File photo shows detained lawmaker Leila de Lima.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File
SC junks De Lima's plea for habeas data vs Duterte
Kristine Joy Patag ( - January 22, 2020 - 12:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court junked Sen. Leila de Lima’s petition for habeas data against President Rodrigo Duterte, claiming the president violated laws protecting women’s rights.

The court junked the De Lima’s petition, citing Duterte’s immunity from suit.

“The Court dismisses the petition for the writ of habeas data on the ground that respondent Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the incumbent President of the Philippines is immune from suit during his incumbency, ” the SC, in a ruling penned by now retired Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, said.

The writ of habeas data is petition sought by persons whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security has been violated or threatened by an unlawful act of a public official or employee.

The ruling is dated Oct. 15, 2019 but made public only Wednesday. Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Andres Reyes Jr. filed their respective concurring opinions.

In 2016, De Lima, a staunch critic of the president, sought relief from the high court to compel Duterte “to give her access to the sources of information collected” in the allegations thrown by the government against her.

She said in her preliminary statement: “This case presents a novel issue of transcendental importance: Can a sitting President wage a personal vendetta against petitioner and use the resources of his powerful office to crucify her as a woman, a human being, a duly elected senator in violation of her right to privacy in life, liberty and security?”

De Lima cited statements from Duterte saying he “will have to destroy her in public” and calling her an “immoral woman” with “a very sordid personal and official life.”

The senator said the statements were given outside Duterte’s functions as a chief executive and should not be covered by the presidential immunity. She also argued that proceedings for the writ of habeas data “do not involve the determination of administrative, civil, or criminal liabilities,” the ruling read.

But the SC stressed: “The immunity makes no distinction with regard to the subject matter of the suit; it applies whether or not the acts subject matter of the suit are part of his duties and functions as President.”

Ruling does not deny her of legal remedy

The high court also said that while they agree with De Lima’s assertion that “for every right violated, there must be a remedy,” they stressed “that this ruling will not deny her any available remedy.”

“Indeed, the Constitution provides remedies for violations committed by the Chief Executive except an ordinary suit before the courts,” the SC held.

“The Chief Executive must first be allowed to end his tenure (not his term) either through resignation or removal by impeachment,” the SC added.

De Lima has been detained at the police headquarters in Quezon City due to the government’s drug charges against her. She is accused of having a hand in the proliferation of drug trade inside the national penitentiary during her stint as Justice secretary, an accusation she has denied.

De Lima has earlier accused the government of using public resources to pin her down. — with reports from Businessworld

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