President Rodrigo Duterte need not seek immunity from lawsuits since he did not commit any wrongdoing, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“There is none,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in Filipino during a virtual press conference when quizzed if Duterte did something wrong to seek immunity from lawsuits.
Roque said Duterte had merely raised the “fact” that a president and a vice president can gain immunity from suits.
He added that Duterte’s recent statement was even similar to the previous remarks of his critics, including Senator Leila de Lima and election lawyer Romulo “Romy” Macalintal.
“That is just a statement of fact that is ironically supported by his arch critics like Leila de Lima and Atty. Romy Macalintal who ran under the Liberal Party,” Roque said.
On July 18, Duterte joked that he would seek the vice presidency to get immunity from lawsuits.
Duterte made the remarks amid the threat of facing criminal charges once his term ends in June next year.
Citing de Lima’s statement on July 7, 2015, Roque said impeachable officials, according to the 1987 Constitution, “shall not be removed from office except by impeachment.”
Roque added that de Lima even stressed that a government official can be subject to criminal proceedings, “so long as they are not removed from office.”
He also took note of Macalintal’s October 15, 2014 statement that the vice president, just like the President and all constitutional officials, is “covered by immunity from suit” and “cannot be charged in court under the normal procedure of trial.”
Roque said Duterte’s claim that becoming vice president can help him evade lawsuits could be an opportunity to “provoke jurisprudence.”
“While there is still no jurisprudence when it comes to the vice president, perhaps, this will be the chance to clarify the issue if it is raised before the Supreme Court,” he said. “Let this be an opportunity to provoke jurisprudence.”
On July 18, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said Duterte’s potential vice presidential bid is merely fueled by his “real intention” of becoming a “successor-president.”
Roque said Lagman’s claim is “baseless.”
“I will say that’s correct if Congressman Lagman is close to the President. Congressman Lagman has no connection with him at all so that’s not true,” he said in Filipino.