By Eimor P. Santos, CNN Philippines
Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday dismissed a proposed constitutional amendment as a “desperate” attempt to remove her from office.
Robredo slammed the latest draft of the proposed federal constitution which puts the Senate President, not the Vice President, as successor in case President Rodrigo Duterte steps down during the transition to a federal form of government. It was authored by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Parang masyado naman yatang desperado. Lahat na lang iniisip kung paano ako matanggal (I think it’s too desperate. Everyone is thinking of how to oust me),” Robredo told reporters in Bacolod City.
Robredo said it was ridiculous for House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Vicente Veloso to say that she could not be President because of the poll protest filed against her at the Supreme Court.
“Alam naman natin na dito sa atin, kapag may eleksyon, maraming mga nananalo na talagang kinakasuhan — kinakasuhan ng mga hindi matanggap iyong resulta noong eleksyon. Pero hindi natin iyon hahayaan na makagambala sa mandatong binibigay sa atin,” she said.
[Translation: “We all know that in our country, whenever there’s an election, many winners really face cases filed by those who can’t accept their loss. But we do not let that hinder the mandate given to us.”]
Former Senator Bongbong Marcos filed the electoral protest against Robredo in June 2016, after he lost to Robredo by over 260,000 votes in the 2016 elections – among the narrowest margins in the history of the country’s vice presidential elections.
Duterte, a known ally of the Marcoses, has repeatedly cast doubts on Robredo’s competence to lead the country, saying he wants someone like Marcos as successor.
Meanwhile, Veloso said the panel is open to amending or deleting the controversial provision on succession depending on what the majority wants. The draft has been endorsed to the plenary for it to discuss and vote on.
No cha-cha in Duterte’s term?
Senators, however, remain reluctant to charter change. Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday said he does not expect the constitution to be amended within Duterte’s term which ends 2022.
“We are unanimous on this position. At the same time, nag-cross na ng party lines yan (that has crosses party lines),” he said.
He stressed that the perfect time to discuss a change in the constitution would be during the first year of the President’s term, to avoid suspicions of self-interest on the side of officials pushing for it.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto said the upper chamber simply has no more time to discuss charter change, as it is busy on tackling the 2019 budget. Duterte allies earlier hoped to hold a plebiscite to finally pass federalism by 2019.
“We wouldn’t even know if I’m still the Senate President by then,” Sotto said when asked about the provision on succession on Tuesday.
Federalism was a campaign promise of Duterte, with whom Arroyo is allied. After he called on the swift passage of charter change in his State of the Nation Address, the House of Representatives filed a resolution that supported a separate vote from the Senate on matter. This was among the contentious issues raised by the Senate.
But even with such compromise, Lacson has said charter change is “good as dead” as many senators suspect Arroyo would use it to stay in power, a claim the former President denied.