2022 Philippine Elections

[The Slingshot] The crime of Sara Duterte

Antonio J. Montalvan II
[The Slingshot] The crime of Sara Duterte
'The poor, when they break the law, go to jail. But powerful persons like Sara Duterte do not go to jail.'

It happened almost 11 years ago. The prescription period to charge her has lapsed. That precisely begs the question why she was not convicted, because the naked evidence was there for the entire world to see.

Under the glare of television cameras, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte repeatedly punched Sheriff Abe Andres of the Davao Regional Trial Court 16 after a demolition she said she had asked to be postponed had pushed through, resulting in a scuffle.

Her staff first told her the matter was beyond their hands because there was an order from the court sheriff to proceed with the demolition of homes in an informal settlement area.

Asa ang sheriff? (Where is the sheriff?)” she angrily demanded. The sheriff came forward to her. It was at that instance that she repeatedly punched the sheriff, who by now had ducked his head in fear. Her staff then tried to restrain her but she roared, “Ayaw, ayaw (Don’t restrain me, don’t).” The sheriff was brought to the hospital.

She had claimed that she had asked him to postpone the demolition by two hours.

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Sara, the other Duterte

Sara, the other Duterte

What exactly happened after that? The Sheriff’s Confederation of the Philippines (Scophil) took it as an affront against all court sheriffs of the country and filed a complaint of direct assault and grave misconduct before the Office of the Ombudsman. Sheriff Andres decided not to file a case but Scophil said that “it will not sit idly by and watch arrogant powers-that-be make a mockery of the court’s writs and processes.” Scophil’s national officers then filed a second disbarment case against her at the Supreme Court’s Office of the Bar Confidant, after lawyer Fernando Perito filed the same.

Sheriff Andres filed an official leave after the incident and was later reassigned to Manila. Davao City folks we had talked to ask: who is brave enough to file a case against the Dutertes? Their powers in Davao City are tremendous.

Indeed, a year later in July 2012, the Office of the Ombudsman merely reprimanded Duterte and warned her that “a repetition of the incident will be dealt with more severely.” It also dismissed the criminal aspects of the case.

For what could have been the criminal accountabilities of Sara Duterte? Lawyers we had consulted all agreed that she was liable for Article 148 of the Revised Penal Code:

Direct assaults. – Any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force or intimidation for the attainment of any of the purposes enumerated in defining the crimes of rebellion and sedition, or shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or on occasion of such performance, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine not exceeding P1,000, when the assault is committed with a weapon or when the offender is a public officer or employee, or when the offender lays hands upon a person in authority. If none of these circumstances be present, the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period and a fine not exceeding P500 shall be imposed.”

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[ANALYSIS] Elephant in the room: Sara Duterte

[ANALYSIS] Elephant in the room: Sara Duterte

The circumstances of assault upon a person in authority – the sheriff is an agent of the court – were there. Sara Duterte would have been in prison now. At the very least, she would have been slapped with contempt of court. Lawyer and UP law professor Ted Te had opined she could have been liable under the disciplinary rules for lawyers. But for that, Sara Duterte replied: “I don’t care!”

She only apologized on June 24, 2012, almost a year after the incident. A month later, the mere reprimand came.

Today, the right to file has prescribed because crimes punishable by prision correccional (maximum six years imprisonment) should be filed in court within the 10-year prescription period.

We have to internalize this: is Sara Duterte the kind of vice president we want elected? Impunity is no political will. In fact, it is an antagonism to political will because it is the refusal to be held accountable. Sara, and any other Duterte seeking a public post for that matter, needs to be reminded that public office is not an entitlement. The Philippines is no Davao City that can be easily coerced by the Duterte family’s temper tantrums.

Consider her vitriol in this radio interview done after the mauling incident. The interviewer told her there was a public perception that she took the law into her own hands before resorting to other remedies. The mayor got incensed. She responded: “Mag mayor ka muna (Be a mayor first)!” She then banged the phone down.

Elected officials who evade accountability do not deserve to be elected. What they deserve is a stinging rebuke at the polls for violating the law. Violating the law and getting away with it is a form of terrorism. The poor, when they break the law, go to jail. But powerful persons like Sara Duterte do not go to jail. She is part of the problem of dynastic transactional elite politicians severely ailing our country and making a punching bag of our democracy. – Rappler.com

Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.