Citizen Rodrigo Duterte summoned as grave threats case gets going
MANILA, Philippines — Former President Rodrigo Duterte has been summoned by the Quezon City prosecutor’s office to answer charges that he threatened to kill an opposition congresswoman for criticizing his daughter Vice President Sara Duterte’s controversial request for confidential funds in the proposed 2024 budget.
The subpoena, signed by Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Ulric Badiola, ordered the former president to appear on Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 for the preliminary investigation of the criminal complaint for grave threats filed against him by ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro.
It marked the first time for the 78-year-old Duterte—himself a former public prosecutor—to be the subject of a subpoena since stepping down from Malacañang in mid-2022 and losing his immunity from suit.
Duterte’s personal appearance before Badiola is required for the submission of his counter-affidavit.
“No motion to dismiss shall be entertained. Only counteraffidavit shall be admitted; otherwise, respondent is deemed to have waived the right to present evidence,” the summons read in part.
Likewise, no motion for postponement would be accepted “unless for exceptionally meritorious grounds,” it added.
Castro welcomed the issuance of the subpoena, saying it indicated that her legal action was moving forward.
“I am glad that the case is progressing and I hope that the former president will face the charges and participate in the preliminary investigation,” she said in a statement to reporters.
Duterte is facing a complaint for grave threats, which is punishable by up to six months of imprisonment under Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code.
But a higher penalty may be imposed under Section 6 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, because, as Castro alleged, the offense was committed with the use of information and communications technology.
Castro’s allegations stemmed from Duterte’s statements during the Oct. 11 episode of his television show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,” which aired on Sonshine Media Network International.
The video was also uploaded on the network’s video-sharing platforms but was later deleted.
Duterte talked about his daughter’s supposed plan to use her requested confidential funds for a soft revival of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and suggested that she inform Congress about the need for secret appropriations to counter the communist insurgency.
“But the first target of [Sara’s] intelligence fund would be you, France. I want to kill all you communists. Tell her that,” Duterte said.
On Nov. 9, the younger Duterte informed the Senate that she was no longer pursuing her P500-million request for confidential funds for the Office of the Vice President and P150 million for the Department of Education in response to relentless opposition from critics and other lawmakers.
This was after the House of Representatives stripped her offices of the appropriations and diverted these to agencies protecting the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.
Confidential funds are not subject to the usual government auditing processes and widely believed to be prone to corruption.
In her complaint, Castro took Duterte to task for making “baseless and malicious insinuations” linking her to the communist armed movement without evidence.
Not ‘joking, benign’
“Though factually baseless and clearly malicious, I cannot merely dismiss Respondent Duterte’s Red-tagging and accompanying grave threats as either figurative, joking, or otherwise benign,” she said, referring to government officials’ practice of labeling critics and activists as communists, often without basis.
Duterte did not issue any statement on the matter.
The Inquirer sought his former aide, Sen. Christopher Go, and his former executive secretary, Salvador Medialdea, for comment, but did not immediately get a response.