SC decision allows 'coward' Duterte to hide behind OP – De Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Disappointed over losing the writ of habeas data case at the Supreme Court, detained Senator Leila de Lima said the decision allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to hide like a "coward" behind the Office of the President.

"While I respect the Resolution, I cannot help but think that the Supreme Court has allowed Mr Duterte to hide, like a coward, behind the protection of the 'Office of the President' for his personal and despicable words and deeds," said De Lima, in a dispatch from her cell on Thursday, January 23.

De Lima said that she always believed that presidential immunity is "meant for the office, and not the man who abuses its powers and destroys its dignity." (READ: From 'fragrant' Filipinas to shooting vaginas: Duterte's top 6 sexist remarks)

"Because Duterte the man, who harassed a woman for daring to exercise her right to participate in public discourse, is not Duterte the President. The Office of the President signed a law protecting women; it is the man who violates it. And for that, he deserves no protection," De Lima said.

The opposition senator added that Duterte, as the occupant of the Office of the President, has attacked women contrary to the Magna Carta of Women which was passed by Congress and later signed by the President.

"I’ve always believed that the presidential immunity from suit is meant for the Office, not the man who abuses its powers and destroys its dignity. And the acts of the occupant of that office attacking a woman…may not fall within the ambit of that legal shield," De Lima said.

"Sadly, our Supreme Court held otherwise," she added.

Because of this, De Lima said she "couldn't help but think" that the High Court's decision has the effect of "emboldening attacks against women."

"I cannot help but think that the Supreme Court’s decision has the effect of emboldening attacks against women by undermining the acts of two branches of government that passed a law protecting women, and stripping Filipino women of the protection that the judiciary is mandated to afford them," she said,

In a decision dated October 15, 2019, the SC unanimously denied De Lima of a writ of habeas data against the President. The High Court ruled that a sitting president is immune from criminal, civil, and administrative suit.

In the discussion of ruling, the SC said that ordinary suits against Duterte may be filed after his tenure, either through resignation or impeachment.

"Impeachment, as naively suggested in the SC resolution itself, in a Congress that is overwhelmingly stacked in favor of Mr Duterte, is a futile remedy for me or anyone who dares speak truth to power," De Lima said.

"Still, I shall not relent until I attain justice," she added.

De Lima filed the case in 2016, after Duterte delivered several speeches against the senator. Duterte also called De Lima an "immoral, dirty woman" for supposedly having an affair with her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.

Duterte had also alleged that the senator had a "sex tape," which De Lima had categorically denied. Duterte allies at the House of Representatives had even threatened to show it during a public hearing. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.