The transition formally begins when the winner of the presidential election is proclaimed by Congress. The from then on, the incoming president is formally called the president-elect. There is usually only a short period of time, less than a month, between the proclamation and the president-elect’s assumption of the presidency.

The logistical requirements of the transfer of power, coupled with the public’s high expectations of a new chief executive create tremendous pressures on the incoming administration as far as communications and administrative and ceremonial tasks are concerned.

I. Transition into the Presidency

From the time the candidate indisputably wins the polls to the formal proclamation of Congress, the media has taken to referring to the candidate as the “presumptive president,” a term that has only enjoyed popular use after the May 2016 elections. The automation of the vote, and the commanding lead of the top contender, has led to an early consensus that results as presented in the informal tallies are definitive, ahead of the formal process mandated by the Constitution. This process begins upon the Congress’ official proclamation of the candidate as the duly-elected President of the Philippines. The candidate is henceforth officially referred to as the “president-elect” until his inaugural.

There are four organizational aspects to the transition:

  1. Transition Team: The president-elect’s counterpart team to coordinate the handover of government records, equipment, and other material and data.
  2. Inaugural Committee: The president-elect’s team that coordinates the ceremonial, invitations, and other details for the inaugural. It is established after Congress has proclaimed the president-elect. The protocol and precedents to be followed will help set the tone of the new administration.
  3. Search Committee: The President-elect’s team for vetting essential executive appointments, its creation is usually announced via press release, and may be formalized by administrative order upon assumption of office.
  4. Policy Team: Provides the President-elect the substance of his governance platform (i.e., the framework of his administration, and the key performance goals that he will offer to the public upon assumption of office).

Essentially, the transition has to be made from the existing campaign structure to one focused on building public support for putting in place the political and administrative appointments and policies necessary for governance.

As soon as the President-elect is proclaimed, he or she may create a transition team or shadow cabinet who will do the legwork for the transition from the old administration to the new. Planning and preparation for appointments would have been made before the transition phase, because the paperwork required for appointments take around two to three months. Heads of state will presumably send congratulatory messages and make phone calls to the president-elect, which would require staff work and coordination.

The president-elect may also create an inaugural committee to prepare for the logistics of the inaugural ceremonies and prepare the inaugural address.

The outgoing administration also has the option to turn over of an inventory of policies, including information on pending projects and a list of posts in Malacañan Palace that will be left vacant.

The incoming president has the option to retain co-terminous personnel through an issuance, such as when, at the beginning of his term, President Benigno S. Aquino III issued Memorandum Circular No. 1 and No. 2, s. 2010. The president-elect also has the option of issuing similar memorandum circulars to ensure the turnover of responsibilities.

II. Physical Arrangements

Another concern is whether or not the new president will take up residence in his official residence.

President Corazon C. Aquino restored the distinction between the term Malacañan Palace as referring to the official residence of the President of the Philippines, and the use of the term Malacañang to refer to the Office of the President.

Having the President housed in Malacañan Palace, where the coming and going of all his visitors official and unofficial can be officially logged, leads to greater transparency while ensuring safety.

However, the President has the option of residing in another location, as was the case with President Corazon C. Aquino who lived in the Arlegui Mansion, or in Bonifacio Hall (the Premier State Guesthouse), or the traditional family quarters of the Palace. If he chooses the latter, he has the option of weekday residence in the Palace while returning to his private residence on weekends, which would permit the public to visit the Palace on weekends, in a symbolic gesture of opening up the Palace to the people.

III. The Inauguration

There are important historical traditions and physical considerations that must be borne in mind in the course of assuming the presidency. These include the symbolic significance of the inaugural rites and protocol that accompany the physical transfer of power from the outgoing to the incoming president. The symbolisms may be generally little known or understood, but they can be utilized to lend solemnity, a sense of democratic continuity, and a spirit of national consecration to the occasion.

Tradition dictates that the president-elect arrives at the presidential palace before the inaugural, to pay a courtesy call on the outgoing president. The president and the president-elect then go together to the inauguration venue. The outgoing president is given final military honors and departs, and the inauguration ceremony proper begins.

After the national anthem, ecumenical invocation, and inaugural song, the Senate president reads the proclamation announcing the results of the elections. The vice president-elect is sworn in before noon to secure the constitutional succession; at noon, the President-elect is sworn in. Immediately upon conclusion of the oath, the traditional presidential anthem, “Mabuhay,” is played with the appropriate ruffles and flourishes, and the Armed Forces shall render its first 21-gun salute to the new commander-in-chief. The new president of the Philippines then delivers his inaugural address, which traditionally consists of the following:

  1. Appreciation to the nation for conferring its mandate; and a pledge and appeal for healing and unity.
  2. The administration’s call to action and programs for its first 100 days.

Traditionally, the inaugural parade takes place at this point.

After the inaugural parade, the President then takes symbolic possession of the presidential palace and holds his first Cabinet meeting. In the Palace, the President takes symbolic possession by means of ascending the main stairs, which legend attributes as having been climbed by Rizal’s mother on her knees, to beg for clemency for her son: a reminder to every President of the portion of the oath of office which pledges justice to every man.

From the main stairs, the President passes Juan Luna’s painting of the Blood Compact, and enters the Reception Hall, lined with the portraits of the past chief executives and which traditionally has, at its center, the table given to President Quezon by inmates who’d received a presidential pardon: again, a tangible reminder to every administration of the power to grant clemency and do justice.

Annex: The President and the Vice President

The President and the Vice President are voted by the people separately since the national character and importance of the position of the president, by virtue of being elected by the popular vote of the people, should also apply to the vice president, the only rightful successor to the presidency.[1]

Since 1935, the tradition has been for the premier cabinet portfolio to be given to the vice president. Before independence this was the Department of Public Instruction, the only cabinet portfolio reserved for Americans prior to the Commonwealth (specifically, the vice-governor-general). Since independence, the Foreign Affairs portfolio has been given to vice presidents (Quirino, Garcia, Pelaez, Laurel, and Guingona), although vice presidents Lopez (in 1949 and again in 1965), Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo, de Castro, and Binay have opted for other departments. Vice President Diosdado Macapagal, the first vice president elected from a different party, was the only vice president not offered any presidential appointment.

Prior to Martial Law, the vice president held office in Malacañan Palace. With the abolition of the office during the dictatorship, all vestiges of this formerly close proximity were erased.

Endnote

[1] Jose M. Aruego, The Framing of the Philippine Constitution, (Manila:Loyal Press, 1936), p. 422.