MANILA – All indications are pointing that outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte will run for vice president in the May 9, 2022 elections.

After saying twice in a week, the second was with his ruling party PDP-Laban leaders who earlier asked him to run for vice president to ensure continuity in his administration, that he was seriously considering a run for vice president, Duterte was told that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra opined that there is no legal hindrance in the Constitution that will prevent President Duterte from running as vice president next year.

This is the same position of lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Philippine Constitution, who, however, pointed out that based on their deliberations, Duterte’s running for the second highest position of the land would be premature and the issue would better be decided by the Supreme Court.

If there will be no one to petition the High Court questioning Duterte’s running for vice president, Monsod said he will himself file the petition.

Duterte’s announcement that he was considering a run for vice president has ignited opposition that could influence the outcome of the elections, especially because his perceived presidential candidate would be his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who has been going around consolidating at least five national political parties and has finally admitted she was interested to run for president.

In Cebu City last week where she met with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and other leaders, Mayor Sara said “yes” when asked if she was open to running for president in 2022.

The mayor previously insisted she will not run for president next year despite emerging as the top choice in recent surveys. Her father had also discouraged her from running, saying the presidency is no job for a woman.

Nothing is official, however, as the official filing of certificates of candidacies will start still three months away in October.

Political analysts said the voters are only witnessing posturings which could only be ploys before the official filing of CoCs before the Commission on Elections.

It is perceived that Duterte wanted to remain in power to be in a strong position to fend off charges that could be filed against him when he ends his term on June 30, 2022.

Nothing is official yet

In response, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said critics are free to challenge Duterte’s perceived vice-presidential plan but everything is premature as long as he has not yet filed his certificate of candidacy.

Roque said Duterte has yet to make up his mind but it should be noted that the 1987 Constitution is not prohibiting him from joining the 2022 vice presidential race.

“On some groups challenging the legality of President Duterte’s vice-presidential bid to the Supreme Court, they may rightfully do so as long as they have the legal standing,” Roque said in a statement.

Roque said there is no legal impediment as Section 4, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution is “clear” that Duterte is ineligible only if he seeks reelection.

“President Duterte is not running for the same office and same position,” he said. “A careful reading of the Constitution would reveal that there is no expressed prohibition for the sitting President to run for a lower public office position.”

Justice Secretary Guevarra said the Constitutional prohibition is reelection to the same office.

“From a strictly legal point of view, the Constitution does not prohibit an incumbent elected president from running for vice president in a subsequent election,” he told reporters.

Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution states that “no person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time”.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has expressed plans to run for president office in a ticket that could have Senate President Vicente Sotto III for vice president, conceded that people’s perception of how the Duterte administration performed will determine the election results.

“The decision still lies with the people, particularly the electorate who will choose the next leaders of this country. It can be simplified in a choice between more of the same or change,” Lacson said in a statement.

“If the choice is change, we can simply reject the status quo. If we are happy with what we have become for the last five years, then continuity should be a better option,” he added.

The President and the Vice President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the 30th day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date, six years thereafter, Section 4, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states.

The same provision states that the “President shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time”.

“Under the plain meaning rule or verba legis, if the statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without interpretation,” Roque said.

Former Commission on Elections chair Christian Monsod said he is willing to challenge Duterte’s possible vice-presidential bid.

Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said Duterte’s plan to slide to Vice President could be questioned before the poll body, “subject to the Supreme Court,” if somebody brings it to the High Court.

Duterte previously said he is “seriously” thinking of running for Vice President.