Senate President: 2019 elections cannot be canceled

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19) — The mid-term elections set for May 2019 cannot be put off, Senate President Tito Sotto said on Thursday.

"The elections cannot be cancelled," said Sotto. "Even with a joint resolution, we cannot do that. A constitutional amendment is the only way you can do that."

Sotto was citing Article VI, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: "Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election of the Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May."

He noted that a constitutional amendment was the "only way" to cancel an election. Under the law, elections could only be moved, he added.


In light of the push for charter change, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proposed scrapping mid-term elections, which translates to extended terms for legislators. But this just gives people the idea that the shift to federalism will serve politicians, who will have a prolonged stay in power, Consultative Committee member Nene Pimentel warned.

Alvarez said they could always gun for a people's initiative if the Upper House refuses the no-election scenario. However, Sotto also maintained this method needed an enabling law.

Senators have spoken out against term extension, and Sotto affirmed that majority were not interested in a longer term.

"I have yet to hear a member of the Senate that agrees to that particular people's initiative or other forms of extending the terms of officials," he said.

Opposition Senator Bam Aquino also told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday that he believes Filipinos will want to exercise their right to vote. Because the proposed extension is in view of federalism, he also noted Pulse Asia and SWS surveys that said most Filipinos were against charter change.

He also warned that the push to cancel elections was a "red flag," and it "brings [the country] closer to an autocracy or to dictatorship."

"May mga tao talaga [There are people]... pushing for a federal form or a change in our Constitution who genuinely want to see real change," said Aquino. Among them, he believed, are ConCom members former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Associate Justice Atonio Eduardo Nachura, and former Senate President Nene Pimentel.

But he added, "There are those who want this because they want the 2019 elections postponed and they want to extend their terms. Kailangang ihiwalay natin yung mga hangarin na iyon [We need to separate those intentions]."