Can Sara still become president? | Inquirer Opinion
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With Due Respect

Can Sara still become president?

This question was repeatedly asked by many supporters of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio after she filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) as a substitute candidate for vice president under the Lakas-CMD party of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). The obvious answer was given by Sara herself way prior to filing her said COC — that after six years, she would be ready for the 2028 election.

Legally, however, she can still become president within the next six years, 2022 to 2028, assuming that she wins as vice president. Our present Constitution (Article VII, Section 8) states, “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.” Our prior Charters had similar provisions.

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Thus, then VP Carlos P. Garcia became president when Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash, and then VP GMA became president when the Supreme Court in Estrada v. Desierto (March 2, 2001) held that “the totality of prior, contemporaneous and posterior facts and circumstantial evidence” unmistakably showed that Joseph Estrada had resigned as a result of Edsa People Power 2.

If — as President Duterte wants — Sen. Bong Go (BG) wins the top post, the former may urge the latter to resign and give way to a Sara presidency. And Sara can run for reelection as president in 2028, if (repeat, if) the unexpired term of putative president BG would not be “more than four years” per Article VII, Section 4 of the Charter.

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This scenario happened when Estrada, as I earlier said, constructively resigned on Jan. 20, 2001 after being in office for over two years (June 30, 1998 to Jan. 20, 2001), thus enabling GMA to serve his unexpired term of over three years (Jan. 20, 2001 to June 30, 2004). GMA ran for and won another six years (2004-2010), thereby serving as chief executive for over nine consecutive years, second in length to Ferdinand Marcos’ 21 years (1965-1986). Prior to World War II, Manuel Quezon’s tenure—a little less than nine years from Nov. 15, 1935 to Aug. 1, 1944—is the third longest.

However, Sara is now officially in “tandem” with Bongbong Marcos. Should Bongbong win, I don’t think he will give up the presidency. In fact, he may even frustrate Sara’s wish to run in 2028 because, like his father, Bongbong may find ways to enable him to serve for more than six years.

Nonetheless, as the new chair of Lakas-CMD, Sara is gung-ho about “waging a successful campaign for Uniteam BBM-Sara,” ignoring her father’s endorsement of the BG-Sara team and his disgust of the “pro-communist” Bongbong.

President Duterte is gunning for a Senate seat and, with the Lakas-CMD’s support, he may snatch the Senate presidency while GMA, who is running unopposed for a congressional seat in Pampanga, may become speaker again, given that she and the Lakas-CMD were proponents of the Bongbong-Sara tandem. Oh, dynasties galore, we will in awe implore if they all score as the proud victors.

What should the opposition do to negate these scenarios? I think they should unite under the original proposal of Sen. Ping Lacson to support the winningest contenders as shown by credible polls. And the latest credible poll of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on Oct. 20-23, 2021 shows Leni Robredo at 18 percent (second to first place Bongbong at 47 percent); Isko Moreno, third place at 13 percent; Manny Pacquiao, fourth place at 9 percent; and Ping and Sen. Bato Dela Rosa (who withdrew on Nov. 13) tied at fifth at 5 percent each. (BG was not included.)

The SWS VP poll was won by Senate President Tito Sotto at 44 percent, with Sara second at 25 percent; Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and Willie “Doc” Ong, tied at third at 13 percent each; and Rep. Lito Atienza, fifth at 3 percent.

Nonetheless, it may be too early to base the needed unity on this survey given that the candidacies were finalized only on Nov. 15, the last day for substitutions, when Bato’s withdrawal was not yet a fait accompli and BG, to repeat, was not yet included.

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Wait if the bets must, but not for too long, because the earlier the unity is forged, the better are the chances of winning. In fact, unity by January 2022 may be a bit late because the winning candidates, as previous elections have shown, may have gained irreversible momentum by that time.

At all events, as of now, it looks like a Bongbong-Sara versus Leni-Tito showdown. How BG’s inclusion and Bato’s exclusion will affect the showdown remains to be seen.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 presidential race, Artemio V. Panganiban, Sara Duterte-Carpio, With Due Respect
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