MANILA, Philippines - Former President Fidel Ramos described yesterday moves to amend political provisions of the Constitution to allow President Aquino to stay beyond 2016 as an “old tune.”
Ramos said Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, who intends to run for president in 2016, should just concentrate on amending the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.
“That’s an old tune that should not be revived by anyone. Except for the amendment of the economic provisions for increased competitiveness of the Philippines. It is for the economy,” Ramos said over radio dzRH.
“The President and the Vice President must talk about this (Charter change) but only about amendments of economic provisions. Let the private sector and private citizens like me talk about it,” he said.
The former president also advised Malacañang spokespersons to refrain from talking about Charter change, saying it was inappropriate.
When asked about the possible motives behind Aquino’s term extension bid, he said it was obviously “personal and political.”
“I don’t want to speculate. Just ask the ‘kamag-anak’ (relatives),” he added.
Ramos also suggested Charter change to dismantle political dynasties and not wait for Congress to pass a law for the purpose.
As his six-year term drew to a close in 1998, Ramos tried pushing for amendments to the Constitution, not only to ease restrictions on foreign ownership but to also change the form of government to a unicameral parliamentary system.
The move to change the form of government, however, was seen as an effort to extend his term by becoming prime minister and was strongly opposed by his predecessor, the late President Corazon Aquino.
Ramos, however, said the Constitution could be amended for the sake of the country’s economy and to end political dynasties.
‘Enough time for political Cha-cha’
For administration lawmaker Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, any Charter change initiative at this time should be confined to allowing President Aquino to seek a second six-year term.
“Because of time and funding constraints, Charter change should be limited to amending the provision of the Constitution on the term limit for the President and possibly some economic provisions,” he said.
To expedite Charter change, he said the Senate and the House of Representatives convened as a constituent assembly (con-ass) should propose the amendments.
“We can still do it. We have one year to do it. As soon as there is consensus from both chambers on Cha-cha, we can begin our work as a constituent assembly. We can have the plebiscite middle of next year,” he added.
Evardone pointed out the people would accept Charter change if it is limited to giving the President two six-year terms or a total of 12 years in office.
He stressed that lifting the term limits for members of Congress and local officials would complicate Charter change and strengthen opposition to it.
Evardone, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Party, supported the proposal to lift the one-term limit for the President so Aquino could seek a second term.
“A second term will allow PNoy to pursue the governance and economic reforms he has initiated, and to keep the country on the growth path. We cannot allow these reforms to be stalled by headwinds,” he said.
Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, the principal advocate of con-ass as Charter change mode, said he is now consulting with colleagues on his proposal.
Sen. Francis Escudero, on the other hand, does not agree with the proposal of term extension by constitutional amendment as well as moves to cripple the power of the judiciary.
Escudero said it is clear the Filipino people will not approve such moves to extend the term of the President and other elected public officials as well as amend the Constitution for such purpose and eventually cripple the high tribunal.
“The President is my friend but I could not go for such moves,” he said.
President Aquino earlier said he would go for term extension as well as reducing the power of the SC and change the 1987 Constitution.
‘No more time, funding’
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said amending the Constitution to allow Aquino to run in 2016 is no longer possible due to lack of time and budget constraints.
“There is no more time to conduct a revision or amendment of the Constitution and no budget or funds to defray the cost of electing delegates to a constitutional convention and the cost of conducting a plebiscite for the voters to approve or reject the amendment,” he said.
While the Constitution allows amendment or revision upon a vote of three-fourths of all members of Congress, there is still that unresolved issue among senators and congressmen on whether they would vote jointly or separately, Macalintal pointed out.
“But whatever mode of amendment or revision of the Constitution that might be adopted to allow Aquino to run for reelection in 2016, time and budgetary constraints are obstacles to its successful implementation,” he added.
Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said Aquino’s bid to extend his term was meant to escape accountability from the illegal and unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
They vowed to vigorously oppose any measure in Congress to amend the Constitution and called on the people “to protest in their millions and frustrate the dictatorial ambition of Aquino.”
Zarate said there is no clamor at all from the people to extend his term.
Militant groups are set to hold protest actions against Charter change and moves to extend the term of President Aquino on Aug. 25.
A group of overseas Filipino workers is also mounting a campaign against Charter change. – With Jess Diaz, Edith Regalado, Sheila Crisostomo, Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva, Danny Dangcalan