No less than the Speaker of the House of Representatives has said that in the course of changing the Constitution towards the shift to a federal form of government, it may be necessary to extend the term of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and cancel the 2019 midterm elections. This will mean the extension of the terms of all sitting elected officials from the local to national levels on a hold-over capacity. By extension, this could also mean the possible continued stay of appointed public servants unless removed by the appointing power.
The Speaker’s statement has been repeated by a couple of members of the House who favor the no-el scenario come 2019. They even rationalized the extension by saying that three years is a short term for Representatives. Obviously, these statements are self-serving especially for those in the HOR as all of them need to run and win again following the present term limits. It seems that some of the Speaker’s members are using the initiative towards federalism for their own interests.
The no-el scenario comes at the heels of major problems faced by the country brought about by this administration’s questionable policies.
The issue surrounding the West Philippine Sea is one. Various reports have come out about China’s aggressive infrastructure development in disputed territories and our government is not defending our sovereignty.
There is also the “war on drugs” that has killed more than 13,000 innocent people. Yes, innocent because not one of them received due process. They were suspected drug users and pushers. Not one has been convicted of any crime. A number who lost their lives were killed due to mistaken identities. Most of those murdered were poor and died at the hands of law enforcers and to date, not one of the killers, even in the most publicized cases have been put behind bars. Most of the perpetrators have just been relieved, or transferred.
Therefore, if the President’s term is extended, and given his repeated statements that he is on the side of the police, this kind of war on drugs will continue, and more will be killed. We cannot also expect changes in the PNP leadership because General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa undoubtedly is Duterte’s favorite. Remember that despite the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) accomplishments within a short time of leading the anti-drug efforts (and without any deaths at that), Duterte has again brought the PNP into the picture.
Let us not forget that the drugs smuggled into the country are mostly from China. Remember, too, that presidential son and resigned Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte has been implicated in the case of the P6.4 billion worth of drugs that got through the Bureau of Customs.
This administration is also trying to remove or punish officials who have manifested independence from, it, or have been critical of their policies and actions. Take the case of Senator Leila de Lima who has been vilified and imprisoned on alleged drug-related cases. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is now facing impeachment charges. The HOR composed largely of Duterte allies attempted to remove the budget of the Commission on Human Rights. Most recently, the House Speaker stripped opposition Representatives of their budgets. This administration wants to control everybody. In a democracy, having a real opposition is crucial.
Let us not forget that Martial Law in Mindanao has been extended and the spectre of a nationwide Martial Law is real. No less than President Duterte has repeatedly threatened critics with this and his so-called revolutionary government.
This is an administration that wants concentration of power in the hands of a few. This is a government that uses everything to kill dissent and unseat or immobilize critics. This administration threatens our democratic gains.
Our institutions are being controlled. Checks and balances between our branches of government are weakening by the day. Congress, both the House and Senate are overwhelmingly pro-administration. It is obvious that Congress gets directives from Malacañang. The Supreme Court is the last bastion that can check the imbalance of power. It is then not surprising that Duterte allies want to remove the Chief Justice who is supposed to stay in office long after the terms of those presently sitting in positions have ended. The administration also wants to control the High Court.
These are the reasons why the midterm elections in 2019 is very important.
2019 is the chance for our people to vote for candidates who stand for democracy, not authoritarianism. It is the time to assert citizens authority over those in position. This is an opportunity to remove those who have been serving the interest of the few instead of pushing for public welfare. It is a time to put in position those who will truly respect and protect human rights rather than kowtow to Malacañang.
The elections can be used to send a strong message that the killings of innocent people must stop and that drugs can be fought in other ways.
The 2019 elections can possibly reinforce the weakening checks and balances in governance. This midterm election can save our democracy. Let us not lose this chance. The people should strongly oppose moves to cancel this crucial electoral exercise.
In unison, let us all shout, no-el? No dice!
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