Senate won’t approve any move postponing 2019 polls

MANILA — Senators Francis Escudero and Grace Poe on Thursday said the Senate would not approve any law that would seek to postpone the 2019 elections, stressing that such law would be unconstitutional.

Their statements were issued after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday floated the possibility of postponing the midterm polls for lawmakers to focus on the proposals to revise the Charter.

But Escudero and Poe pointed out that for the midterm polls to be postponed, the Constitution should have to be amended.

Appearing at a regular news forum at the Senate, Escudero said enacting a measure for the purpose would not suffice since the term of legislators and local officials from governor down to town councilors are fixed by the Constitution.

“Hindi pwedeng i-legislate ‘yun (postponement of elections) dahil maliwanag na ang termino ng kongresista ay tatlong taon at magkakaroon ng halalan kada tatlong taon; at ang termino ng senador ay anim na taon at magkakaron ng halalan kada tatlong taon para sa 12 miyembro (It cannot be legislated because it is clean that the term of office of congressmen is three years and elections are held every three years; and the term of office of senators is six years and elections are held every three years for its 12 members),” he said, referring to Sections 4 and 7 of Article VI.

“Personally, wala akong nakikitang legal na paraan para mabago yan ng Kongreso, maliban na lang kung amyendahan ang Saligang Batas. Hindi ito pupuwedeng magawa sa pamamagitan lamang ng simpleng batas na ipapasa ng Kongreso (Personally, I don’t see no legal way Congress can change it, unless we amend the Charter. It cannot be done by a simple law passed by Congress),” Escudero said.

The lawmaker said even if the House of Representatives passes a measure that would postpone the 2019 elections, such measure would not pass the Senate.

He said for a measure to be passed, a three-fourths vote of the Senate is needed, meaning that only seven opposition voted are needed to reject the bill.

“Right now there are five members of the opposition, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano could not vote because he is already the Foreign Affairs secretary and Senator Leila de Lima is currently detained. That’s already seven,” he noted.

The five active members of the opposition are Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV.

“There are already seven opposition votes even without including those in the majority who are also probably against postponing the polls,” Escudero said.

His views were shared by Poe, who said any move to postpone the midterm elections or amend the Constitution would need the concurrence of the Senate.

“First of all, I don’t know where Congressman Alvarez is getting his facts. The Constitution specifically states when we’re going to have elections, and 2019 is certainly an election year. So, okay, you can probably amend the Constitution but even if you do, you need the Senate vote,” she said in a television interview.

Poe said even if the House of Representatives comes out with an amendment, she believed the Senate, as well as the public, would not accept it.

“Hindi nila talagang pwedeng gawin na no election. Sinabi na ni Senator Sotto nasa Konstitusyon natin iyan. So kahit na palitan pa nila iyan sa Lower House, mag-usap-usap sila doon, kailangan pa rin ng approval ng Senate (It really cannot be done without an election. Senator Sotto has already said that it’s already in our Constitution. So even if they change it in the Lower House, discussed it there, it still needs the approval of the Senate),” Poe said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier brushed aside Alvarez’s statement, also saying that scrapping the midterm polls would not be possible without amending the Constitution.

Sotto strongly doubted if his colleagues in the upper chamber would support the Speaker’s suggestion. Jose Cielito Reganit/PNA –