(Eagle News) — Senator Leila de Lima has said she was “disappointed” over the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss her petition for a writ of habeas data petition against President Rodrigo Duterte, adding that it had the effect of “emboldening attacks against women.”
The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data of the aggrieved party.
In a statement, De Lima said that while she respects the resolution that junked her petition on the basis of presidential immunity, “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.”
“I cannot help but think that the Supreme Court 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.
She added 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.”
“Still, I shall not relent until I attain justice,” she said.
De Lima filed the petition against Duterte after he publicly lashed out at her following her calls for a stop to what she said were extrajudicial killings committed in the course of the drug war, and for a Senate probe into the same.
In her petition, De Lima specifically noted Duterte’s August 11, 2016 statements in which he said he would “have to destroy (De Lima) in public” and insinuated he was keeping surveillance of her.
“Akala nila na hindi rin ako nakikinig sa kanila. So while all the time they were all listening to what I’ve done, I’ve also been busy, and with the help of another country, listening to them..,” De Lima had quoted Duterte as saying.
In junking the petition in its 22-page resolution, the SC noted that the rationale for the grant to the President of the privilege of immunity from suit, based on Soliven vs Makasiar, was “to assure the exercise of presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance or distraction, considering that being the chief executive of the government is a job that, aside from requiring all of the office-holder’s time, also demands undivided attention.”
It said the rationale was expanded in David vs Macapagal-Arroyo, where the court ruled that the “dignity” of the “high office of the President” would be “degrade(d)” if he “can be dragged into court litigations while serving such.”
The SC added De Lima’s argument the President should invoke the privilege of immunity first before this can be applied by the courts does not hold.
“…If this court were to first require the President to respond to each and every complaint brought against him and then to avail himself of presidential immunity on a case to case basis, then the rationale for the privilege –protecting the President from harassment, hindrance or distraction in the discharge of his duties, would very well be defeated,” the SC explained.
The resolution was signed by all SC justices, including then-Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, except Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who was on leave.