Puno: Duterte's wish for new transition leader complicates federalism shift

MANILA, Philippines – Consultative Committee (Con-Com) chairman Reynato Puno admitted that President Rodrigo Duterte's latest instruction to leave him out of the transition to federalism and elect a new transition leader complicates matters.

Puno spoke to reporters before the Con-Com met on Tuesday, July 10, to find a way to put Duterte's desired provisions in their draft constitution. (READ: Highlights of Consultative Committee's draft constitution)

The former chief justice said Duterte's request would mean an election would be called right after the new constitution's ratification for a transition leader.

"Ang may komplikasyon, kung tatawag ng isang halalan pagkatapos ma-ratify 'yung constitution," said Puno. (The complication arises when you will need to hold elections right after ratifying the constitution.)

In the Con-Com's current draft, Duterte becomes the chairman of the Federal Transition Commission after the ratification. The Commission then supervises the transition to a new charter, including the holding of the May 2022 elections for the first officials of the new federal government and regional governments.

Puno said holding elections for the transition leader would affect the timeline of the federalism shift. The term of this transition leader would also have to be discussed.

If the new constitution is ratified by 2019, as suggested by Puno, the election for a transition leader would happen within that year, as requested by Duterte. If the transition leader is also the next president, this means Duterte will step down in 2019.

Is it possible for Duterte to serve as president until his term ends in 2022 while another person is elected transition leader?

"That's possible, but it's messy. How will their divisions of powers be? There will be many overlaps," said Puno in Filipino.

The Con-Com chairman admitted he was "surprised" by Duterte's refusal to be transition leader since it was the President's first time to make that point clear to the committee members. He spoke with them briefly after the turnover of the draft constitution on Monday.

Special ban for Duterte

The President's other request – to ban him from seeking the presidency again under a new constitution – is easier to fulfill.

"Putting a provision preventing him from running in 2022 is easy, there are no complications there," said Puno.

The Con-Com decided to accede to Duterte's request from an explicit prohibition applicable only to him even if, they say, it goes against the "spirit of democracy" that no law of the land should single out an individual.

"It's by special request even if we said you can't prohibit officials of the 1987 Constitutions from running because it's a new constitution," said Puno.

The provision to be inserted will likely ban the "incumbent president" from running under the new federal constitution. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.