No vice president under federalism? Alvarez says 'it depends'
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Is Vice President-elect Leni Robredo in danger of losing her post should the next administation move for a shift to federalism?
"It depends on what the members of the constitutional convention or the constituent assembly will agree on," incoming House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of the 1st district of Davao del Norte told reporters in Filipino on Tuesday, June 7.
Alvarez is poised to be elected House Speaker when the 17th Congress opens. A member of the incoming ruling party PDP-Laban, he is President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's pick to lead the lower chamber.
A day after Alvarez floated the idea, a constitutionalist and several members of the House committee on constitutional amendments said Robredo cannot be denied of her term because she was duly elected to serve a 6-year term.
Federalism is among Duterte's key promises in the 2016 campaign. Even before he announced plans to run for president, the outgoing Davao City mayor was among the most vocal advocates of the shift in the system of government.
Duterte has argued that only federalism would be able to solve the woes of the country's provinces, especially Mindanao. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
In fact, countries under a federal system have vice presidents, unless they adopt a parliamentary form of government, where they do not have a president either – the country is governed by a prime minister, elected from among lawmakers.
Pressed on whether the abolition of the vice president's post would be the "direction" of the Duterte administration, Alvarez said: "In a parliamentary setup, walang (there is no) vice president."
Duterte was the standard-bearer of PDP-Laban while Robredo was the vice presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
The LP has since lost a huge chunk of its membership following Duterte's victory, and is also set to join the PDP-Laban-led majority coalition in the House.
Alvarez said that with the "support of Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte," there is now a "supermajority" being formed for PDP-Laban.
Belmonte, who was re-elected Quezon City represenative in May, said the party's bigwigs – 2016 standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, President Benigno Aquino II, and Robredo – were not exactly informed of but likely knew about his trip to Davao City on Tuesday.
Belmonte, said Aquino did not meddle with the LP's dealings anymore, while Roxas was not an official of the LP. Robredo, he said, had no objections to his visit to Davao.
Belmonte and other congressmen paid the incoming president a "courtesy call" after Duterte opted to skip his proclamation in Congress on May 30.
PDP-Laban and the LP have yet to iron out the details of their coalition in Congress. Some members of the LP, however, had earlier said that they would rather stay in the minority.
Belmonte defended the usual surge of party defections, citing the example of the United States, where the president's legislative agenda can be stalled by a Congress dominated by the opposition.
"I don’t think we can afford to be doing that, we don’t like stalemates, we have to keep moving. Among all of us, we are all running on the theory, on the promise, of good governance. But only the President is the one single guy who embodies an idea, the leadership, and so forth. Whether you like it or not, kung gusto mo mag-succeed, ang mandate na ibigay ng bayan, katulad nito anlaki-laki ng mandate ni Mayor Duterte, more than 6 million, he’s entitled to... we should be helping that his mandate becomes a reality," he said.
Robredo, who won by a slim 200,000-vote lead over Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, is unlikely to get a Cabinet post under the Duterte administration. The vice president does not have specific functions under the Constitution but is usually given a Cabinet post. – Rappler.com