Give Miriam a chance, Bernas tells PNoy

by Kathlyn dela Cruz,

Posted at Aug 26 2014 10:46 PM | Updated as of Oct 19 2016 06:15 PM

Fr. Bernas warns PNoy on lifting term limits, weakening SC

MANILA - Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said the proposal to lift the term limit of President Benigno Aquino III is against the spirit of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino.

Speaking to ANC's "Beyond Politics" on Tuesday, Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, explained that the rationale behind the prohibition of the reelection of a president was to get rid of the 1973 Constitution's dictatorial provisions.

"[It was] to prevent a person from perpetuating himself in power. That's basically it," he said.

He added that the 1987 Constitution, which was passed during the term of Aquino's mother, restricts a president to a single term of six years to prevent a repeat of the 20-year regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

"That's why the move now to have PNoy reelected is very much against the spirit of the ConCom, very much against Cory herself," he stressed.

Bernas said if Aquino, who has expressed openness to amending the Constitution, indeed moves to change term limits for officials, "that may be his undoing."

"Six years is long enough. As they say, four years is short for a good president, but six is long for a bad president," he warned.

He said if he were to give an advice on Aquino on the matter, he only has this to say: "Magpahinga ka na. There are other good people."

"Give Miriam [Santiago] naman a chance," he said laughingly.


Bernas also warned that clipping the powers of the Supreme Court (SC) would be "very dangerous."

Aquino had said that he was considering constitutional changes to address what he called as "judicial overreach."

His statement came after the high court declared as unconstitutional several acts and practices under his administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"Weakening the Supreme Court, I think, would be very dangerous. That would be very dangerous. Enabling the president to control members of the Supreme Court, to certain extent, happened under Marcos," Bernas said.

"I think we should keep the Supreme Court independent," he added.

He also noted that he does not see any "overreach" on the part of the high court on its ruling on the controversial DAP.

He said the SC merely "followed the letter of the law," which states that the executive can only use and transfer money to other agencies within the same branch if this is in the form of savings and is appropriated under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

"I think Aquino will regret that he said that (move to clip SC's powers). He can't do it anyway, he cannot succeed. I don't think he will get the support," Bernas said.


Meanwhile, a legal expert and a business leader also weighed in on the issue of Charter change.

Makati Business Club (MBC) chairman Ramon Del Rosario said calls for six more years for Aquino could undermine the gains of his administration.

He added that while the business community strongly supports amending the Charter's economic provisions, an MBC survey showed that 71-percent of its members oppose a second term for Aquino.

"On term extension or a second term, I really hope that the President backs off categorically from it, so that he can focus the last 23 months of his term on the real institutionalization of reforms that we need so badly," he said.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Vicente Joyas said the group disagrees with efforts to clip the powers of the judiciary.

"The moment the power of the Supreme Court is clipped in such a way that the power of judicial review is removed or deleted, then there may be some abuses on the part of the executive," he said.