VP also immune from suit, being an impeachable official — Macalintal
MANILA, Philippines — The protection sitting presidents enjoy against any suit is also applicable to the incumbent vice president as they are both impeachable officials, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said on Thursday.
In a statement, Macalintal said that while there is no law or provision under the 1987 Constitution that mandates such rule, the tradition of bestowing immunity on the incumbent president was established by the Supreme Court (SC) in order to avoid degrading the dignity of the president’s office.
As such, Macalintal said that there is no reason as to why this immunity from suit (IFS) tradition could not be extended to the vice president — the constitutional successor of the president and also an official who could only be removed from office through impeachment.
“The immunity enjoyed by the President is only a tradition established by decisions of the [SC] to assure that his functions are not distracted or hindered by attending to cases filed against him during his tenure of office […] Since there is also no law nor constitutional provision providing for IFS of the VP, then there is no rhyme or reason why jurisprudence could not be widened or why the said immunity could not be extended to the VP,” he said.
“If the President enjoys such immunity, then the VP is also entitled to it because they belong to the same category of elective officials who could only be removed from office through the process of impeachment as provided under Section 2, Article XI of the constitution,” he added.
According to Macalintal, neither does the immunity from suit tradition apply to the president and the vice president only — as they should be observed for all officials who can only be removed by impeachment, like the SC chief justice and justices, and members of constitutional commissions and the Ombudsman.
“The IFS of the President, as well as those other impeachable officials is derived from the said constitutional mandate that they could only be removed through impeachment proceedings which are under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress,” he explained.
“If cases against them could be filed before a court of justice during their incumbency, they would be placed in danger of being removed from office by judicial action which is contrary to the said constitutional mandate that they could only be removed from office through the process of impeachment,” he further said.
Talks about the vice president potentially being immune from suit emanated from President Rodrigo Duterte’s claims that he is considering running for this position in 2022, to avoid possible cases that would be lodged against him.
Duterte’s critics have vowed several times that cases would be filed against the Chief Executive once his term expires in 2022, in relation to the drug war deaths and other incidents of supposed extrajudicial killings, as well as other rights abuses. Some groups also claimed that Duterte can be held liable for allowing Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea.
Macalintal — an opposition figure and one of Vice President Leni Robredo’s counsels — has criticized Duterte’s possible vice presidential bid in 2022. However, he insisted that Duterte can actually run, and that he may get immunity should he win in the 2022 national elections.
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