President Rodrigo Duterte was told Sunday that the vice president of the Philippines is not immune from suit, after he declared he would seek that position in next year's elections as a means of obtaining legal immunity.
"The 1987 Constitution explicitly states that the President is immune from suit. The same, however, is not true for the Vice-President," former senator and incumbent Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero said on Twitter.
"It's a matter that may be brought up to the Supreme Court, but most legal scholars opine that the VP is not covered," he said.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, also a lawyer, agreed.
“Considering that only the President is immune from lawsuits, a legal verity which President Rodrigo Duterte fully knows, then his pretext of running for vice president to enjoy immunity spills the beans on his real intention to become successor-president the moment the office of the elected president in 2022 is vacated by design or fortuitous event,” he said.
Former Supreme Court Public Information Office chief Theodore Te also shot down Duterte's claim.
"The VP is not immune from suit by law or by tradition. Non-issue. Non-story," Te tweeted Saturday.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers' president Edre Olalia also said the country’s vice president has no immunity from suit, and said Duterte, a lawyer, was “rewriting the Constitution and even jurisprudence.”
“Only the President is immune from suit, and this is not even spelled out in the present ‘87 Consti(tution) — unlike in ‘73 Marcos Consti(tution) – but only recognized in prevailing jurisprudence,” he said.
In a speech at the PDP-Laban’s national assembly in Clark, Pampanga on Saturday, Duterte said he is aware of the lawsuits his critics plan to file after his six-year term ends next year.
“They keep on threatening me with lawsuits and everything. (Former Senator Antonio) Trillanes and itong si (former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio) Carpio and his ilk. Panay ang takot sa akin na mademanda ako (They are all threatening to sue me),” he said.
“The law says if you're president, or vice president, you have immunity. So, I'll run for vice president and keep running for the same position,” he said in Filipino.
Duterte, 76, is facing possible investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity in his bloody war on drugs.
In July 2019, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, said the Constitution does not grant the vice president immunity from suit.
He issued this statement after sedition charges were filed against Vice President Leni Robredo in connection with viral videos linking Duterte to the narcotics trade. The Justice department eventually dismissed the complaint.
Meanwhile, at least 24 provincial governors have supported the resolution issued by the ruling Partido ng Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) urging President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president in the 2022 elections.
In their collective statement, the provincial governors said the administration’s COVID-19 response is succeeding, and they want the next President to be guided by Duterte particularly in the fight against illegal drugs and the prevailing pandemic.
Governors who signed the collective statement are Daniel Fernando (Bulacan), Aurelio Umali (Nueva Ecija), Edgar Gadiano (Occidental Mindoro), Pepito Alvarez (Palawan), Edwin Ong (Northern Samar), Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar), Arthur Defensor, Jr. (Iloilo), Antonio Kho (Masbate), Abdusakur Tan (Sulu), Zaldy Villa (Siquijor), Bonz Dolor (Oriental Mindoro), and Edgar Tallado (Camarines Norte).
Also signatories are governors Imelda Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), Ryan Singson (Ilocos Sur), Dakila Cua (Quirino), Florencio Miraflores (Aklan), Art Yap (Bohol), Bai Mariam Mangudadatu (Maguindanao),
Suharto Mangudadatu (Sultan Kudarat), Damian Mercado (Southern Leyte), Micheal Tan (Western Samar), Rogelio Espina Jr. (Biliran), Esteban Evan Contreras (Capiz), and Victor Yu (Zamboanga del Sur).
The governors said they also wanted Duterte to continue having a say in the implementation of infrastructure projects throughout the country.