Renewed call to extend president’s, House reps’ terms scrapped by solons

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MANILA — Several senators rebuffed a fresh attempt at extending the terms of top government officials on January 10.

Running mates Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson shared the same sentiment that the 18th Congress will have no time to tackle Charter Change.

“It’s too late in the day,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.

“They should try that in the 19th Congress. Good luck,” he added.

“Kung nun ngang mga nakaraang taon, hindi nangyari – lalo na ngayon,” Lacson said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, brushed off the proposal.

“Papatulan pa ba ‘yang ganyang klaseng balita,” he said.

The reactions followed Pampanga Third District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, Jr.’s filing of Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) number 7 last January 7, which urges the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene as a Constituent Assembly to consider an extension to the terms of office for presidents and vice-presidents up to 10 years upon elections and another five for succeeding re-election.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Gonzales said in a statement that the current six-year term “is insufficient for an incumbent president to implement long-term programs and policies.”

“A six-year tenure is too short for a good President, especially if he is confronted with a crippling crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc on our health and economy and whose end is not yet in sight. It may take more than one presidency before the nation can fully recover from this catastrophe,” Gonzales’ stated to media on January 9.

To “strengthen the political party system and ensure that the top two officials of the land are one,” Gonzales’ resolution calls for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates coming from the same political party to be elected in tandem.

As a “learning curve for neophyte congressmen,” the resolution proposes five years and only one re-election for House lawmakers instead of the current three years with two possible re-elections.

“The three-year term for members of the House of  Representatives, as the past experiences would show, is a very, very short term,” the resolution reads.

“On the first year, the members tend to feel of the policies (sic.) needed to legislate especially the first termers and then work much on the second year. However, in the third year, almost half of the year would be devoted to their re-elections.”

RBH number 7 also prohibits the president from running for any elective post after his or her tenure.

“On the other hand, if we do not like the way the president is governing, we can vote him out of office a year earlier if his term of office is five years,” Gonzales said.

“These have been with us for 34 long years. It may now be time to modify them to modify them to strengthen our political system and hasten national and local development,” he added.

Long been brewing

In another report by The Philippine Star, Cagayan de Oro Representative and Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chair Rufus Rodriguez said in 2019 that there was growing agreement among panel members for a four to a five-year term of office for members of Congress and local officials as they deemed the current set-up as “too short.”

“The prevailing sentiment was that three years is too short for good work. We are inclined to have a term of four years or five years,” Rodriguez said.

The House of Representatives approved the resolution but the Senate failed to decide on pertinent issues, including “whether there is a need to amend the Constitution, and if so, whether it will be done by a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly.”

According to a report by CNN Philippines, a Constituent Assembly is different from a Constitutional Convention as lawmakers convene and decide on the constitutional changes themselves on the prior while the latter requires the holding of nationwide elections to select the delegates who will draft the amendments.