Palace disowns ‘mystery’ print ad
MANILA, Philippines–Malacañang on Tuesday disowned paid newspaper advertisements seeking at least 8 million signatures to urge President Aquino to make a “sacrifice” and seek a second term.
The Inquirer contacted Grace Pascual, who placed the ads. She said she would send a press release “that will answer all your questions.”
But the brief statement did not say how the group was formed, who was behind it, how many members it had—questions that the Inquirer raised to Pascual in a text message. She also did not respond to a call.
Pascual did not reply when asked if Malacañang had any involvement in the group. The press release named one Melvin Matibag as the group’s “lead convenor” and also mentioned “national youth leader Rj Echeverri.”
It was not clear if the group was referring to Rico Judge “RJ” Echiverri, the losing candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) in the 2013 mayoral election in Caloocan. He is the son of former Caloocan Mayor and now Rep. Enrico Echiverri.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Palace was not behind the ads, which were published Tuesday in major morning dailies and traced to a little-known group calling itself “Movement for Reform, Continuity and Momentum” (MORE2COME).
“We had nothing to do with them,” Coloma said in a press briefing.
In the identical ads, which also appeared in the Inquirer, the group claimed there was a “clamor” for Aquino to remain the President, a move that would require constitutional amendment. The full-page Inquirer ad cost around P200,000.
The group said “the most feasible way to effect a second term is through a constituent assembly,” insisting that Aquino “with his allies can deliver the numbers necessary to carry the amendments in both Houses.”
“President Benigno Aquino is an honest man! P-Noy must now seek a second term in order to make sure that the country stays on course, on the right road, and headed for continued growth and reform. We must maintain the momentum and continuity!” it declared.
“The call for him to consider leading the country again lies in the face of corrupt politicians who wish to lead the country, and the barrenness of talent and virtue among the presidentiables,” the group said.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Tuesday distanced himself from the movement. “I don’t have anything to do with it,” Roxas told the Inquirer after speaking at the Liga ng mga Barangay regional assembly at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City.
“That’s the initiative of some individuals. That’s all I can say. I actually only learned it from you,” said Roxas, the LP president on leave who first raised in August the possibility that Aquino would seek a new mandate after his term ends in 2016. The Constitution limits the president to one six-year term.
Asked about the movement, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said: “The President will listen to the calls … The President said we’re here to listen and understand where this is coming from.”
Abad, an LP stalwart, said at a Senate budget hearing the party had nothing to do with the ads, which he described as “an expression or endorsement of what good the administration is doing.”
Coloma did not say whether the Palace shared the group’s claim that Aquino was “still the best” person to rule the country.
He instead referred to Aquino’s previous pronouncement that “the people themselves would shoulder the responsibility in ensuring that the reforms already started would continue.”
The group’s ads, along with other statements expressing support for Roxas to become Aquino’s successor, were “spontaneous expressions of people’s sentiments,” Coloma said.
“It means that if these are spontaneous expressions, we have nothing to do with them and there is also no directive from us to stop or control them because they are expressions of the sentiments of the people,” Coloma said, adding that it was “impossible not to notice them.”
During his trip to Europe on Sept. 17, the President said there was still time to amend the 1987 Constitution and lift term limits in the event that he finally decided to go for another term.
“Don’t we have a saying that if one wants something, nothing is impossible, but if one doesn’t, nothing is possible,” he told reporters on a flight from Madrid to Brussels.–With reports from Marlon Ramos, Gil C. Cabacungan and Christine O. Avendaño
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