Padaca defends 'immunity' appeal

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Grace Padaca on Wednesday, October 31, defended her motion before the Sandiganbayan to dismiss or suspend her cases due to her newly acquired immunity from suit.

Her appeal, which her lawyers filed Wednesday morning, drew criticism online because her graft and malversation cases existed even before she became Comelec commissioner.

But in an interview with Rappler, Padaca said her camp is “banking on a law – in the Constitution no less – that the President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of the constitutional commissions, of which the Comelec is one, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment.” 

She said a potential problem could arise if she is convicted, and is removed from office as punishment. “We will be contravening the constitutional mandate that the members of the constitutional commissions may only be removed from office by impeachment,” Padaca explained. (Watch more in the video below.)

“It's what the law says,” she added. “It's no less than the Constitution that states it, and we are just using every possible remedy that is available to us, so how can that be leaving a bad taste in the mouth, when you are just citing what the fundamental law of the land says, and also Supreme Court rulings?”

In her 8-page motion, Padaca's lawyers cited two Supreme Court (SC) rulings that upheld the constitutional principle they invoke.

One of these is the case of Jarque vs Desierto, where the SC ruled that the Ombudsman or his deputies "must first be removed from office via the constitutional route of impeachment" before facing criminal or administrative cases. (Read the full text of Padaca's petition below.)

Padaca also said President Benigno Aquino III, chair of the Liberal Party of which she was previously a member, has nothing to do with this motion. Aquino has received criticism for supposedly giving Padaca special treatment, as when he himself paid for Padaca's P70,000 bail bond earlier this month.

Meanwhile, she said her Sandiganbayan case is “taking some time” from her work. She had to miss two Comelec sessions due to Sandiganbayan proceedings.

Netizens, however, reacted differently to Padaca's motion. (Read more in the Storify link below)

Padaca was arraigned at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, and pleaded not guilty only on Tuesday, October 30. On the same day, she was allowed by the court to fly to the United States to observe the country's elections.

The former Isabela governor is accused of giving undue advantage to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc, a non-government organization tapped to manage a credit facility for Isabela’s rice farmers under a hybrid seed distribution program. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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