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No ‘party position’ on Cha-Cha

“Continuity” was the theme sounded by three congressmen, all stalwarts of the Liberal Party, at yesterday’s “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel.”

Representatives Edgar Erice of Caloocan, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Mel Sarmiento of Western Samar (also LP secretary general), all stoutly denied that the party is supporting President Aquino’s supposed intention to amend the Constitution so that he could seek a second term.

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And yet all three also agreed that “if and when” charter change becomes reality, they would support moves to approve a term extension, not just for P-Noy but for local officials as well.

“So much still needs to be done,” said Erice, who has early on courted controversy with his public support for an extension of P-Noy’s term. Expressing support for everything that the President has done and is doing in his remaining year or so in office, Erice said “continuity” is something “the President can best pursue.”

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Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, perceived as the LP’s choice for presidential candidate in 2016, will only be “second best,” said the Caloocan representative. (Although to be fair, Roxas has also publicly expressed support for a second P-Noy term—via Charter change.)

Still, Sarmiento made clear that there is still no “party position” regarding moves to amend the Constitution to make possible, among other things, a second term for P-Noy.

“There has been no party caucus on this or any other issue recently,” Sarmiento clarified. The last time members had met as a party, he said, was when they discussed their position on the Reproductive Health Law, where an agreement to abide by a “conscience vote” was forged. Whatever position they take on amending the Constitution and thereby allowing P-Noy a second term will be a “personal” one.

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BUT EVEN as they sought to distance the LP from all talk of Charter change or term extension, the three congressmen all agreed that, one, there is a need to “revisit” the 1987 Constitution as there are some provisions that need amending as these have been causing confusion in many instances; and two, that voters will do the country a favor by voting for LP candidates at all levels of governance in 2016.

Erice, who seems to have appointed himself the party provocateur, said the choice is “clear.” Referring to the United Nationalist Alliance or UNA, the main opposition party, he said the opposition’s leaders “have either been indicted or convicted of plunder.” Which may be the reason, he said, that Vice President Jojo Binay, who ran under UNA auspices in 2010, “is now distancing himself from the UNA,” whose base is composed mainly of supporters of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino formed by former president and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.

Responding to rumors of a “rift” among LP members who support different figures for the 2016 polls, Evardone denied that there is a “frontrunner” among the party leaders. “The LP is solid behind the President and his reform agenda,” he said, dismissing all talk to the contrary as mere “intrigue,” adding that “the LP is 100-percent solid behind P-Noy.”

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WHICH is not all that reassuring for those who fear that “tinkering” with the 1987 Constitution would open the door to all sorts of mayhem.

In a statement, the members of the group called Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), while acknowledging that during their stints under various presidents, moves to amend the Constitution had likewise been pursued, nevertheless warned that such moves “had undesirable consequences.” “Governance was disrupted, the media became unduly adversarial, and the general public was dismayed by fears of dictatorship,” as indeed has become the case.

“While the general character of this administration may admittedly be different from those of the past president,” the FSGO said, “the public’s distrust of self-serving moves to amend the Constitution remains strong and admirable.”

Indeed, I’m inclined to believe that the recent statement of P-Noy that he was leaving it up to his “bosses” to decide on another term for him was simply his way of avoiding becoming a “lame duck” as he enters his last year in office. But all this talk of constitutional amendments and term extension have stirred the political pot, and while it may have been his intention to keep his critics off-balanced, he has likewise upset the equanimity of those who voted for him in the belief that he would be “different” from his predecessors.

Truly, for him that so much has been given, including a legacy of public service and historic significance, much is expected. And while he may feel constrained to play political games for now, he risks damaging the goodwill of so many merely to irritate the smug certainties of a few.

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TOMORROW while the country recalls once again the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino and the changes this ushered in, the Ninoy Aquino Movement will recall the heroism of many other men and women who “took the plunge” in the aftermath of Ninoy’s assassination to organize and galvanize the Filipino people.

To be awarded “medals of valor” to represent the various sectors involved in the anti-Marcos, post-Ninoy assassination protests are Vice President Binay representing the volunteer and human rights lawyers; Fernando Pena for the young (at the time) freedom fighters; Dr. Alejandro Roces for artists/educators; Charito Planas representing Laban candidates and allies; Arnold Zeitlin for the foreign media; the Human Rights Policy Center founded by former US president Jimmy Carter; and Michael Posner for the International Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights.

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TAGS: Ben Evardone, Bulong-Pulungan sa Sofitel, charter change, Eastern Samar, edgar erice, Jojo Binay, Liberal Party, Mel Sarmiento, Western Samar
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