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MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Vice President Jejomar Binay warned President Benigno Aquino III against listening to people driven by “self-preservation” now that the chief executive has expressed openness to a second term.
After slamming term extension as a “selfish proposal” just last week, Binay now said that he respects Aquino’s position but the President should take caution in listening to people’s views on term extension.
“Any national leader would want to hear the voice of the people on issues that will have far-reaching consequences. What is important is that the voice he hears is an authentic and genuine voice, not one manufactured by quarters with vested interests who are driven mainly by self-preservation,” Binay said in a statement on Thursday, August 14.
The opposition’s presidential candidate added, “We also need to keep our focus on pursuing our goal of improving the lives of the people for the remainder of the President’s term and beyond.”
The Vice President was responding to Aquino’s interview with TV5 where the President reversed his long-held stand that he is not in favor of changing the Constitution. Aquino said he is open to amending the charter citing the “judicial reach” of the Supreme Court, and possibly for another term. The 1987 Constitution sets one 6-year term limit for presidents.
On the issue of lifting term limits, Aquino said, “When I took this office, I recall that it was only for one term of 6 years. Now, after having said that, of course, I have to listen to my bosses [the Filipino people].”
It was not just Aquino who changed his stand on the issue. On Friday, Binay rejected the idea when his bitter rival, LP president-on-leave Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, first proposed it. Roxas filed an electoral protest against the elder Binay over the 2010 polls, claiming he was cheated.
Binay then said, “It was a selfish proposal to begin with, motivated more by personal rather than national interest. It was also unfair to the President. The proposal put him on the spot and made him the object of criticisms, which he doesn’t deserve.”
In a swipe at Roxas, Binay had said that Aquino will not consider term extension because he is a “decent person who does not cling to power … and he won’t tarnish his mother’s good name just to please some personalities.”
Binay has not supported changing the political provisions of the Constitution but supports amending the economic provisions.
Should charter change succeed and Aquino decides to seek re-election, Binay’s presidential bid will be affected. Binay has been leading in presidential surveys with a wide margin but the President’s allies say Aquino remains popular compared to past presidents even if his scores dipped to an all-time low following several controversies. In contrast, Roxas has been trailing behind Binay – and other potential candidates – in presidential polls.
Aquino is the chairman of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) while Binay is the founder of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Binay’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay was more blunt about the “quarters with vested interests” her father was referring to.
“I am praying na ‘di dudungisan ni PNoy (Aquino) ang pangalan ng mga magulang niya para lang mapagbigyan ang mga taong medyo walang pag-asang manalo sa isang malinis na eleksyon,” Senator Binay said.
(I am praying PNoy will not tarnish the name of his parents just as a favor to people who do not seem to have any hopes of winning in a clean election.)
‘He wants to do more’
Senate President Franklin Drilon, a partymate and close ally of Aquino, cannot be reached for comment. Other Aquino allies in the Senate said they are open to the President’s view.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara told Rappler: “Perhaps as he nears the end of this term, he realizes he wants to do more. The statement that he is open to a second term does not necessarily mean he will run again, as he has also repeatedly said he is looking forward to stepping down in 2016.”
A lawyer, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said he is keeping an “open mind.”
“We should study changes to the Constitution. Since we are talking about term extension, which is of political nature, therefore we should not limit charter change anymore to economic provisions alone. It’s an entire review of the 1987 Constitution,” Pimentel told Rappler.
Pimentel said he is in favor of two 4-year terms for the President and his Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is pushing for federalism.
Senator Cynthia Villar said her Nacionalista Party (NP), a coalition ally of the LP, saw term extension as a possible “strategy” of the ruling party.
“I guess we (NP) have to talk about it now that it’s becoming a hot issue. Because before, we took it for granted and thought there will be no charter change. They said we needed to change the economic provisions that impair the growth of the economy. We were open to that. But now on the political aspect, we did not think there will be a thing like that. We have to observe and talk about it,” Villar told Rappler.
Opposition senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and JV Ejercito said they doubted that Aquino will make good on the idea.
“He will not cross the legacy of President Cory. That’s not how I know him. Being open to it and doing something about it are two different things,” Sotto said.
Ejercito said, “Why are we talking term extension when there are more pressing problems that need to be addressed? This is disappointing.”
LP’s Senator Ralph Recto agreed, saying public officials should instead focus on gut issues like jobs, wages, prices of goods, food and crime. He called for a “ceasefire of a political kind.”
“If we want the nation to march to the same beat, our leaders must tone down the volume on topics about 2016 and in the meantime mute the Cha-cha music on changing political provisions of the Constitution,” said the Senate President Pro-Tempore.
Both allies and opposition members, though, expressed reservations about Aquino’s idea of clipping the powers of the Supreme Court after it ruled against key acts under the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a decision the President had openly criticized.
Pimentel is against clipping the Court’s power. He said Aquino’s problem does not seem to be with the Constitution itself but with the justices he appointed, including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who voted in favor of the unanimous ruling on the DAP.
“There was only a problem on the issue of grave abuse of discretion. But it’s also a good thing we have a Court we can run to. Baka wala sa constitutional set-up. Baka nasa composition eh. Kasalanan na rin ng nag-appoint,” Pimentel quipped. (It’s not in the set-up. Maybe it’s in the composition of the court. Then that’s also the fault of the appointing power.)
Angara said this is not the first time the idea of judicial reach was discussed, calling it a “recurring argument” since the Constitution gave the Court “vast judicial review powers.”
“Although perhaps [it was discussed in the past] in a different context, that of economic decision making. It was made after the Bataan plant location case: Garcia vs Board of Investments, also after the Manila Hotel decision. Some have made it after the recent and still ongoing case regarding power rates,” Angara said.
Then president Fidel Ramos had pushed for constitutional reforms after the Supreme Court ruled on cases that affected economic affairs, including the Manila Hotel privatization case, which hurt the investment climate.
Senator Binay, a critic of DAP, blasted Aquino for proposing to reduce the Court’s powers.
“Judicial reach is an unfair description….Let the judiciary be insulated from politics. They (justices) don’t deserve to be treated like school children.” – Rappler.com