to be endorsed to Congress. Congress will deliberate on the draft and, once approved, a plebiscite will be conducted for the people to vote on the proposed Constitution.