Aquino hints at ‘stepping down’ in 2016

Natashya Gutierrez
Aquino hints at ‘stepping down’ in 2016
President Benigno Aquino III says he is consulting with sectors on a possible second term but he also envisions himself out of office by July 1

MANILA, Philippines – Almost two weeks after he first admitted to being open to a second term if the people willed it, President Benigno Aquino III stayed firm to his statement, only to later say he envisions himself stepping down in 2016 at the end of his term. 

In an interview with Bombo Radyo aired on Thursday, August 28, Aquino said his priority is to ensure the programs of the administration will continue.

“I am not a masochist. But at the same time, like I said, I will listen to whatever the bosses want,” he said, referring to the Filipino people. 

Currently the Constitution prohibits the re-election of a president after one 6-year term.

But at the end of the interview, when asked where he envisions himself two years from now, Aquino was clear in his response.

“In one year and 10 months, I will be with Usec [Rey] Marfil and ASec [Jun] Delantar….On July 1, the day after we step down from office, we will eat well with ‘Kalayaan (Freedom)’ written on a streamer behind us,” he said in Filipino, laughing.

The President had consistently and repeatedly said that he is counting down the days to the end of his term, which other Palace officials and administration allies have also cited when asked about Aquino’s possible second term.

On August 13, after days of conflicting statements from the Palace, Aquino in an interview with News5 said he would “listen to [his] bosses” regarding a second term, but Palace officials later clarified that this did not mean that he would pursue it.

Consultations ongoing

In the radio interview, Aquino recounted various instances where he was asked by individuals to stay on as president. In a recent visit to Cagayan, Aquino said someone from the crowd yelled, “One more term!”

“It was spontaneous,” said Aquino. 

He also recalled a time he went to a wake and someone he didn’t know approached him and supposedly said, “Please don’t leave the Philippines.” 

“[They ask], ‘What’s the guarantee that what you did will continue? Perhaps it’ll be like we were on vacation for 6 years then we will go back to the old system,’” he said. 

Aquino admitted the administration is “consulting sectors” for now to measure public sentiment on the issue, but emphasized the bottom line is simple: “How will we ensure that all we started will be permanent?”

Various groups have come out to voice their disapproval of an extended term for the president including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, constitutionalist and Jesuit priest Father Joaquin Bernas, and the Makati Business Club.

The ruling Liberal Party has yet to announce their 2016 bet, but its presumed standard bearer, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, continues to lag behind in surveys. Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay, a member of the opposition, is enjoying sky-high approval ratings and is the leader in surveys on possible presidential candidates.

Malacañang has repeatedly said the administration is only at the consulting stage and it has not made any moves towards charter change to allow a second term for the president.

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