Panelo said Duterte's remark that he would jail those who try to impeach him was "an expression of displeasure, disappointment."
Philstar.com/Kat Leandicho, file
Palace: Filing impeachment complaint no basis for arrest
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - July 2, 2019 - 6:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Critics of President Duterte cannot be arrested for filing an impeachment complaint over his handling of the West Philippine Sea row, Malacañang said Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously threatened to jail critics of his polices on Chinese fishing in Philippine waters if they try to impeach him. He made the remark after former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Duterte may be impeached for failing to perform his constitutional mandate to defend the Philippines' territory.

Although the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) is beyond the 12-nautical mile limit for territorial waters, it is within the Philippines' 200-nm exclusive economic zone. 

The Philippine National Police on Monday vowed to comply with Duterte's directive to have people filing impeachment complaints against him arrested if they are found to have violated the law. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, admitted that one cannot be arrested for filing of an impeachment case.

"No, it's not. It's not. Because it's every citizen's right," Panelo said when asked whether the filing of an impeachment complaint is a violation of the law. 

"Mere filing is not (a violation), that's not what the president meant," he added. 

Panelo claimed Duterte's remark about arresting critics was a "righteous indignation." 

"That was only an expression of displeasure, disappointment. It is a righteous indignation. He could not understand why critics and detractors cannot appreciate what he's doing," the presidential spokesman said.  

"He cannot visualize why he's doing this and he is doing this because he is following the directive of the constitution to serve and protect the people. We want to avoid any armed struggles between two countries because that will endanger the security of the nation," he added. 

'PNP knows their law'

Panelo said there is no need to remind the PNP not to take Duterte's words literally. 

"They know their law," he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier Tuesday said that filing an impeachment complaint is not a crime.

"So, there are only a few situations where warrantless arrests are allowed or permitted under our rules. So, in situations where an unlawful act is not being committed in the first place, so there will be no legal basis for arrest," he said.

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