Editorial: Continuity

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EVERY president after Corazon Aquino has flirted with the idea of staying in office beyond the single, six-year term that the Constitution allows. Until recently, it seemed that her son, President Benigno Aquino III, would be the exception. Not anymore.

In a recent TV5 interview, the President said that if a revised Constitution should allow it, he would be open to another term, provided that was what the people, his “bosses”, wanted.

It’s not surprising for leaders to pine for more time as the end of their term approaches. There’s the nagging awareness of things still undone, the belief that no one else can make their vision come alive, and the desire to protect gains already won. That’s what we get from a way of practicing politics that draws more from the strength of personalities, rather than institutions.


Add to all that presidential immunity, a tremendous incentive, and one can easily understand the temptation to linger.

Yet neither progress nor protection from lawsuits is guaranteed by a longer stay in office, as former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s experience shows.

And President Aquino needs only to remember his father’s example, to silence any voices prodding him to seek a longer term.

Before his death 31 years ago, the former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. reportedly intended, upon his return from exile, to seek an audience with Ferdinand Marcos.

“Since Marcos had achieved everything—wealth and power—he (Aquino) could convince him to consider history,” Mark R. Thompson wrote in “The Anti-Marcos Struggle.” Aquino supposedly meant to tell Marcos, “If you restore democracy, your place in history is assured.”

History has left us with no way of knowing whether Ninoy Aquino could have succeeded, or whether he, too, would have sacrificed his presidential ambitions once the Marcos regime had collapsed.

But history, too, has been kind to Ninoy Aquino; his son can draw comfort from that, while he comes to terms with having less than two years left to make a lasting mark.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 20, 2014.


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