Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Friday that they would question before the Supreme Court a provision allowing the probe of a president for the purpose of filing an impeachment complaint against him. King Rodriguez/PPD, File

Palace to question probe vs Duterte before Supreme Court
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - October 6, 2017 - 7:57am

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo plans to question before the Supreme Court a provision that allows an investigation of the president for the purpose of filing an impeachment complaint against him.

The provision circumvents that "doctrine of immunity of the president" as it saddles the chief executive with cases that he needs to answer, according to Panelo.

President Rodrigo Duterte is facing a fact-finding probe before the Office of the Ombudsman based on the complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, alleging that he has millions of pesos in questionable wealth in his bank accounts.

However, for Panelo, this should not be allowed.

"Sa aking pananaw doon hindi nila dapat iniimbestigahan even under Republic Act 6713 sinasabi dun na pwedeng imbestigahan ang presidente for purposes of filing an impeachment complaint," he said in an interview with radio station DZMM.

RA 6713 refers to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Panelo said that the provision of the law that allows a probe of the president was hampering Duterte from attending to the affairs of the government and the state.

"I intend to file a petition at the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of that provision because it circumvents the doctrine of immunity of a sitting president," he said.

"You cannot be saddling the president with suits that will hamper his time as well as his efficiency in running the affairs of the state. Tingnan mo yung nangyayari ngayon (Look at what's happening)," Panelo added.

Panelo said those wanting to charge Duterte should just wait for him to finish his term in 2022 because these complaints were "disturbing" and distracting him.

"Sa halip na mag-concentrate siya sa kanyang trabaho, he has to defend himself and his family. Naiistorbo siya e. Nasisira diskarte niya e. Mag-antay na lang siya ng end ng tenure niya saka siya idemanda," the president's chief legal adviser said.

Panelo, however, could not give yet a definite date when he would petition the High Court.

The president and Solicitor General Jose Calida recently claimed that there was a conspiracy among allies of the previous administration, the communists, the clergy and some civil society groups to remove Duterte from office.

READ: Calida: People from different colors, not just yellows, plotting to oust Duterte

Part of this move to oust him was the probe of the anti-graft agency which has been selective in resolving cases before it, according to the president.

Calida said that these groups were doing this as they could not accept that they were defeated by a mayor of Davao City and were "lusting" for a return to power.

The former ruling Liberal Party and the Communist Party of the Philippines have both denied plotting to remove the president. This could just be a ploy to remove the attention of the media and the public from the issues facing the administration, according to Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, the LP president.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, clarified that the country's security agencies had not monitored any move to destabilize the Duterte administration.

The recently-created presidential commission against corruption would also not go after impeachable officers, according to Panelo.

"I don't think it will," he said in the radio interview.

He added that the creation of such commissions was constitutional and had been done by past presidents since the time of former President Fidel Ramos.

Panelo said the funding for the agency would come from the Office of the President.

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