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Is the vice president immune from suit?

"Even Duterte's alter ego does not think so."

 

Santa Banana, whether they like it or not, admit it or not, the ruling political party of the PDP-Laban is imploding!

The catfight between members of the PDP-Laban is getting worse. First its acting president, Senator Manny Pacquiao with the help of another senator, Koko Pimenetel of the founder of the party, expelled its vice chair, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, and his allies within the party for supporting presidential candidate presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. They claimed it was a violation of party rules. Only members of the PDP-Laban wishing to run for President should be endorsed by the ruling party.

Cusi and company countered with a proposal that only the general assembly could expel them. Obviously, they had the backing of President Duterte. Cusi and company, again obviously with the support of the President, called for a general assembly which was held at Clark. It was attended by Duterte, chairman of the ruling party.

In that general assembly, a new set of officers, led by Cusi, was elected. Those present inevitably ousted Pacquiao as president of PDP-Laban.

Of course not. Koko Pimentel now claims the assembly was illegal. My gulay, I can only guess what happens next. The speculation is that PDP-Laban warring cliques will form their own party or join Sara’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

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There are efforts from the group of Energy Secretary Cusi, who is now the PDP-Laban president, to reach out to oust “acting president” Senator Manny Pacquiao to reconcile with him. But I am told that Senator “Koko” Pimentel and Pacquiao have already burned their bridges behind them insofar as PDP-Laban is concerned.

So, what will happen to the ruling party PDP-Laban since reconciliation is definitely out of the question between the Pimentel-Pacman group with the Cusi and his allies? Abangan.

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Now, it’s out of the bag. I mean why President Duterte wants to run for vice president. He wants to have immunity from numerous suits that his critics and enemies may file against him when he steps down from the presidency next year.

Recall that the International Criminal Court’s former prosecutor said that there was basis in charging Duterte with crimes against humanity in his war on illegal drugs. What the ICC obviously meant by “reasonable basis” were utterances of Duterte during the period when his police force went on a killing spree against those involved in illegal drugs, including drug users and addicts, in the years between 2016 and 2018. The ICC wants to investigate Duterte. But Duterte claims he will not cooperate because the country has since withdrawn its membership with the ICC.

The question now is whether or not a vice president can have immunity from suit. The sitting president is immune, but can a vice president invoke the same? I have read Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, and cannot find anything that validates what immunity he is claiming to validate his run for Vice President. The President enjoys this, as granted by the Supreme Court in a landmark case, but I can’t find any guarantee of immunity for the vice president. Besides, a vice president, when he takes his oath of office, swears to defend the Constitution, uphold the laws of the land and do justice to every man -- not get preoccupied with the issue of immunity.

I hate to say this, but what Duterte is really after is illegally wanting to be vice president to test once and for all the independence of the Supreme Court. After all, he appointed 13 of the sitting magistrates. It will be an acid test of the integrity of the High Court.

In fact several lawyers are set to file a case before the Supreme Court if Duterte files his certificate of candidacy for vice president. I have earlier said that personally I can’t think of any prohibition in the Constitution barring the candidacy of Duterte for vice president. But I also believe that there’s a need for the Supreme Court to clarify the issue once and for all.

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Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says that a vice president is not immune from suit. He cited a case of sedition which included Vice President Leni Robredo.

Guevarra said and I quote: “Vice President Leni Robredo was included in sedition charges in 2019 in connection with alias ‘Bikoy’ allegations, I remarked that the Vice President WAS NOT IMMUNE FROM SUIT under the present Constitution. My opinion on the matter has not changed.”

Coming from the alter ego of the President, that should be taken by Duterte on its face value. That should serve as an answer to the question whether or not as vice president, Duterte would be immune from suit. His critics and enemies are preparing for this when he steps down next year.

From the start, I have considered this issue as something worth talking about. I believe that the President is simply posturing and making a political statement. I don’t think he would actually run as vice president -- he is just threatening the opposition. True enough, we are now seeing how many local officials are supporting him on this.

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There is also the question on whether or not Manila Mayor Isko Moreno will run for higher office.

Insiders who know what is happening in the city of Manila believe that Isko will run for reelection. He looks like he wants to do more for his city. I have it on good authority that a single term is not sufficient for Moreno to achieve his goals as city mayor.

Insiders say that it’s too early for Isko to consider running for a higher position. They say Isko’s time would eventually come.

Topics: Emil Jurado , PDP-Laban , Sen. Manny Pacquiao , Sen. Koko Pimenetel , Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi , Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio
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