UNCLES of President Benigno Aquino III joined his sisters in supporting the candidacy of Vice President Jejomar Binay if he runs for president under the Liberal Party in 2016, former senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino said Thursday.
“I heard the sisters are backing him, and so are the uncles Peping, Paul [and] Butz,” he said Thursday.
The 75-year-old former senator aired his support for Binay at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where he attended a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the assassination of his brother Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. at the airport that now bears his name.
The older Aquino was senator when his sister-in-law Corazon Aquino, the mother of President Aquino, was president. Butz Aquino later served as congressman for Makati when Binay was mayor.
Jose “Peping” Cojuangco is the brother of Corazon Aquino, while Paul, now a director of the Philippine National Oil Co., is the younger brother of Butz and Ninoy.
Binay, a guest speaker at the NAIA event, welcomed the endorsement of Aquino’s uncles and said he valued their declarations of support, which he attributed to the long-standing friendship between the Binay and Aquino families.
“For me, that is very important because we are really friends,” Binay said. “We have been together in good times and in bad,” Binay said.
But Binay said he had not been personally told by any member of the Aquino family about their supposed endorsement.
Butz made the endorsement after President Aquino’s sisters Kris and Ballsy said they had nothing against Binay’s adoption as the standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party.
During the NAIA event, Binay received the Ninoy Aquino Medal of Valor for his role in fighting the dictatorship in ceremonies marking the martyrdom of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.
In his speech, Binay said the country’s democracy was again in danger because some parties who want to remain in power after 2016 were egging President Aquino to amend the Constitution to give himself a second term and to clip the powers of the Supreme Court.
Binay said the Constitution granted powers to the judiciary to make sure another dictatorship would not come to power.
He added that checks and balance are the foundation of democracy.
Binay also urged those who fought against the Marcos dictatorship to oppose moves to amend the Constitution and to help reserve the legacy of Ninoy Aquino.
“I am sure that I am not alone in the view that we must never allow partisan inclinations to erode the institutions that guarantee our freedoms. I urge all of you who have been comrades in the struggle against the dictatorship to be active in stopping this insidious plan clad in the guise of good intentions,” Binay said.
“This, I believe, is how we can best protect the legacy of Ninoy Aquino, and the best way we can ensure that our struggle to bring back a working democracy that serves the interests of the people, and not of a selfish few, will not be in vain,” he added.
Liberal Party officials seemed at odds with each other over the prospects that the President would seek a second term.
A day after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he would call for a meeting of the Liberal Party to clarify Aquino’s openness to Charter amendments, Senate President Franklin Drilon insisted that the President does not want a second term even if he is now open to revising the 1987 Constitution.
But Drilon said he has endorsed Abad’s call for a meeting of the LP.
“We want to be clarified because what the President really said was that he is not interested in a second term and he is not interested in amending the Constitution during his term. We want to end all speculations on this issue,” Drilon said in a chance interview during the commemoration of the 31st death anniversary of late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Thursday.
“From what I know of the President, he was averse to any constitutional change during his term and so let us leave it at that. And the Palace has also said that the President is not interested in changing the Charter during his term,” Drilon added.
Aquino earlier said he was open to Charter amendments to address the Supreme Court’s “overreach.”
The Supreme Court earlier declared several acts under President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program as unconstitutional, prompting the executive branch to file a motion for reconsideration seeking to overturn the 13-0 ruling.
When asked if he was open to a second term, Aquino said he will listen to the sentiments of the Filipino people, fanning speculations that the Charter change initiative was meant to lift the term limits.
There has been no definitive explanation from the Palace either.
LP stalwart and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. earlier rejected political amendments, saying only restrictive economic provisions should be amended.
Members of the group Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) have also warned the President against seeking Charter change, saying similar efforts of past administrations had “undesirable consequences.”
“Governance was disrupted, media became unduly adversarial, and the general public was dismayed by fears of dictatorship,” said the group, which counts as members former Cabinet and other executive officials under former Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada.
“Surveys of public opinion all showed disapproval of those moves to extend the term limits of elected officials, either in the executive department or in the legislature.”
The FSGO also warned that the efforts of the Aquino administration since 2010 can be lost in two years if it pushes through with Charter amendments. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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