Alvarez OK to extend senators’ term during federal transition

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said he is amenable to extending to 2022, in a holdover capacity, the terms of senators expiring in 2019 to avoid complications during a transition phase to a federal form of government.

Alvarez said it would not be practical to elect in 2019 a new set of senators whose term under the present constitution should end on 2025 only to adopt a federal form of government with different setup of a legislative body.

“Pwedeng kung walang election, di holdover sila. Wala kaming problema doon,” said Alvarez in a radio interview.

The Speaker said this option is possible for the transition phase to a federal form of government that would be fully implemented by 2022—that is if the Filipino people ratify the new federal constitution in a plebiscite for the purpose in May this year, simultaneous with the barangay polls.

“For practical purposes kasi kailangan talaga may transition government ka. Halimbawa niratipikahan ng mga tao yan by May so magkakaroon ka ngayon ng transition government in preparation doon na sa isang federal form of government,” Alvarez explained.

Among the senators who are up for re-election in 2019 include Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe.

On the other hand, the second term of Senators Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, and Antonio Trillanes IV, will expire on June 20, 2019 and as such they are not eligible to re-election.

Alvarez reiterated that when Congress resumes session on January 15 the House would resume its efforts to convene Congress into a constituent assembly

To speed up the process of overhauling the present constitution, Alvarez said Congress as a constituent assembly should create a technical working group composed of experts and members of the academe who would spearhead the drafting of the new charter.

“Para sila yung mamumuno at gumawa ng draft tapos pagdedebatehan na lang doon sa Kongreso,” Alvarez said.

He said members of the TWG should be experts and elders who could not be suspected of any other motivation aside from a genuine desire to seek what is best for the country.

Besides, Alvarez said the House already had laid down the groundwork for the drafting of a new constitution, saying that for almost a year the House Committee on Justice had been going around the country to conduct public consultations on the proposed shift to a federal form of government.

Alvarez said it’s up to the TWG to propose the features of the new federal government, including whether to retain a bicameral legislature or adopt a unicameral body for the purpose.

Personally, Alvarez said he believes a unicameral legislature is preferable to speed up the process of enacting needed laws and enable the country to adapt to rapid changing developments and compete with other countries in an increasingly global economy. p: wjg