MAY 25, 2009 (STAR) President Arroyo cannot act as transition president in case her successor is not proclaimed once her term expires at noon of June 30, 2010, according to the chairman of the House committee on revision of laws.

“There is no such official as a holdover president or holdover vice president. The Constitution does not allow that. They have to step down once their term expires,” Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao told a news forum over the weekend.

Aggabao’s committee is considering a bill on succession to the presidency to foreclose the possibility of a vacancy and ensure that there is a successor at any time “even when the entire leadership is decapitated by a terrorist attack.”

The bill is authored by maverick Rep. Edno Joson of Nueva Ecija, who does not belong to any political party in the House.

Under Joson’s proposal, if for any reason none of the three elective officials specified in the Constitution can succeed the president, the chief justice of the Supreme Court takes over as acting president until any of the constitutionally designated successors can assume the presidency.

The three constitutionally designated successors are the vice president, Senate president and Speaker of the House.

Joson said his bill is the answer to fears of no-elections in May 2010 Chairman Jose Melo of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has expressed.

Aggabao said a law on succession “has become very important and very crucial and has acquired urgency in view of the real possibility of a failure of elections in May next year.”

“The difficulties that the Comelec is encountering in implementing the automation program and the peace and order problem in Mindanao might bring about a failure of elections,” he said.

He said a glitch in the automation process in one region or one province alone, where the number of votes could affect the election results, could result in such a failure.

If there is such failure, the Comelec will not be able to proclaim the winning candidates for president, vice president, senators, and congressmen, he said.

Thus, no one will succeed President Arroyo, Vice President Noli de Castro, the Senate president, if he is seeking reelection, and the Speaker, a situation that will create a leadership vacuum, he stressed.

Thus, there is a need to expand the list of possible successors to avert a leadership vacuum and a political crisis, he said.

The absence of a succession law could invite military adventurism, he said.

He said in the case of a Senate president seeking reelection, his term also ends on June 30, 2010.

There could be no problem if he is not seeking reelection and his term ends in 2013, he added.

Joson prefers the chief justice to take over as acting president because he is next in rank after the Speaker.

Thus, he said if there is a failure of election in May 2010, Chief Justice Reynato Puno assumes office as acting president until Mrs. Arroyo’s successor is determined.

Aggabao said the list of successors should include other officials in addition to the chief justice.

He cited the case of the United States, where 17 officials are named to succeed the president in case of emergencies. – Jess Diaz

Erap: Enrile among top opposition candidates for senator in 2010 By Jose Rodel Clapano Updated May 24, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is among the opposition’s top bets for senator in the 2010 national elections, according to former President Joseph Estrada.

In an interview over radio station dwIZ, Estrada said that aside from Enrile, the final but incomplete list of the opposition’s senatorial candidates includes Grace Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of Estrada’s late best friend Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ); Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez; former Senator Sergio Osmeña; former Makati congressman Agapito “Butz” Aquino; Gina de Venecia, wife of Pangasinan congressman and former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.; and lawyer Adel Tamano.

“We are still studying the other personalities who will complete the list of the opposition’s senatorial candidates in 2010,” he said.

Meanwhile, Estrada insisted that he could run for president in the 2010 elections, citing a study conducted by two retired Supreme Court (SC) justices, three deans of colleges of law in the country and a Bar topnotcher.

He said the study noted that he is “not covered by the prohibition on reelection of president because number one, I was not able to finish my six-year term because I was removed unconstitutionally after more than two years in office and I am not a sitting president,”

Lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, a topnotcher in the 1990 Bar examination, said the constitutional provision against reelection of a president only applies to an incumbent or sitting president and not to a former president.

“If President Arroyo was allowed to run for president in 2004, she was incumbent president at that time, it is because she merely succeeded the Office of the President by virtue of a Supreme Court decision. Besides, by the time of the May 2004 election, Mrs. Arroyo had served as president for only three and a half years,” he said.

Estrada said the study of the respected legal luminaries also declared that the prohibition for reelection of presidents applied only to an incumbent president because it does not want a sitting president to use the government machinery during the elections.

He said he will definitely run for president in 2010 if the opposition does not unite behind a single presidential candidate.

“We must learn our lessons in the 2004 presidential elections where my friend, FPJ, lost because of massive cheating. Had then Senator (Panfilo) Lacson did not run for president, the opposition would have won in 2004. The opposition will be easily cheated if it will field many presidential candidates in 2010,” he said.

Aside from Estrada, other presidential hopefuls from the opposition are Lacson, Senators Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

Binay has consistently said that his presidential bid will depend on the decision of Estrada.

Estrada said he will declare whether to run for president in 2010 by July or August. – With Perseus Echeminada

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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