‘Confusion about succession’

What should happen if a sitting president in the Philippines resigns?

The 1987 Philippine Constitution is clear on the issue of who should succeed a president who resigns or who is no longer capable of serving his or her term.In the following order, the vice-president, the senate president, and the house speaker are the ones who should take the post when a president can no longer continue his or her term of office.

President Rodrigo Duterte and VP Leni Robredowere elected after the May 2016 national election and VP Robredo is definitely in the presidential line of succession pursuant to the 1987 Constitution.

The line of succession should then be crystal clear to everyone, right?  But this is not the case with Duterte.  This is not how Duterte sees it based on what he said the past few days.  On August 14, 2018, Duterte talked about resigning as president and in his speech before business people, diplomats, and government officials in Malacanang, he said— “I am hesitant to suggest a constitutional succession. I have nothing against Robredo. She’s a lawyer, you have heard her talk, but I do not think she can improve on anything . . .”

The bigger and more serious question for me is whether Duterte is really serious this time about quitting and resigning from office.

The day after he talked about wanting to quit, his spokesperson sought to “clear the air” with the statement that Duterte is ready to step down as chief executive if the “conditions are ripe” and he finds the right person to succeed him.

Duterte has made statements before about his intention to leave office early citing his age and lack of will to continue leading the country.

Lately Duterte also talked about his fear of dying while in office stating that the United States may be out to get him after he considered turning to its top rivals (Russia and China) for weapons.“At least, if ever my airplane explodes, or if some roadside bomb explodes, maybe you can ask the CIA,” he said.

Or are there other reasons why he is toying on the idea of stepping down that he does not want the Filipino people to know?

I remember the situation in the early 1980s when almost every Filipino knew that Ferdinand Marcos was seriously illand his health was fast deteriorating.  Malacanang never gave a briefing then about Marcos’ health.

Marcos who was then the president since the mid-60scontinued to expand his dictatorial powers after he imposed martial law and changed the constitution.  But he never talked about stepping down and leaving office.Actually even during the most critical time during his dictatorship when there was acute polarization in Philippine politics and the legal and armed opposition to his rule was getting stronger, Marcos avoided naming a successor or talking about line of succession.

The succession issuewas then “resolved” by the EDSA People Power Revolt in 1986 against Marcos.

Going back to Duterte, he stated that he is tiredof chasing corrupt government officials and yet he openly endorsed Bongbong Marcos as his potential successor and lately embraced the return to power of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Marcos family.

Now I am confused.

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.

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