MANILA, Philippines – The president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) may be pushing for a second term for President Benigno Aquino III, but the vice chairman of the party said the issue is “over.”
LP stalwart Senate President Franklin Drilon said the LP has no official stand on charter change even as Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II preferred a second term for the President, citing “information on the ground.”
This is the first time Drilon commented on Aquino’s interview with TV5 on Wednesday, August 13, where the President said he was open to changing the 1987 Constitution, reversing his previous rejection of the idea.
“There is no official stand of LP,” Drilon said on Monday, August 18.
It was Roxas who first raised the idea of having a second term for Aquino but clarified that it was his personal opinion.
Roxas is seen as the standard-bearer of the LP in 2016 but he has yet to declare his intentions. Some analysts said that the proposed second term for Aquino may be aimed at undermining the presidential bid of Roxas’ more popular rival, Vice President Jejomar Binay. (READ: Q and A: Charter change beyond Aquino, Binay)
Drilon was the LP’s campaign manager in the 2013 polls, and is a key leader of the party. The Senate President has dismissed changing the political provisions of the charter even before Aquino’s TV5 interview aired and after Roxas proposed it. He said he is open to amending the economic provisions.
Leaders and members of the LP were reported to be divided on the issue of charter change, with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr saying changing the political provisions of the Constitution is “not so easy.” The Constitution prescribes one 6-year term for the president.
Other members, like Iloilo Representative Jerry Treñas and Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice, are pushing for a second term for Aquino. They said that the President must continue the “process of transformation and progress.”
Yet Drilon shot down the idea, saying the President and Malacañang already made the issue clear.
“The President did not say that he is for a second term,” Drilon said. “I was reading the transcript of the TV5 interview. There was nothing there that said that the President is interested in a second term. Malacañang has already said the President will not push for Charter amendments during his term. I think the issue is over. We keep on beating a dead horse.”
A Malacañang transcript of Aquino’s TV5 interview shows that this was the President’s response to the question on term extension:
“Well, ‘nung pinasukan ko ho ito, ang tanda ko one term of 6 years. Ngayon, after having said that, siyempre, ang mga boss ko ho kailangan kong pakinggan rin eh, at hindi ibig sabihin noon na automatic na hahabol ako na magkaroon pa akong dagdag dito, ano? Pero ang tanong nga doon: Paano ba natin masisigurado na ‘yung mga repormang nagawa natin – at ‘pag nina-natin ko, lahat ho ng – mula ‘yung nagbigay sa akin nung mandato nandiyan nakikidamay sa akin, nasa gobyerno, wala sa gobyerno – na maging permanente na itong pagbabago natin. So pagkokonsulta ho sa mga boss ‘yon. Paano ba ang mas may katiyakan tayo na ‘yung pinaghirapan nating lahat ay talaga namang magkaroon na ng ugat at magkatotoo ng permanenteng pagbabago.”
(Well, when I got into this, I remember it was for one term for 6 years. Now, having said that, of course my bosses, I need to listen to them. And this does not automatically mean that I am after an additional term. But the question is: How do we ensure that the reforms we have done – and when I say we, I say all – from the people who gave me the mandate to those who helped me, those in government and those not in government – how can these reforms be permanent? So that is the consultation with the bosses. How can these reforms that we worked hard for take root and result in permanent change?)
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte later said the President did not say he will push for charter change in the remaining two years of his term.
“I think we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. What I remember the President say was that he’s thinking about it. He didn’t say, ‘Let’s do this tomorrow.’ He did not say anything about doing it tomorrow, doing it next week, doing it in the next few months,” Valte said.
‘No LP meeting on cha-cha’
Drilon also denied reports that the LP called a meeting to discuss charter change.
“I was not in that meeting, if that meeting took place. I do not know. There is no meeting called for cha-cha,” he said.
Despite the statement of Roxas and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda that Aquino will “listen to his bosses” on charter change, Drilon said there are no “mixed signals.”
“For me, the signals are clear. Ask those who think there’s a mixed signal. To me, Malacañang has said the President will not push for a charter amendment.”
A former justice secretary, Drilon refused to comment on Aquino’s statement that he was open to changing the Constitution because of “judicial overreach” following the Supreme Court’ ruling striking down key acts under the administration’s special stimulus measure, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
‘Trial balloon really ambiguous’
Non-LP members allied with the President reiterated that the idea of a second term for Aquino seems to be a trial balloon of the ruling party.
“You know, trial balloons are deliberately ambiguous. You have to be ambiguous so you can have wiggle room,” said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of the Nacionalista Party.
“Maybe they are assessing, conducting a survey. Negative news reports are different from positive feedback on the ground so they may be validating the information before they can move forward or step backward,” he added.
Trillanes said if people rejected the idea, it will backfire on the LP.
For Senator Francis Escudero, the proposed second term for Aquino was meant to stop the President from becoming a “lame duck” 4 years into his term.
“Isn’t it that every time a president’s term is about to end, charter change is always discussed? I think the reason behind this is so that people will not take him for granted, so he won’t be treated like a lame duck. So that even if it’s not true, there is discussion about extending his term.” – Rappler.com
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