PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will continue listening to the clamor of his supporters who want him to pursue a second term, but he is against amending the Constitution to change its one-term limit for the presidency, a Palace official said Friday.
But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte added that the Palace would not stop its allies in Congress if they want to amend the Constitution.
“While they may be allies, they still belong to a separate and co-equal branch of government and are perfectly entitled to pursue their own advocacies and issues,” Valte said.
On Thursday, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said some congressmen want to tinker with the term limits if the Constitution is amended.
Belmonte, principal author of a Charter change bill, said he wanted the House to focus only on amending the economic restrictions in the Constitution and vowed not to lift term limits.
Valte said while the Palace will not get involved in efforts to amend the Constitution, the President will continue listening to the sentiments of the people.
“In 2009, then Senator Aquino sought the presidency as a response to calls from the people. He has consistently held the people to be his bosses,” Valte said.
“That has not changed for the President, and he continues to hold fast to this, to this day,” she added.
Malacañang appears to be giving mixed signals on the reported clamor for the President to stay on beyond 2016, which began with two Facebook community pages both called One More Term for PNoy.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday said that calls for a fresh term has reached Aquino.
“The President has already made his position known on that, but the President also listens to the voice of his bosses...The President is sensitive to the sentiments of his boss. We are very thankful for the expression of support and preference for another term for the President,” Lacierda said
Lacierda clarified, however, that there have been no discussions yet on Charter change or on term extension specifically.
“As a matter of principle, the President listens to the sentiments of the people, but as to specifics, there are none,” he said.
On Thursday, however, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said a term extension has never crossed the President’s mind.
“The President has been very clear in his declaration that he is now counting the months and days before he ends his term and not even once did it cross his mind to aspire or ask for a term extension because the Constitution is very clear about that (one-term limit),” Coloma said.
But even Coloma acknowledged that the administration will not lift a finger to stop the online campaign calling for another term for the President.
“We have to recognize that these people are free to express their sentiments. The government is not involved in any way. That is part of our democratic space - free expression in a free society,” he said.
Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said that he would prefer a second term for the President so that he could continue his reforms.
Veteran political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Liberal Party may be floating the trial balloon of a possible second term for Aquino because it has no strong contender for the 2016 presidential polls.
“Understandably, the Liberal Party has a problem now because it does not have a strong contender. The ratings of Mar (Roxas) remain unchanged. His numbers are not going up,” said Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
“For the LP, that is not a palatable scenario, so they come up with a trial balloon to test the sentiments of the public if they want another term for the President. If they can get away with it (term extension for Aquino) , they will do it to keep the power. But apparently it backfired on them so they have to disown the idea now,” Casiple added.
In the House, a Palace ally said he would push his proposal to extend the term of President Aquino by another six years by filing a bill next week.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said he would still push for his proposal even if Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. is not keen on supporting any term extensions.
Erice said he would conduct first a signature drive among his constituents, as well as conduct.a series of consultations with different sectors to find out the viability of his proposed law.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, an outspoken critic of the Aquino government who endorsed the impeachment case against the President, said the timing of Erice’s proposal was a suspect.
“It appears that the yellow cat is now out of the bag. Since this cha-cha balloon was floated beginning last year for the amendments of the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, we already warned of opening a floodgates for similar proposals,” Zarate said.
With Erice’s proposal, Zarate said “it appears now that the economic Cha-cha will travel in the train with the Aquino term extension Cha-cha.”
“These are insidious proposals that must be derailed as the same will not be to the best interest and benefit of our people,”Zarate said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also running in 2016, said the people behind the campaign to give Aquino another term should respect the President’s decision not to run again.
In a statement, Binay said that he is certain that Aquino will follow the example of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, who also shunned seeking another term.
An administration ally, Senator Francis Escudero said he opposed any term extension regardless of the position, but would support amending the economic provisions of the Constitution.
“And amendment in the Constitution should be made in the first phase of the term of whoever is the President to avoid confusion in the economic provisions, and whatever, but not term extension,” he said.
Senator Loren Legarda said Congress should help the government face the economic and social problems of the country instead of amending the Constitution.
Also on Friday, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional limit of three terms for local elected officials.
The Court ruled that the three-term rule under the Constitution was “inflexible” and “mandates strict implementation” such that even reapportionment of the districts cannot be used as an excuse to violate it.
“Considering that the one-term gap or rest after three consecutive elections is a result of a compromise among the members of the Constitutional Commission, no cavalier exemptions or exceptions to its application is to be allowed,” the Court said in a decision written by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes.
The Court ruling involved the case of Camarines Sur provincial board member Angel Naval, who was removed from his post by the Commission on Elections after winning in four consecutive elections for the same post in two legislative districts.
Naval ran as provincial board member for the second district of the province and won in 2004 and 2007 polls. On Oct. 12, 2009, the President signed into law Republic Act No. 9716, which reapportioned the legislative districts in Camarines Sur and took eight towns of the second district to form a third district.
In the 2010 polls, Naval once again won as a member of the provincial board, this time of the third district. He sought re-election in the elections last year and won in the same district.
However, when questioned by another candidate for the post, Nelson Julia, the Comelec’s Second Division ruled on March 5, 2013 to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Naval for violation of the three-term rule. The Comelec, acting collegially, affirmed this ruling on June 5, 2013.
This prompted Naval to bring the case before the Supreme Court.
Naval asserted that he did not violate the limit because his third and fourth terms were in the new district created by R.A. 9716, claiming that the legislative districts are composed of new sets of municipalities.
But the justices disagreed.
“In Naval’s case, the words of R.A. No. 9716 plainly state that the new second district is to be created, but the third district is to be renamed… A complete reading of R.A. No. 9716 yields no logical conclusion other than that the lawmakers intended the old second district to be merely renamed as the current third district,” it said.
The Court said the Comelec was correct in its finding.
“The presumed competence of the Comelec to resolve matters falling within its jurisdiction is upheld. In the case at bar, the Court finds the Comelec’s disquisitions to be amply supported by the Constitution, law and jurisprudence,” the Court said.
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