‘Designated survivor’ bills in Philippine Congress allow President to pick emergency successor

  • Lawmakers in the Philippines’ Senate and the House of Representatives filed bills allowing the President to choose his emergency successor in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  • The bills have included the most senior senator, lawmaker and a Cabinet official in the line of succession should the other constitutional top officials fail to take over the highest post during a national tragedy.
  • The premise of the bills are both similar to an American television series “Designated Survivor” which allowed a low-cabinet member official to assume the presidency after an attack during the State of the United Address.

A senator and a lawmaker in the Philippines have filed bills allowing for the inclusion of other officials as part of the presidential line of succession in case of unforeseen circumstances such as death and permanent disability.

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Photo from RMN.ph

Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Bill (SB) 982 or an Act prescribing the order of presidential succession, allowing elected officers from the “most senior senator,” “the most senior representative,” and a Cabinet member to assume the presidency “to ensure continuity and stability of operations in government.”

In the lower chamber, Quezon City 2nd District Precious Hipolito Castelo filed House Bill (HB) 4062 or the “Presidential Succession Act,” an Act giving the President the power to delegate his successor in the event that the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, and the House Speaker die or become incapacitated to fill the role of the Chief Executive.

Castelo filed the measure on August 20, a week before Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed SB 982 last Thursday.

While Lacson’s bill allows for the inclusion of senior officials from both chambers, Castelo’s version emphasizes more on the delegation of a successor from among the Cabinet officials to take over the highest post.

While acknowledging Section 8, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution in her explanatory note, Castelo noted that should there be an unlikely chance when the Vice President, the Senate President and the Speaker become unavailable to fill the role of the President, especially in a major public or private event, someone else must assume the post for security purposes.

“Apart from tightening security and safety during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and other official functions that requires the presence of all upper and lower House members as well as the Vice President and the President, we have to consider putting our affairs in order in such a way that we are prepared for the worst and try to avoid chaos in a worst case scenario,” Castelo said in an interview with The Manila Times.

HB 4062 requires that the delegated successor be kept in a secure and undisclosed place during the occasion or gathering for which his appointment was made.

The measure also noted that his appointment will be pro hac vice (for the occasion) and will only be limited to the circumstances under which it was made.

“The appointment will be of no effect in case the President and/or any of his Constitutional successors survive the occasion or gathering,” the measure read.

 Castelo cited the practice of the United States of keeping a “designated successor” during the Cold War era and securing him from events at which numerous high-ranking federal officers are convened.

“We have to ensure a smooth and orderly constitutional succession in an event that the constitutional successors after the incapacity of the President were likewise incapacitated for whatever reason,” Castelo told The Times.

Article 7, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution reads: “In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office or resignation of both the President and Vice President, the President of the Senate, or in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall then act as President until the President or Vice President shall have been elected and qualified.”

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Photo from Variety

The concept of the designated survivor bills were similar to a hit American television series “Designated Survivor,” which revolves around the character of a lower-level cabinet member who was catapulted to the presidency in a fictional United States after an attack led to the killing of the US President and other top officials on the night of the State of the United Address.

Sources: The Manila Times, Congress, Senate

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