“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” I think Sen. Panfilo Lacson lives up to this Winston Churchill quote as he is thinking in advance about what will possibly happen in the future.
The maverick senator has filed Senate Bill 982 that will help prevent a constitutional crisis and leadership hiatus in the event that all the three constitutionally mandated successors under the 1987 Constitution – the vice president, Senate president and speaker of the House – cannot take over the presidency.
Lacson wants the line of succession to include the most senior senator and representative based on their length of service in both Houses and the Cabinet member picked by the President. Lacson proposed the bill in the wake of the latest suicide bombings in Jolo, Sulu and the President’s admission that his Barrett esophagus is nearing stage one cancer.
What if the three successors will also die with the President? Isn’t it possible? Who will be acting President, Lacson asked. Well, as what I have said, Lacson has advance thinking. But do you know where he got this idea? From the Netflix series “Designated survivor,” starring Kiefer Sutherland.
Section 7, Article 7 (Executive Department) of the 1987 Constitution states: “The President-elect and the Vice President-elect shall assume office at the beginning of their terms. If the President-elect fails to qualify, the Vice President-elect shall act as President until a President shall have been chosen and qualified. If at the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died or shall have become permanently disabled, the Vice President-elect shall become President.
“Where no President and Vice President shall have chosen or shall have qualified, or where both shall have died or become permanently disabled, the President of the Senate or, in the case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall act as President until a President or Vice President shall have been chosen and qualified. The Congress shall, by law, provide for the manner in which one who is to act as President shall be selected until a President or Vice President shall have qualified in the case of death, permanent disability of inability of the officials mentioned in the next preceding paragraph.”
The same provision is stipulated in Section 8 in case of death, permanent disability, removal from office and resignation of the President. The Vice President will succeed and if the Vice President suffered the same, the Senate President and then the House Speaker will take over.
The Constitution does not mention the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as a possible successor. Maybe the framers of the Constitution thought that the Chief Justice has no mandate from the people because he is not elected by the people. He is appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council.
Under Lacson’s measure, it will allow the President to select a Cabinet member who will be kept in a hidden and safe location before a public or private event to be attended by the country’s highest ranking government officials. The question is will the identity of that “anointed Cabinet member” be revealed to the public or not? If his name is not revealed, will the President sign an earlier order designating him? Will the people acknowledge that Cabinet member when he has no mandate from the people? I doubt it.
Anyway, that “designated survivor” will only act until a President and a Vice President are elected.