Duterte running for VP the height of hubris
Law dean Mel Sta. Maria of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law and lawyer Howard Calleja of 1Sambayan sounded the alarm that President Duterte’s flirtation with the notion of running for vice president would be a violation of the 1987 Constitution, at least in “spirit” (“Duterte VP? Against spirit of Charter—lawyers say,” News, 6/11/21). They lamented that despite being proscribed from seeking reelection, Mr. Duterte seems bent on sneaking in through the backdoor (by succession).
The only thing the Constitution clearly prohibits is an incumbent president running for “reelection” to the same office right after his term expires. The rationale being that an incumbent still controls all government machinery and resources that can potentially assure him a second term. The “Erap (former president Joseph Estrada) reelection” juggernaut in 2010—years after his incumbency was terminated by “People Power II” in 2001— threw no one for a loop. The window was too wide to miss. That would have been one heck of a sticky wicket for the Supreme Court to deal with had Estrada won the vote of the people “from whom all government authority emanates.” Despite coming out only second to Noynoy Aquino, his bid for “reelection” was nonetheless seen as not at all that implausible.
A sitting president aspiring for “reelection” under any pretext to circumvent the current Constitution, though not an actionable violation, just seems really an oddity, an abomination. But it’s been reduced to just a matter of “delicadeza” or self-respect. Having reached the pinnacle of his life’s “career,” why couldn’t a president just rest on his laurels or ride off into the sunset? It is the height of hubris for anyone to think no one else is better than him. The framers of the Constitution apparently underestimated a politician’s greed for power.
Since the presidential mandate was clear (six years is long enough for a good president, but too long for a rotten one), how hard could it have been for the framers to force a one-term president’s retirement with clear language? “No president shall be eligible for reelection to the same office or for election to any other office after his term expires and at any time thereafter.” They botched that job in the same way they screwed up the popular clamor to stop political dynasties, which they, at the end of the day, recklessly left for Congress—already habituated to and enjoying the politics of musical chairs—to have the final say.
STEPHEN L. MONSANTO
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