Prospects of a term extension for President Benigno Aquino 3rd look dim even if the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is yet to come up with its official stand on the matter.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Wednesday admitted that amending the 1987 Constitution to allow the President to extend his term beyond 2016 is “unlikely.”
“Even as we talk, it gets more unlikely. I think a lot of people would not be in favor of it but it has to go through a process. I myself am against term extension,” Belmonte, also vice chairman of the LP, said in a chance interview.
Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City (Metro Manila) said there is not much support for Charter change or Cha-cha.
“The majority bloc has been very adamant in pushing for [amending the Charter’s]economic provisions but as [for]the political provisions, I don’t feel much support right now. If we don’t do it before November, it will be very difficult,” Quimbo said.
“Well, we’ll decide on it soon. We are waiting for word from the chairman and the senior officers of the party. It is urgent, and hopefully we’ll decide within next week,” he told reporters, referring to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The President has drawn flak for saying he is open to Charter change that may allow him to extend his term.
Quimbo, however, said the LP was not compelled to discuss the issue because of stinging criticisms of term extension.
“It is urgent because it is an important issue, considering that we have 22 months left, 16 months of that will be the working months. With the [national]budget and the Bangsamoro law [to be submitted for Congress’ approval], we need to choose our priorities,” he explained.
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Tuesday said there is no time to amend the Constitution to extend Aquino’s term.
But Quimbo noted that the decision to change some provisions of the 1987 Constitution lies in Congress.
“The Comelec is not in a position to decide what is possible or not because their mandate is to implement [the referendum on Cha-cha). Congress will be mindful if we will have enough time if that option is pursued,” the lawmaker said.
There is a pending resolution of both Houses of Congress authored by Belmonte that seeks to amend some economic provisions of the Constitution, particularly the lifting of the 40 percent limit to foreign ownership of public utilities.
Some Catholic bishops said plans to amend the Charter may only allow politicians to extend their term of office.
According to Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, he is opposed to the plans to change some economic provisions of the Constitution because once started, “everything will follow.”
“You cannot limit [the amendments]to economic provisions,” Bagaforo said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also suspects that moves to amend the economic provisions could be just a ploy by Malacanang.
“We can’t afford to allow Cha-cha. It [Constitution] is too important a document to be left to the care of just anyone. If Congress today cannot be expected to come up with good laws, how much more can it be entrusted to them to amend the Constitution?” he said.
Pabillo called on the public to make a stand on constitutional amendments, saying a “task as vital as Cha-cha” should not be left to Malacañang and Congress alone.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Beltran Cardinal Quevedo also rejected Cha-cha if it aims to prolong politicians’ hold on power.
“If it is only for the [term]extension and it is primarily for the extension of the political terms, I would be entirely against it,” Quevedo said over Radyo Veritas.
According to him, the CBCP has been consistently against Cha-cha, which, he said, only intends to promote the self-interest of the “powerful few.”
“If there were any change in the Charter, it should be with regard to the possibility of peace in Mindanao and of economic development without sacrificing our own primary ownership of land and natural resources,” Pabillo added.