De Lima to file ‘test case’ vs Duterte before SC

Camille Elemia
De Lima to file ‘test case’ vs Duterte before SC
(UPDATED) The senator, who accuses President Rodrigo Duterte of 'blatantly abusing his power,' says the case will test the doctrine of presidential immunity

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Amid incessant attacks against her, Senator Leila de Lima said on Tuesday, October 11, that she is set to file a case against no less than President Rodrigo Duterte before the Supreme Court next week.

De Lima said she would file a writ of amparo and writ of habeas data against the President, who has linked her to illegal drugs.

“Even si Pangulong Duterte, kakasuhan ko rin po (I will also file a case against President Duterte),” De Lima told reporters on Tuesday.

While she recognized that the Chief Executive enjoys immunity from suit, De Lima said she would push through with the filing of her complaint to “test” the doctrine.

The embattled senator believes the framers of the doctrine did not intend for such rule to be “abused” by any president, which she had accused Duterte of committing, in her case. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)

I’m going to file a test case na may pagkakataon po na ‘di puwedeng ma-invoke ang presidential immunity from suit. This will be a test case. Kasama sa writ of amparo, habeas data,” De Lima said.

(I’m going to file a test case that there are instances when one cannot invoke presidential immunity from suit. This will be a test case. Along with the writ of amparo, habeas data.)

“Sa lawak at sobrang sama ng ginagawa sa akin, ito ang pagkakataon matest ang doctrine of presidential immunity. I don’t think ‘yung mga nakaisip ng doktrina na iyan could have ever comprehended a situation like this, where there is blatant abuse of power,” she added.

(With the extent and gravity of what is being done against me, this is an opportunity to test that doctine of presidential immunity. I don’t think those who thought of that doctrine could have ever comprehended a situation like this, where there is blatant abuse of power.)

The petition for a writ of amparo is a “remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission.”

The writ of habeas data, meanwhile, is a remedy for a person “whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission such as gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”

Complaints before Ombudsman, civil damages

De Lima said she would also file complaints before the Ombudsman against her critics for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. She will also file civil suits for damages.

She has so far only named Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as one of the subjects of her planned complaints before the Ombudsman.

Meron pa pong iba. I wouldn’t want to be laying all my cards on the table kasi baka mapaghandaan po ako ng mga ‘yan lalo na napaka-lopsided ng laban. Ako lang po nandito and then sila ‘yung mga kalaban. Meron pong mga iniisip and in those cases, i-implead ko mismo ang Pangulo,” she said.

(There are others. I wouldn’t want to be laying all my cards on the table because they might prepare for it, especially as the fight is so lopsided. I am the only one here, and then they are on the other side. There are some things being considered and in those cases, I would implead the President himself.)

De Lima is the subject of an ongoing congressional inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary. The witnesses – mostly convicts granted immunity from suit – have accused De Lima of receiving drug money, which the senator has repeatedly denied. The House probe has also dug into the private life of De Lima to prove her alleged links to illegal drugs.

De Lima is also facing possible administrative and criminal charges from the Department of Justice for alleged drug links. Earlier on Tuesday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption filed a complaint against De Lima and 7 others for allegedly “conspiring” to perpetuate the illegal drug trade in the NBP.

De Lima earlier said she was considering filing the writs of amparo and habeas data against her critics, after her personal address and mobile number were publicized in the House probe. (READ: For fear of life, De Lima moves to temporary home)

Duterte and De Lima have a long-running enmity, stemming from the latter’s investigation of the Davao Death Squad when she headed the Commission on Human Rights. The CHR probe included the alleged key role of Duterte, then Davao City mayor, in reported DDS operations against crime suspects and the mayor’s foes. 

The conflict between the two resurfaced when De Lima criticized the spate of killings related to the government’s war on drugs and initiated a Senate inquiry into it. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email