Palace: Info from the ground led to Aquino change of heart

Natashya Gutierrez

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The President is considering a second term because, while surveys show declining approval of and satisfaction with his performance, 'that is not the picture [the Palace] is seeing'

SECOND TERM? President Benigno Aquino III says he is open to a second term if its what the people want. Malacanang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – His satisfaction ratings may be at an all-time low, but President Benigno Aquino III said he is still open to a second term if it is the will of the people.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr on Thursday, August 14, echoed the President’s statements, saying Aquino’s intention is to “listen to his bosses.”

This, in fact, was the basis of Aquino’s sudden change in opinion regarding a possible second term, Coloma said. The President previously insisted he was counting down the days until the end of his administration.

“The President has consistently affirmed his fidelity to his bosses, the Filipino people,” Coloma said. “He recognizes the importance of the role of the people in determining the reforms that he started, the transformation in society that he upheld, become permanent.”

When asked, however, to specify the sources on which Aquino based his change of heart, Coloma only the President, “being the highest official of the land,” is “the recipient of a lot of information and many are coordinating with him.”

“As a political leader, governors, mayors contact him. Many leaders from various sectors also speak to him – industry leaders, commerce leaders, business leaders,” Coloma said.

“He also has many friends and allies in civil society organizaions. So he is exposed to various views and opinions and he takes all these in, he listens, because it is his policy to know the pulse of the people.”

Coloma would not specify if Malacañang had commissioned a survey.

On Wednesday, Aquino told News5 he is no longer closed to calls for charter change under his administration, and confirmed he is open to amending the Constitution to allow a president to run for a second 6-year term.

Currently, the Constitution prohibits a president from re-election. Aquino’s term ends in 2016.

‘Not what we’re seeing’

Since the news of Aquino’s statements broke, social media and broadcast media reflected the public’s generally negative opinion. Even Aquino’s allies in Congress are split over the idea of extending the President’s term.

Coloma, however, said “that is not the picture [the Palace is] seeing” and that it is too early to tell that the idea wouldn’t take off.

The communications secretary also denied that Aquino’s statements emphasized the weakness of the ruling Liberal Party, or its lack of a viable candidate for the 2016 presidential elections. Its presumed standard bearer, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, lags behind his rivals in surveys, while opposition candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay remains highly popular. (READ: Tatanghod na lang ba ang LP kay Binay?)

Roxas had previously suggested the idea of Aquino running for a second term – a statement that also earned criticisms.

Roxas had allegedly been relying on the President’s endorsement to pull his numbers up, but Aquino himself has seen a steep decline in his satisfaction ratings. The drop was largely blamed on the Supreme Court’s ruling that parts of the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were unconstitutional and Aquino’s decision to openly slam it on national television and even threaten the justices of intervention by another branch of government.

In the News5 interview, Aquino said he was open to amending the Constitution not just for a term extension, but mainly to clip the high court’s power, or judicial reach.

Asked whether it was revenge against the Supreme Court that drove Aquino’s opinion, Coloma said it is not the President’s intention to create a divide between the executive and the judiciary.

The morning after an excerpt of the interview was released, Aquino refused to speak to media at an event at Camp Aguinaldo, where he distributed rifles to soldiers. He has not given any public media interviews for over a month.

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.