Duterte bucks prime minister not elected by direct vote — spokesperson

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Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also brushed off suspicions that the federalism proposal would abolish the Senate. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — President Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined toward having a prime minister in his proposed federal government, Malacañang Palace said Monday.

"He doesn't want a prime minister who is elected only by representatives," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told CNN Philippines' The Source. "He wants a president elected and he wants a decentralized form of government where resources will go automatically to [local government units]."

This is reversal of the President's statement during his first State of the Nation Address in July 2016, where he said he would like a federal form of government like that of France, which has both President and Prime Minister.

However, CNN Philippines obtained a copy of the PDP-Laban's proposed Constitution for a Federal Republic, and it showed provisions for a Prime Minister.

Under the proposed "semi-presidential system," a Prime Minister is appointed by the President. The Prime Minister is tasked with determining national policy guidelines, appointing members of the Cabinet, and preparing the government budget proposal.

Duterte has been pushing for a decentralized government under a federal system. Under the proposal, regional governments have more autonomy and do not need to go through the national government for approval of funds.

However, critics of the system said it could empower abusive political dynasties. Others question the economic stability of federalism, saying some regions are not yet fully capable of financially supporting themselves.

READ: Federalism, con-ass will bring PH to untested waters — academic

READ: 1987 Constitution commissioners vow to oppose charter amendments

Roque further said the PDP-Laban party's federalism proposal retained the Senate, with senators elected on a regional basis.

Duterte has not commented on whether he preferred a unicameral or bicameral system, Roque said.

"How will you convince the senators to agree to charter change if they're going to abolish themselves? It's a practical consideration," he added

Despite initial impressions a federal system would entail a unicameral legislative body, the PDP-Laban proposal still retains two houses: a proposed Federal Assembly and the Senate. In the proposal, the Federal Assembly will have no more than 400 members, while the Senate will have three senators per region.

With the shift to federalism, some lawmakers raised the possibility of elections in 2019 and 2020 being postponed.

READ: No election scenario looms amid push for federalism

No term extension for Duterte

"The President is against no [elections]. The President is against term extension," said Roque.

Following outcry from critics, Malacañang disputed claims the President is interested in extending his term. The presidential spokesperson also reiterated support for midterm elections in 2019.

"[The President] will abide by the terms of the Constitution. He promises that the next elections in 2019 will be the cleanest that will ever happen," said Roque.

Roque said Duterte will not extend his term "even a day longer."

However, the President has also been criticized for going back on his word — including an earlier declaration he would not run in the 2016 presidential elections.

When asked for an assurance that Duterte would not backtrack on his statement, Roque responded, "He loves Davao very much. He can't stand Manila."

"He has never ever, ever said that he is willing to stay one minute longer beyond his term in 2020....To him, that's the ultimate nightmare. He just wants to finish his term, give it his best shot, and that's it," said Roque.

'No debate' with LP

Vice President Leni Robredo also raised concern about the possibility of no elections.

"Kapag inalis natin sa ordinaryong Pilipino iyong karapatang pumili kung sino iyong magre-represent sa kanya, nasaan sa iyong demokrasya doon?" Robredo said in a statement Sunday.

[Translation: If we remove the ordinary Filipino's right to choose who represents them, where is democracy there?]

READ: VP Robredo slams no-election scenario, term extension

Another opposition figure, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, however said said a no-elections scenario is unlikely to happen.

Drilon on Sunday said he trusts his colleagues will be "decent enough not to agree to a 'no-el' or term extension," because doing so would be in "conflict of interest."

The Senate Minority leader said at least five senators will benefit from such a scenario as their two terms are almost up.

READ: Drilon: No-election scenario unlikely in May 2019