SC urged to end presidential immunity from suit

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

(UPDATED) A FORMER lawmaker asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to stop the current practice of dismissing cases against a sitting president on the basis of immunity.

Former Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco said in a petition that the 1987 Constitution does not speak of any immunity for the president, who is removable by impeachment.

"The textual or literal expression of presidential immunity present in the 1973 Constitution was deliberately dropped by the 1987 Constitution, a categorical expression of abandonment of a provision that would entrench tyranny," the petition read.

Aquino lambasted Syjuco in his 2013 State of the Nation Address (Sona) for alleged overpriced projects during the former congressman's stint as director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in the Arroyo administration.

Syjuco, who is facing graft and malversation cases at the Sandiganbayan, filed a libel case against Aquino before the Office of the Ombudsman but it was junked last June 2, citing presidential immunity from suit.

"Since the petitioner was actually barred by the government from seeking redress because of the premise that the President is immune from suit, he (Syjuco) will never be able to seek vindication of his human rights that were violated," Syjuco said, as he asked the SC to order the Ombudsman to tackle his complaint anew.

Since 1986, the SC ruled in a couple of cases that incumbent presidents could not be sued in any criminal or case to avoid distractions in governing the country.

His immunity does not even have to be spelled out in the Constitution or law, the justices said on May 3, 2006, when it found "improper" for some groups to implead former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for declaring a state of national emergency in February 2006.

"Unlike the legislative and judicial branch, only one constitutes the executive branch and anything which impairs his usefulness in the discharge of the many great and important duties imposed upon him by the Constitution impairs the operation of the government," the Court said. (Sunnex)

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