TURNING POINT: Immunity from Suit: the Clear and Imminent Danger

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 22 July) – At no other time was President Duterte most sincere and honest than when he unabashedly declared he is running for vice president for a self-serving reason – to acquire immunity from suit. He said he would run again and again as vice president if only to avoid being haled to court.

Unfortunately, a sitting VP is not immune from any suit, so says the 1987 Constitution. PDU30 remains undaunted and vowed to challenge the jurisprudence on this. He would still run for the post, of course, in tandem with his anointed presidential candidate, and that is no other than the apple of his eyes, daughter Sara.

A Duterte-Duterte run for the two highest posts of the land is a formidable partnership to beat. If Digong’s vulgar magic still titillates the imagination of the masses, the family may continue to stay in the palace. And the immunity of the president-daughter may yet spill over to the vice-president father through her political clout in the avenue of power for the mean time.

Aside from the looming proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on his crime against humanity on account of his atrocious war on drugs, what could be those other suits that he fears to haunt him once his term as president comes to end, such that he is hell-bound to run as VP?

Anyway, if he has executed the presidency above board, if he has done nothing wrong, who would dare slander him with a suit?

Forget the local suits. The clear and imminent danger is his pending case with the ICC, now that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the Philippine government is obliged to cooperate with the proceedings of the Court at The Hague despite its withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

The SC based its ruling on the Rome Statute’s provision that the exit does not affect criminal proceedings pertaining to acts that occurred when a country was still a state party. The liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated by the withdrawal of the country from  the Rome Statute. The Philippines remained covered and bound by the Rome Statute until March 17, 2019, the SC said.

The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC, of which the Philippines is a state member since 2011.

Malacanang has repeatedly said that the government will not cooperate with the ICC because the petition for the investigation is politically motivated and a formal inquiry is illegal because it violates the sovereignty of the country. Now that the high court has spoken, the government is duty-bound to cooperate for the conduct of such inquiry. It shall now allow the pre-trial chamber of the Hague Court to go to some processes (within the country) in the conduct of the formal inquiry, if the request for such by the office of the prosecutor is finally given the green light.

The Hague Court will now go into a judicial proceeding where the petition against the accused will be heard and the evidences from the parties are evaluated and judgment will be rendered at the end of the day. And when warranted at the right time, nothing now can stop the ICC from ordering the arrest of suspects and get the cooperation of state security forces to enforce it.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)