MANILA - The Vice President of the Philippines is not immune from suit, President Rodrigo Duterte was reminded after saying Saturday he would run for the post in next year’s elections if it means having legal immunity.
"The 1987 Constitution explicitly states that the President is immune from suit. The same, however, is not true for the Vice-President," former Senator and incumbent Sorsogon Governor Francis "Chiz" Escudero, a lawyer, said Sunday on Twitter.
"It's a matter that may be brought up to the Supreme Court but most legal scholars opine that the VP is not covered," he said.
Albay 1st Dist. Rep. Edcel Lagman, also a lawyer, echoed the same position.
Former Supreme Court Public Information Office chief Theodore "Ted" Te, promptly countered Duterte's claim as well.
"The VP is not immune from suit by law or by tradition. Non-issue. Non-story," Te wrote on Twitter on Saturday night.
In a speech at the PDP-Laban’s national assembly in Clark, Pampanga on Saturday, Duterte said he is aware of the lawsuits his critics plan to file after his six-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,” he said.
“Sabi ng batas, kung presidente ka, bise presidente ka, may immunity ka. Eh di, tatakbo na lang ako na bise presidente," added Duterte, a lawyer.
“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, and keep running for the same position.)
Duterte, 76, is facing possible investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity that his administration committed under the drug war and during his time as Davao City mayor.
In July 2019, no less than Duterte's justice minister, Sec. Menardo Guevarra, said, "The Constitution does not grant the vice president immunity from suit."
Guevarra issued the statement then after sedition charges were filed against Vice President Leni Robredo in connection with viral videos linking Duterte to the narcotics trade.
The complaint against Robredo was eventually dismissed by the Department of Justice.
According to Lagman, Duterte's "pretext of running for vice president to enjoy “immunity” spills the beans on his real intention to become successor-president the moment the office of the elected president in 2022 is vacated by design or fortuitous event."
Duterte has been urged by his PDP-Laban party mates to run for Vice President next year, citing the need to sustain his policies and programs. His daughter, meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is being encouraged to seek the country's top post.