House minority leader backs longer terms for lawmakers, local execs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — Newly-minted House Minority Leader Bienvenido “Benny” Abante is in favor of extending the terms of office of lawmakers and local government officials, echoing the call of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Napakaikli talaga ‘yung terms of office ng [The terms of office are very short for] local officials, including congressmen — three years,” Abante told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

Abante would want to change the Constitution to lengthen the terms of local officials and congressmen from three years to four years, and be allowed to run for re-election three times. Another setup, he said, could see congressmen only being allowed to run for re-election twice, but their terms are extended to five years.

Abante also suggested that the president’s term is cut to four years from six years, but the chief executive would be allowed to run for re-election twice.

Cayetano previously floated the possibility of extending the terms of lawmakers for “practicality,” pushing for either unlimited four-year terms or up to three five-year terms.

Currently, congressmen have three-year terms and can serve for three consecutive terms.

Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla told CNN Philippines that extending terms is the only policy direction coming from Cayetano on Charter change.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has also called for term extensions for mayors, calling the current term limits imposed on them as one of the “lapses” in the Constitution.

Abante leads a House minority bloc which includes a handful of lawmakers from the opposition Liberal Party and the progressive Makabayan bloc, who have opposed moves to extend the terms of officials.

These lawmakers also completely oppose moves to change the Constitution, which is needed for the terms of officials to be extended.

But Abante said he “believes” in amending certain provisions in the Constitution. He wants the economic provisions in the Charter changed and would also like the country to shift to a federal form of government, which until recently, has been championed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We agree to disagree. Alright? You have an advocacy, I have my own advocacy. Allow me to have my own, I’ll allow you to have my own,” Abante said.

He added, “If there comes a point in time in which we cannot agree anymore and the wound is not healing, things like this, well, they can always go on their own.”

The House minority bloc in the previous Congress has been chided as a “company union” as it was perceived to favor the administration, failing to fulfill its role as a fiscalizer in the chamber.