MANILA, Philippines — A political analyst thinks that a proposal to make President Rodrigo Duterte a special prosecutor in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should not be taken seriously as this would entail Duterte’s resignation as chief executive.
Asked during an interview on Monday with dzMM radio if lawyer Larry Gadon’s proposal was possible, lawyer and professor Antonio La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, laughed and then said, “Sasabihin ko joke ‘yon [I’ll say that it’s as joke] and quickly added that if it would be the case, then Duterte would either have to take a leave of absence or step down first to become part of the House of Representatives’ prosecution team.
“Basically, the sole prosecutor of impeachment ay ‘yong House of Representatives at ‘yong kanilang management team, pero p’wede silang magdala ng mga private prosecutor. Basically, bababa si Pangulo bilang presidente, siguro mag-on-leave s’ya para maging private prosecutor s’ya. ‘Yon ang nakikita kong paraan,” said La Viña.
He said that while the scenario might look amusing, it would not be good for the country.
“I suppose, kung mag-leave of absence ‘yong Pangulo, medyo nakakatawa ‘yon, di ba? Ah, masaya, sa tingin ko, pero hindi maganda para sa bayan,” said La Viña.
However, taking a leave of absence to become among Sereno’s prosecutors may not also be an option for Duterte because the country does not have any law that allows a chief executive to do that, according to La Viña.
“Sa tingin ko, hindi rin talaga p’wede, kailangan n’ya talagang magresign kasi wala namang leave of absence. Meron tayong sistema na kapag nagkasakit ang presidente, p’wede n’yang ibigay ang kapangyarihan…But we don’t have any provision that the president can take a leave,” he said.
La Viña said the constitutionally mandated separation of powers would be violated if Duterte would remain president and become among the prosecutors in the impeachment case.
“Tingnan mo ang mangyayari, kung s’ya pa rin ang Pangulo, then s’ya ‘yong prosecutor ng House…under s’ya ngayon ng House…And then vinaolate mo na ‘yong separation…Ngayon, pagka gano’n, kinombine mo na ‘yong executive at legislative,” he said.
Even Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he himself would file impeachment complaints against Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was already a violation of such separation of powers, according to La Viña.
“No’ng sinabi ng Pangulo ‘yan, sa tingin ko vinaolate mo na ‘yong separation of powers kasi napaka-powerful ng Pangulo,” he said.
La Viña said Duterte was not the first chief executive who had led an impeachment move against a chief justice. He said former President Benigno Aquino III did it, too, with the late Chief Justice Renato Corona and what the ex-chief executive did and what the current top leader is doing now are both wrong.
“Sa totoo lang, he is not the first president to have done this. Alam naman natin si President Aquino ginawa rin n’ya ‘yon kay CJ Corona, mali din ‘yon,” he said.
“Pero consistent tayo, huwag tayong i-accuse na dilawan. Mali din ‘yong ginawa ni President Aquino do’n kay CJ Corona as in mali itong ginagawa ni Presidente Duterte ngayon,” added La Viña.
[But we are consistent, we should not be accused as ‘Yellow.’ What President Aquino did in the case of CJ Corona was wrong, just like what President Duterte is doing now.]