MANILA, Philippines - It’s the final word.
Malacañang brushed aside yesterday speculation that President Aquino would change his mind against seeking a second term, which would require a constitutional amendment.
“The President is known to be a leader who always speaks truthfully,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office told The STAR.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda had a similar message to doubters, saying, “The President has stated that term extension is not the right solution.”
On Tuesday, hours after announcing that he was not planning to seek any term extension, Aquino faced members of the military and spoke at length about the need to make the most of one’s time to be able to teach the younger people and leave a better nation.
He also said public trust could only be maintained if they would always choose the right path.
“Let me repeat my philosophy: we will pass by this life once. If we are not able to contribute anything by the time God says, ‘finished or not finished, pass your paper,’ what would you feel? Versus (the confidence) to say ‘I did everything I could’,” Aquino said.
“And if that is our attitude, why would we be far from where we want to go?” Aquino said in his impromptu speech during the 45th Armed Forces of the Philippines Sergeant Major and 19th Non-Commissioned Officers Day in Malacañang.
Aquino earlier told a group of businessmen that having six more years in office was not the “right solution” to sustain the country’s growth, but choosing the next leader wisely.
“After 2016, then perhaps I will vote for the right candidate and if I can ask you also to discern properly as to who is extolling populist sentiments with no substance as opposed to those who not only say the right things but whom you can trust to deliver the same,” Aquino told the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI) during its 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership meeting in Makati City.
During the 40th Philippine Business Conference and Expo in Manila last Friday, Aquino also hinted before local investors that he did not have any more plans to extend his term as he reverted back to saying that he was in the “last two minutes” of his administration.
‘In the interest of his bosses’
Vice President Jejomar Binay was glad that Aquino finally spoke against seeking another term.
“We are glad that the President has reaffirmed his deference to his late mother’s Freedom Constitution by categorically ruling out the Charter change that would have allowed him to seek a second term,” Binay’s spokesman Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla said.
Remulla stressed Binay’s solid track record makes him a worthy successor to Aquino.
“We fully agree with him that his successor should be someone you can trust to deliver what he promises. Such trust can be earned only with a solid record of actual performance,” Remulla said.
Binay had made it plain that he is seeking the presidency in 2016.
“The Vice President does not need to be coy about his past record or his future intentions. Unlike others, he has nothing to hide from our people,” Remulla said.
Lawmakers said President Aquino apparently abandoned his plan to seek a second term because he finally realized that Filipinos are strongly against it.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the statement of the President rejecting the possibility of a second term for him shows he always listens to the sentiments of his “bosses.”
“Our President always listens to his bosses. He looks at the results of the surveys. He acts according to the interests of the nation,” Drilon said.
Drilon said the President must have seen the issue of a possible term extension would be very divisive and so he has brushed this aside in spite of calls for him to seek a second term in 2016.
“Finally, Aquino listened to the people,” Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco said. “Having a second term is not allowed by the Constitution and Filipinos don’t want the Constitution to be tampered with for just one man.”
Sen. JV Ejercito welcomed the statement of the President as the correct thing to do because a second term for him will not be the right solution towards economic growth.
“I concur with the President that a second term may create political turmoil and divisiveness, and is counter-productive in attaining economic development,” Ejercito said.
He urged the groups advocating a second term for the President to now stop their efforts since the President has already spoken on the issue.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza welcomed Aquino’s pronouncement, saying it spared the country from divisive politicking and plunging into a constitutional crisis.
“I welcome that he was able to overcome all these whispers by people around him, who appear to be well-meaning but only want to remain in power,” Atienza said.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a senior administration lawmaker, said Aquino made the pronouncements “since there is no more time to amend the constitutional ban for a second term for the President.”
“When the President uttered the presidency is not the solution, he is just reiterating that his bosses – the Filipino people – would be the key for the progress of our nation,” he said.
Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), lauded Aquino’s commitment to step down in June 2016.
“The political landscape is limited to those who are interested in running for the position, both in the administration and opposition,” Treñas said.
“I expect that statement from him, because I believe he does not have the greed to stay in power. And besides, he has done so many positive things for this country, for sure he does not want that people will misinterpret him,” Hataman added.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, for his part, said it was about time the President clarified that particular issue, considering a lot of parties have been speculating about what his actual stance is on the matter.
Aquino said he does not believe the efforts would have made any headway anyway since there has been no effort on the part of the Senate to amend the political provisions of the Constitution.
Aquino said the administration’s Liberal Party has its own candidate for the 2016 presidential election, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
“But with all the movements now, I think the people will also have to choose and (the party) will also have to listen to the people in the next couple of months. But for the LP, I think right now the presumptive candidate is Secretary Roxas,” he said.
Some Catholic bishops hailed President Aquino for making the “good decision.”
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said it was a “very good decision. Let him follow the 1987 Constitution framed during the presidency of his mother. His bosses, the people, do not want him to run again.”
Marbel South Cotabato Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez also believed President Aquino’s decision to abandon re-election was a good decision because the country is already in the midst of many problems and need adequate human, technical and financial resources.
“Of course, he should not seek a second term. There is no second term,” Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles added.
In Malacañang, the President told the sergeant majors during the occasion that their role was as bridge between old and new military officers, as well as mold the new ones.
“You will be the ones to pass on the knowledge to those who are younger than you,” Aquino said.
He urged them to be focused on “forward march” rather than be contented with marking time or a military step in which soldiers would march in place, moving their legs as in marching, but without stepping forward.
“If you are like me – I have one more year, two more years…We can also provide help to those who will follow us by (telling them about) our mistakes and they will benefit by not repeating them,” Aquino said.
“We can serve as father and guide. We will always go back to choices…crossroads; it can be for self-interest, it can be for the majority,” the President said.
He noted that those who were selfish would leave small parts for others to share or partake when everyone could help each other grow a bigger “pie” so a lot more people would benefit.
Aquino said they must have been chosen to do the job as sergeant majors because of their traits and abilities to become models to those who would follow their footsteps.
“And once we have done all of these, we can all look back together and say, ‘Once I leave this institution, it will be much better than what I found,’” Aquino said.
If it is the opposite, they would all have to face the mirror and tell themselves they contributed to the regression of an institution, he said. – Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan
Read more on The Philippine Star.