AlterMidya and ANC discuss the Constitution after Duterte’s bid for VP

CHEERS TO AlterMidya and ANC’s After the Fact for each giving adequate time to interview former COMELEC chair, Constitution framer and lawyer Christian Monsod, who provided a thorough and clear explanation of the constitutional prohibition against a president running for vice-president. 

Both interviews discussed specific provisions and the overall intent of the Constitution, recalled past attempts by previous Presidents to stay in power, and the implications should Duterte run as VP in the 2022 elections.

When President Duterte confirmed on August 24 his plan to run as VP, media were quick to quote the President and cite sources who either supported or questioned his move. TV programs like GMA News’ 24 Oras and ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol also interviewed Monsod and other political analysts who interpreted Duterte’s decision. But those programs used only soundbites, failing to highlight the main arguments in their reports, presenting these as opinions in passing. Clearly, the media reported Duterte’s announcement as just another political move.  

Only ANC and AlterMidya gave sufficient airtime and online space to hear a fully developed explanation of why Duterte’s plan is “a blatant move to circumvent the Constitution.”

AlterMidya first published its 22-minute online video “ALAB Analysis: President as VP: Pwede ba ‘yun?”  in July when the idea was floated by Duterte himself, re-posting it on August 24 after the President confirmed his plan. The video featured a dialogue between AlterMidya’s Edge Uyanguren and Monsod. 

Monsod said that the “heart” of the Constitution is social justice and human rights, and that the Constitution was made to address the Philippines’ history of “mass poverty and gross inequalities.” With this, Monsod explained the term limits of a President “are social justice provisions” and are specific ways to avoid “abuse of power.” He said that this does not only apply to the President, but to most positions and other government offices. “They are not allowed anymore to be re-appointed, that is consistent with the social justice provision of our Constitution.”

Further, Monsod said that there is one exception to the no-reelection provision in Article XII of Sec 4. “A person who succeeds to the presidency and serves less than four years as the President, like the case of Arroyo- that is the only exception.”

Monsod said Duterte’s run for VP may encourage succeeding presidents to adopt the same political move. Thus, Monsod said he is willing to file a petition with the Supreme Court should Duterte proceed with his plan. But he expects other presidential candidates to file the same petition at COMELEC to disqualify Duterte as a candidate.

Hosted by Christian Esguerra, ANC’s After the Fact aired its 30-minute video interview on August 26. This discussed specific sections and explained how the “overall design” of the Constitution prohibits any president from running for vice-president after their term.  

 “This is an insidious and blatant move to circumvent the Constitution and the prohibition on re-election. One, the VP is in the mandatory line of vacancy that can be created for a self-serving purpose. And two, the term limit is a social justice provision and there is also the anti-dynasty principle in case of a father-daughter thing,” Monsod said.

Both ANC and Altermidya also recalled political strategies to amend the Constitution as a way of opening up a possible second term. Joseph Estrada did a second run for the presidency in 2010 and no one complained against COMELEC’s allowing his bid. Fidel Ramos tried to amend the Constitution, and Arroyo attempted to shift to a federal system of government. But these at least showed respect for the need to amend before pursuing their purposes. 

That there are only two media accounts to take a deeper dive into the issue of Duterte’s bid for the VP office is disturbing, to say the least. The lack of awareness about the importance of the charter and its prescribed limits on power may explain how so much abuse of political power comes to pass.