Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino says he may try to change constitution so he can run again

President says he could seek to change constitution so he can run again

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 5:21pm

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has said he may try to change the constitution and serve a second term in office, a stunning announcement in a nation haunted by dictatorship.

The Philippine constitution restricts presidents to serving a single term of six years, a clause designed to stop a repeat of dictator Ferdinand Marcos' two-decade reign that ended in a 1986 "people power" uprising.

It doesn’t automatically mean I will go after an additional term

Aquino insisted for many years he was against constitutional change and that he would step aside when his term ended in 2016, but in a television interview aired on Wednesday evening he indicated he was reconsidering.

"When I first got into this, I noted I had only one term of six years. Now, after having said that, of course I have to listen to the voice of my bosses," he said on the ABC-5 network.

Aquino, 54, frequently calls Filipinos his "bosses".

The president said he was considering the highly controversial move because he wanted to ensure his political reforms did not end with the conclusion of his first term in office.

Nevertheless, Aquino emphasised that he had made no definite plans to try and stay in power for 12 years.

"It doesn't automatically mean I will go after an additional term," he said.

Aquino would have to go through a long and complicated process to change the constitution, with any of three potential methods having to be approved by a referendum requiring simple majority support.

Aquino enjoyed a landslide election victory in 2010 on a promise to stamp out widespread corruption blamed for massive poverty.

He has won international plaudits for his good governance programme but the high popularity ratings he enjoyed for the first half of his term have begun to slide sharply amid a slew of corruption and political controversies.

Aquino also said the constitution probably needed to be amended to limit the powers of the Supreme Court, which recently ruled that Aquino's main budget stimulus programme was illegal.

"Before all these things happened, I was closed to (constitutional change). I admit that. But now, I'm seriously rethinking things," Aquino said, in reference to the court's budget ruling.

He complained the Supreme Court now had the power to overrule Congress and the executive.

Vice-President Jejomar Binay, leader of the main opposition alliance, has been the clear front-runner to win the 2016 elections.

Binay gave a measured reaction to Aquino's move, stating he respected the president's decision to "hear the voice of the people".

"[But] what is important is that the voice he hears is an authentic and genuine voice, not one manufactured by quarters with vested interests who are driven mainly by self-preservation," Binay said.