MANILA: 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 Philippines’ constitution restricts presidents to serving a single term of six years, designed to stop a repeat of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ two-decade reign that ended in a 1986 “people power” uprising.
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 night 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.
Aquino had been hoping his longtime ally and current Interior Secretary, Manuel Roxas, could contest the next elections and succeed him.
But surveys have consistently shown him to be unpopular with the electorate.
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.
The son of democracy champions Benigno and Corazon, 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 and been applauded for bringing consistently strong economic growth to the country.
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 did not specify that he wanted to change the constitution just to remove presidential term limits.
Instead, he said the constitution likely needed to be amended to limit the powers of the Supreme Court, which recently ruled that Aquino’s main budget stimulus programme was illegal. — AFP