Roxas admits pushing idea for Aquino second term
MANILA, Philippines—Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Friday admitted that he was the one who broached the idea of a term extension for President Benigno Aquino III on the day the Chief Executive delivered his annual State of the Nation Address (Sona) last July 28.
He was moved to make the suggestion because of the clamor of the people supporting Mr. Aquino’s brand of leadership, said Roxas, the ruling Liberal Party’s presumptive presidential candidate in 2016.
“A number of people are saying that to be able to continue the daang matuwid (straight path), there’s no better way to do it but to have a second term for the President for him to continue his leadership,” he said.
“There’s a homegrown campaign in the Internet. There are ordinary people voicing their support. There are statements of support being conveyed in the media. That’s what’s happening now,” he added.
Roxas explained that he actually mentioned the idea in an interview with a television network on the day the President delivered his Sona, but the interview was aired only last week.
“Part of the job of our every leader is to answer the call of the times. (The President) acknowledges the threats on democracy and on how the country should be run. One of the things he noted was the judicial overreach,” Roxas told reporters in Filipino.
“It’s also the duty of our leaders to listen to what our bosses are saying and design the appropriate (government) programs (to address the calls),” he continued.
Just his personal opinion
Roxas reiterated that his suggestion for Mr. Aquino to seek a second term was just his personal opinion and that he did not discuss it with the President.
He said LP members had yet to discuss the matter since “it was only my personal view at that time.”
Asked to comment on observation that the LP’s support for a term extension was an admission that it did not have a “winnable candidate” in 2016, he said: “Let them think that way.”
Let people decide
An administration lawmaker on Friday issued a message to those opposed to the idea of constitutional amendments to extend the President’s term: “Be not afraid.”
“After all, it is the Filipino people who will ultimately decide in a plebiscite whether President Aquino should be allowed another term,” said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, an LP leader.
“So, let the people decide. After all, it is the people who are the final arbiter in a democracy,” he said.
In the first part of a television interview aired last Wednesday, Mr. Aquino hinted that he might seek another term in spite of the constitutional ban, as he “[had] to listen to [his] bosses.”
Party-list lawmakers denounced Mr. Aquino’s attempt to “perpetuate himself in power” and clip the power of the Supreme Court, describing it as akin to dictatorship and the worst kind of betrayal of the legacy of Mr. Aquino’s parents, democracy icons Ninoy and Cory.
Bayan Muna party-list lawmakers Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate vowed to vigorously oppose any measure in Congress to amend the Constitution, calling on the people to protest and frustrate the President’s “dictatorial ambition.”
“There is definitely no clamor from the people to extend his term. The strong clamor of the people is to abolish the corrupt pork barrel system Aquino is perpetuating and to punish all those who plunder and abuse their power, including Aquino,” Zarate said.
Colmenares said Mr. Aquino had a “perverted” view of the Supreme Court review powers as destroying the checks and balances in government.
“The six-year term limit for the President and the power of the Supreme Court to rule on grave abuse of discretion is precisely enshrined in the 1987 Constitution to strengthen checks and balance and as safeguards against one-man dictatorship,” he said.
Zarate and Colmenares said the President’s newfound interest in seeking another term could be his means to escape accountability arising from the Supreme Court decision declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.
“Because if he succeeds then he would again have immunity,” they said.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said any move to amend the Constitution for the purpose of extending Mr. Aquino’s term would not gain ground in the House as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. had promised that the Charter’s political provisions would not be touched.
Belmonte has supported proposals to amend the economic provisions of the Charter.
Atienza said Belmonte had personally promised him that the political provisions would not be tampered with.
He said he would hold the Speaker to that promise, noting that six months ago, he prepared a resolution pledging that only the economic provisions would be discussed in the Cha-cha deliberations.
Atienza said he had been reassured by the Speaker’s promise and commitment, and stopped passing the resolution around among his fellow lawmakers.
“I don’t think Speaker Belmonte would be party to any effort that would destroy President Cory’s and our national hero Ninoy Aquino’s revered place in Philippine history,” Atienza said.
On Thursday, Belmonte was notably tight-lipped on the prospects of a second term for Aquino.
“I’m still trying to take it all in. It’s not so easy to amend the Constitution,” he said. Before the President’s announcement, he had dismissed talks of amending the one-term limit as “hot air.”