PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte’s possible vice presidential win next year won’t protect him from lawsuits, according to a congressman.
A vice president “is impeachable but not immune from suit,” Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a statement on Sunday.
Former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, who lost to Mr. Duterte during the 2016 elections, had to face corruption charges, said the lawmaker, who is also a lawyer.
At the tail-end of Mr. Binay’s vice presidency, the Ombudsman filed plunder charges against him at the Sandiganbayan over alleged overpricing of a parking building at the Makati City Hall.
At that time, constitutional expert and former Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza said Mr. Binay did not have immunity since the acts were committed when he was still Makati mayor and because a sitting vice president does not have “multifarious duties and powers” like the President.
Mr. Duterte earlier said he might seek the vice presidency when his six-year term presidential term ends next year to protect himself from potential lawsuits.
“A vice president has no immunity from suit,” Edre U. Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said in a separate statement. “That is rewriting the Constitution, the law and even jurisprudence.”
“Only the President is immune from suit and this is not even spelled out in the present 1987 Constitution — unlike in the 1973 Marcos Constitution — but only recognized in prevailing jurisprudence,” he said.
“His statement is a false self-assurance just to pander himself and his allies,” Mr. Zarate said of Mr. Duterte. “He knows that no such immunity is given to a vice president. He is aware of this truism just like he knew then in 2016 while campaigning for the presidency that he will not really jetski himself to the Spratlys.”
Lawyer and former Congressman Neri J. Colmenares said the President’s plan to run for vice president to escape imprisonment after his term ends is :shameless and legally insane.”
Voters should not vote for Mr. Duterte for his “self-serving personal interest,” he said in the same statement.
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor earlier asked the Hague-based tribunal’s pre-trial chamber to probe alleged crimes against humanity committed in Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.
Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said there’s a link between the recent drug war-related killings and the killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still mayor.
The presidential palace has said the government would not cooperate with the ICC on any investigations.
Mr. Duterte at the weekend accused his critics of trying to scare him with threats of legal cases. He also ranted against the ICC.
“If they insist on trying me on the basis of that wrong statute which we appended illegally because there was no publication, I would go to the Constitution which says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, so I will transfer that phrase in my case — I was deprived of a due process,” he said.
Meanwhile, more than 20 governors on Sunday backed the call of a PDP-Laban faction for Mr. Duterte to run for vice president next year.
Mr. Duterte, chairman of the ruling party, should seek the vice presidency so he could help his successor oversee pandemic response programs started by his administration, they said in a statement.
“For us, the strategy the administration is using to fight the pandemic is succeeding, given the fact that infections and deaths are fewer compared to some neighboring countries,” the governors said.
“However, the virus will not go away in the immediate future. The President’s successor will thus need the guiding hand of his vice president in the war against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).”
They also said Mr. Duterte should continue to have a say in the implementation of infrastructure projects.
The Philippines ranked 52nd out of 53 countries in terms of pandemic response, according to Bloomberg’s coronavirus resilience ranking, where the government scored poorly in vaccine rollout, among other things.
The country got a score of 45.3, ahead of Argentina, which ranked last on the list with a score of 37. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza