Palace: Duterte claim on VP lawsuit immunity 'to provoke jurisprudence'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19) — After fellow lawyers refuted President Rodrigo Duterte's claim that becoming vice president can help him evade lawsuits, his spokesperson on Monday said the statement could be "an opportunity to provoke jurisprudence."

Duterte earlier said he is considering running for vice president in the 2022 polls to acquire "immunity" from lawsuits. He made this remark amid threats of facing legal actions once he steps down from the top government post.

Other members of the legal profession, including former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers President Edre Olalia, were quick to debunk this statement, saying the country's vice president has no such immunity.

Asked what Duterte's basis is for making the claim, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque gave a short response in a Palace briefing.

"Let's just say perhaps this is an opportunity to provoke jurisprudence," he said.

According to Olalia, only the president is immune from suit. He added even this is not stated in the present 1987 Constitution and is only recognized in the Philippines' prevailing jurisprudence.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made a similar remark, although he said he considers Duterte's claim merely a "part of a political statement rather than a legal conclusion."

In a previous speech, Duterte said he was "seriously thinking" of joining the vice-presidential race. In another briefing, he admitted that his constant mention of the matter was part of his strategy to intimidate his critics.