No-elections, long transition to federal gov't? 'Kalokohan,' says Nene Pimentel

MANILA, Philippines – Why revise provisions that are working well and why cancel the elections?

Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr expressed his opposition to proposals to cancel national elections, and to have a long transition from a presidential to a federal form of government.

Pimentel was among the resource persons on Wednesday, January 17, as the Senate resumed deliberations on Charter Change proposals.

"'There should be no election, there should be a 10-year transition.' Excuse me, but I think that's a lot of kalokohan (foolishness). As the saying goes, the end does not justify the means," said Pimentel, a longtime advocate of federalism. 

Asked to expound later on, Pimentel said: "Hindi pupuwede na sabihin mo 'yan (You can't say that) just to achieve a supposedly good purpose. Otherwise, even the good intention will be submerged by a mess of a nonsense." 

"While we are still free, speak out. Kailan ka magsalita, kung 'di na puwede (Because when else will you speak up, when you cannot anymore)?" he concluded.

It was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who initially floated the possibility of canceling the 2019 elections as the Duterte administration pushes for federalism.

Alvarez argued that it would be a better situation, particularly for the Senate, since its members' terms do not end at the same time. Half of the Senate has terms that will expire in 2019 while the rest will step down in 2022 yet. House members, meanwhile, are elected every 3 years. 

But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, son of the former Senate President, earlier rejected this proposal. At the same time, the younger Pimentel floated the possibility of extending President Rodrigo Duterte's term during the transition period.  

The final decision on whether elections in 2019 would be canceled as part of the transition to federalism will only be made once Congress convenes as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), the mode many legislators are pushing for. (READ: What you need to know about Charter Change)

Retired Supreme Court associate justice Adolfo Azcuna, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, suggested that instead of revising the Constitution and shifting immediately to a federal form of government, Congress can first focus on amending parts of it.

Azcuna zoomed in on the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution, which he noted would be less contentious between the two chambers of Congress. (LOOK BACK: Past Charter Change attempts and why they failed)

While the House has approved a resolution calling on Congress to convene as a Con-Ass, the Senate has not. Senators unanimously decided to thumb down proposals for joint voting of the two chambers on Charter Change. –