Monday, 27 March 2017 09:11

2019 Barangay, Cha-cha vote eyed

ELECTIONS for barangay (village) officials will likely be moved to May 2019 and synchronized with the midterm polls as well as the planned plebiscite on constitutional changes, a ranking House member bared on Sunday.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list, chairman of the House electoral reforms committee, made the projection following fresh calls from President Rodrigo Duterte and Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno to postpone the barangay polls for a second time.

But unlike last year’s move in which the barangay polls were postponed and incumbents were allowed to served for another year in a holdover capacity, President Duterte wants to scrap the barangay polls in October and appoint barangay officials instead.

“If the October [barangay]polls will be postponed, it could be done simultaneously with the midterm elections [in May 2019]. Federalism [through charter change]is set to be discussed [when we return in May], so it is possible that the vote on Cha-cha would be done with that of the barangay polls,” Tugna said in a radio interview.

A shift to a federal form of government will mean the country will be divided into 11 independent states under a federal government, with each state having the authority to craft laws and manage resources.

“If that will be the case, the results will be reflective of the genuine sentiment of the people because voters show up for barangay polls,” Tugna added.

He disagreed with the President’s plan to postpone the barangay polls and simply appoint village officials.

“Fair and square elections will bring in competition and bring in the best. We should let the voters decide on who they want to lead,” Tugna, a lawyer, said.

Duterte has said that 40 percent of at least 300,000 barangay officials across the country are involved in the illegal drug trade, but has yet to present data backing up this claim.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, barangay chairmen and councilors are elected every three years—meaning Congress would need to amend the Local Government Code, on top of passing the law postponing the barangay polls, if they want to grant the President’s wishes.

“The preference is free and open elections, unless those who will propose otherwise will be able to present enough data that drug money proceeds indeed influence the results of the barangay elections,” Tugna said.

“Before we pass a law, we should have enough basis that it is for the good of the citizens. After all, this is a far-reaching bill. There has to be a sufficient basis to be able to deviate from what is normal, what is the usual and what the law states,” Tugna added.

Senators hold emergency meet

“There are other issues that will be tackled but the main topic is the barangay elections,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said in an interview over radio station dwIZ.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito confirmed the emergency meeting.

Sotto said two options were being studied on how to select new barangay officials who are not linked to illegal drugs.

Doing away with the election and allowing the President to appoint barangay officials will require the passage of a new law, Sotto said. Another option is to proceed with the election but people will select only a new barangay chairman.

“It would be easy for the government to monitor them since there would only be 42,000 barangay chairmen to watch over,” said Sotto, who was with the President in a visit to Myanmar last week.

The Senate majority leader said Duterte discussed the barangay polls during the trip, but did not insist on his plans on how to go about the elections. Duterte, Sotto said, only told him to study all available options on the matter.


Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., on Sunday cautioned the government against taking shortcuts to weed out barangay officials who are involved in illegal drugs, as it could set a bad precedent.

Pimentel, considered as the “father of the Local Government Code,” was referring to the plan of Duterte to do away with the barangay polls and just appoint new barangay officials.

He pointed out that the country has laws dealing with erring public officials.

“If a barangay official committed a violation he or she should be charged and jailed, that is what the law says,” said Pimentel, father of the incumbent Senate president.

There is no assurance that appointing barangay officials will completely eradicate the corruption and illegal drug problem, he pointed out.

If the President is allowed to replace barangay officials through appointment because of alleged corruption or involvement in illegal drugs, he might as well appoint other local government officials like mayors and governors, he said.

“What is important is that we should always follow the Constitution, and if the President wants to have a new system, it should be accompanied with a new law…it should not be, ‘I want to appoint therefore I will appoint,’” Pimentel said.

Published in News
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 09:46

Cha-cha roars back to life

The House constitutional amendments committee has approved a measure pushing ahead with Charter change, with Congress convening as a Constituent Assembly but with members of the House and the Senate voting separately.

Rep. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, Chairman of the House constitutional amendments panel, made the disclosure even as the 1987 Constitution is not clear on whether the House and the Senate should vote separately in amending the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly.

“We hope that the members of the majority will accept this proposed bill amending the Constitution via ConAss. During the period of amendments, the House version will be amended to provide that we will be voting separately,” Mercado told reporters.

“Once we pass the proposed bill on ConAss, then it will be taken up by the Senate. If the Senate approves it, then we will hold a bicameral conference before submitting it to the President for approval. Once it becomes the law, the convening of both Houses [to amend Charter]will commence,” Mercado explained.

President Rodrigo Duterte prefers Cha-cha through a Constituent Assembly instead of a Constitutional Convention, which could cost taxpayers at least P6 billion.

