PNoy open to charter change, lifting term limits

Posted at 08/14/14 1:15 AM

MANILA - President Benigno Aquino said on Wednesday he was considering constitutional changes including adjustment of term limits for officials that might allow him to serve a second six-year term.

The present constitution would limit Aquino, elected in 2010, to a single six-year term. The restriction was born of the country's experience of martial law under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for more than two decades.

Aquino, speaking in an interview with a local television network, was asked whether charter changes would allow him to seek a second term in 2016.

"When I got into this, I remembered it is for one term of six years," he replied.

"Now after having said that, of course I have to listen to my bosses," he added, using his usual reference to the Filipino people. "But that doesn't mean...that I will automatically chase after another term, right?"

It was Aquino's first comment on reconsidering his stated position against amending the constitution passed during the term of his mother Corazon, who was closely associated with the re-establishment of a democratic order.

Any constitutional amendment would require a vote of three quarters in Congress and convocation of a constitutional convention. Aquino's allies currently dominate both houses of Congress.

Past presidents have considered charter amendments, but faced intense public criticism for attempting to extend their term of office. Aquino, who has put in place reforms in the fiscal sector that earned the country its first investment grade rating, is likely to face similar public reaction.

Some legislators, including the speaker of the lower chamber of Congress, have actively pushed for changes to the constitution, particularly to economic provisions that capped foreign investments into the country.

Recently, Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas, a chief ally of Aquino and one of the leaders of the administration party, voiced his personal opinion Aquino should seek a second term.

Aquino also said charter changes would allow for a review of the courts' powers as a check on other branches of government.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that a government move to use budget savings for stimulus spending without congressional appropriation was unconstitutional, sparking debates on whether Aquino was indeed committed to his anti-corruption promises, since the money funded legislators pet projects. (Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; editing by Ralph Boulton)