It may be time to revisit the doctrine of presidential immunity, Senator Leila de Lima said on Thursday, following the testimony of witness Edgar Matobato tagging President Rodrigo Duterte in alleged killings in Davao City.
In a media briefing, De Lima said there was no remedy for the public in certain extreme situations, citing how an elected chief executive might later be proven to be a mass murderer or rapist.
“Siguro it’s time to revisit or rethink that doctrine, (the) presidential immunity from suit,” said the senator, who quickly clarified that it was just “hypothetical” and was not intended toward Duterte.
“Paano na kung meron nahalal na pangulo na mass murderer pala, serial killer, rapist, etc?…Kung mapatunayan na isang pangulo ay ganun, may criminal mind, dahil because of that doctrine ‘di siya makakasuhan,” De Lima said.
“Otherwise, wala ng ibang solution kundi impeachment, people power, mga ganyan ganyan.. sana di na humantong sa ganyang scenario,” she added.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, admitted that she does not know how the investigation on alleged drug-related killings will proceed following Matobato’s testimony.
“Kung meron nga tayong extreme situation na example ko kanina, then what is the remedy of the people? Kasi kung tatanungin nyo ako what will happen after this, sa totoo lang di ko alam,” the senator said.
De Lima said she intends to tap a lawyer to make a judicial affidavit for Matobato where he can provide and clarify all the details of his testimony before the Senate inquiry.
The affidavit, she added, will be forwarded to the proper authorities, including the Office of the Ombudsman.
The senator said that while Duterte enjoys executive immunity, the other names mentioned by Matobato, including the President’s son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, were not immune from suit.
Fr. Joaquin Bernas S.J., one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, wrote in a 2014 newspaper article that there is no specific provision in the Charter which guarantees the president’s immunity. The said provision, however, was in the 1973 Constitution.