Under the 1987 Constitution, any amendment to, or revision of, the Constitution may be proposed by Congress acting as a Constituent Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of its members.

Joint voting will effectively drown the senators’ votes as there are only 24 senators while the House has at least 293 members. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd has insisted that in the event Congress convenes as a Constituent Assembly, voting on constitutional amendments must be done by the two houses separately.

“We will be on break on March 18, and it is our hope that Congress will give priority on this once we open session once again in May. Exporters, businessmen, are vigorously recommending for the amending of our Constitution, especially its economic provisions. This is ripe for appropriate action,” Mercado said.

He added that lawmakers will mount an intensive information drive on Charter Change in major cities such as Davao and Bacolod to discuss the benefits of a shift to the federal form of government.

The Duterte administration envisions a federal system of government wherein the Philippines will have 11 independent states (regions): the National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog Region, Northern Luzon Region, Bicol Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Easten Samar, Western Samar, Eastern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and Bangsamoro.

In December, Malacañang formed a 25-man consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution and study the proposal to shift to a federal system of government.
Published in News
Friday, 03 February 2017 10:21

Speaker eyes con-ass by July

MANILA, Philippines - If he could have his way, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants senators and congressmen to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) in July to work on a new Constitution.

He said lawmakers would rewrite the Charter to shift the nation to a federal system, as advocated by President Duterte, and to relax its restrictive economic provisions.

Alvarez said he expected Duterte to soon appoint members of the consultative commission on Charter change, which the Chief Executive created in December.

Alvarez said the commission should submit its report to the President and Congress in six months.

The Speaker has a three-year timeline for shifting the nation to the federal system.

He wants the new Charter to be submitted to the people in a plebiscite that would be held together with the midterm elections in May 2019.

To prepare his colleagues for their con-ass work, the House and the ruling PDP-Laban party organized a seminar on federalism last Wednesday.

In a message to participants, Alvarez thanked them for their “show of support and enthusiasm” in joining the discussion on Cha-cha.

“When this event was proposed to the Speaker, he gave it his full support. The kind of structure we have will dictate the strategic trajectory of our country in terms not limited to peace and development. Strategy always follows structure. Let us remember this,” he said.

Alvarez noted that under the present Constitution, the President serves as both head of state and head of government.

“From our historical experience, this has been an overwhelming task. This kind of setup has failed to respond effectively and efficiently to the recurring issues that have continuously plagued our nation. It has also adversely affected the needs and collective aspirations of our people,” the Speaker said.

“We have to consider the possibility that the structure we have now is no longer fit for the pressing needs of today and it is not compatible with meeting the challenges that tomorrow will bring,” he said.

Duterte has expressed preference for a federal system with a strong president and a prime minister who assists the chief executive in running the government.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez has proposed a mix of federal-presidential setup with a two-chamber Congress. On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. wants a pure federal-parliamentary form with a unicameral or one-chamber parliament.

Benitez, Rodriguez, Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and several House members are pushing for the relaxation of the Constitution’s economic provisions to allow 100-percent foreign ownership of land and businesses.
Published in News
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 12:47

Federalism 104: Cha-cha challenges

The Senate committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by Sen. Franklin Drilon, will soon start public hearings on President Duterte’s proposal to adopt the federal system. The proposal will require Charter change (Cha-cha).
Published in Commentaries

President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing for Charter amendments to ease the foreign ownership of companies to spur economic growth and job generation in the country.

In a press conference in Davao City Thursday night, the President announced that he was in favor of a proposed 50-50 cap on foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, among others, from the current 60-40 rule in the Constitution.

Published in News
DURING the course of the presidential campaign, now President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly stated that he was a left-of-center socialist. Although he sympathized with some elements of the ideology of the extreme left, he did not agree to the use of violence as a way to achieve structural reforms in our society, to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
Published in Commentaries
BusinessMirror Reporters VG. Cabuag, David Cagahastian, Manuel T. Cayon, Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz, Cai U. Ordinario, Mary Grace C. Padin, Catherine N. Pillas, Joel R. San Juan and Butch Fernandez

MANILA and DAVAO CITY–HE’S excited. For Manuel, a confidential National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) staff, the excitement comes from the possibility of being regarded as an FBI agent.
Published in News
(this article first appeared on The Manila Times

EVERYTHING’S wrong with Philippine politics – period!

This tongue and cheek reply to the first query above encapsulates the frustrations of many a writer on where to begin to dissect the multitude of problems reducing them into palatable morsels. The easier way to go about this is perhaps to focus on the current state of affairs which has obstinately captured the interests and occupied the minds of our people since about a year ago, or even beyond: the election of a Philippine president.
Published in LML Polettiques