House draft charter skips VP in line of succession to avoid 'instability'

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives’ proposed federal constitution wants to skip Vice President Leni Robredo in the line of succession during the transition period to avoid the threat of "instability" over the electoral protest filed against her.

House committee on constitutional amendments chairperson Vicente Veloso told Rappler that this was why the panel members decided to put the Senate President as next in line should President Rodrigo Duterte be unable to perform his duties during the transition to federalism.

Robredo is facing an electoral case filed by former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, whom she beat by just 263,473 votes.

"What if say [on] February [2019], Bongbong Marcos wins and the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) says that the decision is immediately executory, then it would be Robredo this time who would be complaining. Now say 4 months after, Robredo’s motion for reconsideration wins, and again, Bongbong Marcos will be complaining?" Veloso said on Tuesday, October 9. 

"My point is, this swing from left to right, from Robredo to Marcos, Marcos to Robredo, is just like a seesaw, creating instability which we framers of the proposed constitution cannot afford," he added. 

Veloso explained this instability might encourage “military adventurists” to grab power from government. 

"When there is instability, adventurism comes into the picture. You cannot ignore the possibility that military adventurists would try to grab power," he said. 

The provision on the life of succession 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.

"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 the second paragraph of Section 4. 

Veloso, however, said the provision on skipping the Vice President in the line of succession during the transitory government is "not set in stone."

"I, for one, am trying to reconcile the first paragraph and second paragraph. So for all you know, I will be among the congressmen who will be moving for the deletion of the second paragraph," said Veloso.

The Robredo camp had slammed the proposal and its basis as "outright ridiculous."

The Supreme Court, acting as the PET, recently upheld that the ballot shading threshold – the minimum amount of shade on a ballot oval for the vote to be considered valid – is at 25%. Marcos wanted the PET to stick to a 50% shading threshold.

But in the same decision, the PET also set aside the ballot shading in sorting out ballots. Instead, election returns (ERs) – the document reflecting totals from polling precincts – will now be used to determine how the votes would be credited to either candidates. 

Robredo’s lawyer Bernadette Sardillo said the use of ERs will hasten the resolution of the case.

The Vice President’s legal counsel Romulo Macalintal said the vice presidential electoral protest will still take several months to finish, as Marcos is contesting the results in 27 cities and provinces.

Robredo had also filed a counter-protest, requesting a vote recount in 13 provinces. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.

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