MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday promised again that he will not seek an extension of his term after the country shifts to federalism, as he sought a provision under a proposed charter forcing him to step down during the transition period.
The President gave this assurance after Julio Teehankee, a member of the Palace consultative committee that drafted a proposed charter for a federal government, said Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo can run for a four-year term with an option for re-election for another four-year term.
“The Constitutional committee of [former Chief] Justice Reynato Puno can make this correction and I suggest: Make my term co-terminus with the beginning of a draft Constitution. Make me stop being president during the transition,” Duterte said in a speech during the opening of the National Science and Technology Week in Davao City.
“In other words, elect a president before you make a transition from unitary to federal. I urge Congress and Puno to make the final changes.”
Duterte said he could even step down in 2019 if the federal charter is already finalized by then.
“Make me president only next year, 2019, and I will accept if that will satisfy ladies, [Vice President Leni] Robredo. Gusto mo ikaw na. You can have it,” he said.
“Senate, convince your colleagues. And to the House of Representatives, the opposition, sabi niyo gusto kong (you said I want) beyond 2022. Sorry to disappoint you. Excuse me, hindi ako ganoon (I’m not like that). Make the changes now, make me resign or ask me to step down by a constitutional fiat that there will be election before we proceed before the adoption of a constitution.”
In an interview, Teehankee said there’s “no ban” for Duterte and Robredo to run under the new Constitution proposed by the Palace committee. This means that if the new constitution will be in place by 2022, Duterte may serve as the country’s chief executive until 2030 should he decide to run for re-election twice and succeed in his bid.
Teehanke, however, later took back his statement and said he “misspoke.” He reiterated that Duterte cannot run for reelection.
Lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, has warned that a shift to federalism threatens democracy and may pave the way for "constitutional authoritarianism.”
Monsod noted that while the draft of the proposed charter, a copy of which he said he received from sources, states clearly that the terms of the President and Vice President’s should end on June 30, 2022, it does not explicitly ban them from reelection.
"Is federalism a Trojan horse to stay in power?" he said.
Duterte, 73, has repeatedly said he wants to rest and go back to his hometown of Davao City after serving as the country’s president in 2022.
He has said several times that he is willing to cut short his presidency should a new constitution mandating federalism be in place before his 6-year term finishes.
The President has also rejected the idea of leading a transition government if the administration's push for a shift to federalism succeeds.