MANILA, Philippines – The proposed federal constitution in the House of Representatives, whose draft has quickly hurdled the committee level, puts the Senate President – not Vice President Leni Robredo – as next in line should President Rodrigo Duterte is unable to preside over the country's transition to the new system of government.
This is stipulated under Section 4, Article XVII, on the Transitory Provisions of Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 15, authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 21 other lawmakers.
The resolution was sponsored for second reading at the House plenary on Monday, October 8, but deliberations were suspended after Buhay Representative Lito Atienza pointed out the lack of quorum.
“In case a vacancy arises by reason of removal, resignation, permanent incapacity or death of the incumbent President, the incumbent Senate President shall act as President until a President shall have been chosen and qualified,” reads Section 4.
Section 2, Article XVII, however, prohibits the extension of the terms of President Rodrigo Duterte and Robredo, respectively, beyond June 30, 2022.
Duterte would also be “prohibited from running as President in the 2022 elections under this constitution.”
Duterte has repeatedly belittled Robredo’s ability to lead the country should he step down from office. (READ: Robredo to Duterte: Stop ranting, focus on helping suffering Filipinos)
He said he would prefer the likes of Senator Francis Escudero or former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr to succeed him instead.
Marcos, a close friend and ally of Duterte, has a pending electoral protest against Robredo, who beat him by 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential race.
1st elections under federalism in May 2022
Section 3, Article XVII, of RBH 15 sets the first national and local elections under a federal system of government on the second Monday of May 2022, with winning candidates assuming office by June 30, 2022.
This means that should the country successfully shift to federalism under RBH 15’s proposed constitution, the transition period will begin once the new constitution is ratified and will go on until the new officials are elected in 2022.
RBH 15 does not have any provisions on the holding of elections in May 2019.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate tagged this provision as “very dangerous” as it could mean the cancellation of the 2019 polls if the 17th Congress successfully passes RBH 15 before the elections.
"As it is, this Arroyo-led cha-cha (charter change) push is very dangerous because if approved before the 2019 polls, this will in effect postpone the elections up to 2022, thereby extending the terms of the current officials,” said Zarate.
The lawmaker also criticized RBH 15 for lifting the term limits for members of the House and the Senate, warning this would allow Arroyo and “many others to remain in power ad infinitum.” – Rappler.com