Palace: Spare Noy from 2016 politics

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang begged off yesterday from making further comment on the possibility of President Aquino extending his six-year term, urging the public to spare the Chief Executive from premature political wrangling on the 2016 elections.

“Let’s not preempt him. The President is busy and has other priorities in doing his job,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told state-run radio station dzRB.

Aquino has commended but not directly cited Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) in the May 2016 presidential elections, as the official who could help continue the reforms the President started.

He said the President continues to listen to his bosses – the people – as one of his guiding principles in good governance.

At the same time, Coloma denied the existence of factions within the Aquino Cabinet where they have apparently taken conflicting positions regarding the possibility of the President seeking another term and amending the 1987 Constitution.

Coloma stressed that it has been their policy to refrain from making statements that delve into political issues, and that they are leaving such to the individual spokespersons of the political parties concerned.

Over the weekend, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte denied reports that she said Aquino might still change his mind about running for president again, which contradicted what he declared all these years that he will step down in 2016.

“I would like to clarify that I never said that the President may change his mind,” said Valte.

But the text message she sent to reporters implied that Aquino might still change his mind, since she reminded the journalists of the late 2009 situation where Aquino was still nowhere in the equation, but nevertheless gave in to calls for him to run.

Valte’s statement, which is in sync with her boss Edwin Lacierda, contradicts the statements of Coloma that Aquino has no intention to extend his term beyond June 2016.

The contradicting positions taken by the Communications Group of Aquino highlighted anew the existing factionalism within the cabinet, where there are almost always varying positions on several issues, depending on who is talking.

Lacierda and Valte belong to the Balay group headed by Roxas (named after his family’s residence in Cubao, Quezon City) while Coloma is identified with the Samar group headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Both groups helped in the May 2010 campaign of Aquino, but each carried separate candidates for vice president – the Balay group for Roxas’ failed candidacy while the Samar faction got their candidate Jejomar Binay to emerge a winner.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Manuel Mamba expressed confidence that Aquino will definitely step down from office in June 2016.

“The President is too decent to entertain such thoughts. He will definitely step down in 2016.” He added.

Congressmen’s appeal

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian appealed to some of their colleagues to quit pushing for the President’s term extension through Charter change.

Advocates in the House of Representatives for easing the restrictions on foreign ownership in the Constitution to boost investments and generate jobs in the country said calls by some congressmen to extend Aquino’s term are giving the economic Charter change a bad rap.

House Resolution No. 1, which seeks to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, managed to hurdle public hearings without controversy a few months back and is set for plenary discussions this week. A counterpart measure pending at the Senate is authored by Sen. Ralph Recto.

Gatchalian said Congress should focus on economic Charter change rather than extending Aquino’s term limits, as the latter “can hurt the country’s opportunity for growth.”

“Clearly, if the President’s allies will continue pushing for an extension of his term, it will derail efforts to attract foreign investments and create much-needed jobs, and ultimately damage the country’s economic prospects,” he said.

Castelo said his colleagues should focus on strengthening the economy and upholding rights of the people before insisting on such politically divisive proposals.

He said while he concedes Aquino has created inroads in his campaign for integrity in public office, his legacy against corruption and effective governance could be destroyed if he seeks a term extension.

Earlier, Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II asked his colleagues, that include Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, to stop pushing for the removal of term limits.

Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo warned such proposals are distracting lawmakers from passing urgent bills, including reducing income taxes for ordinary workers.

Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance, urged LP stalwarts to stop creating scenarios that would spark a constitutional crisis.

“The recent talks about term extensions, impeachments and removals are distortions purposely meant to trigger a political crisis and pressure Congress to approve the P2.6-trillion proposed 2015 national budget all for the intents and purposes of the 2016 agenda,” Tiangco said. – With Paolo Romero, Charlie Lagasca


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