Sotto on Cayetano's threat to cut senators' term: 'No single person can do that'

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III dismissed Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano's threat to cut senators' terms in office by half or just 3 years.

"No single person can do that. I would like to think that Congressman Cayetano said that in jest… Di kaya ng batas 'yon. (A law can't do that.) It has to be a Constitutional amendment," Sotto told reporters in a news briefing.

At present, senators can serve up to two consecutive 6-year terms.

The term of office of senators is explicitly provided in Articles VI and XVIII of the 1987 Constitution. Article VI also limited senators' reelection not more than two consecutive terms.

"How can you give what is not yours? No one owns the Senate. The Constitution and the people own the Senate," Sotto said on Cayetano's threat.

Cayetano made the threat in a July 10 meeting with a group of congressmen, after senators criticized his proposal to extend the term of lawmakers.

"If the senators do not believe that nothing much happens in 3 years, let us cut their term to 3 years… Anyway, they are saying a lawmaker can be productive in 3 years," Cayetano said, as reported by the Philippine Star.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said Cayetano's proposal started on the wrong foot or delivered the wrong message: "It's another way of saying goodbye to [Charter Change] under the 18th Congress. I would say, country first before self-interest."

Just last week, Sotto said that he expects a "good working relationship" with Cayetano, after the latter received the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte to be house speaker in a term-sharing scheme with Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

After announcing his support for the Cayetano-Velasco term-sharing proposal, the President once again opened the talks on amending the 1987 Constitutiona move that would require the efforts of the lower chamber.

The House of Representatives will vote on the speakership post on July 22, when the 18th Congress opens. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.