President Rodrigo Duterte takes a bow after delivering his fourth State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. The president is flanked by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Presidential Photo/Alfred Frias
Lacson wants 'designated survivor' in case of major attack, disaster
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - August 29, 2019 - 10:09am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson has proposed assigning a "designated survivor" to ensure government stability in case of any terrorist attack, major disaster or other exceptional circumstances.

The senator filed Senate Bill 982 or "An Act Prescribing the Order of Presidential Succession."

In his explanatory note, Lacson noted that the legislature is constitutionally mandated to enact a law that would identify who will serve as president in case of death, permanent disability or resignation of the acting president.

"This bill adheres to the abovementioned mandate and seeks to provide an exhaustive line/order of presidential succession in the event of death, permanent disability, removal from office or resignation of the acting president to ensure that the office of the president is never vacated even in exceptional circumstances," Lacson said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the vice president is next in the line of succession in case of the president's inability to discharge duties, followed by the Senate president and the House speaker.

Lacson suggested an extended order of succession in case of death or permanent disability of the four top government officials.
 
Lacson's bill proposes the following line of succession:

  •  the most senior senator based on length of service in the Senate
  •  the most senior representative based on the length of service in the House of Representatives
  •  the member of the Cabinet designated by the president

The senator also suggested that a Cabinet member be sequestered in a secret and secure location prior to any public or private event that the president, vice president or other high ranking officials will attend.

"In the event of an extraordinary circumstance resulting in the death or permanent disability of the president, vice president and the officials mentioned… the designated member of the Cabinet shall act as president," Lacson said.

"Official actions of the acting president pertaining to the day-to-day operation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines shall remain effective unless revoked by the elected president within ninety days from his or her assumption or reassumption of office," Lacson's bill read.

'Designated survivor' in the US

The "designated survivor" policy is enacted in the United States, where a Cabinet member is sequestered in a secret and secure location when the president, vice president and other officials in the line of succession are gathered in one event.

This is usually during the State of the Union address, presidential inauguration and presidential address to a joint session of Congress.

According to a 2007 CBS News report on former US Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, a designated survivor for the State of the Union address that year, he was told to leave Wahington DC and given presidential level security and transportation.

"Not only did Glickman have a sizeable Secret Service detail, he says his entourage included a military aide that he thinks was carrying what's known as 'the football.' That's the special briefcase carrying the codes by which the President can launch nuclear missiles," the CBS News report said.

According to the United States Code, the speaker of the House of Representatives "shall, upon his resignation as speaker and as representative in Congress, act as president," in case the president and the vice president both cannot fulfill their duties.

In case the speaker is also unable to take on the duty of acting president, the order of succession is as follows:

"Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security."

Succession is just one part of the US National Continuity Policy, which requires the federal government "to establish continuity program and planning requirements for executive departments and agencies." 

"These required elements include delineation of essential functions; succession to office and delegations of authority; safekeeping of and access to essential records; continuity locations; continuity communications; human resources planning; devolution of essential functions; reconstitution; and program validation through testing, training, and exercises," the US Department of Homeland Security says in its Federal Continuity Directive 1. 

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR PANFILO LACSON SENATE
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