NUPL: Vice president not immune from suit

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
NUPL: Vice president not immune from suit
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia
Interaksyon / File

MANILA, Philippines — Disagreeing with President Duterte, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia yesterday said the vice president is not immune from suit.

Olalia reacted to news reports citing Duterte’s statement that he considered running for vice president in next year’s polls to give him immunity from lawsuits, after his critics and those from the political opposition threatened to hale him to court.

“Vice president no immunity from suit. That is rewriting the Constitution and even jurisprudence. Only the President is immune from suit and this is not even spelled out in present 1987 Constitution,” said Olalia.

“So that is either a Freudian slip or he has premeditated naughty intentions for now-he-is-not-running-now-he-is-running plans for vice president,” he added.

Duterte disclosed the reason why he is considering running in next year’s election for vice president in his speech during the National Assembly of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan last Saturday.

“Sabi ng batas, na kung presidente ka, bise presidente ka, may immunity ka. Eh di tatakbo na lang akong bise presidente (The law says that if you’re president, vice president, you have immunity. Well, I’ll just run for vice president then),” Duterte said.

“And after that, tatakbo ulit ako nang bise presidente, at bise president, at bise presidente (I will run for vice president again, and vice president, and vice president),” he added.

Critics of the President in the House of Representatives yesterday slammed his statement.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said Duterte’s plan is an “alibi” and “legally insane opinion.”

“Duterte’s latest alibi of securing immunity from suits by running for vice president is grossly mistaken, because the vice president is not immune from suits. Only the President enjoys this immunity, not by constitutional mandate but by judicial pronouncements… This immunity is solely from the domestic or national judicial jurisdiction,” Lagman stressed.

The veteran congressman cited as jurisprudence the Supreme Court decisions on the cases of David vs. Arroyo and Lozada vs. Arroyo which were reaffirmed in the case of Sen. Leila de Lima vs. President Duterte.

Lagman stressed that Duterte may be held liable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and does not enjoy full immunity even now that he’s president.

“When the Philippines became a State party in 2011 to the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court, it waived any ‘immunity,’ even for the President, and acceded to the jurisdiction of the ICC for covered offenses like crimes against humanity which were committed before the Philippine withdrawal from the Rome Statute became effective in March 2019,” the veteran litigator explained.

“Any pretense of presidential immunity from the ICC’s jurisdiction is infirm because such invocation of immunity makes the principle of complementarity unavailable,” he argued.

Lagman insinuated that Duterte is planning to again become president through his vice presidential bid.

“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 alleged.

Zarate shared this opinion and agreed that the vice president has no immunity from suit.

“His (Duterte’s) statement is a false self-assurance just to pander himself and his allies. He knows that no such immunity is given to a vice president – he is aware of this truism just like he knows then in 2016 while campaigning for the presidency that he will not really jet ski to the Spratlys,” he stressed. – Edu Punay, Elizabeth Marcelo, Romina Cabrera



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