Section 8, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides:
In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice-President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of both the President and Vice-President, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall then act as President until the President or Vice-President shall have been elected and qualified.
The Congress shall, by law, provide who shall serve as President in case of death, permanent disability, or resignation of the Acting President. He shall serve until the President or the Vice-President shall have been elected and qualified, and be subject to the same restrictions of powers and disqualifications as the Acting President.
Hence, the following shall succeed the President if he/she dies, becomes permanently disabled, removed from office or resigns (in this order):
- Senate President
- Speaker of the House
- Any other officer, as may be provided by law
As of now, there is no law that provides for succession further from the Speaker of the House. (But I have to check this, I’m not 100% sure.)
The causes for the permanent vacancy in the presidency are:
- Death- albeit through natural or man-made causes such as accidents, plane crashes, poisoning, assassination, etc.
- Permanent Disability- through sickness, accident, etc.
- Removal from office- only through impeachment (not physically or literally removed from the office)
- Resignation- this is the only cause dependent on the holder of the position him/herself
The function of the Vice-President is essentially a spare-tire (as Fr. Bernas, SJ always says), to replace a sitting President once a permanent vacancy occurs for the reasons I have stated above. Of course, the incumbent President assigns functions to an incumbent Vice-President, since all that salary would go to waste if he does nothing but wait for something that may not happen. Hence, when a vacancy in the President occurs, the Vice-President takes over and Congress is not called to a special session to call for new elections.
As in 2001, the new President (the incumbent Vice-President that takes over), nominates a new Vice-President from among the Senators and Congressmen, and both houses shall confirm such nomination separately by majority vote. (Section 9, Article VII, 1987 Constitution)
Thus, it is only when both offices of the President and Vice-President that Congress convenes on the third day @ 10:00 a.m. after such vacancies occur to enact a law calling for a special election. They have seven days hence to enact such law (which is automatically certified as urgent, i.e., no need for three readings on three separate days and no more need for printing in final form on the third reading).
The special elections must be held within 45 to 60 days from the special session. Appropriation for such an election are exempt from the normal appropriation rules. Moreover, this election cannot be postponed by subsequent legislation to this effect.
So within this transition period, either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House becomes acting President.
Also, no special election can be called to fill in the positions of President and Vice-President if the vacancies occur within 18 months before the next Presidential election. (Section 10, Article VII, 1987 Constitution) This is the only opportunity where an acting President (e.g., the Senate President or the Speaker of the House) gets to be one for a longer period.
This swift and set procedure only goes to show the importance of having a President at all times. To the framers of the 1987 Constitution, having no duly-elected president is truly an emergency situation, enough to short-circuit normal legislative processes and appropriation rules.
Finally, this refers to instances of permanent vacancies. It does not refer to temporary vacancies in the highest post in the land. That, for now, is irrelevant to today’s events, but was very relevant in 2001…