Belmonte to Aquino: Just focus on last 2 years
MANILA, Philippines – When asked whether he is in favor of revising the Constitution to allow President Benigno Aquino III to run for a second term in 2016, the leader of the House of Representatives replied in the negative.
"No. In the first place, at this stage of the game, it's really quite a very divisive thing," Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
"Everybody seems to be forgetting" the context of how the 1987 Constitution was framed, Belmonte said.
"Everybody there really thought of – this was in the aftermath of the martial law – [how to] put all sorts of controls there to avoid repetition. That's why we introduced the question of term limits," Belmonte said.
The 1987 Constitution was created under the administration of Aquino's mother, former president Corazon Aquino, who assumed office after former president Ferdinand Marcos was ousted through a people power uprising.
During a television interview, Aquino had expressed openness to run for a 2nd term. Two weeks later, Aquino took a step back. In a radio interview, he said he envisions himself stepping down in 2016 but that he will still "listen to what the bosses want." Aquino refers to the public as his "boss."
Despite moves from Liberal Party lawmakers to push for a 2nd term for Aquino, Belmonte has remained firm that the House will only tackle proposals to amend economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which is presently in the period of debates in the plenary.
While House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II has acknowledged that a lawmaker cannot be stopped from filing a bill to amend term limits or suggest similar provisions during the period of amendments for economic charter change, both House leaders have said political charter change is not a House priority.
With the proposal unlikely to pass in the House, Belmonte has advice for Aquino.
"Just concentrate on doing the most we can during these last two years. You have built so much in the first 4 years. Let me tell you that a lot of these things that have happened over the past 4 years could not have happened if you have a president who is used to covering things up. The type of leadership he has is the type that gets things out. Let's continue it," Belmonte said.
Aquino's pronouncements on charter change and term extensions took the House leadership by surprise as Aquino had consistently opposed charter change before. Belmonte himself has so far failed to get the President's stamp of approval for economic charter change.
Asked what he believes is the motivation of the President in issuing those statements, Belmonte replied, "Maybe he was thinking really of putting in the minds of the people that we need to continue this reform kind of presidency."
While the Liberal Party has no official standard bearer for the 2016 national elections yet, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas is the party's acknowledged leading presidential bet.
Belmonte's charter change proposal seeks to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution by way of legislation to give Congress the leeway to lift restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses and land.
It will not automatically lift the ban on foreign ownerships. Instead, the resolution seeks to insert the phrase "as may be provided for by law" in at least 7 sections of the Constitution to allow the next Congress to pass laws amending foreign ownership limits.
"In other words, we keep the door locked but we have a key in this fast changing globalizing competitive world, we have the key in the hands of Congress and the President. We have the key if necessary," Belmonte said. (READ: House begins plenary debate on economic cha-cha)
Belmonte said the proposal would allow Congress to pass enabling laws permitting up to 100% foreign ownership of educational institutions, mass media and private lands, among others.
The proposal is designed to make the Philippines as competitive as its ASEAN neighbors, the Speaker said. But the passage of such measures would be "up to the next Congress to decide," he said.
"First of all, we don't have the time. We probably don't have enough expertise right now. We just want to see to it that the entire Philippines is not handcuffed at a time when its neighbors are Pacquiao-punching around and we are the ones whose hands are tied," Belmonte said - Rappler.com