Palace warns junta may take over if polls fail

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2010 04:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2010 08:00 PM

MANILA,  Philippines - Deputy Presidential spokesperson Charito Planas on Friday warned that a military junta could take over the reins of power in the country should there be a massive failure of elections and no winner is declared in the May 10 presidential elections by  the end of President Arroyo’s term on June 30.

In her weekly press briefing, Planas was reminded that like the president, the terms of office of the vice-president, the Senate president and the Speaker of the House also end noon of June 30, and there is no clear reference in the Constitution as to who should take over.

Planas then said, “Maaring ang military ang mag-takeover, maari yan, maari as military juntas have taken over in several countries especially in southeast Asia.”

When pressed further if a military junta is really possible in case there is no clear successor to President Arroyo by the end of her term, Planas said again: “It could be. Even Sen. [Juan Ponce] Enrile mentioned that it could be. I'm not the only one. Sino ba yung built-in dyan, na meron silang organisasyon, if they are an institution.”

When Planas was also asked if the president will step down by the end of her term regardless of what happens, Planas said, “Definitely.”

Depends on Constitution, situation

Planas, however, also said that it would not be up to the president to say who would be the caretaker president should no winner be declared in May.

Planas stressed it will depend on the Constitution and the exigencies of the situation.

“Titingnan natin ang saligang batas, hindi siya ang magsasabi na I'm taking over. Di ba, sabi ni Sen. Enrile baka militar ang mag-takeover. Nangyayari yan sa ibang bayan, the military takes over. Hindi ang presidente ang magsasabi, 'hoy gusto ko pang manatili dito.' Hindi siya," she said. "Ang situwasyon ang magdidikta at ang saligang batas.”

The 1987 Constitution vests the Supreme Court (SC) with all powers to decide questions on interpretation of the country’s fundamental law. It is in this light that many legal experts have said the SC will decide on who will be acting president should there be no winner in the 2010 presidential elections.

SC decision assailed

In the last two days, the SC had come under heavy criticism after it ordered the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit nominees for the position of Chief Justice, in anticipation of the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno on May 17.

Aside from coming within the period covered by the constitutional ban on midnight appointments, President Arroyo’s appointment of the new Chief Justice has also come under fire as it has been seen by critics as a way of ensuring her legal and political survival after she loses presidential immunity from lawsuits.

They also see it as part of an alleged plot to extend her stay in Malacañang as caretaker president, should elections fail, by having a Chief Justice friendly to her interests.

One of the top contenders for the job is her former chief of staff and former spokesperson, senior associate justice Renato Corona.

Corona’s alleged impending appointment, and last week’s appointment of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Delfin Bangit, once President Arroyo’s chief of the Presidential Security Group, have been seen as parts of this alleged plan.