De Lima: Only President immune from suit, not VP Binay
“The Vice President is not immune from suit. He is an impeachable official but he is not immune from suit.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday made the stand amid the debate between administration senators and the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay on whether he enjoyed immunity from suit.
Among the impeachable officials, only the President is immune from suit, De Lima said in a statement.
“Impeachability only means that he cannot be removed from public office except by impeachment. Any suit filed against him that would not result in his removal from office, like a civil suit for forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, is allowed,” she explained.
“There is no doctrine in constitutional or political law that serves as a legal basis or rationale for immunity from suit of impeachable officials, other than for the President,” she added.
‘Don’t hide behind legalities’
In an interview with reporters, De Lima said Binay should just answer the
accusations of alleged corruption and issue of questionable bank deposits against him during the Senate investigation and by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
“He should face the music, and not keep saying that [the investigations] against him are politically motivated. There is always politics in cases like these, anyway. He should just explain his bank accounts and not hide behind legalities such as immunity from suit,” De Lima said.
Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero III said Binay was not immune from suits or from investigations, such as the inquiry being conducted by the AMLC on the bank accounts of the Vice President, his family, aides and friends.
University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque said Binay would lose his immunity and may be charged in court only after removal from office through impeachment.
Roque said the AMLC’s petition to the Court of Appeals to freeze Binay’s accounts and the freeze order itself violated the Vice President’s immunity.
Under Philippine jurisprudence, De Lima said, only the President, the State and members of the diplomatic corps under international law were immune from suit.
“In the case of the President, he has to be protected from suits in order for him to concentrate on the business of running the government. He cannot be left attending to personal law suits left and right, instead of performing his job as the President,” she explained.–Jerome Aning
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