Manila: A congressman vowed to file a resolution calling for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to lift a six-year cap on the presidency and extend the term of President Benigno Aquino beyond 2016.
But the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is divided on the issue and it could hurt the president who is faced with several impeachment complaints, sources and analysts told Gulf News.
“Members of the LP in the Senate and at the House of Representatives will support moves to extend the term of President Aquino,” predicted Congressman Edgar Erice, but did not say when he will file the resolution. Aquino is LP’s titular head.
“President Aquino is determined to do better. He has a strong political will. This move will satisfy people’s clamour,” said Erice, adding, “Debates and exciting turn of events will follow after the resolution is filed. This is democracy in action. The president has spoken [about his desire for a term extension].”
On Wednesday night, Aquino said, “When I took this office, I recall that it was only for one term of six years. Now, after having said that, of course, I have to listen to my bosses [the people].” He also added, “It does not mean I would automatically go after an additional term.”
Congressman Ben Evardone has promised to campaign for Aquino’s re-election once the resolution is approved. “Six years is too short for a good president. He should remain in office to sustain the momentum of our economic growth that we have achieved,” he said.
Before LP held a caucus in suburban Quezon City on Friday to finalise plans for the filing of the proposed resolution, Congressman Mel Sarmiento said, “There will be a collective decision on this major issue.”
“Our constituents will agree with us on a major issue such as this,” said Congressman Jerry Trenas, belying fears that LP might not follow party procedures on moves to extend Aquino’s term.
Interior and local government Secretary Mar Roxas, an Aquino ally who was head of LP before Aquino became president, is a major supporter of this plan, a party insider who requested for anonymity also told Gulf News.
Roxas is LP’s presidential candidate in 2016, but allies believe he might not win against incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay who belongs to the opposition and plans to run for the presidency in 2016, the same party member said.
Although LP is also divided on moves to extend Aquino’s term, the party-member said, “We hope this is resolved on Friday or over the weekend.”
Some LP members were dismayed when Aquino talked of charter change “for term extension and curtailing Supreme Court’s power, and not for economic reforms,” the party member added.
Explaining a different vision of charter change, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, an Aquino ally said, “We want it for economic reform — to lift the 40 per cent investment cap on foreign investments in the Philippines. Changing the Constitution for the president’s term extension is not easy to pass in Congress.” Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, a major LP figure, agreed with Belmonte.
Congressman Walden Bello of Akabayan, a sectoral party at the House of Representatives also allied with Aquino belittled the latter’s desire for term extension, adding, “I think he was just having a bit of fun when he spoke about it.”
But Akbayan “will never support moves to change the constitution for the sake of extending the president’s term,” Bello said.
Congressman Terry Ridon of Kabataan, a militant party at the House of Representatives, reacted strongly and said, “Calls for President Aquino’s re-election are coming from LP, not from the people.”
“Our party will challenge before the Supreme Court LP’s move to extend the president’s term. This is an attempt of the Aquino administration to remain in power,” warned Congressman Neri Colmenares of Bayan, another militant group.
Explaining moves by LP to extend Aquino’s term, political analyst Prospero de Vera said, “They are meant to dilute several impeachment complaints filed against Aquino, which have started to move at the House of Representatives.”
The impeachment complaints may not prosper because Aquino controls both houses of Congress. “But LP members want him to remain popular by propping him up with proposed term extension, for the party to get good results in the 2016 elections,” explained another political analyst, Alfred Crespo.