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Padilla fumbles on term lengths, limits in Southeast Asia

Majority of Southeast Asian countries impose term limits on their appointed and elected government officials, contrary to Sen. Robin Padilla’s recent claim that the Philippines is the only country in the region that still does. 

He also got Singapore’s term lengths wrong.

Padilla said Singapore has “five-year terms.” In reality, Singapore’s Constitution clearly states that its president is allowed six-year terms while its parliament is convened every five years. Elected members of parliament stay in office until sessions are dissolved, while nominated members are “appointed for a fixed term of two and a half years or until (dissolution),” according to the Parliament of Singapore website.

The neophyte senator, who chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, made these claims in a Kapihan sa Senado forum on April 25, live-streamed on the Senate’s YouTube channel. At the 20:26 mark, Padilla said:

(L)umalabas po na ‘yung ibang bansa na katulad ng Singapore, ang kanilang pong termino dun ay limang taon daw. Pinapa-check ko pa po ito… At dun daw po sa ibang bansa na ang Pilipinas na lang daw po ang natitira na merong term limit. Sa ibang bansa raw wala nang term limit (In other countries like Singapore, the term there lasts five years. I’m still having this checked… And compared to other countries, only the Philippines still imposes term limits. Other countries don’t have term limits anymore).

An online search reveals that Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam still set term limits on its government officials. Only Brunei, Cambodia and Singapore don’t have term limits.

Padilla’s erroneous statements can be traced to a Senate hearing he facilitated the day before, April 24, where constitutional reform advocate Orion Perez Dumdum made similar claims at the 1:56:10 mark on this video:

Sa tagal ng nakita ko sa Singapore, five years po ang mga termino po ng kanilang mga opisyal. Pero kung makikita natin yung ibang mga bansang progresibo o yung mga karatig-bansa natin dito sa Southeast Asia, puro sila may unlimited terms (From what I have long observed in Singapore, their officials have five-year terms. Based on progressive countries or our neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, they have unlimited terms).

Dumdum was among the resource speakers invited in the session to provide insights on the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) of Congress No. 5, which will make the president and vice president’s term of office four years and allow them to run for a maximum of two terms.

At present, the president has a six-year term and is ineligible for reelection. The vice president also holds office for six years but is not allowed more than two consecutive terms.

The resolution filed by Padilla also seeks to expand the Senate membership from 24 to 54. Twenty-four of them would still be elected at large and allowed two consecutive eight-year terms while the remaining 30 would be voted per region and allowed three consecutive four-year terms.

Under the resolution, the office terms of members of the House of Representatives and other local officials, with the exception of barangay officials, would also be expanded from three consecutive three-year terms to three consecutive four-year terms. (GL)


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