I have often been asked whether a person who has once been elected President -- Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo -- may be re-elected to the same office.Rather than answer the question, let me just reproduce what I see reflected in the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.I leave each of my readers to come to his or her own conclusion.And of course, the final answer will come from the Supreme Court.
The subject was debated upon on July 25, 1986 as part of the consideration of the term of various elective officers.The Commission was presented with three possible options regarding the President’s term: (1) no immediate reelection; (2) no re-election; (3) unlimited number of reelections.
“No immediate reelection” meant the possibility of reelection after some interruption.Unlimited number of reelections meant just that.But what did “no re-election” mean?The following exchange took place:
BISHOP BACANI: I would like a clarification first.Does “No reelection” mean the President can never be reelected?
THE PRESIDENT [Cecilia Muñoz Palma]:I believe the motion is just for non-reelection, is it not?
MR. ROMULO: No reelection.
THE PRESIDENT:But it does not say forever.
MR. ROMULO: The meaning of no reelection is that the person can never run again – absolute ban.
BISHOP BACANI: Therefore, if she ceases from office she cannot run even after six years.
THE PRESIDENT:Even after?
BISHOP BACANI: That is the understanding.Thank you.
When the choices were finally put to a vote, 32 voted in favor of “no immediate reelection” and only 5 against.
Before the day’s session ended, however, Commissioner Ambrosio Padilla moved for a reconsideration of the decision.His motion to reconsider was approved 22 to 5.
In the ensuing debate, Commissioner Padilla was the main proponent of a perpetual ban on reelection while Commissioner Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo sought the retention of the original vote for “no immediate reelection.”
Before a vote was taken on the subject, the presiding officer made sure that the meaning of Padilla’s proposal was clear to all:
THE PRESIDENT:So, the effect of this is, the President will serve for six years without reelection.That carries a total ban on his being elected again at any future time to the position of President.
MR. PADILLA:That is a correct.It is a continuing prohibition for reelection.
Before the Commissioners cast their ballot, the President reiterated her clarification:
THE PRESIDENT: The vote will be “yes” if one is in favor of Commissioner Padilla’s proposal or “no” if one is against.
Forty-two (42) Commissioners cast their ballot.After the ballots were counted, the President made the announcement:
THE PRESIDENT: The results show 26 votes in favor, 15 against and 1 abstention; the proposal that the President will serve a six-year term without reelection at any time is approved.
That was not yet the end, however.Commissioner Serafin Guingona, who was the only one who had abstained in the voting on Padilla’s proposal, did not think that the matter was over.
MR. GUINGONA: I beg the Chair’s indulgence to present my proposal.
THE PRESIDENT: Commissioner Guingona is recognized.
MR. GUINGONA: My proposal is that the President shall be elected for a term of six years and may run for one reelection immediately after his term, provided that no President may serve for more than 12 consecutive years.
In effect, Guingona was asking for a reconsideration of the vote favoring Padilla’s proposal for a total ban.The body considered it a reconsideration and voted 31 against and 10 in favor.
The final action on the presidency, however, did not come until the body deliberated on the draft article on the executive department.The draft evidently had been prepared before the Commission could finish its consideration of the term of office of various national elective officials.Hence the draft still contained the following provision on the President: “He shall be disqualified from immediate reelection.”
On July 29, 1986, Commissioner Lorenzo Sumulong, in his sponsorship speech on the draft, pointed out that the word “immediate” should no longer be there.On July 30, during the period of amendments, Commissioner Hilario Davide, Jr proposed what is now the final version:“The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.”He explained his amendment thus:“The purpose of this amendment is to be consistent with what the body had approved in the matter of the term of the President.”
Before the final approval of the Davide amendment there ensued the following exchange:
MR. [FLORENZ] REGALADO: May we inquire from Commissioner Davide why he proposes that the President shall be completely ineligible for any future elective office lower than the presidency? . . .Would it not be possible that perhaps a former President may wish to share his talents and experience with the people by running for a lower position like that of a Senator?
MR. DAVIDE: He can.He is only banned from reelection, meaning to the same office, but not from running for any office.So the wording is very clear:“THE PRESIDENT shall be INELIGIBLE FOR ANY reelection.”
I am sure that by now Ambassador Davide has already heard that not a few refuse to see the matter as very clear.As for me, it is at least very clear that a former President, male or female, is qualified to run for Congressman, Senator or Vice-President!
But, wait!Is there an exception from the total ban in favor of an elected President who, for whatever reason, may have served for less than a full tenure?All I know is that no such exception was discussed or even proposed.There was no discussion whatsoever of length of tenure, but only of length of term.