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SC orders President to answer petition of former lawyer in San Francisco, NY

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief



MANILA — Despite being popular among Filipinos on his second year in office, President Rodrigo Duterte is facing “ouster” plots from several fronts, one in the Supreme Court, the other allegedly by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the other by the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front and opposition groups.


The communist rebels were plotting since 2017 to oust President  Duterte by October this year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed.


In a statement, Lorenzana said during the unilateral ceasefire from 2016 to January 2017, the CPP-NPA-NDF called a People’s Congress during which they created a three-year plan that included the ouster of Duterte if he rejected a coalition government.


The CBCP has also been accused of allegedly plotting to overthrow the Duterte administration but this was vehemently denied by the bishops. 


"It is just a fabrication that came out of somewhere. It cannot come from the church. I can assure you of that," said Imus Bishop Rey Evangelista, head of the conference's public affairs office. 


After seeing the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by the High Court via a quo warranto petition, Duterte himself is facing a similar ouster attempt also by a quo warranto petition filed by an international lawyer, Elly Velez Pamatong, who once had a good practice in New York and in San Francisco, California.


Acting on Pamatong’s petition, the High Tribunal ordered Mr Duterte to answer the petition even as  Malacañang brushed off the case by Pamatong, a former classmate of the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in the University of the Philippines College of Law who had filed filed certificates of candidacy for president himself before the Commission on Elections.


In his five-page petition, Pamatong accused Duterte of usurping the powers of the chief executive as a consequence of an allegedly illegal certificate of candidacy (COC) for the 2016 polls.


Duterte, saying it is nothing but a nuisance case.


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, himself an international lawyer, said Pamatong’s petition was nothing but “a nuisance case.”


“Everybody has the right to file cases,” Roque said, adding that since they respect the judiciary, they will answer the petition against the President.


“Well, as you all know, everybody has the right to file cases, and for our part, we respect the judiciary. Of course the President will answer the complaint to prove the petition will not hold water,” Roque said during a media briefing.


Pamatong’s petition before the Supreme Court  is not within the jurisdiction of the High Court because the president is an elected official, Roque  added.

Roque said “it is very clear that all controversies involving the President should be lodged before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).”


“And since it was not filed before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, it is clear nobody has jurisdiction over it,” Roque pointed out.


The Presidential spokesman also clarified that the case of former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is different because the chief justice is not an elected official compared to the President, who has the mandate of the people.


“It is very easy to dispute the allegations,” Roque said.


Pamatong in his petition alleged the certificate of candidacy of Mr. Duterte during the 2016 presidential elections was illegal.


The Supreme Court (SC) issued an order during its June 26 en banc session, directing the President to comment on Pamatong’s plea and gave Duterte 10 days from receipt of the order to reply.


In his petition, Pamatong, who hails from Mindanao like the President, questioned Duterte’s authority to hold the position of president in the SC petition.


Pamatong lost in the presidential races in 2004 and 2010 and called Mr. Duterte a usurper because the certificate of candidacy (CoC) he (Duterte) filed in 2015 was not allowed by law.


The petition stated that prior to the elections on May 9, 2016, Duterte withdrew his CoC for mayor in Davao City and filed another CoC for a new position or for the Presidency.


The former mayor for 23 years of Davao City eventually won the presidential election with six million votes margin over his closest rival in the May 2016 polls.


Pamatong argued that under the law, a candidate who withdraws his CoC for one position, cannot thereafter file a CoC for another position.


But in his petition for quo warranto, Pamatong did not state what law he was referring to.


Those who may file a quo warranto under the Rules of Court are the Solicitor General, public prosecutors and a person claiming the usurped public office or position, and Pamatong is not one of them.


President Duterte became a substitute candidate of PDP-Laban partymate Martin Diño who is now undersecretary for barangay affairs of the Department of Interior and Local Government.


Pamatong also alleged that Duterte’s CoC was filed late and that it was never approved by the Comelec (Commission on Elections).

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