Senate special session eyed

Senate special session eyed
By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Senate leaders Tuesday said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has to call for a special session of Congress in order to elect a new Senate President who could act as the interim president should the May elections fail.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said he has prepared a bill that provides for the election of an acting or caretaker Senate President from among the 12 senators who will remain serving until 2013.

But of this latter group, Biazon has proposed the exclusion of three senators—Manuel Villar Jr., Benigno Aquino III and Loren Legarda—because they are running for election in May.

This means that the choice for a new Senate president will come from these nine senators—Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Francis Pangilinan, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Biazon said his proposal is based on a constitutional provision that authorizes Congress to provide for the selection of an acting president in case the line of succession is broken.

While he considered the possibility of an election failure “remote,” Biazon said he was proposing a measure “that will cause the election of an acting president or caretaker president.”

His bill provides that immediately after a declaration of a failure of election by the Commission on Elections, Congress must convene and proceed to elect an acting president from the senators whose mandate will expire on June 30, 2013, he said.

Biazon said that if Ms Arroyo refuses to convene a special session, Congress can tackle the election of a Senate president when it convenes on May 31 to canvass the presidential and vice presidential votes.

“We can enact that law and immediately proceed to elect a caretaker president,” he said.

In separate interviews, Zubiri and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the election of a new Senate president can only be done if the Senate is in session.

But because Congress is on a break for the election campaign, the President would have to call a special session for this purpose.

“The decision should be made in plenary. We have to put it on [the] record,” said Zubiri, who chairs the Senate rules committee.

Pimentel said senators could not just meet in a caucus to elect a Senate president.

Earlier, Angara called for the election of a new Senate president, preferably before the May 10 polls, so there would be someone to act as president in case there should be a failure of elections.

Angara said the line of succession would be broken at midnight of June 30 because the terms of office of Ms Arroyo, Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles will expire then.

He proposed that all 23 senators elect a new Senate president from among the 12 senators who will be serving until 2013.

Enrile said on Monday that he was willing to step down but only after May 10 when the country will know for sure that the polls had failed. Though he does not think the elections will fail, Enrile said if they do, he himself would take the initiative and call senators to a meeting to decide whom they wanted for the post.

However, Pimentel doubts it would be possible to muster a quorum for a special session with the election campaign already in full swing.

He also agreed that the country’s first automated polls ending in failure was a “far-fetched scenario.”

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.