Solons eye term limits lifted, too

Belmonte shoots down idea to protect Cha-cha efforts

HINTS from the Palace and the Liberal Party that President Benigno Aquino III could seek a second term would complicate efforts in the House to amend the Constitution because some congressmen would also want their terms extended, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Thursday.

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.

Recent pronouncements of a second term for the President, however, would make things more difficult, he said.

“It’s not that simple. Others, like congressmen, would also want their terms extended,” Belmonte told the Manila Standard.

The 290-member House has 70 congressmen finishing their last term by 2016, House records show. At least 101 are on their second term while 119 are on their first term.

“We are pursuing a simple amendment to the economic provisions only,” Belmonte said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II’s announcement that he wanted Aquino to get six more years had an adverse impact on Charter change efforts because this would cast doubts on their motives.

The Palace on Thursday sought to put an end to talk of a second term, saying the President was ot interested.

“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),” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

But Coloma said 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.

But critics described the calls for a second term “delusional and desperate.”

“It is bereft of any legal basis. It is oblivious to the rising tide of discontent over Aquino and his pork barrel funds. It wrongly presumes that Aquino is God’s gift to the Filipino people and that it

is in our best interest to keep him in power, perhaps forever,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“The second term call also aims to boost the sagging ratings of Aquino’s partymate, Mar Roxas. For what could be the next best thing to an Aquino second term than a Mar Roxas presidency that would continue Aquino’s supposed legacy?” Reyes said.

“The second term ploy being orchestrated by Roxas and Palace psy-war operators in social media is doomed to fail. It has been exposed as nothing but a self-serving scheme being used to downplay Aquino’s liability in the DAP scandal,” he said, referring to the President’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Rather than a second term, Reyes said, Aquino deserves to have his stay cut short.

“He deserves to be impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. He is currently accused of 116 counts of technical malversation. He is accused of corrupting public officials through the DAP. He is accused of exacerbating the pork barrel system of corruption and patronage. We say “No more! Enough of Aquino!” Reyes said.

Despite the latest Palace statement, a member of the ruling Liberal Party was poised to file a bill seeking to amend the Constitution and give Aquino the opportunity to seek a second term.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, an administration ally, said it was imperative to give President

Aquino the right to seek a fresh term to sustain the positive effects of the administration’s reform agenda.

He said he would file his bill next week.

But members of the independent minority bloc in the House rejected the suggestion.

“The proposal is self-serving and the people will vehemently oppose such a move. Should the President support call for his second term, it means he disregarded his own principle because of the desire to stay in power,” said the bloc’s leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz said Erice’s proposal would test President Aquino’s “hunger for power” even as he said that those pushing for a term extension for the President are on dangerous ground.

But administration ally Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal said he saw nothing wrong if people clamored for giving Aquino six more years.

“As far as I know, the President has always been opposed to tinkering with the Constitution, and he has also been looking forward to a more quiet life as a private citizen. I cannot say that I blame our

countrymen for wishing that [Aquino] could run for a second term, if only to ensure that the transformation our nation is undergoing and the gains achieved thus far will not be squandered away,” Banal said.

1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, on the other hand, warned the President against heeding calls for a second term.

“It is both legally and politically unwise. For [Aquino] to run again, there has to be Charter change which I doubt will get Congress and people’s support,” Bello said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the country is heading towards autocratic rule if President Aquino is given another six-year term.

“The Palace should not even be entertaining the thought of extending the President’s term. With the [Disbursement Acceleration Program] fiasco and his treatment of the [Supreme Court], the public would not take lightly another dictatorship,” Ridon said.

Even some administration allies such as Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, Cibac party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Ako-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe opposed Erice’s proposal.

“I am not in favor of the idea, and I guess neither would the President agree to such. Even the people would not welcome such a move,” Fariñas said.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, chided presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda for sowing confusion about the President’s stand on a second term.

He said Lacierda should have categorically brushed aside the proposal for Aquino to seek a second term of office.

Escudro described as “unfortunate” Lacierda’s vague statement about the President listening to the voice of the people.

“I can’t understand why the answer of the President’s spokesperson was not clear. But I’m quite certain on the part of the President, it’s farthest from his mind,” he said.

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