Espinoza: Immunity from suits?

·3 min read

THE dye is cast. President Rodrigo Duterte will run for vice president under his party PDP-Laban in the May 9, 2022 general elections. He received the deafening applause on Saturday, July 17, from his party mates and followers during the party's national assembly in Clark, Pampanga when he candidly announced his decision to run for vice president.

But President Duterte's announcement could be not pleasing for Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and his faction at PDP-Laban that egged on the President through a resolution to run for vice president with Senator Bong Go as their presidential bet because it's now very clear that the President's decision to run is to keep him immune from suits and not because of the party's urging.

Well, whatever you say about President Duterte, the fact remains that he is not coy on what he wanted to say. Everyone laughed when he said in jest that he will run a thousand times so his critics, the likes of former Senator Antonio Trillanes and former SC Justice Antonio Carpio, could not sue him after his term. Seriously, this goes to show that the President has intuitions of what become of him when he is out of power.

But legal luminaries say President Duterte is mistaken since our Constitution does not provide immunity from suits for the vice president.

Joking aside and in a manner of speaking, Cusi's faction should be grateful to the critics of President Duterte because if not for their threats to sue the President when he's out of office, he would have retired from politics and perhaps give the opportunity to Leyte Congressman Martin Romualdez or former senator Bongbong Marcos to be the running mate of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who has already declared to run for president under her party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).

But what was obviously missing in that national assembly of PDP-Laban Cusi-wing is the formal nomination of their presidential candidate. Although, during Cusi's party convention in Cebu City, they endorsed Senator Go as their presidential bet to tandem with the President but he has declined many times. Is Cusi's faction now setting the stage for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as their official candidate for president?

This is the bone of contention of Senator Koko Pimentel, PDP-Laban's executive chairman, against Cusi that they have a secret candidate for president, who is not a member of the party, which is proscribed by the Constitution and by-laws of PDP-Laban. Senator Koko's father, the late Senator Nene Pimentel, was the founder of PDP-Laban. Because of the infighting in administration's party, PDP-Laban interim president Senator Manny Pacquiao was kicked out and naturally, Cusi was elected president.

There is no prohibition for political parties to coalesce, which is one of the strategies of politicians to ensure their victory in elections. If the HnP of Mayor Sara would coalesce with the PDP-Laban Cusi-wing, then the outcome would be a daughter and father team, Duterte-Duterte. This is a smart strategy because there would be no mixed up or stray vote for the president and vice president if Mayor Sara would register her maiden surname with the Comelec.

Last week, I wrote and guesstimated it right that the possible contenders for president and vice president comes May 9, 2022 elections are the partnership of Senator Ping Lacson and Senate President Tito Sotto against the Duterte-Duterte tandem. Mayor Sara already announced that her HnP will coalesce with other political parties to widen and strengthen her reach in the country. To Senators Koko and Manny, sorry boys, you are now the outcast of your own party.

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