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Analysis

Pulse Asia survey emphatic ‘no’ to term extension

/ 03:21 AM October 06, 2014

A recent survey found that six out of every 10 adult Filipinos, or 62 percent, do not want a second term for President Aquino should the 1987 Constitution be amended.

On Thursday, Pulse Asia released results of a survey it conducted from Sept. 8 to 16 showing that Filipinos emphatically opposed the extension of Mr. Aquino’s term for another six years beyond 2016.

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The results were released amid growing concerns over the President’s admission that he was open to suggestions that his term be extended for a number of reasons.

One reason is to enable him to give continuity to his governance reforms and to clip the Supreme Court’s power to review decisions of the executive branch. Mr. Aquino claims that this power of the high court has threatened to “paralyze” economic initiatives of the President.

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The survey results showed widespread rejection to extension moves across all economic classes and regions. Campaigns calling for reelection or term extension have been launched in print and social media without endorsement from the President, who has been ambivalent about his plans after the termination of his term in 2016.

He has refused to say whether he is going to seek a second term but says he would listen to his “bosses” or his constituents.

While the President remains ambiguous and evasive, there was nothing ambiguous about the public sentiments regarding the contentious issue of term extension or Charter change (Cha-cha) involved in the process.

Uncertainty

The widespread rejection of Cha-cha comes as Mr. Aquino winds down his first term, with the nation facing uncertainty over the succession to the presidency—whether it would be disruptive or smooth. Only four out of every 10 adult Filipinos, or 38 percent, favor a second term in 2016.

What is clear, from the survey, are:

— A sizable majority do not want the 1987 Constitution to be amended in order to clip the Supreme Court’s power of review and to permit foreign corporations to own residential and industrial lands in the country.

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— Seven out of 10 adult Filipinos, or 70 percent, are not in favor of amending the Constitution to limit the high court’s power to review executive branch decisions;

— Eight out of 10 adults in the country, or 85 percent, oppose amendments to the Constitution to permit foreign ownership of lands in the Philippines.

In an interview in August, the President said he was open to amend the Constitution to check the power of the Supreme Court.

“Before all these happened, I admit I had a closed mind. But now I realized that there is judicial overreach,” the President told a TV interview. “Congress and the executive may act but they can be punished anytime.”

Pulse Asia said its survey was conducted amid various events (that may have influenced public reactions), such as the Senate inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building; dismissal of the three impeachment complaints against Mr. Aquino by the House justice committee; the President’s request for emergency powers to address the impending power crisis; transmittal of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress; and increasing number of crimes involving policemen.

Writing on wall

With all these issues confronting the administration, it was not clear how Mr. Aquino would respond to the results of the survey.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, speaking on behalf of Mr. Aquino, said the President “will see the writing on the wall” and heed what would seem to be an emerging people’s will in surveys showing large numbers opposing a second term.

He added that the President had said he would listen to the voice of the people. “He always listens to the voice of the people, his bosses. On this matter, he will listen.”

But Drilon qualified his statement, saying the President was opposed to the idea of amending the Constitution just to lift term limits—an essential step for Mr. Aquino to qualify to run again. “As far as I know, the President is averse to any constitutional amendment, which will give him an opportunity to run again,” he said.

However, a group identified as responsible for placing advertisements in newspapers calling on the President to seek a second term announced that it was launching a signature campaign—to gather two million signatures to persuade Mr. Aquino to say, “My boss orders me to run again.”

Whose voices will Mr. Aquino heed this time—those polled by survey groups or those claiming to support the continuity of his reforms?

The latter are echoing verbatim the arguments of the President’s apologists for term extension, which are music to his ears.

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TAGS: Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, Philippines, presidential term, Pulse Asia survey, second term, term extension
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