Duterte has option not to attend hearing – Panelo

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Former president Rodrigo Duterte need not appear before the Quezon City prosecutor’s office on Dec. 4 to answer its summons for a preliminary investigation on the criminal complaint of grave threat filed against him by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro.

This was according to former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo who maintained that Duterte has the option to send a lawyer to represent him in the preliminary investigation.

“The respondent has the option whether to attend or not. He can go there (and) represent himself or a lawyer representing him,” Panelo said in an interview over dzRH yesterday.

He argued the complaint has no legal basis, and the former chief executive can also file a counter affidavit.

Asked whether the prosecutor’s office can order Duterte’s arrest should he snub its subpoena, Panelo said the prosecutor’s task is to determine whether the case has probable cause.

Panelo, who was also Duterte’s spokesman, defended the former president saying his statement against Castro was not a threat but a mere “expression of an idea or a desire.”

“We know the president he likes to use hyperbole,” he said. Panelo earlier dismissed the case against his former boss as a “political propaganda.”

“The only reason why that complaint was filed is for political propaganda,” he told CNN Philippines on Thursday.

Duterte, who is no longer immune from suit after the end of his term, has been issued subpoena to attend preliminary investigation on Dec. 4 and 11.

The complaint against the former president stemmed from his statement on Sonshine Media Network International earlier this month, wherein he red-tagged Castro and other members of the Makabayan bloc. SMNI is owned by Duterte friend, pastor Apollo Quiboloy, to whom a warrant of arrest had been issued by a US court for his alleged various offenses including sex trafficking and fraud.

Duterte said the first target of the confidential funds of his daughter, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, should be Castro. The House earlier rejected her request for P650 million confidential funds in the 2024 budget. She later announced her withdrawal of her request, saying the issue had become divisive.

“Ikaw France, kayong mga komunista ang gusto kong patayin (you France, you communists, are the ones I want to kill),” he said in the TV program. Castro said even though Duterte only mentioned her first name, he was clearly referring to her.

Duterte, 78, now lives in his hometown in Davao City.      

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