Interim succession law sought in case of failure of elections

February 24, 2014 7:54 am 

MANILA, Feb. 23 — What if there’s failure of elections for the position of President and Vice President, and Congress has yet to elect their Senate President and Speaker?

“Just like nature, power hates a vacuum. Once a power vacuum exists, a host of power-seeking forces rush in to fill the void,” surmised Bayan Muna Party-list lawmakers who proposed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall act as Interim President.

Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate are anticipating a remote but possible scenario the country would not wish to experience. This is the reason they authored HB 3841 or the proposed “Interim Succession Act.”

HB 3841 provides “for a System of interim succession for the position of President in the event that there is failure of elections for the position of President and Vice-President and the Senate and the House of Representatives have yet to elect their President and Speaker, respectively, and for other purposes.”

Article VII, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides: “Where no President or Vice President shall have been chosen or shall have qualified or when both shall have died or become permanently disabled, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall act as President until a President or a Vice President shall have been chosen and qualified.”

The said constitutional provision, the authors pointed out, does not contemplate a situation where there is general failure of the national elections.

“Should there be massive and national brown outs, or a debilitating and fatal virus attack on or widespread hacking or the automated election system, or a complete breakdown of the automated national elections, there is that realistic possibility that no President, Vice President or member of Congress are elected,” Colmenares explained.

He added that even if the Senate is a “continuing body,” the twelve remaining senators cannot elect the President of the Senate as they no longer constitute the majority of the members of the Senate, thereby creating a vacuum that could lead the country into a major political crisis and disorder is very likely to follow suit.

Furthermore, the authors argued that the Administrative Code cannot also be the source of guidance since it does not contemplate a grant of authority to the incumbent President to rule the country in a holdover capacity.

Under HB 3841, “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall act as the Interim President of the Republic of the Philippines in the event that there is failure of election for the position of President and Vice-President, and the Senate and the House of Representatives are unable to elect their President and Speaker, respectively by the time that the term of the office of the incumbent President shall be ended, or in any other situation where no succession could take place as contemplated under Sections 7 and 8 of Article VII of the Constitution.”

Furthermore, HB3841 provides that “The Chief Justice, as Interim President, shall call for a special election not later than three months for the position of President, Vice President, Senators, and Congressmen after assuming the interim position.

“The incumbent President shall not be qualified to run for re-election in the said special elections. Upon election and qualification of the President, the Chief Justice, as Interim President, shall relinquish the Presidency immediately after the President and Vice-President shall have been sworn into office and revert to his former position as Chief Justice unless his term has lapsed due to retirement,” HB 3841 states.

On the other hand, in the event that the term of the Chief Justice lapsed during his incumbency as Interim President, he shall continue to serve as such until a President and Vice-President shall have been sworn into office.

Likewise, notwithstanding the date of his or her assumption into office, the term of office of the President elected in the special elections shall be deemed to have started from the end of the term of the preceding President and shall end at noon on the thirtieth days of June six years thereafter and thereafter no longer eligible to run for re-election.

Also, during the interim period, the Chief Justice as Interim President shall be stripped of his duties in the Judiciary, and the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court shall, for purposes of this Act, assume the office of the Chief Justice for the interim period.

The measure also provides that in the event that the term of the Chief Justice expires during the interim period, the manner provided by the Constitution for the appointment of the Chief Justice shall apply.(PNA)

FPV/HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES-PR/PJN

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