SC junks de Lima’s ‘test case’ vs Duterte

The Supreme Court on Wednesday junked the petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data filed by detained opposition leader Sen. Leila de Lima against President Duterte, saying the latter is immune from suit.

“It will be impossible for the Court to enable her cause of action to be established without first determining whether or not said laws, which carry penal sanctions, had been violated.”

“Any ruling on her petition will necessarily entail a judgment on whether or not the President violated said laws…The Chief Executive must first be allowed to end his tenure (not his term) either through resignation or removal by impeachment. Being a Member of Congress, the petitioner [De Lima] is well aware of this, and she cannot sincerely claim that she is bereft of any remedy,” the SC said in resolution penned by now retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin.

In a 20-page petition for habeas data, de Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame on charges of illegal drugs, asked the SC to stop Mr. Duterte and his men from gathering personal information against her.

De Lima said in her petition that the “illegally-obtained pieces of private information should be deleted, destroyed or rectified.”

Immunity from suit is extended to a sitting president to ensure that he or she can exercise his duties and functions of running the country’s affairs free from any hindrance or distraction.

While the 1987 Constitution has no provision on presidential immunity from suit, it can be found in various jurisprudence, both in the US and the Philippines.

However, de Lima explained that there are acts committed by a president which are not covered by such immunity.

“The verbal attacks on petitioner’s womanhood and threats on her person are not covered by presidential immunity from suit because they are not the official act of a President,” de Lima said.

She said that attacks against her are already “outside the realm of legitimate public concern.”

De Lima is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drugs trade at Branches 205, 206 and 256 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

Around 40 prosecution witnesses have testified against her, including former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who used to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

A former chair of Commission on Human Rights who had been critical of the President Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign, De Lima maintained that the drug charges against her were all fabrications and politically motivated.

Recently, several United States senators’ call to bar the entry on American soil of any Philippine official who had a hand de Lima’s “politically motivated” imprisonment.

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