President Rodrigo Duterte again raised on Saturday his possible candidacy for vice president, saying this would ensure his immunity from suit for another six years.
The 76-year-old Duterte, who is barred from reelection, said his political opponents including former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio repeatedly threatened to bring him to court after his term expires next year.
"Panay ang takot sa akin na mademanda ako. Sabi ng batas na kung presidente ka at bise presidente ka, may immunity ka. Edi tatakbo na lang ako na bise presidente," Duterte told cheering partymates at a national assembly late Saturday.
Duterte said he would even run again and again for the same position just to evade lawsuits.
"I'm a lawyer and they can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years," the President said.
The president's privilege of immunity from suit is not expressly stated in the 1987 Constitution. It only states that the president, the vice president, members of the Supreme Court and of constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office through impeachment.
The Supreme Court, however, upheld the privilege in a 1988 ruling, saying that it is "to assure the exercise of presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance of distraction."
While the president enjoys immunity from suit, Duterte's justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, said in 2019 that the vice president does not have the same privilege.
Responding to the filing of criminal charges against Vice President Leni Robredo over her alleged role in the supposed ouster plot against Duterte, Gueverra told the Philippine Star: "The Constitution does not grant the vice president immunity from suit."
"Since she is not immune from suit, the vice president has to face the charges even during her tenure," he added.
Duterte led the list of preferred vice presidential candidates in the 2022 elections according to the June 2021 survey of Pulse Asia. His daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, topped the list of preferred presidential bets.