Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. and 9 other resource persons at the Senate public hearing on Charter change on Tuesday rejected the scenario of no elections in the course of amending or revising the Constitution.
“I do not support any move to defer the election set for May 2019,” said Pimentel, one of President Duterte’s 25-member consultative committee, in his position paper submitted to the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes headed by Senator Francis Pangilinan.
“A no-election scenario would unduly prolong the exercise of powers and privileges even of undeserving elective officials, and deprive those who may be more deserving of elective public offices from having the opportunity to seek the mandate of the people to serve them,” he added.
Pimentel, a long-time advocate of federalism, also disassociated himself from the federalism version of the party he founded, PDP-Laban.
“My proposal to adopt a federal system is not the PDP Laban proposal. I disassociate myself from PDP at this time of my life. I do not want to be engaged in partisan politics anymore,” he said.
Pimentel said his proposed federal system is “borne out of our studies, but not necessarily based on partisan considerations.”
He said canceling the elections is against the Constitution.
“The principal effect of a no-election scenario would be to upset the constitutional mandate that requires elective officials to be subjected to periodic check by the sovereign people,” he added.
“No-el puts the political agenda and self-interest of politicians above and before the more fundamental and important interest of present and future Filipinos,” he said, adding that the prospect does not help the proponents of Charter change.
Prof. Gene Lacza Pilapil of the UP Political Science Department said changing the country’s fundamental law is a “classic strategy of autocratic leaders elected in democracies but who later undermined their democracies.”
He said a no-elections scenario is usually an excuse for term extension.
“It is injurious to the Charter change campaign itself because it would be exposed as primarily a power grab of self-interested, shameless, and power-hungry legislators who exploit Charter change both as a smokescreen and as an excuse to extend themselves in power,” Pilapil said.
All of them, including Pimentel, Cayosa, and Pilapil, said they do not support moves to stop the holding of elections.
The other resource persons who said scheduled elections should push through were: former Senator Joey Lina; Assistant Secretary Ricojudge Echiverri of the Department of Interior and Local Government; Dr. Francisco A. Magno, director of the De La Salle University-Institute of Governance;
Eric Jude O. Alvia, secretary-general of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel); Albert Rodriguez, of the legal department of the Commission on Elections (Comelec); and Isaac Saguit, national secretary-general of the Student Councils Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP).
In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Pangilinan said the resource persons see elections as a key element of democracy and resetting these exercises put the motives of the proponents in question.
“Marahil nakikita nila na mahalaga sa ating demokrasya na ituloy ang eleksyon at marami rito ang nagkwe-kwestyon ng motibo ng mga panawagan para magkaroon ng postponement ng eleksyon. Wala tayong narinig na sumusuporta,” he said.
The Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, jointly with the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, continues to conduct public hearings on Charter change in different parts of the country.
Previously, public hearings were conducted in Cagayan De Oro, Cebu, and Cotabato. Another regional consultative hearing is set this Friday, March 16, in Baguio City.