MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he will run for vice president in next year’s elections if it means having legal immunity.
In his speech at the PDP-Laban’s national assembly at Royce Hotel and Casino at Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Duterte said he is aware of the lawsuits his critics plan to file after his 6-year term ends next year.
“They keep on threatening me with lawsuits and everything. (Former Senator Antonio) Trillanes and itong si (former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio) Carpio and his ilk. Panay ang takot sa akin na mademanda ako,” Duterte said.
“Sabi ng batas, kung presidente ka, bise presidente ka, may immunity ka. Eh di tatakbo na lang ako na bise presidente.
“And after that, tatakbo uli ako na bise presidente, at bise presidente, at bise presidente.”
(The law states that if you are president or vice president, you have immunity. If that is so, I will run as vice president.)
“Si Trillanes akala mo naman nagsasalita siya na ordinaryong tao. You know, I am a lawyer and they can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years,” the President added.
(Trillanes tries to speak like he is an ordinary person.)
However, lawyer and former Supreme Court Public Information Office chief Ted Te, in a tweet, said the vice-president is "not immune from suit by law or by tradition."
"Non-issue. Non-story," he said after Duterte claimed he would be immune from suit if he becomes vice-president.
DUTERTE VS CARPIO, TRILLANES
Constitution experts and critics have questioned the legality and ethics behind Duterte's plan to run for vice-president.
But the President's allies said there is nothing illegal about it, because the Constitution does not prohibit it.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said a Duterte vice-presidency was aimed at protecting Filipinos.
Panelo also denied that the move is meant to let Duterte remain in power and shield him from possible legal actions.
Carpio this week said the chief executive should be impeached for his statements regarding the West Philippine Sea, citing violations in the Constitution.
Duterte earlier said the country's 2016 arbitral win against China is a mere scrap of "paper" that belonged to the waste basket. This statement was echoed by Beijing during their statement this week regarding the landmark ruling.
The retired magistrate has said that the president's statements are dangerous because they are considered binding when uttered by a head of state.
On the other hand, Trillanes accused the President and his former longtime aide Sen. Bong Go of corruption worth P6.6 billion in public works contracts in the Davao Region.
Malacañang shrugged off the allegations, saying all the former lawmaker has are "gutter talks." Go has also denied the allegations saying these projects were all aboveboard.
Meanwhile, opinion polls indicate that Duterte remains hugely popular in the country despite his bloody war on drugs.
Analysis by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group shows that the number of drug-related deaths in the first 6 months this year is nearly twice higher from March to December last year, when lockdowns were strictly enforced due to the pandemic. — With reports from Reuters