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The President’s repeated assurances to the people

IN his speech at the celebration of the anniversary of the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila last Monday, President Duterte reiterated his assurance that he will not be staying in office beyond his term of office.

“That’s a guarantee. No dictatorships. No extension,” he said. “If I overstay even for one day, you are supposed to oust me, place me under arrest for violating the Constitution,” he told the military and the police. “And there will never be a time that I will ask you: You prop me up as a dictator of this country. I have had enough politics. I have experienced all the accolades of my life.”

“Listen to me very carefully,” he continued. “The only singular and sole reason why I am hurrying up the federal setup is, I am telling you now as president, that if there are no structural changes in Mindanao, the Moro people will go to war.”

These are truly reassuring words from the President. The people believe in him, in his sincerity, in his jokes even, as when he said in the same speech that when he asked God about an extension of his manhood, he said the Lord asked him: “How old are you? You are already 72? You better pray. No more! No more extension!”

What is troubling many people is what some leaders of Congress are saying in connection with the move to amend or revise the Constitution to set up a federal system of government. One proposal from congressmen is for a constitutional amendment to set up a unicameral legislature – without a Senate. And they insist that the Constituent Assembly should vote jointly – which would render the senators helpless to question anything the congressmen want because of their numbers.

Now, former Vice President Jejomar Binay has disclosed that a working draft of a proposed “Federal Constitution” prepared by members of the House of Representatives includes a Section 6 in its Transitory Provisions as follows:

“Upon the ratification of this Constitution, the present Congress shall be dissolved and the incumbent President shall exercise Legislative powers until the first Federal Congress is convened.” The draft is silent on the date of a plebiscite and ratification; there is also no definite date for the convening of the Federal Congress.

It is moves like this by some members of Congress that cause so much concern among many people. They raise possibilities that the President himself has very strongly rejected.

President Duterte has made it clear that he wants to give the Moro people greater autonomy under a federal form of government or perhaps under a “hybrid” system like that of China and Hong Kong. It seems, however, that some members of Congress have other notions which they want to push for selfish reasons.

The President has repeatedly declared he has no interest in extending his term and the people admire and respect him for that. He should tell the leaders of Congress to stop introducing ideas like Section 6 of their proposed “Federal Constitution” that run counter to his own repeated assurances to the Filipino people.