No elections not an option, says Belmonte
Elections will be held in 2016, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Saturday.
Belmonte said the ruling Liberal Party was not even considering the possibility that elections would not be held next year, as suggested—and then recanted—by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Friday.
“It’s not an option,” Belmonte, Liberal Party vice president, said in a text message.
Lacierda, in an interview with reporters in Malacañang, stirred up speculation about the cancellation of the elections by saying “if ever the 2016 elections would push through.”
He later took back his words, saying that the elections “will push through.”
Lacierda said President Benigno Aquino III had not made up his mind on whom to endorse for president in 2016, as well as on constitutional amendments that would lift the presidential term limit and allow him to run for a second term, an idea that he floated in an interview on TV5 last week.
On Saturday, Lacierda apologized for his statement.
“The President has neither decided on term extension nor on endorsing a candidate, owing to the fact that his efforts are focused on more pressing matters of state,” Lacierda said.
“It should be noted that the 2016 elections will push through, and that the administration will always follow the processes set by the Constitution. We regret the confusion that the statement may have caused,” he said.
Poor grasp of Filipino
Lacierda owned up to a poor grasp of Filipino, telling the Inquirer by phone that he grew up in a home where a Visayan dialect was spoken.
He said he also went to a Chinese school.
“The [constitutional amendment] that the President mentioned [in his TV5 interview] was mainly for the judicial overreach. There was nothing categorical on the term extension. He said he was going to listen to the voices of his bosses (the people),” Lacierda said.
Belmonte, who is opposed to changes to the political provisions of the Constitution, said the idea of political amendments was still just noise.
“[The Liberal Party] hasn’t even met yet. [I] don’t know where the noise is coming from,” he said.
Some members of the party, including Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, support a second term for Mr. Aquino.
Erice said he would file a bill that would change the President’s single six-year term to a four-year term with reelection.
Erice also dismissed the speculation fueled by Lacierda’s remarks.
“Definitely it was just a slip of the tongue,” he said.
In a related development, the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said Lacierda’s remarks unmasked an apparent plan by the administration to cancel the 2016 elections.
“This is even worse than the idea of lifting term limits as planned by the [Budget Secretary Florencio Abad-Interior Secretary Mar Roxas] faction of the LP,” Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said in a statement.
“This shows total disrespect for the Constitution. This shows that they will do anything to stay in power, due to fears about their criminal liability with regard to the Disbursement Acceleration Program,” which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, Tiangco said. With a report from Nikko Dizon
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