Palace: 2019 Elections will proceed unless Constitution is changed

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Updated with statements from senators.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — The 2019 elections for Senators, Congressmen, and local chief executives will proceed in May next year unless a new Constitution is implemented, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque asserted that the President, as the implementer of the Constitution, will maintain his stance of continuing the elections as prescribed by the old Constitution.

"Ang Presidente ang tagapagpatupad ng ating Saligang Batas. Hangga't hindi mababago ang petsa ng halalan na nakasaad sa Saligang Batas, ipatutupad 'yan ng Presidente. Matutuloy ang eleksyon sa 2019," Roque said.

[Translation: The President is the implementer of our Constitution. Until changes are made on the date of the elections as prescribed by the Constitution, the President will implement it. Elections will push through in 2019.]

He however acknowledged the possibility of a cancellation should the Constitution be ratified before the scheduled elections in May.

"Ang only possibility po is kung ma-ratify ng maaga itong proposed Constitution in which case the '87 Constitution will cease to have legal effect, pero habang walang bagong Saligang Batas sisiguraduhin ng Presidente magkaka-eleksyon,"

[Translation: The only possibility (for its cancellation) is if the proposed Constitution is ratified, in which case the '87 Constitution will cease to have legal, effect but as long as there is no new Constitution, the President will make sure there will be elections.]

Regardless of this possibility, the Palace remains optimistic that the Constitution will be ratified early next year as scheduled.

Roque said the President has enough allies in the Senate to ensure the ratification of the Constitution as well as the fulfillment of his request for an elected transition leader to take his place in 2019.

"He's hoping that both the Consultative Committee and Congress will adapt his suggestion calling for a transitory provision providing that the transition leader will be an elected post," he said.

"I think we have a very good working relationship with many of our Senators," Roque assured.

The Palace's statement was in response to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez' proposition to move the elections to 2022 to coincide with the Presidential elections.

Alvarez insisted that moving the elections, and extending the lawmakers' terms are the "most practical" ways for Senators and Congressmen to prioritize charter change.

"Kasi kung magpapaeleksyon ka ng Senators sa mid-term, eh six years 'yun, so may carry-over ka…yun ang pinakapractical. No election ka sa 2019 tapos ang first election mo sa 2022, then concentrate dito sa gagawin nating revision," he said.

[Translation: Because if you hold mid-term Senatorial elections, there will be six years instead (if you postpone it), so there's a carry-over…that is the most practical (way). (With) no elections on 2019 and your first election is in 2022, then you can concentrate on the revision of the Constitution.

READ: House Speaker: Move 2019 elections to 2022

Senators vs. House Speaker?

Alvarez's statement did not sit well with some senators.

Senator Grace Poe believes the Senate will not approve the postponement.

In a statement Thursday, Poe said any move made by the House of Representatives on the elections will still need the Senate's vote.

"I don't think so and the public should not accept this… Pero hindi nila talaga puwedeng gawing [They can't really do a] no election (scenario)," said Poe.

Poe also reminded lawmakers in the Lower House to follow the proper process on charter change.

Senator Francis Escudero echoed Poe's sentiments.

"Three fourths vote ang kailangan; ibig sabihin pito lang ang bumoto lumaban doon, wala na [that means if if seven vote against it then it no longer holds]," Escudero said Thursday. "Hindi ko nakikitang kung papano makakamit 'yung ¾ [I don't see how they will get ¾]."

Escudero added he does not see this plan passing the Senate.

Senator Risa Hontiveros believes the implementation of the tax reform law should be cancelled, not the midterm elections.

"Instead of advancing narrow political interests such as prolonging terms of public office through an unecessary postponement of elections, what congress needs to do is protect the people's economic rights and welfare," she said.

As of now, the President is still awaiting revisions to the proposed Constitution based on his recommendations, Roque said, but Duterte will definitely elaborate on charter change in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

"The SONA will be the proper venue to lay out his legislative priority and I'm sure it will include charter change," he said.