Belmonte remains doubtful to calls extending Aquino term

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

HOUSE Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. remained non-committal to the moves by some lawmakers to amend the Constitution to allow President Benigno Aquino III to stay in Malacanang beyond 2016.

Belmonte who is the primary author of the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 1, which seeks to amend only the economic provisions of the Constitution, said that the House of Representatives may face a very difficult task of lifting the term limits of a sitting president.

The House leader's proposal only focused in lifting the economic restrictions on foreign ownership in the 1987 Constitution by inserting the phrase "Unless Provided by Law" particularly on Sections 2, 3, 7, 10, and 11 of Article 12 (National Patrimony and Economy); Section 4 of Article 14 (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports); and Section 11 of Article 16 (General Provisions).


House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Representative Neptali Gonzales II, for his part, expressed reservations over the proposal, but noted that Belmonte's initiative will be the "collateral damage" since it would be difficult to pursue amendments that would touch on the political provisions of the Constitution.

Gonzales said the proposal made by Caloocan City Representative Edgardo Erice to file a constitutional amendment that will enable Aquino to run again will surely hamper the economic Charter change (Cha-cha) proposal of Belmonte.

Last March, Belmonte said that the Congress will strictly tackle only the economic provisions of the Constitution and vowed to cancel the proceedings if provisions for amending the term limits will be inserted.

Belmonte alongside with 94 other lawmakers signed a manifesto proposed by the independent minority bloc of Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, which guarantee the public that only the economic provision of the 1987 Constitution will be amended once members of the House of Representative started their plenary debate for the economic Cha-Cha.

Romualdez said the proposal to allow Aquino to seek a second term was self-serving as he predicted that the people would go up against his position.

"Should the President support call for his second term, it means he disregarded his own principle because of the desire to stay in power," Romualdez said.

Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza and Abakada party-list Representative Jonathan de la Cruz, both members of Romualdez faction, slammed the chief executive, saying he should not divide the nation.

"It just confirms what the public has been fearing that all along starting with the Bangsamoro Basic Law framework, proposed amendment of the economic provisions and the strip tease over the 2016 elections were part of a grand plan to lull and deceive our people and divert attention from the grave problems facing the country and our people," said de la Cruz.

For his part, Atienza said, "Charter change to improve economic provisions, yes, but to tinker with term limits, no."

Meanwhile, though the House leadership appears to be cool to the idea of lifting the President's term limit, other top officials of the Liberal Party members supports it.

Erice said Aquino "cannot just let the process of transformation and progress be wasted as the remnants of the traditional corrupt leaders are salivating on the prospect of returning to their old ways."

The Caloocan lawmaker is reportedly a very close associate of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and a staunch critic of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is eyeing the presidency in 2016.

Eastern Samar Ben Evardone, meanwhile, welcomed President Aquino's statement that he is now open to Cha-cha.

"I filed a resolution in the (previous) 15th Congress to precisely amend several economic, political and constitutional provisions to enable our country to pursue meaningful and lasting fundamental reforms," he said. (Sunnex)

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