SC urged to strike down presidential immunity

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2014 05:23 PM | Updated as of Jul 24 2014 01:38 AM

MANILA - Former Iloilo representative and 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate Augusto Syjuco, Jr. urged the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to declare unconstitutional the President's immunity from suit during his or her incumbency.

In his 19-page petition, Syjuco pointed out that such a principle is devoid of any basis under the 1987 Constitution.

Syjuco filed the petition due to the Office of the Ombudsman's dismissal of his criminal complaint for libel against Pres. Aquino for allegedly maligning his name in his 2013 State of the Nation Address."

Syjuco filed the complaint last May 29; the Ombudsman outrightly junked the complaint on June 2, citing as basis Aquino's immunity from suit.

Syjuco said the mere fact that presidential immunity, provided for in the 1973 Constitution, has already been stricken off the 1987 Constitution only means that this principle has already been abandoned.

"The present case primarily questions the constitutionality, existence and validity of presidential immunity from suits... The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any trespasser.

"[T]he textual or literal expression of presidential immunity present in the 1973 Constitution was deliberately dropped by the 1987 Constitution, a categorical expression of abandonment of a provision that would entrench tyranny," the petition read.

In his 2013 SONA, Aquino announced that Syjuco, who also happens to be former head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), was to be held accountable "for his part in the outrageous overpricing of the purchases by the agency."

"The act of the President of casually leveling a serious charge against the petitioner in a major constitutional speech destroyed the latter's good name," Syjuco said.

"Since the petitioner was actually barred by the government from seeking redress because of the premise that the President is immune from suit, he (Syjuco) will never be able to seek vindication of his human rights that were violated," he lamented.

He further pointed out that by the time Aquino steps down from office in 2016, the libel he (Aquino) allegedly committed shall have already prescribed.

Syjuco said his petition should be given utmost importance, it being a "matter of transcendental importance" because Aquino "is now taking the form of a dictator" by "continuously and resistantly defending his unconstitutional program," referring to the high court's recent unanimous ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Syjuco urged the high court to direct the Ombudsman to reinstate his complaint and conduct preliminary investigation proceedings.