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With Due Respect

Senate to elect new leader

I agree with the plan to elect a new “independent” Senate president from among these holdover senators elected in 2019 whose six-year term will expire on June 30, 2025: Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Bong Go, Pia Cayetano, Ronald dela Rosa, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, Koko Pimentel, Bong Revilla, and Nancy Binay.

TO PREVENT A HIATUS IN THE PRESIDENCY, if, for any reason, there is a failure to choose a new president on May 9, 2022 is the purpose, according to the three main proponents: Senate President Tito Sotto, Sen. Ping Lacson, and Sen. Frank Drilon who will all finish their second terms on June 30 and could no longer run for reelection.

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Indeed, there could be a political crisis if no president and vice-president are chosen in the coming elections because of the failure of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct the election due to its inability to print or circulate the precinct-specific ballots, or to COVID-19 infections, or to alleged data hacks, or to any other Machiavellian excuse.

President Duterte cannot hold over because the presidential and vice presidential terms, per the Constitution, is only “six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date six years thereafter.”

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The Constitution further states, “Where no President or Vice-President shall have been chosen or shall have qualified or both shall have died or become permanently disabled, the President of the Senate, or in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall act as President until a President or Vice-President shall have been chosen and qualified.”

Accordingly, the new Senate president, whose Senate term would expire only in 2025, can “act as President.” True, should the election be canceled, there would only be 12 senators left who may not constitute a quorum to legislate, but the Senate President can exercise functions that do not depend on the presence of a quorum like the power “to act as President.”

Honorable Senators, I see no harm in your plan. Just do it!

* * *

A RAW NERVE WAS JOLTED by my column last Sunday (on the acquittal of alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and his co-accused). Texts, emails and calls blitzed my phone.

The earliest came from RTC Judge Jovi Rosario-Mercado of Macabebe, Pampanga, who texted “…About 90% of drug cases filed in court are thrown out because of sloppy police work. To this day, I’m baffled why the PNP does not invest in mandatory education and continuing education for its officers. They don’t even know the Constitution, RA 9165, basic laws on the rights of the accused and correct procedure on arrests and evidence.”

Law professor Victoria Loanzon will make my column “an assigned reading… this semester.” Cirilo Noel, former head of SGV and Company, was a bit cynical, “A stark reality on the unfortunate situation on the enforcement side…”

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Retired Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna was perturbed, saying “Not the first [case] nor the last but the most palpable.” Civic leader Eduardo Yap lamented, “CJ, our institutions have been so corrupted that an office is used by many as an opportunity to make money…” Former ambassador Joseph Bernardo was laconic, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done intentionally to assure the dismissal of the case!”

CAREFUL NOT TO SHOW ANY BIAS, two incumbent justices chimed in, to quote one of them, “…Thanks for sharing such well-synthesized facts and ruling of a brewing controversial drug case…” There are many more but let me end the quotes with former law dean Antonio H. Abad’s: “… Menardo Guevarra… will do what is right and morally good. Hence, I am sure he will find a way to file cases against the erring policemen and prosecutors…” Undaunted, Justice Secretary Guevarra promised he will chase the truant and neglectful, adding “… Chief, we’ll exhaust all available remedies and prosecute these people more vigorously in their other remaining cases.” He was referring to “a drug trafficking case before the RTC-Manila…,” to another which “will be filed in a few days in the RTC-Baybay, Leyte…” and to yet another “undergoing preliminary investigation.” He promised, “(Espinosa) may get away in one, Chief, but he will not get away in all.” Yes, Mr. Secretary, the readers and I will help monitor these cases to assure that justice is done and that “embarrassing knockouts” will not happen again.

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, Senate president election, With Due Respect
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