MANILA — Former President Rodrigo Duterte is not required to personally face a prosecutor's summons concerning a grave threat complaint filed by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, his former spokesman said Thursday.
"That's not a requirement," Atty. Harry Roque, Duterte's legal counsel for the case filed by Castro, told ANC's "Headstart" when asked if Duterte would personally answer the subpoena.
"Lawyers can appear, especially in the initial hearing, to receive a copy of the complaint affidavit and he can have his affidavit sworn before any public prosecutor even in Davao City," Roque said.
Quezon City Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Ulric Badiola issued a subpoena ordering Duterte to appear before the Office of the City Prosecutor on December 4 and 11, 2023.
The former president was directed to submit his counter-affidavit in response to the grave threats complaint filed by Castro, along with the affidavits of his witnesses and other supporting documents.
Castro was also summoned, along with her witnesses, to reaffirm the truthfulness of the allegations in their statements.
In an Oct. 11 episode of his TV program "Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa" on the SMNI News Channel, Duterte shared his advice to his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, on how to use her confidential and intelligence funds.
"Pero ang una mong target d'yan [sa] intelligence fund mo, kayo, ikaw France, kayong mga komunista ang gusto kong patayin," he said.
Roque, who also serves as Duterte's counsel in the International Criminal Court's investigation over the alleged crimes against humanity in his anti-drugs campaign, said they would answer the complaint.
"That's the consistent position of the president. He will face the legal process but only before Filipinos and he will not allow any foreign judge to sit in judgment of him," he added.
Duterte's immunity from suit expired when he stepped down from power.
When is a remark considered a grave threat?
One should be in a position to carry it out, Roque said, adding, "I do not know if a 78-year-old former president is in a position to carry that out. Perhaps when he was president, yes."
"But as a retired president and under the existing political conditions, I do not know if the fiscal can be convinced that is in fact a clear and present danger emanating from the words uttered by the president.”
While Duterte's statement only mentioned "France," Castro said she felt alluded to because her full name was mentioned earlier in the SMNI interview.
"Talagang nakita ko na ako talaga yung tinutukoy niya doon sa kanyang programa dahil may kinalaman ito doon sa mga subjects na related doon sa ginagawa natin sa Kongreso," Castro earlier said.
"Tingin ko kaugnay ito sa ginampanang role sa Kongreso — pagbusisi sa confidential funds na nagbunga ng pagkatanggal, pagka-realign ng budget," she said.
Castro and her Makabayan bloc colleagues have been critical of Vice President Duterte's confidential funds — a request she eventually withdrew this month.
— With reports from Rowegie Abanto and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News