MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte need not seek immunity from lawsuits since he did not commit any wrongdoing, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“Wala po (There is none),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press conference when quizzed if Duterte did something wrong to seek immunity from lawsuits.
Roque said Duterte had merely raised the “fact” that a president and a vice president can gain immunity from suits.
He added that Duterte’s recent statement was even similar to the previous remarks of his critics, including Senator Leila de Lima and election lawyer Romulo “Romy” Macalintal.
“Statement of fact lang po iyan na ironically suportado noong kanyang mga arch critics, gaya ni Leila de Lima at saka ni Atty. Romy Macalintal na tumakbo nga po sa Partidong Liberal (That is just a statement of fact that is ironically supported by his arch critics like Leila de Lima and Atty. Romy Macalintal who ran under the Liberal Party),” Roque said.
On July 18, Duterte joked that he would seek the vice presidency to get immunity from lawsuits.
Duterte made the remarks amid the threat of facing criminal charges once his term ends in June next year.
Citing de Lima’s statement on July 7, 2015, Roque said impeachable officials, according to the 1987 Constitution, “shall not be removed from office except by impeachment.”
Roque added that de Lima even stressed that a government official can be subject to criminal proceedings, “so long as they are not removed from office.”
He also took note of Macalintal’s October 15, 2014 statement that the vice president, just like the President and all constitutional officials, is “covered by immunity from suit” and “cannot be charged in court under the normal procedure of trial.”
Roque said Duterte’s claim that becoming vice president can help him evade lawsuits could be an opportunity to “provoke jurisprudence.”
“Bagama’t wala pa pong jurisprudence pagdating sa vice president eh siguro po magkakaroon ng pagkakataon na magkaroon ng linaw itong isyung ito kung dadalhin sa Korte Suprema (While there is still no jurisprudence when it comes to the vice president, perhaps, this will be the chance to clarify the issue if it is raised before the Supreme Court),” he said. “Let this be an opportunity to provoke jurisprudence.”
On July 18, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said Duterte’s potential vice presidential bid is merely fueled by his “real intention” of becoming a “successor-president.”
Roque said Lagman’s claim is “baseless.”