MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives is expected to speed up approval of a resolution seeking to amend restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to insulate it from attempts to extend the term of President Aquino.
A senior administration lawmaker, who is also a proponent of economic Charter change (Cha-cha), said he got word from the House leadership that plenary discussions on Resolution of Both Houses 1 (RBH 1) will resume soon.
“We must pass the resolution as soon as possible to protect it from politicking or else we’ll be accused of breaking our word to the people that the House will only work on economic Charter reforms, no political provisions, or (lifting of) term limits, of which the people have always been wary,” the lawmaker, who declined to be identified, said.
RBH 1 seeks to ease restrictions on some provisions of Articles XII (National Economy and Patrimony), XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions) of the Constitution. It has a counterpart measure in the Senate authored by Sen. Ralph Recto.
The resolution, of which Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is among the authors, also seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the selected provisions, which means the restrictions on foreign ownership will remain until Congress passes a measure removing them.
The lawmaker said RBH 1 “must be dissociated and distinguished” from moves to extend Aquino’s term.
He also expressed fears the resolution would be “hijacked” by some colleagues for their political agenda if it will not be immediately passed.
The lawmaker said the measure is urgent to jumpstart the inflow of foreign investments and stem unemployment in the country.
The resolution was approved by the committee on constitutional amendments in March, and sponsored in plenary by Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, chairperson of the House committee on constitutional amendments, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga in May.
Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II confirmed yesterday that plenary discussions on RBH 1 will resume next week but declined to say whether its approval will be fast-tracked.
He said plenary debates on the resolution should have resumed shortly after the second regular session of Congress opened last July 28 but Garcia-Albano had urgent family matters to attend to in recent weeks.
“The economic Cha-cha resolution and the anti-political dynasty bill are two important bills that are in the plenary already, so the House plenary must act on them,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales earlier warned that any move to tamper with the political provisions of the Constitution would endanger the passage of RBH 1.
P-Noy is dreaming – Chiz
Sen. Francis Escudero said Aquino is “dreaming” when he expressed support for amendments to the Constitution to enable him to continue serving beyond the six-year term set by the 1987 Constitution.
“The President is free to dream,” he told reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel in Manila.
He added that extending the term of the President beyond 2016 is just “kathang isip” or a product of imagination and not based on political realities.
Escudero said the President may be a good person and has good intentions in his desire to serve the people, but has no monopoly on the presidency.
He said extending the term of the President, which was floated by hardcore Liberal Party (LP) members, could just be a trial balloon to get the pulse of the people.
He said the proposal could also be a diversionary tactic and meant to assure the public that the President is not a lame duck in the remaining two years of his administration.
Escudero said past presidents also floated term limit extensions when their popularity ratings were going down.
Nothing to clarify
Senate President Franklin Drilon said there is nothing the President has to clarify regarding Cha-cha.
He said the President never said anything about extending his term beyond 2016 or pushing for any amendments to the Constitution during his term.
“The President did not say that he is for a second term. I was reading the transcript of the TV5 interview, there was nothing there that said that the President is interested in a second term,” Drilon said.
“Malacañang has already said the President will not push for Charter amendments during his term. I think the issue is over. We keep on beating a dead horse,” he added.
He said that the President has been very clear about his position on the matter and his spokespersons have made it clear that he will not push for an amendment of the Constitution.
Drilon said LP has no official stand on the issue, adding that they have not discussed the issue in any of their meetings.
An LP member said his partymates from the House are still awaiting word from the higher ups on whether or not the party will come up with an official position.
None of the parties belonging to the pro-administration bloc in the House have likewise declared support for extending Aquino’s term.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rodel Batocabe of party-list group Ako Bicol said Cha-cha advocates in the House of Representatives are afraid of the possibility of a Binay presidency after Aquino’s term.
“They are concerned that if Vice President (Jejomar) Binay wins the presidency in 2016, he would not continue the reforms put in place by the Aquino administration,” he told reporters.
He said most of those who have expressed this concern are administration allies.
“Their support for Cha-cha is driven more by their apprehension of a Binay presidency than their desire to see President Aquino stay in office longer than his term of six years,” he said.
“They feel that with the vice president, having been accused of corruption in the case of a P1.5-billion Makati City parking building, and with his allies facing plunder charges, the reforms, particularly on the economic front, achieved by the administration would be reversed,” he said.
He added that Cha-cha supporters would not have the same apprehensions if Aquino would be anointing a presidential candidate who could beat Binay in 2016.
Binay had long ago announced that he would run for president in the next elections, saying becoming the country’s top leader has been his dream since childhood.
Batocabe said he supports Aquino and would want him to continue in office.
“I like him, he has done so many good things for our country. But I cannot agree to Cha-cha to allow him to seek a second term because as a lawyer, I am for the stability of the Constitution and our democratic institutions,” he said.
“If we do that, it will set a bad precedent. Every time we have a new issue, we would want to tinker with the Constitution. More than personalities, we should protect the Constitution,” he said.
He added that to ensure that the administration’s reforms would be continued, voters should choose the right successor to Aquino in 2016.
“If we do not make the right choice, it will backfire on us. We deserve the government that we elect,” he said.
Retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani said the President is “hallucinating” and it is one of the reasons why he should not be given a second term.
In an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas, he also doubted the supposed clamor for Aquino to stay in power beyond 2016.
“I have very strong objections and the people as well. The fact that he is open to a second term is one of the strong reasons why he should not be given a second term dahil nakikita ko nahihibang na siya talaga,” he said.
“Mar Roxas said that there is a clamor. But where is the clamor coming from? They say the clamor is coming from the people but this is already a kahibangan,” he added.
He urged the people to speak out against efforts to extend Aquino’s term, saying it would only “ruin the legacy of his parents.”
“He will ruin his name and he would ruin the country,” he said. – With Perseus Echeminada, Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan