The moment it was floated that President Rodrigo Duterte may run for Vice President in tandem with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who is desirous to run for President in 2022, I immediately issued a press statement almost five months ago on January 28, 2021 wherein I torpedoed the projected familial hegemony as a blatant circumvention of the constitutional ban that the “President shall not be eligible for any reelection.”
I said that while there is no direct legal impediment to a Duterte-Duterte candidacy, this would indirectly violate a cardinal constitutional prohibition against perpetuating presidential powers in one person for more than a single six-year term. This violation is obvious considering the ascendancy of an eventual vice president Rodrigo Duterte over a putative president Sara Duterte.
This stratagem has been endorsed by the ruling PDP-Laban. Duterte says that he awaits a divine signal to proceed with his bid. Of course, no god would fortify shameless avarice for power. Lately, however, Duterte demurs by foisting again his patented stance of hele hele bago quiere. What better protection could malevolently insulate Duterte from the backlash of his transgressions than “succeeding” himself?
The proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission memorialize the overriding reasons for imposing the subject ban:
The approved draft provided that the president shall not run for an immediate This meant that after the lapse of one term, a former president can again run for reelection.
This was reconsidered by removing the word “immediate”. Accordingly, Section 4 of Article VII now provides that: “The President shall not be eligible for any”
Among those who sought reconsideration was Commissioner Ambrosio Padilla who categorically argued:
“Mr. Padilla: x x x I believe that the prohibition on reelection for the President should be permanent, or one might want to use the word ‘perpetual’. x x x the evil that we have been trying to prevent x x x is that we do not want the President to control the nation and govern the people for more than six years x x x Madam President, I want to eliminate that word ‘immediate’.
x x x x x x x x x
“The President: (Retired Supreme Court Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma). So, the effect of this is, the President will serve for six years without reelection. That carries a total ban on his being elected again at any future time to the position of President.
“Mr. Padilla: That is correct. It is a continuing prohibition for reelection.”
Commissioner Napoleon Rama supported the motion for reconsideration in this wise:
“Mr. Rama: x x x I have read and studied that event and episode in Mexico where the President, using a ‘tuta,’ circumvented the provision in the Constitution where he is not allowed a reelection. x x x in using a ‘tuta’ or somebody that he could manipulate, he was using again the funds and facilities of the government in perpetuating himself in power because he was just setting up that person to pave the way for his return.”
Commissioner Gregorio Tingson likewise spoke in favor of a permanent ban:
“MR. TINGSON: I also would like to state briefly my stand in favor of x x x a permanent ban for the President to run again. I think we all know that the presidency, especially here in the Philippines, has become in a sense very omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent x x x. I think what we are doing here is a reaction against what we saw in the last repressive regime in our country. (All emphases supplied).”
The constitutional commissioners were firm in their imposition of a total, perpetual, permanent, absolute, and continuing bar on a president’s reelection to forestall the recurrence of the power grab by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and foreclose the pernicious practice in Mexico under the dominant Partido Revolucionario Institutional where the ban on presidential reelection is not absolute. But they were also aware that despite this perpetual ban, the incumbent president could still choose his successor to perpetuate his ascendency by proxy. This apprehension finds reality in the resolution of the PDP-Laban urging Duterte not only to anoint his presidential candidate but for him to run as vice president.
However, the best that the Constitutional Commission could do was to make perpetual the prohibition on any reelection of the president to send the clear message that the perpetuation of presidential powers in one man is abhorred.
Settled is the rule that what cannot be done directly cannot be achieved indirectly. The Supreme Court has held consistently that “what cannot be legally done directly cannot be done indirectly. This rule is basic and, to a reasonable mind, does not need explanation. Indeed, if acts that cannot be legally done directly can be done indirectly, then all laws would be illusory.”
President Duterte’s running as vice president to his handpicked presidential candidate seeks to indirectly realize what the ban on his reelection directly prohibits. If the anointed presidential candidate wins, he or she will be Duterte’s clone, and in the event the office of the President is vacated by design or fortuitous event, Duterte as vice president will become President, an occurrence which the Constitution abhors and proscribes.
If Duterte pursues his vice presidential ambition in circumvention of the constitutional ban, he would be adding to his serial infractions of the fundamental law, like extrajudicial killings, violating due process; harassment and execution of human rights defenders, violating human rights; closure of ABS-CBN, violating freedom of the press; suffering Filipinos to needlessly die from Covid-19, violating the people’s right to life and health; and refusal to assert Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, and violating his oath of office.