CAN OUR PRESIDENT DO IT?
Many Filipinos woke up to news that President Duterte released the names of the so-called “narcopoliticians” and apart from the expected outroar from those who said that it was a name and shame game, many asked me what is the legal basis for the President to do this and in the process, violate the due process clause.
And my answer is, the Constitution allowed him to do so.
The Constitution, while it mandates for the presumption of innocence, provides that the President has over-all supervision and control of the Philippines. He is the captain of ther ship who is tasked to navigate the direction of the nation. And because of this, the President is not supposed to be bothered by litigation due to cases filed against him. Hence, he is IMMUNE from suit. The same privilege is given to Senators at Congressmen that is why they can accuse any person in their privilege speeches without violating due process. So you may ask, does the Constitution allows the due process of every citizen to be violated by the President when he is tasked to implement the laws?
The answer is not as easy as yes or no. However, during his term, he will not be charged with any violation. Yes, he can be impeached and such is a possibility. That alone should be a deterrent but our President is steadfast in his resolve. And he has good reason.
First of all, he promised to go after the drug problem at all cost during the campaign and he was elected by a wide margin. If the people where sovereignty resides elected Duterte in spite of the threat of violating the rights of several individuals, big or small, then that is his mandate. The people, represented the plurality of the votes, gave him the go signal to do his job. PRRD never hid this fact in his campaigns. In fact, it was a repetitive outcry that most of us are familiar with his rhetorics. The problem is, it is no longer rhetorical because unlike other politicians, he makes good on his promises. To those who were questioning whether the 3-6 months is even possible to fight the war on drugs, should be biting their tongues and wished they never challenged him to do it.
Second, if ever the Filipino citizen does not approve of our President, the bar of public opinion is a potent deterrent. During the last administration, there were so many human rights violations that were committed, on GMA, the SAF 44, the Cotabato farmers, the Lumads and the opposition pork barrel participants. But PNoy cannot be sued nor can we compel him not to do it especially when media was on his side. We cannot even compel him to be in the airport to pay homage to the bodies of the SAF 44. So you get the point, in power, a President can practically do whatever he or she wants. How can we affect his actions? The bar of public opinion is effective especially when we have a media that is indifferent to the point of partiality. But many will agree with me, majority of the Filipinos agree with him.
Lastly, and the most important reason, the President can do anything he wants in pursuit of his mandate waging the drug war because he is NOT beholden to anyone. He did not beg for money from any interest who may be drug-tainted. He does not have a strong party influence that some of the names in the list are campaign leaders in his campaign. He did not beg us to vote and campaign for him. Those who campaigned did so not because we want something in return and those who expected are bitter people we do not need in our lives. The President is not afraid that he will be stepping on the Devil’s tail because he did not deal with the Devil. His concept of perpetuity is not prolonging his power or that of his party or interest but by leaving a legacy because that was what he promised to our Motherland; to end his term with a Philippines better than when he started it.
So to those who want to impeach him, try to do it. He does not have the numbers both in the Senate and Congress. He can be easily impeached. The question is: will Congress risk this?
In light of the uncertainty of the Vice Presidency with the BBM challenge and knowing that both houses are still made up of politicians who worry about perpetuating their power, they will not risk to be in the disfavor of their constituents. Unlike in the past where media controlled public imaging and information, the present set-up is not the same because social media has become an equalizer.
So worry or do not worry, the Constitution is his legal basis and in case you are not aware, it is the supreme law.