By Atty. Howie Calleja
From mere innuendos of running for Vice President in the 2022 Polls, President Rodrigo Duterte in his speech at the PDP-Laban’s national assembly at Royce Hotel and Casino at Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, has now definitively manifested that he willing and seriously considering to seek the office of the vice president in next year’s synchronized national and local elections if it means having immunity from suit and to selfishly hold on to power.
Besides being a cowardly reason to run for public office, the constitution does not give immunity to the Vice President against suit. In Article VII of the Constitution, the vice president is given limited functions. He or she can be appointed to the cabinet. But the most important duty is to succeed the president in case of “death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation…” Thus, the vice president’s functions do not justify a grant of immunity. In addition, to desire the shield of immunity only reveals the feeling of guilt and the intention to run away from the rule of law. As a worse case scenario, he might even circumvent the sitting lame duck president that he has chosen (which he will obviously eventually control) and make him/her resign so he can illegally have another term as president.
Notwithstanding this selfish, uneducated and whimsy reason for running, can Mr. Duterte run for Vice President? The straightforward LEGAL and ETHICAL response is NO.
First running for VP is clearly against the intent and spirit of the constitution. No person can serve as president for a second term to be clear no one who has served his 6 years term can ever sit as president again. Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution says: “The President and the Vice-President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date six years thereafter. The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.” The word “any” is a clear statement of the framers of the constitution that all presidents are limited to one single term of 6 years.
Secondly, the statement that the President’s VP run will bring in tons of funds to give to his PDP party mates and allies is immoral and unconstitutional. After publicly declaring that there are no more funds for our COVID-19 Response Initiatives after we are doubled the debt during his administration from about 5 trillion now more than 11 trillion; it is inconsistent and unethical to brag about election mobilization funds (which obviously is a form of vote buying to the highest degree) the use of public funds for campaign and election purposes is also illegal and immoral vis-à-vis the current situation of our poor “kababayans” who until this time is struggling to make ends meet.
Finally Mr. Duterte said that he is running to scare the opposition. Well, we are not scared! On the contrary he is the one running scared trying to elude accountability. Run as he will because by doing so, the president once again arrogantly displays how he disrespects the rule of law and our constitution. He tarnishes the dignity of the Office of the President; and blatantly flaunts his false presumptions of his “invincible political stronghold” created by his army of social media trolls, well I look forward to his candidacy and his rejection in the May 2022 election.