Aquino: 2nd term open to abuse of power

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Aquino: 2nd term open to abuse of power
Weighing the pros and cons of a second term for him, President Aquino says a president staying on is possible even if it is banned by the Constitution – if 'the vast majority' really wants it

MANILA, Philippines – Facing public outrage, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III acknowledged that seeking a second presidential term might open the possibility for one “who might not have altruistic intentions” to abuse his power in the future.

Aquino, however, also said reelecting him as President has a “host of benefits,” and is possible even if the Constitution prohibits this.

“The reverse side of it is, if you have somebody who is dead set on retaining power for life, by opening up the possibility of a reelection – then of course some quarters are saying, ‘Go into a parliamentary system without term limits’ – there is that big danger that somebody will suddenly decide to never leave,” Aquino told reporters aboard his plane on Monday, September 15, after visiting Spain.

“You have to weigh that risk, that real risk,” he added during the interview, which the Palace uploaded on Youtube.

The President said: “Now, whether you like it or not, there is one term, period. We close that door, we ensure nobody who might not have altruistic intentions, to have any possibility of perpetuating himself in power. That seems to be such an ideal situation, plus all the attendant benefits.”

Aquino’s critics and even a number of allies, such as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, have thumbed down Aquino’s proposal to lift the term limit on the president because of the Philippines’ experience under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, and was overthrown after the People Power Revolution that put Aquino’s mother, Corazon, in power. The Philippines’ current Constitution, drafted under Mrs Aquino, prohibits a president from seeking reelection to avoid an extended rule like Marcos’.

‘Pag gusto, walang imposible’

Still, Aquino pointed out a positive side of a second term: the benefit of experience.

“The people who are saying, ‘Run again,’ are saying I did a good job in the past 4 years. Of course, you become more efficient, without a learning curve, in a second term. That’s the plus,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“The commitments that other countries, for instance, render unto you, there is that continuity. And you can go on a faster level, beyond the getting-to-know-you stage. There is a host of benefits,” he said.

When asked how this is possible given that the Constitution prohibits a second presidential term, Aquino said: “’Di ba may kasabihan tayo: ‘Pag gusto, walang imposible; ‘pag ayaw, walang posible’?” (Don’t we have a saying: “If you want it, nothing’s impossible; if you don’t, nothing is possible”?)

“So if the vast majority think that this is the route that has to be taken, then there will be a way, based on the Constitution, to afford that opportunity,” he said.

A Malacañang official close to Aquino, however, earlier told Rappler that the idea of Aquino’s second term “was never serious.”

The source said the pronouncement of a second term was only to “provoke the other side” and “to confuse them.” It was supposedly meant to make the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is eyeing the presidency in 2016, to slow down on their campaign aggression.

It was also an attempt to keep Aquino’s allies faithful, the source said. – with a report from Natashya Gutierrez/

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email