From reel to real: Designated Survivor

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With DNX Research

What is a “designated survivor”? Does one exist in real life? Since media reported that Senator Panfilo Lacson came up with a measure that would ensure that somebody would take hold of the reins of the presidency should in the event of a catastrophe.

In most ideal circumstances, the designated survivor would be appointed during the State of the Nation Address and should be placed in an undisclosed location and be ready to be sworn at the right time (meaning, in a national emergency or a terrorist attack that would wipe out the President and all the others in the line of succession).

In this clip of Episode 1, Season 1 of Designated Survivor by Netflix that aired on 21 September 2016 in the United States, actor Kieffer Sutherland who plays Tom Kirkman is the designated survivor. He learns in this episode about the deadly attack that killed the president and other top Cabinet officials. Video clip by Netflix from YouTube.

But is there is really a true-to-life designated survivor, or is it merely the figment of the imagination of the producers of the popular Netflix series? 

In said Netflix series, the titular Designated Survivor was played by United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) who had to take over the reins after an explosion took down all those ahead of him in the line of succession.

Apparently, based on DNX research, the idea is also real-life.

REAL-LIFE TOM KIRKMAN(S)

The National Constitution Center of the U.S. reported that the first ever designated survivor (also known as the designated successor) was appointed during the 1950’s at the height of the Cold War. 

However, it wasn’t around 1981 at the time of President Reagan that a Designated Survivor was named when Education Secretary Terrel Bell sat out the Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress.

Since then, the U.S. has continued the tradition of assigning a Designated Survivor especially during the State of the Union Address to ensure a continuity in governance in case of a terrorist attack.

Title 3 of the United States Code also identifies the line of succession from the President down to the Cabinet Secretaries.

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR PHILIPPINE SETTING Two bills have so far been filed in the Philippines that would put in place a designated survivor similar to that of the US.

One is the House Bill 4062, or the Presidential Succession Act, by Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo where the bill gives the President the authority to delegate a successor in the event that the highest officials – the President, the Vice-President, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives – are unable to fulfill their roles either because of death of because of some other reason. 

This appointed successor should be placed in an undisclosed location to ensure his/her safety. Senator Lacson has a similar measure in Senate Bill 982, “An Act Prescribing the Order of Presidential Succession”, where the President is given the authority to assign a designated survivor who will be secured in an undisclosed location. 

This practice, the bill suggested, would be done not just during the State of the Nation Address but during any private or public event where the top officials would be gathered.

Lacson cites Article 7, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution which clarifies the rule of succession from the President down to the House of Representatives – or the top four highest positions in government.   Both measures, however, did not cite the positions after the first four.

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