Vice President Jejomar Binay is “ready” to face President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in the 2016 elections if the incumbent head of state succeeds in amending the Constitution his mother fought for in restoring democracy 27 years ago.
Asked on Friday if he would square off with Aquino two years from now, Binay said “yes.”
The Vice President was in Naga City to pay homage to the late Leonardo Legaspi, first Filipino rector of the University of Santo Tomas, who died recently.
Replying to a reporter’s question on his plans for 2016 at a press briefing, Binay said: “I am just repeating what I have been saying all along, since 2010 I have been telling the media but you keep asking me the same question and I have been consistent in saying, ‘Yes that has been my dream since I was a child.’ I have prepared myself for this. I got myself an education. Second, I had been mayor for 21 years. So, I’m bringing all that to the presidency.”
Political changes in the 1987 Constitution would be “destabilizing” and “divisive” to the country, the Vice President said earlier on Friday, reacting to Aquino’s statement about his “openness” to extend his six-year term via a Charter change.
In a statement, Binay pointed out he would agree to amending only economic, not political, provisions of the Constitution that would allow more foreign investors into the country.
“I will continue to oppose political Charter change not only because of principle but because it will be destabilizing and divisive at the very moment that we need national unity,” he added.
“Those advising the President to pursue a course that will lead to a frontal confrontation with the Supreme Court are bringing our country to the brink of a political and constitutional crisis,” the Vice President said.
In an interview with TV5 on Wednesday, President Aquino said he is open to changing the 1987 Philippine Constitution so that he can extend his term beyond 2016, citing the supposedly limitless reach of the judicial branch.
The Supreme Court (SC) earlier declared parts of the Malacanang-initiated and controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.
But Binay said when the SC made the declaration, it only exercised its power and duty that were enshrined in the 1987 Constitution ratified during the time of President Corazon Aquino, the President’s mother.
According to the Vice President, those advising the country’s incumbent leader on Cha-cha are putting “in peril” his chance to leave a “positive legacy” to the people.
“In doing so, they invoke the name of public interest. To blur the delineation between their selfish interest and public interest is dangerous and despotic,” Binay said.
He earlier warned the President against listening to those who may have “vested interests.”
The Constitution is quite explicit when it reposed on the judiciary not only the power but also the duty “to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch of instrumentality of government,” Binay said.
“This was included precisely to prevent a situation where the judiciary bends to the wills of one branch, or of one man as was the case during martial law,” he added.
Binay stressed the importance of the powers vested in the High Court under the Constitution, which he said enshrines the hopes of millions of Filipinos who made the 1986 Edsa Revolution possible “for a strong judicial institution as the best safeguard against dictatorship in whatever form.”
That revolution toppled then-strongman President Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the Philippines.
“While I respect the views of those who complain of judicial overreach as well as those who believe in lifting presidential term limits, I pray for sober reflection to restrain abrupt political initiatives. We must never allow purely partisan considerations to erode the institutions that guarantee our freedoms,” according to Binay.
As a lawyer himself, the Vice President said he believes in the three co-equal branches–executive, judiciary and legislative–stressing the importance of each one respecting the independence and recognizing each one’s power, duties and limitations.
“A healthy democracy will benefit the people,” Binay added.
The Vice President also on Friday said he is “ready” to face anyone in the 2016 elections that will pick the successor to Aquino.
Binay had flown to Naga City, Camarines Sur, to pay homage to former Caceres Archdiocese Leonardo Legaspi, first Filipino rector of the University of Santo Tomas, who died recently.
From Naga, he visited the provinces of Sorsogon and Albay where he met with local leaders and supporters.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the President might just be thinking out loud when he said he was considering to extend his stay in Malacañang.
“I don’t think he is serious since he just wants to unsettle the Supreme Court, throw at his noisy punditry a little discomfort and give a the people a little twist in his premeditated ordinariness,” Salceda, a classmate of Aquino at Ateneo de Manila University, said on Facebook.
In Davao City, Sen. Francis Escudero also on Friday said he thought that the President was only joking when he said he was open to term extension.
But, Escudero added, if Aquino was serious about it, then it demands “serious opposition from me and from the people.”
The President’s possible second term lies with the people, not the Constitution, his allies said also on Friday.
According to Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City and Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, both from the ruling Liberal Party, which is headed by Aquino, the President’s fate “can only be determined in a referendum, not through protests and media rantings by the noisy few.”
But for opposition lawmakers Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, the President and his allies are backing a second term for him to escape accountability over the DAP.
“Aquino is delusional and power-hungry, thus, unfit to rule. His dictatorial ambition must be crushed. He must be ousted from office to prevent him from imposing his wicked plan,” Colmenares said.
And Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos warned that if the President pushed with Cha-cha, “the Diocese of Balanga will do something” about it.
Meanwhile, he said also on Friday, they will continue to pray for Aquino and his allies to see the light, instead of “preserving their political careers and personal ambitions.”
BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON, LLANESCA T. PANTI, LEANDER C. DOMINGO AND ERNIE B. ESCONDE