President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling party, PDP-Laban, has formally urged him to run for vice president in the 2022 elections. Philippine presidents cannot have more than one term, but can they run for vice president upon stepping down?
We take a look at what the post-dictatorship 1987 Constitution says.
Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution says: “The President and the Vice-President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date six years thereafter. The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.”
The word “any” in the last sentence should refer to both reelection as president and vice president, since the two positions were mentioned in the preceding sentences, said Far Eastern University Law Dean Mel Sta Maria.
“In other words, the President shall not be eligible to run for reelection for ‘any’ of the positions: either the Office of the President or the Office of the Vice President,” Sta Maria wrote on Facebook.
But reelection in our laws means election to the same office, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“The plain meaning of ‘reelection’ is being elected again to exactly the same office. So is the president eligible to run for vice president? Section 4 does not prohibit the President to run for any position other than the presidency in any subsequent election,” said Guevarra.
What are the framers’ intent?
University of the Philippines (UP) Constitutional Law professor John Molo acknowledged that “there is no outright prohibition for a sitting president to run as vice president.”
But Molo said that one must look at the Constitution’s “great outline” and “important object.”
By limiting a president’s rule to just one term, the Constitution “is permeated with mechanisms to rein in future presidents and check executive overreach,” Molo wrote in a Rappler Thought Leaders piece.
After all, the Constitution was crafted to safeguard the country from another dictatorship,
Guevarra said the framers “should have expressly provided that the president shall not be eligible for any reelection to run for vice president at any subsequent national election,” but they didn’t.
Molo said that while Section 4 is silent on that, the Constitution also did not expressly write the words “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” But those are two fundamental principles in Philippine law.
“In separation of powers, a reading that expands the power of one branch (i.e., president), always comes at the cost of weakening the other two branches. Think of the law of conservation of matter,” said Molo.
Guevarra said his was a “purely legal perspective” and that he “will not comment from any other point of view.”
Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Constitution, said Duterte running for vice president “is an ingenious and insidious move to circumvent the Constitutional provision on reelection.”
Duterte ends his term in June 2022. The presidential elections will be held on May 9, 2022.