POSTSCRIPT / June 19, 2022 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why Sara’s rushing her VP oath today

What could be the real reasons behind the advance oath-taking today of Vice President-elect Sara Duterte, 11 days before June 30, the date set by the Constitution for the simultaneous start of the six-year terms of the nation’s two top executives?

Vice President-elect Sara Duterte. Photo: EC Toledo / PHILSTAR

The incoming leaders normally took their oaths on June 30, so a departure from tradition elicits questions, especially because there are disqualification petitions against President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before the Supreme Court.

When asked why her advance oath-taking in Davao City, Duterte said she wanted to attend the inauguration of Marcos her running mate on June 30 at the National Museum (the old Congress building) in Manila. That sounded too pat an explanation.

We will have an odd scene where two Duterte’s, father and daughter, hold the two top posts, and another picture where the frame will be overcrowded with a president on his way out with two vice presidents jostling for space.

From today until she formally holds office as vice president starting June 30, Sara will also be concurrently the mayor of Davao City.

The split oath-taking schedule merited light comments from President Duterte himself during the ground-breaking for a sports training center the other day in Bataan. He said in a mix of Pilipino and English:

“So, at that time, at that point in history, I will still be President because the incoming one will be sworn in by June 30. But there is already a vice president who has already taken her oath. So for about 11 days, ang Presidente ninyo Duterte, ang Vice President, Duterte.”

Biro lang (joke only),” he added. Duterte did not mention her, but he was aware that until June 30, Vice President. Leni Robredo will still be in office.

The elder Duterte had said often enough that he wanted his daughter to run for president (and likely win). She was leading in all the pre-election surveys.

So when she garnered more than 32 million votes to Marcos’ 31 million, it seemed her father’s estimate of her drawing power was correct all along.

In the final stages of the campaign and when the canvassing saw Marcos leading, some Robredo followers were heard to say that they were ready to accept a Sara Duterte as vice president to Robredo but not a Bongbong Marcos as president.

Still, the advancing to today of the swearing-in of Duterte’s vice president-elect daughter kept not a few observers wondering what could be the real reasons.

Is Sara Duterte maneuvering in anticipation of a challenge and an opportunity? By advancing to today her oath-taking as vice president she could be firming up her position, expecting to enter the fray officially as the vice president in case Marcos is suddenly squeezed out.

One situation, which most lawyers we have asked said they saw as remotely possible, is the Supreme Court’s barring Marcos from running for president or its ruling that his CoC was not validly issued by the Commission on Elections.

If Marcos is disqualified on this ground, can Duterte (who is set to take her oath today) quickly take his place as president? Is this the reason why she is rushing her taking her oath as vice president – to give her leverage in going after the presidency?

The Supreme Court is studying two sets of disqualification cases that were appealed by certiorari from the Comelec on the belief that the poll body gravely abused its discretion in its en banc rulings on the DQ cases.

One set of petitions focuses on canceling Marcos’ CoC on the ground that he falsely represented himself to be eligible for the presidency even when he has been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude – which disqualifies him from ever holding public office.

If his having lied about his conviction is affirmed by the SC, Marcos would be deemed as never a candidate because his CoC is null and void from the beginning. Moreover, he could not be substituted.

The second set of petitions contends that Marcos is disqualified from running because he had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. If this is affirmed by the SC, he would be dropped as a candidate.

If the first set is granted, it would mean that Marcos was never a candidate because he had no valid CoC. The second assumes he had a CoC but that he personally could not use it for his candidacy.

These DQ petitions were all denied first by the Comelec divisions and the denials were affirmed by the commission en banc – but only after the May 9 elections when the votes were already cast.

It was only after the Comelec took its time deciding the cases that the losing parties were able to file the petitions for certiorari in the SC.

Time is not on the side of Robredo and the petitioners. Even if the SC rules tomorrow against Marcos, the president-elect has 15 days from his receipt of the decision to file a motion for reconsideration which will still be heard and kicked around.

Then there is the reality of how difficult it is to do battle with a sitting president, especially one with a bulging war chest.

The consensus of those we have asked is that the SC will dismiss the DQ petitions for having become academic, and that the right remedies of the aggrieved parties are quo warranto by the proper candidate and/or an election protest by the candidate claiming to have won.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 19, 2022)

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