Plebiscite for federalism can't happen by May, Drilon says
MANILA, Philippines – The plan of the House of Representatives to schedule a plebiscite by May to shift to a federal form of government "cannot happen" given the timeline of hearings this year, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Saturday, January 6.
In a dwIZ interview, Drilon said the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is set to be endorsed to the Senate by May, which will leave senators with little room to work on constitutional amendments. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
"Hindi ko po nakikita na mangyayari iyan given the timeframe. From my experience, the moment mag-impeachment court kami, wala kaming ibang matatrabaho," said Drilon. (I don't see how it can happen given the timeframe. From my experience, once we become an impeachment court, we cannot work on other matters.)
"For the rest of the year, the remaining 6 months of 2018, we cannot do anything so I cannot see how we can amend the Constitution, which is controversial," he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
The interview came after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he expects the constituent assembly to convene by January and a plebiscite to be held by May.
Drilon added that cancelling the mid-term elections in 2019 will also bring conflicts of interest for lawmakers who have maximized their terms as mandated by the Constitution.
If the plebiscite happens on May, it will require three-fourths of Senate votes to be in favor of federalism, for it to push through.
"Kung three-fourth votes, dito pa lang sa binibilang ko ay may 11 senador na ang alangan dahil may conflict of interest. They will benefit from the extension [of terms]," he said. (If we need three-fourths of the votes, 11 senators have possible conflict of interests.)
At the Senate, Drilon said 5 senators are ineligible for reelection due to term limits – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senators Francis Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Loren Legarda.
Meanwhile, Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, JV Ejercito, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay, Benigno Aquino IV, and Grace Poe are eligible for reelection.
Under the Philippine Constitution, senators are limited to two consecutive 6-year terms, while members of the House of the Representatives are limited to 3 consecutive 3-year terms.
"Kung walang halalan po ito po ay magigigng labag sa ating batas at ito ay kailangang baguhin dahil hindi mo lang basta sasabihin na no-el (no election)," he said. (If there will be no elections, it will be against the law, and we will need to change it, because you cannot easily say that there will be no elections)
For the midterm elections to be cancelled, Drilon said that the Constitution must be amended before May 2019. (READ: A guided tour of the Federal Republic of the Philippines in the year 2030)
"Notwithstanding the end of the terms, if you vote in favor of no elections, it's a conflict of interest. That is why I am confident that may colleagues in the Senate are decent enough not to agree to a no-el or term extension, which will benefit them," he said. – Rappler.com