The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a writ of habeas data petition filed by detained Senator Leila de Lima in 2016 against President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a 22-page resolution dated Oct. 15, 2019 and made public Wednesday, the SC, through then Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, said President Duterte is immune from suit as the tribunal turned down de Lima’s claim that the presidential privilege is not automatic and must first be invoked by the Chief Executive before it takes effect.
“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,” the High Court said in dismissing de Lima’s petition.
The court said if the SC was to first require the President to respond to each and every complaint brought against him and then to avail himself of presidential immunity on a case to case basis, “then the rationale for the privilege — protecting the President from harassment, hindrance or distraction in the discharge of his duties–would be very well defeated.”
“It takes little imagination to foresee the possibility of the President being deluged with lawsuits, baseless or otherwise, should the President still need to invoke his immunity personally before a court may dismiss the case against him.” the tribunal said.
The court said the President may only be sued after his term ends.
“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,” it ruled.
De Lima had sought a writ of habeas data, claiming that her rights are violated by the gathering of information about the person, his or her family, and home.
De Lima, who is facing drug charges for acts committed while she was secretary of justice, filed the case before the SC, asking the high court to order the destruction of the obtained pieces of personal information. (PNA)