THE founder of the PDP-Laban — the political party that boasts of a “super majority” in the House of Representatives — on Wednesday urged citizens “never to allow any super majority to trample on our rights to speak out” as he reiterated his opposition to a no-election scenario in 2019.
“We must never allow any super majority to trample on our rights to speak out,” the 84-year old former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., founder of the Partido ng Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan, said at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments.
He also urged members of Congress’ minority not to be silenced and to stand up to the majority. Pimentel’s son, Aqulino III, is the Senate President and concurrent president of the PDP-Laban.
Last week, the elder Pimentel said suggestions that the adoption of the federal system would preclude elections and extend terms of government officials is, “to be kind, utter nonsense.”
The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday presented its proposal to set up a Federal Republic of the Philippines that in effect would call of the 2019 elections as Congress would be dissolved in favor of an Interim Parliament whose members would be the incumbent representatives and senators, effectively extending their terms to 2022. The term extension would also apply to all incumbent elective officials.
Also on Tuesday, the House plenary passed a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.
“How can it (House) set aside something guaranteed by the Constitution?” Pimentel asked at the Senate, as he criticized the Lower House’s plan to “adopt federal system pero no election muna?”
“The end does not justify the means. Hindi pupuwede na sabihin mo yun just to achieve a supposedly good purpose. Good intention will be submerged into a mesh of nonsense being advocated today,” Pimentel said, drawing cheers and applause as he added, “while we are still free, speak out! Kelan ka magsalita? Kung hindi na pwede?”
A member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, Pimentel supports a shift to a federal system of government, prefers a constitutional convention but says the Senate and the House should vote separately if the mode of amending the Constitution is through a Constituent Assembly.
Pimentel disagreed with former Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s description of the shift to federalism as a “lethal proposal,” arguing it is a “vital proposal to give life and meaning to the intent of good governance and good life to our people.”
Pimentel also said the ban on political dynasties should be spelled out and self-executory in a federal constitution unlike in the 1987 Constitution which left it to Congress to pass a law on banning political dynasties.
“Meaning to say, no need to enact a law” for the ban to effect. “The father cannot pass on this mantle of authority to his wife or mistress, son or daughter up to fourth civil degree. That would be one way but spell it out,” he said.
Called the “Father of the Local Government Code,” Pimentel was elected mayor of Cagayan de Oro and assemblyman in the Interim Batasang Pambansa in the 1980s. He was arrested four times under martial law for standing up to the Marcos dictatorship.
“But it was worth it, I might say, because eventually we regained freedom,” he told the Senate hearing.
“Let us not set aside those freedoms,” he said, adding the shift to federalism should not set aside human rights. “That should never be allowed by our people because that is guaranteed by the Constitution.” (carolyn o. arguillas / mindanews)