MANILA (UPDATE)—Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday the mere filing of an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte cannot be the basis for a person’s arrest.
“[T]he question before us now is: Is filing a complaint for impeachment an unlawful act? And my answer to that question is, certainly no,” Guevarra told reporters during a press conference at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Guevarra said the Justice department will always follow the rules.
“[U]nless somebody is caught in the act of committing a crime, you know, generally a warrant of arrest will be needed so there are only a few situations where warrantless arrests are allowed or permitted under our rules,” he said.
“So in situations where an unlawful act is not being committed in the first place, there will be no legal basis for an arrest,” he added.
Guevarra’s statement came 5 days after Duterte threatened to send to jail those who would file an impeachment complaint against him for supposedly allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had said such a move would violate the Constitution while some lawmakers and experts have warned it could be the basis for filing an impeachment complaint against the President.
Reacting to the President’s statement, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde said Monday they will implement the President’s orders, if they also see a violation of the law, although he was quick to clarify, an investigation will be conducted first.
"Mere filing of impeachment complaint could not be a basis to effect an arrest," the PNP's public information office said.
"The act of filing an impeachment complaint by any citizen is a constitutional redress, not a violation of the law. And that is exactly what the PNP Chief, Police General Oscar Albayalde meant."
The PNP-PIO said "police is duty bound to effect an arrest if it falls within the grounds for warrantless arrest or by virtue of the order of the court, for even a criminal facing arrest can file an impeachment complaint."
"His [Albayalde] statement is premised on possible violation of law arising from wrongful accusations against the president, bordering on criminal libel, defamation, and perjury," it added.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday shared Guevarra’s view.
“No, mere filing is not [a basis for arrest]. That is not what the President meant,” he said, describing the President’s statement as an “expression of displeasure, disappointment” and a “righteous indignation.”