"(No) confidence vote" to remove the President


A confidence vote, otherwise known as "motion of no-confidence" or "vote of no confidence," is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility is no longer deemed fit to hold that position. Reasons for such a vote may include that he is inadequate in some respect, that he is failing to carry out obligations, or that he is making decisions that other members feel detrimental.

As a process in a parliamentary form of government, such a vote demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government. In some countries, if a no confidence motion is passed against an individual minister or a prime minister, it is a signal that such minister has to resign along with the entire council of ministers.

In many parliamentary democracies, there are strict time limits for no-confidence motions: they may only be allowed once every three, four or six months. Thus, the timing of a motion of no confidence is a matter of political judgement; a motion of no confidence on a relatively trivial matter may prove counterproductive if a more important issue suddenly arises which actually warrants a motion of no confidence, because such a motion cannot be proposed if one has been voted on recently.

IN THE PHILIPPINES, there is strictly no such system of removing the President by Congress merely voting to oust him due to lack of confidence. This is because of two reasons. First, the President has been directly voted upon by the people; he himself is a representative. Second, we adhere to the principle of separation of powers, also known as trias politica. This means that the President, in whom executive power inheres, is a co-equal branch of the Government, alongside with Congress and the Supreme Court. Therefore, Congress has no power to remove the President, except in cases allowed by the 1987 Constitution.

An example of such a case allowed by the fundamental law is impeachment. Impeachment processes are commenced in the House of Representatives and the Senate hears the impeachment complaint. It is the Senator-Judges who render a decision of whether to convict or to acquit. If the former wins, the President is removed from office. In a loose sense, it can be said that this is a "confidence vote."

Possibly the closest concept to "confidence vote" in our jurisdiction is the prerogative granted to Members of the Cabinet under Section 11 of Article VII of the Constitution. The second paragraph thereof says: "Whenever a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President."

The President is not left with no remedy. The third paragraph of the same provision gives the President a chance. "When the President transmits to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall reassume the powers and duties of his office."
What if the Members of the Cabinet insist on removing the President via this written declaration? Well, the Constitution provides a remedy. "Should a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit within five days to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Congress shall decide the issue. For that purpose, the Congress shall convene, if it is not in session, within forty-eight hours, in accordance with its rules and without need of call."

Again, like in impeachment proceedings, the power to remove the President is given to Congress. This is very similar to the concept of "confidence vote" in parliamentary systems of government. The similarity is due to the historical development of political law from the United Kingdom, to the United States and to the Philippines.

However, the vote required to declare the President unable to discharge his powers and duties is more than what is required in the passage of a bill. The Constitution says: "If the Congress, within ten days after receipt of the last written declaration, or, if not in session, within twelve days after it is required to assemble, determines by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, voting separately, that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall act as President; otherwise, the President shall continue exercising the powers and duties of his office."

What about the state of health of the President? The fundamental law does not provide that the President can be removed simply because of his state of health. What is required for removal is that he is no longer able to discharge his powers and duties. Of course, this includes reasons related to health, depending on the severity of the President's medical condition. "In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness." (Section 12 of Article VII)

In sum, Congress or the Members of the Cabinet cannot remove the President simply because they have no confidence in him anymore. However, in a loose sense, impeachment or ouster by written declaration can be interpreted as "no-confidence votes."

FOR MORE INFORMATION re confidence vote, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_of_no_confidence.

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