Dedicated TV viewers who watch shows on Netflix might be aware of the political thriller drama series “Designated Survivor,” starring “24” star Kiefer Sutherland as a lowly US cabinet secretary who becomes an unexpected President following a terrorist attack that kills his predecessor and the entire Presidential line of succession. The circumstances that allowed his character to survive is based on an actual US government protocol for continuity of governance, where a chosen cabinet secretary or other ranking official is kept securely away from any large-scale government gathering with the President and his other potential successors. Now several lawmakers are pushing for similar legislation here.
Inquirer.net has it that corresponding Senate and House bills have been filed this week with regards to codifying and expanding the Presidential line of succession as well as making provisions for a “designated survivor” protocol. The authors of these bills are Senator Panfilo Lacson and Rep. Precious Hipolito of Quezon City 2nd district. Their respective proposals, Senate Bill No. 982 and House Bill No. 4062 are acts “Prescribing the Order of Presidential Succession.” According to the 1987 Constitution, the current line of succession in case the President dies or is incapacitated includes only three persons: the Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House.
Senator Lacson proposes in his bill that the Presidential successors be doubled in number, adding three more. In order of succession following the House Speaker will be the senior-most Senator, then the senior-most Representative, and finally a Presidentially-designated successor from his Cabinet Secretaries. The last one is the “designated survivor,” as this member of Cabinet is chosen every time the President, VP and all other top officials will gather for important functions such as the State of the Nation address. On the day of the event the designated survivor will be sequestered in a secure classified location with a Presidential Security Group detail and attaches.
These provisions are echoed in the counterpart House Bill 4062 by Rep. Hipolito, particularly the part regarding a designated survivor being chosen from the President’s Cabinet. She practically mentions the original US protocol in her explanatory note, which was originally organized for continuance of US government during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, in the event the tensions became outright conflict. Hipolito wants the legislation in order to avoid any questions of succession if the President dies, is impeached, resigns or is disabled in any way, along with any other established official who is constitutionally mandated to succeed him.
The US TV series “Designated Survivor,” which is likely the first place people might recall the term, first aired on ABC during its first two seasons before being cancelled. Netflix rescued the show and aired its third season this June, with season 4 also confirmed.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star