A Lonely Twin
Purely from the point of academic discussion there is yet no categorical Supreme Court ruling clarifying whether a Vice President (VP) is immune from suit. Any opinion therefore on the availability of vice presidential immunity is at this moment merely an opinion, in fact un-soliciting.
And although it is yet too premature to discuss the fate of President Duterte’s plan slide down to the VP post, it is much wiser to delve about it now.
Who knows, God forbid, Mr. Duterte might make true his bid, given his propensity to make statements capable of either being taken seriously or jokingly. He even advances the intention that once he gets elected as VP he will continuously aspire for the same position in order to enjoy immunity from suit as a shield against any criminal charges against him by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and ex-Senator Antonio Trillanes, over and above being prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Subconsciously, he is in effect preparing his defenses the moment of truth eventually confronts him. He is entertaining the prospect of being prosecuted for a number of criminal cases upon the expiration of his presidential term.
That means also that he is weighing in on the strong possibility of ICC acquiring jurisdiction over his person. All his public statements questioning the jurisdiction of ICC is a mere ploy to project an image of being courageous. Deep within him, however, he knows that the moment of truth is dawning upon him.
About Duterte’s claim that VPs enjoy immunity, admittedly there is nothing in the constitution or even in tradition guaranteeing the same.
Back in 2016 then VP Jejomar Binay who was invoking immunity from suit while he faced a plunder case, constitutional legal experts including Pacifico Agabin pointed out that the fundamental law does not guarantee immunity from suit to a VP. Far Eastern University Dean Mel Santa Maria and Former Supreme Court Spokesperson Ted Te voiced the same opinion.
Duterte’s ploy might find support from someone who would take over his presidential post after the May 2022 election by protecting him from criminal suits.
But whether immunity from suit is available or not to a sitting VP is not much of relevance. For while there is no jurisprudence yet on the matter, the mere fact that a sitting president is already entertaining to aspire for the vice presidential post not so much in order to champion public interest and promote general welfare, but as a wily personal tool to protect him from the prospects of criminal prosecution once his term expires, is a very bad indicator.
In these times when credit grabbing clutters both the social media and the mainstream media for government projects, with one group accusing the other of dishonesty and want of delicadeza in claiming credit for government funded projects, nothing is mentioned about delicadeza and honesty. Those in power pre occupy themselves on what steps to take in order to steadfastly hold on to the reins of power.
Delicadeza and honesty. Such a lonely twin in public service, nowadays.