Protesters burn a cube effigy with the faces of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and President Rodrigo Duterte during a rally near the Presidential Palace to call for an end to the killings in the so-called war on drugs of Duterte and his alleged "tyrannical rule" in the country, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez
MANILA, Philippines — A creeping dictatorship under the Duterte administration is far-fetched, Malacañang said Thursday, after Catholic bishops issued guidelines for discerning the moral dimension of charter change.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque reiterated that Duterte is an "advocate of the rule of law" and has no intention to remaining in power beyond his term.
"We understand the sentiments of the Catholic bishops on their aversion to charter change and federalism. We, however, assure our bishops that the President has no interest to extend his term nor will he push for no election," Roque said in a press briefing in Baguio City.
"The creeping dictatorship that, the Catholic hierarchy fears, is a far-fetched idea," he added.
Roque said Duterte has been "clear and unequivocal" that he would follow the Constitution and finish his term on the noon of June 30, 2022.
The Catholic Bishops COnference of the Philippines has issued pastoral guidelines on charter change as efforts to amend the Constitution to establish a federal government are gaining ground in Congress.
The CBCP said its stand is based on the principles of human dignity and human rights, integrity and truth, participation and solidarity and common good.
According to the bishops, the principle of integrity and trust requires total transparency and accountability, clarity and purity of motives.
"When the move for Charter change becomes self-serving, such as when it calls for “No-El” (no elections) and pushes for an extension of terms of office, it is to be expected that citizens would react with suspicion, astonishment and exasperation," the CBCP said.
"In addition the feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured by past experience. Moreover, political dynasties are really and factually becoming a dominant factor in our country’s political life," it added.
The opposition is worried that charter change can be used to lift the term limits of the president and other officials. Malacañang has denied this, saying a term extension is Duterte's "ultimate nightmare."