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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Grave threats case vs. Duterte should be dismissed

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“Duterte’s expressed wish or desire to kill those he mentioned is premised on the assumption that he has control over Sara Duterte’s intelligence fund”

Last month, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte appeared in the budget hearings of the House of Representatives of Congress.

She requested the House to appropriate additional funds for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education in the amounts of P500-million and P150-million, respectively, for use as confidential and intelligence funds.

That request for an extraordinary amount of public money prompted three members of the House to question the requested appropriation.

The solons objected to the idea of confidential and intelligence funds for both offices primarily because it is not the function of either the OVP or the DepEd to engage in intelligence work.

They also questioned why both offices need confidential funds.

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The representatives who opposed Sara Duterte’s budget request are from the so-called Makabayan bloc.

They are composed of Partylist Representatives France Castro, Arlene Brosas and Raoul Manuel. The administration of President Duterte has associated this group with the local communist movement.

Eventually, public opinion began to turn against any grant of intelligence and confidential funds to the OVP and the DepEd.

In the end, the House voted against the grant of the extraordinary funds.

At the height of the House deliberations on the OVP and DepEd funds, former President Rodrigo Duterte decided to air his piece. Sara Duterte is the former president’s daughter.

On October 11, 2023, former President Duterte appeared on the television program Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa broadcast on the SMNI News Channel owned and operated by his staunch ally, the controversial church leader Apollo Quiboloy.

From the way he spoke on the television program, Duterte was very upset with the opposition to the request for intelligence and confidential funds pressed by Sara Duterte.

According to news reports, Duterte also said – “Pero ang una mong target d’yan intelligence fund mo, kayo, ikaw France, kayong mga Komunista ang gusto kong patayin.” (But your first target in intelligence fund of yours, you, France, you communists are who I want to kill (sic).”

Although Duterte mentioned only a certain “France” and the communists, Representative Castro later told the press she is certain she is the “France” referred to by the former president, because her full name was mentioned earlier in the program.

Thus, Castro filed a criminal complaint for the crime of grave threats and for violating Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, against Duterte before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City.

Duterte is no longer immune from suit because he is no longer an incumbent president.

Naturally, Castro drew a lot of publicity for herself in the print and broadcast media. As expected, anti-Duterte personalities had a heyday in denouncing the former president.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s presidential legal counsel during his administration, asserted that no crime was committed by the former president.

Panelo said Duterte’s statement is a not a threat, because a threat embodies an intention to kill, as in “I will kill you.”

He further pointed out that the statement “I want to kill you” is not a threat but is merely an expression of a desire.

Under Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of grave threats pertains to “any person who shall threaten another with the infliction upon the person, honor or property of the latter or of his family or any wrong amounting to a crime.”

I agree with Panelo.

What former President Duterte said is a mere expression of a wish or desire.

As former Senator Richard Gordon observed, it was in all likelihood triggered by a loving father’s natural propensity to protect his daughter from her critics.

More importantly, Duterte’s expressed wish or desire to kill those he mentioned is premised on the assumption he has control over Sara Duterte’s intelligence fund.

Precisely because he does not have such control to begin with, and in the end, no such intelligence fund was granted by Congress to the ex-president’s daughter, the “grave threats” attributed by Castro to the former president has no factual or legal basis.

Jurisprudence states for the criminal case to prosper, the accused must actually be in a position to carry out the threat.

Since ex-President Duterte’s perceived “grave threats” to Castro is impossible for the ex-president to carry out from the very start, then the criminal case for “grave threats” against the latter should be dismissed.

For the same reasons, the criminal case for cybercrime also has no leg to stand on, and should also be thrown out by the city prosecutor’s office.

I don’t think Castro seriously felt threatened by Duterte’s statement.

Duterte’s statement on television was simply a convenient excuse for Castro to generate for herself the publicity all populist politicians like her crave for.

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