Lacson pushes for passage of bill naming President’s ‘designated survivor’
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday called on his colleagues to start discussions on a bill authorizing the President to name a “designated survivor,” as he called the recent withdrawal of the measure in the House of Representatives “unfortunate.”
In a statement, Lacson said the process to pass Senate Bill No. 982 seeking to guarantee the continuity and stability of operations in government should be started immediately as to “avert a potential constitutional crisis and leadership vacuum.”
“Passing such legislation is not only constitutional. It is in fact, required under the 1987 Constitution,” the senator said.
Lacson pointed out that under Art. VII, Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution, “Congress shall, by law, provide for the manner in which one who is to act as President shall be selected until a President or a Vice-President shall have qualified, in case of death, permanent disability, or inability of the officials mentioned in the next preceding paragraph.”
Another provision of the Constitution, he further said, provides that “Congress shall, by law, provide who shall serve as President in case of death, permanent disability, or resignation of the Acting President.”
The senator, who filed the measure in August last year, said recent events involving “exceptional circumstances” such as terrorism illustrate the need to immediately address constitutional limitations on the President’s line of succession.
“Because of the failure of Congress to pass the necessary legislation in extending the line of succession beyond the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a constitutional crisis is possible if all four top elected officials, God forbid, die in one event such as the SONA due to a terrorist attack in the Batasang Pambansa, or any occasion where the President and all three officials in the line of constitutional succession are present,” Lacson said.
Under the Constitution, the line of presidential succession includes the Vice President, Senate President and House Speaker.
“If such a tragedy occurs, who will act as President until the next election of the President and Vice President, since the constitutional line of succession to the President stops at the House Speaker?” Lacson added.
He then called on the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Laws to immediately conduct a hearing on the measure.
Lacson added that the committee could also appoint him as subcommittee chairman, saying that he is “willing and ready to sponsor and defend such an important piece of legislation on the Senate floor.”
Lacson’s statement comes a day after Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo withdrew a similar bill in the lower chamber of Congress.
Castelo explained that her withdrawal of the measure seeks to erase any impression that she is in support of ignoring or scrapping the constitutional line of succession to the presidency.
But Lacson said Castelo’s move was “unfortunate.”
Under the senator’s bill, the following elected and appointed officers who are not under any disability to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President shall act as the country’s chief executive in the following order in case of death or permanent disability of those currently specified under the Constitution:
- the most senior Senator, based on the length of service in the Senate;
- the most senior Representative based on the length of service in the House of Representatives;
- the member of the Cabinet designated by the President.
The bill also provides that the President shall designate a member of the Cabinet to be sequestered in a secret and secure location prior to any public or private activity, event or function with the attendance of the President, Vice President and ranking officials.
The acting president’s official actions pertaining to the day-to-day operation of the government shall remain effective unless revoked by the elected President within 90 days from his or her assumption or re-assumption of office, according to the measure.
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