MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday has approved “in toto” or as a whole the draft Federal Constitution and will endorse it to the Congress, except for the transitory provisions which he wants amended.
Ding Generoso, spokesperson of the Consultative Committee (Concom) tasked to draft the Federal Constitution, confirmed this a few hours after the President received the proposal allowing a shift to a federal system of government.
“At the meeting of the President with Concom members after receiving the draft Constitution, the President said he is approving and endorsing the draft constitution in toto,” Generoso told reporters through Viber.
Generoso, however, said that the President announced in a Cabinet meeting in the evening that he wanted to amend the transitory provisions to provide an elected leader during transition after plebiscite.
In a noontime Palace briefing the same day, Roque said that Duterte was willing to lead the transition to federalism as long as it was within the end of his term in 2022.
However, Roque said that Duterte apparently changed his mind and would rather “cut” his term as early as 2019 to be coterminous with the start of the transition period to erase all suspicions about his desire to stay in power beyond the end of his term in 2022.
Earlier, the Concom said that Duterte will lead the 10-member Transition Commission on Federalism which will “formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government, as provided for in the new Constitution.”
However, the Concom will review and revise the Transitory Provisions in accordance with the President’s instructions.
Change of heart
In an ambush interview, Roque told reporters that the 73-year-old President wanted to step down before the end of his term because aside from wanting to remove the notion that he wanted to stay in power, he was also “tired.”
“Dati kasi sinasabi ni Presidente puwede siya manilbihan as transitional leader hanggang 2022 pero kanina inaunsyo niya na mas gusto niya na magkaroon ng probisyong ihahalal na ang transitional leader at handa na siya bumaba ng puwesto pag naaprubahan na ang bagong Saligang Batas (Previously, the President said that he could serve as transitional leader until 2022 but earlier he announced that he wanted a provision to elect a transitional leader because he is ready to step down once the new Constitution is approved),” Roque said.
“Para mawala ang suspetsa na meron siyang ibang binabalak dito sa Charter Change at pangalawa dahil siya ay pagod na pagod na (So that he can remove suspicions that he has plans to stay in power with charter change and because he’s very tired),” he added.
Roque said that according to Duterte, electing a transitional leader would “enable a younger leader to take over.”
He said that Cabinet members were surprised by Duterte’s announcement but were bound to honor the President’s wish.
However, Roque also said that if the public “rejects” or does not ratify the new charter, Duterte will not be allowed to step down until he finishes his term.
“If the people don’t want to get rid of him, they will reject the Federal constitution. But I think he means it when he said that he will take all steps necessary to convince the people to change to a federal form of government and as a way of assuring them na hindi sya kapit tuko sa pwesto (he’s not holding on to his position),” Roque said.
Roque, meanwhile, pointed out that it was still up to the Congress to include the provision on the new transition leader in the draft Federal Constitution. (Azer Parrocha/PNA)