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Alvarez broaches postponing polls

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SPEAKER Pantaleon D. Alvarez — PHILSTAR

HOUSE SPEAKER Pantaleon D. Alvarez sees postponing next year’s midterm election as a more practical option for Congress to be able to tackle the draft federal charter submitted by the Consultative Committee (ConCom) last Monday, and other matters.

Mr. Alvarez, in a press briefing Wednesday, also confirmed the draft charter now counts among the priority agenda of the House of Representatives.

Leaders representing both chambers of Congress had earlier said charter change would not be a priority. But on Tuesday night, President R. Duterte’s Cabinet tackled the draft charter, with Mr. Duterte urging the ConCom to introduce a transitory provision barring him from seeking a new mandate under a federal charter.

The House Speaker, when asked if the transition toward federalism will be easier without next year’s polls, said, “Practically, yes.”

He added: “Kung ako tatanungin mo, pag-aralan mo ‘yung kalendaryo. (At the) SONA (State of the Nation Address) ibibigay sa amin ‘yung NEP (National Expenditure Program) at maybe ‘yung draft na natapos ng ConCom. So kailangan mag-double time kami dito para ayusin ang draft na ‘yun. At the same time, maghi-hearing kami sa budget.” (If you ask me, look at the calendar. At the SONA, we will receive the NEP and maybe the draft approved by the ConCom. So we need to work double time to tackle the draft. At the same time, we will hold hearings on the budget.)

Papaano tayo magka-quorum dito? Ano mangyayari? Siyempre magkakampanya na yung mga congressmen,” Mr. Alvarez also said. (How will we reach a quorum? What’s going to happen? Of course, it will be time for the congressmen to campaign.)

Sought for comment, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a text message to reporters: “It’s difficult (to postpone the elections) because we have to amend the Constitution to do that, (in particular) Article VI section 8 of the 1987 Constitution.”

He added that Congress will be required to “amend all pertinent laws mandating elections on the Second Monday of May every three years.”

Mr. Alvarez also said the draft federal charter is “nasa priority namin (now our priority).”

House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas, who was also at the press briefing, said the House of Representatives has received a working draft from the ConCom, but has yet to get the official copy from the President.

“Well, we will have to wait for the official transmittal by the President. Although, out of respect (for) the Speaker, ibinigay nila yung working draft nila (ConCom gave us their working draft),” Mr. Fariñas said.

On the timetable for charter change, Mr. Fariñas said:

Titingnan namin, babasahin namin, then… magko-caucus kami. ‘Pag sinabi under the leadership of the Speaker, okay ‘to ah, maganda ‘to, di trabahuhin namin.” (We’ll go over it, then we’ll have a caucus. If we agree, under the leadership of the Speaker, the draft is okay, if we find it good enough, we’ll proceed.)

Mr. Fariñas also cited budget deliberations by the end of the month, adding that the House Committee on Appropriations has sought his go-ahead to extend hearings to fast-track the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act. — Charmaine A. Tadalan