Vice presidents have no immunity from suit? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 15:09

KAKAMPI MO ANG BATAS

BY Atty. BATAS MAURICIO

LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you…” (Ephesians 4:32, the Holy Bible).

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CAN BINAY BE PROBED AND PROSECUTED BY OMBUDSMAN? Can Vice President Jejomar Binay be investigated and prosecuted by the Ombudsman for a criminal offense while he is still the second highest official of the country?

An examination of the 1987 Constitution and applicable decisions of the Supreme Court seems to indicate that, yes, Binay can be investigated and prosecuted by the Ombudsman for criminal offenses. This is so because there is no provision in the Constitution which grants the Vice President immunity from suit.

But then, did you know that there is also no provision in the 1987 Constitution that the President enjoys immunity from suit? Yet, despite this absence of any provision in the Charter granting the President immunity from suit, he is nevertheless immune from suit. It is a universally recognized right of the heads of State and of government not to be bothered by court cases, so that they will not be stymied in their work.

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VICE PRESIDENTS HAVE NO IMMUNITY FROM SUIT? So where does this absence of any Constitutional basis for immunity from suit of the vice president lead us? It would seem that the inclination of the Supreme Court is towards allowing the investigation and prosecution of supposedly immune officials, like the vice president, for criminal offenses that are attributed to them.

The overriding consideration seems to be that, when immunity from suit impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right, courts are not likely to recognize, much less expand, the grant of immunity.

This was what the Supreme Court said in the 2011 case of “Noriel Rodriguez vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: “Indeed, a critical reading of current literature on executive immunity will reveal a judicial disinclination to expand the privilege especially when it impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right.

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INTEREST OF TRUTH PREVAILS OVER IMMUNITY: In the same case, the Supreme Court, speaking through then Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, continued: “In the 1974 case of US v. Nixon, US President Richard Nixon, a sitting President, was subpoenaed to produce certain recordings and documents relating to his conversations with aids and advisers.

“Seven advisers of President Nixon’s associates were facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and other offenses (in the now infamous Watergate scandal)… President Nixon himself was named an unindicted co-conspirator… (and) moved to quash the subpoena on the ground, among others, that the President was not subject to judicial process and that he should first be impeached and removed from office before he could be made amenable to judicial proceedings.

“The claim was rejected by the US Supreme Court. It concluded that when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice…”

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