House leaders: Cha-cha not for lifting term limits

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 09 2014 10:24 AM | Updated as of Aug 09 2014 06:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - House leaders have ruled out changes in the political provisions of the Constitution and urged their colleagues in the ruling Liberal Party to drop their plans to introduce amendments aimed at extending the term of President Aquino.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. maintained yesterday that the pending legislation in the House of Representatives seeking to amend the Constitution only involves easing restrictions in the economic provisions to attract foreign direct investment.

Belmonte said the Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which is expected to be presented to the plenary anytime next week, includes “only economic provision amendments.”

The House leader issued the statement in response to some pro-administration lawmakers’ pushing for Charter change to allow Aquino to remain in power for another six years.

“Our Constitution provides for one term without reelection. That’s it,” Belmonte told reporters.

Earlier, House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II warned that the term extension issue could endanger the ongoing legislative process to approve amendments to economic provisions in the Charter.

He said before Aquino’s allies in the Liberal Party issued the call for him to seek a second term, public support for the House resolution was growing.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has filed a similar measure aimed at removing barriers to foreign ownership in certain sectors.

Belmonte and other proponents of the resolution stress the legislation simply seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to allow Congress in the future to ease restrictions on foreign ownership in certain industries.

The phrase is being sought for inclusion in Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports) and XVI (general provisions).

“This is just a simple change. The door (to investments) is still locked and we have to provide a legal key. I suppose all the countries around us in fact have always been ahead in the area of foreign direct investments, so we really have to start thinking about what we should do,” he earlier told reporters.

He said positive economic developments as well as high foreign investor confidence provide further justification for removing constitutional obstacles to investments.

He said Congress last June ratified the bill allowing full foreign ownership of banks.

Majority Leader Gonzales and Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo, meanwhile, said some presidential allies may be unwittingly causing damage to his reform agenda with their insistence on amending the political provisions of the Charter just so he can run again for president. Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice of the LP is spearheading the initiative in the House.

“They should stop it because it is only harming the President,” Gonzales told The STAR.

Gonzales said the people would surely question Aquino’s sincerity if some of his allies were allowed to pursue their Charter change agenda.

“We have to stop all these talks of term extensions because this will distract us from the more substantial work for strengthening our economy,” Quimbo said.

He expressed confidence Aquino will “naturally obey the Constitution, without any doubt.”

Belmonte said Erice’s initiative is unlikely to succeed in the chamber as Aquino himself will oppose it.

“The people would not accept that. Besides it is not the style of PNoy,” Belmonte said.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the so-called independent bloc, described the proposal as self-serving and that the people would vehemently oppose it.

“Should the President support call for his second term, it means he disregarded his own principle because of the desire to stay in power,” Romualdez said.

“It is ill-advised. (the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr.) Ninoy and former President Cory, if still alive, would have been the first to denounce the suggestion,” Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting said.