MANILA, Philippines – The head of the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute hit critics and assured the public that its version of federalism does not allow a term extension for President Rodrigo Duterte.
Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary and PDP-Laban executive director Jonathan Malaya told the Senate that "nothing" in the ruling party's proposal allows an "unlimited" term of office for Duterte, contrary to what critics say. (READ: Pimentel says Duterte's term may be extended 'if necessary')
He also said their version does not allow local officials to continue serving in regional government, not until they are elected.
"Nothing in the PDP-Laban model states that the incumbent president, President Duterte, will serve continuously until the 10-, 12-, 13-, 15-year transition period. There is nothing in this model – because we were the ones [who] prepared it – that will give the President unlimited time in office," Malaya said on Thursday, February 1, during the 4th Senate hearing on Charter Change.
After all, Malaya said, Duterte himself has said he does not want to stay in power any longer than June 2022. (READ: Duterte to military, police: Shoot me if I extend my term)
"The President himself and his spokesman [have] continuously stated that the President will not serve a day beyond the term to which he was installed..and that an extension of his term is the greatest blunder he would commit," Malaya said.
Duterte, however, is known for repeatedly changing his public statements. This, and the push for a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) – or Congress filled with Duterte allies amending the Constitution – led critics to vehemently oppose calls for Cha-Cha.
While Malaya defends the ruling party's model, there is no assurance it would be the version that Congress would adopt. The Senate and the House of Representatives could propose their own. In fact, in the House, there are already several proposals, which significantly differ from the PDP-Laban version.
Critics sowing fear?
Malaya also hit critics for sowing fear among Filipinos and said there is nothing to worry about.
"I'm afraid critics of federalism are seeing monsters when there are none. They're using problems or the specter of fear because since federalism is a totally new concept and a totally new concept is not easily understood, they are propagating a lot of fear among people, questioning even motives of those proposing [a] federal form of government," he said.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com