By Julius D. Mariveles

LOCAL GOVERNMENT officials in Negros Occidental who were the first to issue a statement of support for President Benigno S. Aquino III over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are now bucking calls for a second term for the Chief Executive.

“It would be like turning his back on his mother,” Murcia town Mayor Andrew Montelibano said, as he pointed out that Freedom Constitution drafted during the term of then President Corazon C. Aquino specifically prohibits re-election for a president beyond a single six-year term.

Montelibano was one of 37 officials in the vote-rich province who were the first to issue a statement supporting Aquino three days before he delivered his State of the Nation Address last month as DAP hit controversy.

But while they were enthusiastic in backing Aquino over the DAP, the local officials were not keen on supporting calls for the President to linger six more years in Malacañang.

Even the so-called “Yellow Army” in Negros is not about to march out yet in support of Aquino over the issue.

“I want him to have a second term if it is allowed by the Constitution but I am not in favor of amending it,” lawyer Joel Dojillo told the PCIJ. Dojillo, one of the early volunteers during the campaign for Aquino’s presidency in 2010, said he is been disillusioned despite the issues against the chief executive but would not comment when asked if he thinks Aquino deserves a second term.

Montelibano’s cousin, EB Maglona town mayor David Albert Lacson, said the Constitution is clear on the term limits for a president although Congress can change that provision.

Lacson, president of the local chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, said Aquino is doing a “good job” but that “it’s difficult to talk about extending his term because there are other priorities that we should face.” The LMP-Negros Occidental chapter is also set to meet this week to discuss the issue, he added.

LOCAL OFFICIALS in Negros Occidental back Aquino on the DAP but also buck calls for another term for the Chief Executive | Malacañang Photo Bureau

LOCAL OFFICIALS in Negros Occidental back Aquino on the DAP but also buck calls for another term for the Chief Executive | Malacañang Photo Bureau

Fourth District Cong. Jeffrey Ferrer, meanwhile, said talks about Aquino’s plan to seek a second term remain “speculative” since there is no proposal yet submitted to Congress to amend the Constitutional provision on term limits. Ferrer, a member of the United Negros Alliance, said he is open to changing the economic provisions but not those related to term limits. “It will not be acceptable to the public,” he added.

Ferrer ran and won against the candidate handpicked by Aquino’s uncle, Marcos crony and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., in the fourth district where Cojuangco has been based since his return to the country in the 1990s.

Former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela, on the other hand, said he is not in favor of a second term for Aquino as he added that he is against plans to change the Constitution if only to allow Aquino to seek the presidency again.

Coscolluela, who was appointed as one of the officers-in-charge in Negros by the late President Corazon Aquino after the EDSA People Power revolt of 1986, is one of the Negros Federalists campaigning for a shift to a federal form of government from a presidential one.

Another Aquino campaigner, now Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella, sent the PCIJ this answer: “No…all of the above!” when asked if he is backing the term extension move and the Charter change. Puentevella, a close ally of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, campaigned for Aquino during the last elections and has as his candidates for councilors several members of the ruling Liberal Party.

Bago City Mayor Ramon Torres, for his part, said Aquino is “okay as President” but for him to seek a term extension “all depends on the provisions of the Constitution, which prohibits it.”

Section 4, Article 7 of the Constitution says that the President of the Philippines “shall not be eligible for any re-election.”

The July statement of support for Aquino on DAP signed by local government officials in the province was led by Governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr. He managed to secure the signatures of 21 mayors, 11 board members, and two local business leaders in support of Aquino after the Supreme Court had voted 13-0 to declare portions of the DAP as unconstitutional.

Marañon ran and won against a candidate supported by Liberal Party Negros Occidental chairman, Third District Cong. Abelardo Benitez. The governor, however, also campaigned for Aquino during the 2010 elections. Aquino also mentioned Marañon in his recent SONA.

“We are expressing our full support to His Excellency, President Benigno S. Aquino III, in his resolve to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court declaring the DAP as unconstitutional. With due respect to the High Court, we believe that their decision on the DAP failed to take into account the realities of the budget process. The decision will expectedly hinder the country’s growth as it will compel the government to undergo the same lengthy process before it can make use of public savings to address the urgent needs,” the joint statement reads in part.

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