Enough time to elect new Senate head, says Enrile
By Christine Avendaño, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Outgoing Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he would ask the senators to elect a leader of the chamber who could act as interim president of the republic should the May automated elections fail.
Enrile, who is running for reelection, on Monday said he would initiate the move after the May 10 elections because it would only be then that the country would know if the balloting had failed.
He was reacting to a proposal made by Sen. Edgardo Angara for all 23 senators to elect a new Senate president before May 10 because of the possibility of a power vacuum in which no newly elected president is proclaimed by June 30 as a result of a failure of elections.
The Senate president is the second in the line of succession after the Vice President.
Without a new Senate president, the line of succession would be broken because the terms of office of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Vice President Noli de Castro, Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles will end on June 30, according to Angara.
The civilian authority should move now because the military, as the people’s protector, may take over the government to avert violence resulting from a power vacuum, according to Angara.
Possible military takeover
Last week, Charito Planas, the President’s deputy spokesperson, said that a military takeover was possible in case of a failure of elections.
Even the Philippine National Police is not discounting the possibility of a military takeover if the elections failed to produce a new president.
“We always consider all things possible,” PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa said in reply to questions from reporters in Camp Crame Monday.
‘Just a normal process’
But Verzosa quickly added that there was no indication that the military might be plotting to spoil the elections to pave the way for Ms Arroyo to stay as holdover president.
He said preparing for the worst-case scenario was “just a normal process for all police agencies and military institutions around the world.”
“We always prepare for any eventuality. We consider all things from the (least possible to the strongest possibility),” he added.
Verzosa reiterated that the 120,000-strong PNP was ready to safeguard the interests of the republic. “We are your protectors,” he said.
Enrile said on dzMM radio that he did not believe the elections would fail as feared by some quarters.
Still, he said even if it happened, the nation would only know for sure after the polls or by May 11. “And we have some 50 days up to June 30 to solve the problem,” he said.
“If there is a failure of elections, I myself will call a meeting by senators to choose a new Senate president to ensure a smooth transition of power through the succession process prescribed by the Constitution,” Enrile said.
Civilian gov’t in place
Enrile said the possibility of the military taking over the country should the elections fail “will never happen.”
“There is always a civilian in the government,” he said.
Enrile pointed out that the Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, and National Police Commission would still be around.
“They will be the one to defend the country and the Commander in Chief and the executive will be the one to lead the country,” he added.
Enrile’s statement was a turnaround from the warning he made last year that the military and police would take over the country to preserve the peace in the aftermath of a failed election.
Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said there was enough time to elect a new Senate president with a term up to 2013 to ensure a smooth transition of power in case of a failure of elections.
Aquino, the Liberal Party standard-bearer, said Congress could convene on May 31 and the Senate could choose a senator who has three more years in his or her term to replace Enrile.
With half of Senate members serving until 2013, the chamber is considered a “continuing body,” he said.
“Our main concern should be to ensure that the May 10 elections are fair and transparent and that the results are known immediately. There is no need to worry about a succession problem if the elections are credible and truly reflect the will of the people,” Aquino said.