I could take the easy path and highlight the irony (which likely flies over most Filipinos’ pointed heads) in how Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III and his supporters are now taking a position similar to the one his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was reviled for in the closing days of her administration — gunning for a term extension.But that’s not what I’m going to go into today. Seeing that every pundit and celebrity and their dogs have weighed in on whether or not this is even possible, there really is no point. As Vice President Jejomar Binay himself said a while back, in politics, anything is possible. It is really more a question of will and money than right or wrong, legal or illegal. The short of it is that things get done in the Philippines not because of what is good for the greater public but rather because someone powerful is backing said things.
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The better question to ask in light of these debates is whether or not a second term for President BS Aquino will be in the best interests of the Philippines.
Keeping consistent with the grand tradition of Philippine elections, it is quite tempting to think of President BS Aquino as “the lesser evil”. The key lament of his supporters is all about who can sustain the supposed “reforms” BS Aquino had supposedly initiated during this first term — evidently implying that no one among the current crop of “presidentiables” is up to the job. And to be fair, the current line-up is, indeed, a poignant testament to the intellectual bankruptcy of the Philippines. The same old familiar names are in the running — all heads or scions of the usual powerful dynasties that have ruled the Philippines since time immemorial and run it to the ground.
It is, indeed, really asking for too much to expect Filipinos to apply a bit of imagination as they mull a prospective successor to BS Aquino in the lead up to 2016. Stunted minds simply default to their comfort zones — kind of like battered wives who keep coming back for more punishment.
That is the strongest argument for a second Aquino term. There is no one else. A country of 100 million, apparently, cannot produce someone as good enough in Filipinos’ star-struck eyes as their incumbent president.
So what President BS Aquino and his henchmen really need to do is find a way to pull off a second term without looking like the bad guy. That’s really not as big a problem as his detractors make it out to be. If there is anything one could credit Aquino for, it is an ability to make the illegal seem legal. On that, we could be confident that he and his staff will find a way.
The important thing to ordinary Filipinos is that he does it without weakening the country’s already rickety facade of institutional democracy. The most obvious road to grabbing that Holy Grail is via the charter change route. The 1987 Constitution, after all, is really, in essence, a monumental overcompensation to ameliorate Filipinos’ hysterical fear of “another Marcos”. Limiting the rule of subsequent presidents to just a single six-year term, the thinking of the country’s most brilliant minds then went, would achieve just that. Ain’t hindsight a bitch.
So it seems those who have pushed for charter change now find themselves associated with the Yellow Horde. They’ve found their champion. Whatever works, right?
Another possible path to seizing a second shot at power is via the old-fashioned way: “revolution”. In what form that will take is anybody’s guess. But the Aquino-Cojuangco clan have generally been synonymous with Pinoy-style “revolution”. So in that regard, they may have an advantage. Along those lines, they could also work out a strategy to go down that path.
Last but not least is ye ol’ reliable — “emergency powers”. With the Philippines wearing what amounts to a big red spot that attracts the planet’s worst “natural” disasters, there is lots of opportunity for President BS Aquino to rationalise his way into exercising “emergency powers”. He can also rely on his chum (or rather chump) in the Senate, “senator” Antonio Trillanes to spin tales about threats of coup d’etats.
In short, where there’s a will there’s a way. President BS Aquino and his cohorts certainly have the will. And there are enough sharp minds in his staff to carve out a way to exercise that will.
[Photo courtesy Associated Press.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.