By DJ Yap, August 29 2018; Inquirer.net


Image Credit to Rappler

If the President, Vice President, Senate President and the Speaker were all dead or disabled, who takes over the government?

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, ousted Senate President, said the question bugged him so he proposed a law extending the line of succession to the most powerful member of the Cabinet, including one who may be tapped as “designated survivor” in case everyone on the line of succession dies or are disabled.

The successor, who would run the government in the absence of those listed by the Constitution, “must be a Cabinet secretary,” said Pimentel, who heads a faction of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

“Maybe it should be the foreign secretary, the national defense [secretary] or the local government secretary,” Pimentel said.

No law

Under the 1987 Constitution, the Vice President succeeds the President, but if both die or become permanently incapacitated, the Senate President takes over, or in case of his or her inability, the Speaker.

The Constitution also states that: “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.”

But no such law had been passed by Congress, Pimentel said.

The former Senate President raised the issue during a hearing on a proposal to institutionalize the National Economic and Development Authority, noting that the agency was formed only by virtue of an executive order instead of a law passed by Congress.

Other inaction

Pimentel said Congress lacked action on a provision in the Charter stating that: “Until the Congress provides otherwise, the National Economic and Development Authority shall function as the independent planning agency of the government.”

He compared it with another constitutional provision entrusting Congress with the task of enacting an antipolitical dynasty law—with no such law being passed in the 31 years since the Charter came into effect.

“Another thing [which Congress has not passed] is succession,” said Pimentel.

“After the House Speaker, there’s no provision on vacancies. There should be a law,” he said during the joint hearing of the committees on economic affairs, civil service and finance.

Pimentel told the Inquirer that unlike the United States, the Philippines had no “designated survivor,” who could step in as the Chief Executive if, by some cataclysm, all presidential successors were wiped out.

“We are already drafting [a bill]. I am just perfecting it,” Pimentel said.