Palace men finally agree: Nothing definite on term extension

by Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 10 2014 12:02 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2014 08:03 PM

MANILA - After issuing conflicting statements on the prospect of President Aquino seeking reelection, Malacañang spokespersons now seem to agree on one thing – that there’s nothing definite yet.

“On matters of national interest, the President seeks to know and understand the sentiments of his bosses – the Filipino people – to guide him in decision-making,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to The STAR, when asked about inconsistencies in Malacañang’s statements on proposals to extend the President’s term through Charter change.

Coloma had earlier made clear President Aquino would definitely step down after the end of his term in June 2016.

On the other hand, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte said it’s the people who have the last say on the issue.

Last Friday, Valte even reminded reporters that Aquino did not intend to run for president in 2010 but eventually gave in to the wishes of the people, implying that he may change his mind in the run up to 2016.

Valte clarified over radio dzRB, however, that she did not say Aquino could change his mind on term extension given his position on Cha-cha.

In her statement on Friday, Valte said then senator Aquino agreed in 2009 to run for president in “response to calls from the people.”

She said the President “has consistently held the people to be his bosses. That has not changed for the President, and he continues to hold fast to this, to this day.”

In an interview over dzRB yesterday, Valte she was only talking about the President’s being consistent in following the wishes of his “bosses” the people.

“If you look at my quote, I did not say that the President may change his mind. It was very clear and I was talking merely of the President’s consistency when it comes to saying, ‘you are my bosses’,’’ Valte said. “You’ll have to ask him that, but I think he’s been consistent from the very start,” she said when asked if Aquino could actually change his mind, depending on what the people would call for.

The clash of statements gave rise to speculations that the Balay and Samar factions in Malacañang were again at odds over an issue.

It was the leader of the Balay group and presumptive Liberal Party presidential candidate, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who first broached the idea of term extension for Aquino after Vice President Jejomar Binay announced that the LP was planning to adopt him as standard bearer or coalesce with the opposition’s umbrella group, United Nationalist Alliance.

Coloma is seen as part of the Samar group led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. that supported the campaign of Aquino and Binay in 2010 even if Roxas was the running mate of Aquino. Roxas lost to Binay.

Valte declined to comment on Binay’s statement that Aquino would dishonor the memory of his late mother Corazon Aquino if he decides to run in 2016.

“I’m not quite sure who the Vice President was pertaining to, but I’m quite certain that it’s probably not the ordinary citizens who have been expressing their thoughts on this matter,” Valte said.

She added the President would not be distracted from what he had to do for the country despite talks on term extension.

“The President has been focused on his events and the other matters that continue to need presidential attention. Maybe we as spokespersons, we get asked frequently because that is our job to reply to you, but the rest of the government continues to focus on the issues that concern the Filipino people,” Valte said.

But Valte said it’s ultimately the President who could clear things up on the matter.

“The President gives regular press interviews so we’ll see. If one of you asks him let’s see what he’s going to say. At this point, it’s hard to tell but maybe the best opportunity is during his regular press interview,” Valte said.

One term enough

While the guessing game continues, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said one term for the president should be enough.

“I have been fully supportive of President Aquino and his administration’s tuwid na daan (straight path) reforms and platform of good governance which have led to an impressive economic growth. Moving forward, the Filipino electorate must choose a leader who will continue what the Aquino administration has started,” Cayetano said. The senator had earlier signified his intention to run for president in 2016.

Cayetano said President Aquino has done more than enough for the country and that he deserves to enjoy some time for himself and his family once he steps down in 2016.

Since declaring his intention to run for president months back, Cayetano has been going around the country and has even come out with a television advertisement highlighting the accomplishments of his hometown Taguig City, where his wife is the incumbent mayor.

“Let us not be blinded by strong ratings and political propaganda. The President would only have peace of mind if he knows that the next president will continue his reforms,” Cayetano said.

“Choosing the next chief executive in the 2016 elections will be crucial. It will determine if we will continue to move forward or go back to a GMA-type of governance where protest and instability were constant because of widespread corruption,” he added, referring to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sen. JV Ejercito also believes that in a true democracy, the people should be given a choice of who would lead the nation and not just be stuck with only one option.

“I think that’s the essence of democracy. We cannot have only one candidate or party. As fiscalizers, it will be a good thing to have our own candidate, to present an alternative government to the present administration,” Ejercito said, referring to UNA where Binay is one of the leaders.

Scenario building

UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco, meanwhile, warned LP stalwarts against creating scenarios that could spark a constitutional crisis.

“The recent talks about term extensions, impeachments and removals are distortions purposely meant to trigger a political crisis and pressure Congress to approve the P2.265-trillion proposed 2015 national budget – all for the intents and purposes of the 2016 agenda,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco said the political noise may be meant to divert the public’s attention from the “election war chest” in the proposed 2015 national budget, and to pressure the Supreme Court into acting favorably on the administration’s demands.

“There is a faction within the LP that will do anything to pursue their selfish agenda. There’s a group clamoring for the President to seek another term, and continue with their happy days, and some see these events as a forum to seek fiscal leverage,” Tiangco said.

He also assailed the President’s spokespersons for issuing conflicting statements on Charter change. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Marvin Sy