‘There’s still time for Charter change’
BRUSSELS, Belgium—President Aquino believes there is still time to amend the Constitution to lift the provision limiting him to a single term, if he should decide to seek a fresh mandate.
Aquino said Tuesday (Manila time) it was too early to talk politics but did it just the same when he was met by flag-waving Filipinos who gathered at the 11th-century Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in the Belgian capital.
He said Filipino voters would be choosing between two kinds of candidates in the 2016 presidential election, one who would continue “all the reforms that we have started” and another who has been opposing them but might later claim to embrace continuity.
Speaking of the latter, he asked: “Are we ready to gamble on them? Isn’t continuity assured if we would side with the one, who, this early, is clearly contributing?”
Aquino endorsed no specific candidate, but left open the possibility that that person might ultimately turn out to be himself.
Two years remaining
Speaking with reporters on board a chartered Philippine Airlines flight from Madrid to Brussels, he said he could still make a second run for the presidency even if that would require amending the Constitution with less than two years remaining before the next elections.
“Don’t we have a saying that if one wants something, nothing is impossible, but if he doesn’t, nothing is possible?” he said.
“So, if the vast majority think that this is the route that has to be taken, then there will be a way based on the Constitution to afford that opportunity,” he said.
Clash with Binay
A second Aquino run for the presidency would collide with the political ambitions of Vice President Jejomar Binay, an Aquino family friend who has long announced that he would seek the highest office in 2016.
Aquino said Binay “has committed to me to be supportive until the last day of my term and I appreciate that.”
In his meeting with members of the Filipino community here, the President spoke of the type of candidate who “does nothing but oppose all the reforms that we have been fighting for.”
“Because they oppose what we are doing, they are also against the ‘righteous path’ [tuwid na daan],” he said.
In a second term, Aquino said he would be “more efficient without a learning curve.” But he said he was also considering the toll on his personal life and on those of his Cabinet members.
‘Conscience will tell me’
In the end, Aquino said he would decide based on “what would be in the best interest of the state.”
“My conscience will tell me, after listening to everybody—this is the course to take,” he said.
In his speech before Filipinos here, the President vowed to continue running after the “big fish” in his campaign against corruption, using as an example the three senators now detained in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“If it is proven that they had sinned against the people, they will be made accountable. Clearly, we are casting a wide net of justice and we will not let [the corrupt] off the hook, especially the big fish,” he said.
In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Tuesday said the President and his reform agenda have “upset a lot of people’s rice bowls” and they are the ones wanting to make him look like a lame duck less than two years before his term ends.
“It’s not a secret that we did upset a lot of people. I used the word ‘upset’ to try to be polite… You hear this from him (President Aquino) most of the time that since his assumption into office, he has upset a lot of people’s rice bowls and that’s not a small thing. That is a very serious thing,” Valte said in a media briefing.
A lame duck
Valte was asked on how concerned Malacañang was that there are forces—as the President himself told the Inquirer last week—that want to render him already ineffectual as he approaches the end of his six-year term.
“The President has always acknowledged that there are those who would want to return to the norm of business as usual, that we go back to how it was before. I can tell you that it is in the interest of these people to go back to business as usual to make it seem that the President is a lame duck,” she said.–With Nikko Dizon
Originally posted: 3:00 pm | Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
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