Opposition solons on Duterte's motive for VP run: 'Shameless!'

President Rodrigo Duterte will be clothed with immunity from legal prosecution if he wins the 2022 vice presidential race but this protection applies only in local setting and not in international courts of justice.

President Rodrigo Duterte
Duterte’s announcement that he would seek the vice presidency to avail of executive immunity drew sweep but sharp criticisms from congressmen.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate urged Filipino voters to reject the chief executive’s possible bid for the second highest position in the land because this would only be used by Duterte “to escape accountability.” Together with Bayan Muna chairman and former Rep. Neri Colmenares, Zarate said Duterte’s opinion about immunity is “legally insane and his reason for running shameless.”

“President Duterte is suffering from malignant fear from prosecution in his desperate vice presidential bid - even as such move will not exempt him from suits. He may run for VP, but he cannot run away from his horrible crimes against Filipino women and the people,” said Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas in a statement.

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said Duterte is “grossly mistaken” if he believes that will be immune from lawsuits if he becomes vice president as soon as his term as president ends.

“Considering that only the President is immune from lawsuits, a legal verity which President Rodrigo Duterte fully knows, then his pretext of running for vice president to enjoy “immunity”, spills the beans on his real intention to become successor-president the moment the office of the elected president in 2022 is vacated by design or fortuitous event,” said Lagman, a lawyer.

Zarate pointed out that during his term, former Vice President Jejomar Binay was charged with graft.

"But, his (Duterte) statement is a false self-assurance just to pander himself and his allies. He knows that no such immunity is given to a vice president - he is aware of this truism just like he knows then in 2016 while campaigning for the presidency that he will not really jetski himself to the Spratlys," Zarate explained.

For his part, Colmenares said: “Pres. Duterte’s declaration to run for the vice presidency in order to escape imprisonment after his term ends is shameless and legally insane. The people should not allow a person to become our vice-president, not to serve the country, but for self-serving personal interest. “

Lagman stressed that the vice president “is not immune from suits.”

“Only the President enjoys this immunity, not by constitutional mandate but by judicial pronouncements in David vs. Arroyo and Lozada vs. Arroyo which were reaffirmed in Leila de Lima vs. President Rodrigo Duterte. This immunity is solely from the domestic or national judicial jurisdiction,” explained Lagman.

The Bicolano lawmaker pointed out that as soon as Philippines became a State party to the Rome Statute in 2011 that created the International Criminal Court, the country “waived any immunity even for the President and acceded to the jurisdiction of the ICC for covered offenses.”

“Any pretense of presidential immunity from the ICC’s jurisdiction is infirm because such invocation of immunity makes the principle of complementarity unavailable,” said Lagman.