Draft constitution raises fears of president term extension, Duterte says he won’t

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo via ABS-CBN.

Could Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte extend his term as president? That’s what some critics of the draft federal constitution fear might happen, but the president said he had no plans to stay in power.

The Consultative Committee (Con-Com), composed of former high-government officials and constitutional experts appointed by Duterte to create the draft federal constitution, submitted yesterday the final version of their proposal to the president.

According to GMA News, Con-Com spokesperson Ding Generoso said that the proposal has, for the most part, been approved by the president.

The draft constitution is part of the administration’s effort to shift the Philippines into a federal form of government.

The shift to federalism was one of Duterte’s main campaign promises in 2016, which he believes is a way to give more power to local state governments and encourage development in rural areas.

However, critics are afraid that the charter change is just a way for Duterte to prolong his term in office.

In the current constitution ratified in 1987, presidents cannot run for a second term and can only stay in power for 6 years.

But if the new draft constitution is approved, Duterte could, in theory, run again for the top government position.

In an interview with One News Channel last week, Con-Com member Julio Teehankee said that incumbent officials may run again if the draft constitution is signed into law, calling it a “reset.”

Under the draft, one presidential term will run for four years and presidents are allowed to serve for two terms.

The draft also places Duterte as the leader of the Federal Transition Commission, which could keep him in power after his term is set to end in 2022.

However, Duterte said he wants this provision amended.

In a tweet from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, he quoted Duterte saying that he wants to step down before the proposed transition to “remove all suspicion.”

Talks of a charter change have cropped up several times in the past years and have always raised fears in Filipinos, perhaps because many are still dealing with the effects of the Marcos dictatorship which ended some 30 years ago.

And the fact the Duterte is close to the Marcoses and has repeatedly expressed his support for them isn’t helping his case.

Duterte has been compared to the late dictator because of the thousands of alleged human rights violations that have happened in both their terms as president. Some think Duterte could go the same route as Marcos and declare martial law in order to stay in power.

The draft constitution allows the president to use “lawless violence” to justify imposing martial law, a reasoning not included in the current constitution which only allows military rule in cases of invasion or rebellion.

While Duterte has OKd the draft constitution, they still have to convene a body to formally amend the constitution and submit it for ratification.

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