MANILA—Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte's possible pursuit of the vice-presidency next year elections is legal and is meant to "protect" the Filipino people.
In a statement, Panelo said critics, which involved those who crafted the Charter, "can neither replace the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution."
He also allayed "fears" that Duterte would control the Office of the President once elected to the country's second top post, describing such concerns as "illogical."
"As there is no textual prohibition for PRRD to run for any elective office save for the presidency, there is no legal justification to bar him to run for vice president," Panelo's statement read.
"Had the framers of the Constitution intended to prevent a president from seeking any other public office, they would have said so by way of a constitutional provision . . . What the Constitution does not prohibit it allows."
Duterte, who is not eligible to run again for the country's top post, is being urged by some of his party mates at PDP-Laban to seek the vice presidency in next year's polls and choose his running mate.
Charter framer Christian Monsod earlier said Duterte's plan goes against the intent of the 1987 Constitution. Duterte's allies had also reiterated that the such a move is legal.
Panelo emphasized that Duterte "actually has no ambition for power or position."
"The only impetus of the man is his obedience to the constitutional command to serve and protect the people . . . The prohibition . . . refers to re-election and not to succession to the the presidency," Panelo said.
"Accordingly, he only seeks to serve the people in such capacity that they wish him to serve in."
RUNNING AWAY FROM ICC?
There is also no truth that the President is gunning for the vice-presidency to remain in power and avoid his alleged crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, according to Panelo.
Duterte's flagship domestic policy against illegal drugs, which has killed thousands, is a subject of a possible investigation at the international tribunal.
"They postulate that PRRD running for the post would circumvent the prohibition against a presidential re-election with some even contending that the idea if pursued is meant for him to stay in power and avoid being prosecuted for imagined crimes," he added.
Earlier this week, Duterte told ruling party PDP-Laban that he was somehow "sold to the idea" of running as vice-president which meant that he was "seriously thinking" about it.
Political vendettas are common in the Philippines and former leaders, minus their immunity of office, have been prosecuted and even jailed after changes in power.
Opinion polls show Duterte remains hugely popular in the Philippines, despite the huge drugs war death toll.