It started as a not so innocent remark from the man who is perceived to be the president’s anointed come 2016. Now, it has caught the nation’s attention. Not least of the president himself.
In today’s banner stories of various online news sites in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said he is now open to extending his term despite a Constitutional prohibition that only allows a one six-year term for the country’s president.
All past presidents after his late mother President Corazon Aquino have entertained extending their term at one point or another during their presidencies.
Corazon Aquino resisted any attempts from close political allies to tempt her to stay beyond her term, which ended in 1992.
Her son has also repeatedly shot down earlier suggestions that he amend the Constitution to pave the way for an extension of his term. That is until Thursday when he appeared in an exclusive interview on TV5.
Last week, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said he favored extending the term of Aquino to continue the reforms the president has undertaken.
It was an almost unthinkable remark from Roxas, who himself is believed to be gunning for the presidency in 2016.
Roxas however is trailing behind Vice President Jejomar Binay who defeated him in the 2010 vice-presidential election. His suggestion could just be his way of biding his time, waiting for the years to take their toll on his rival beyond 2016.
If Roxas and Aquino have their way, Binay, who will turn 74 in 2016, could lose his chance of capturing Malacañang.
Binay, of course, immediately lashed out at the proposal.
But what could possibly be the motive and underlying reason behind Aquino suddenly embracing the idea of staying in office beyond 2016?
Aquino cited his constant clashes with the Supreme Court as the main reason why he is suddenly amenable to lifting the term limits of the president.
Rebuffed and jilted by the Supreme Court over his controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – which was declared unconstitutional – Aquino again displayed his long vindictive memory and imperviousness to legal censure.
But Aquino could also be looking at the plight of the presidents who have gone before him.
His two predecessors, former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, eventually faced plunder charges after they left office.
The DAP fiasco could also become Aquino’s personal Waterloo as forces still loyal to both Estrada and Arroyo could pursue a host of cases against him post-presidency.
It is therefore logical that Aquino made the Supreme Court his priority target. As it is, the majority of the Supreme Court Justices are still appointees of Arroyo. And everybody knows that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
There is also no looking back when the process of amending the Constitution begins to accommodate Aquino’s latent desire.
We can almost already see big foreign business rushing in to lobby for greater access to the country’s land and natural resources.
Hell, Aquino could even invoke his contract with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as one of the reasons why the Constitution needs a makeover as negotiating panels from both sides of the peace talks ended their latest round of consultations on Sunday with yet more vague results.
Whatever Aquino’s motives, this hint of an extension of his presidency cannot be masked by purported continuance of reforms.
This is not a mere folly of presidential power and privilege.
It could signal the beginning of one of the biggest cover-ups in the office of a president.