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B. Privileges, inhibitions, and disqualifications

1. Presidential immunity

a. CONCEPT

The presidential immunity from suit exists only in concurrence with the president’s incumbency. (Saez v. Arroyo, En Banc, G.R. No. 183533, 25 September 2012)

The President enjoys immunity from suit during his or her tenure of office or actual incumbency. Conversely, this presidential privilege of immunity cannot be invoked by a non-sitting president even for acts committed during his or her tenure. (Lozada, Jr. v. Arroyo, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 184379-80, 24 April 2012)

Case Law

1) In Lozada v. Arroyo, since her tenure of office has already ended, former President Arroyo can no longer invoke the privilege of presidential immunity as a defense to evade judicial determination of her responsibility or accountability for the alleged violation or threatened violation of the right to life, liberty and security of Lozada. (Ibid.)

1) Scope

Case Law

1) In Estrada v. Desierto, the cases filed against petitioner Estrada are criminal in character. They involve plunder, bribery and graft and corruption. By no stretch of the imagination can these crimes, especially plunder which carries the death penalty, be covered by the alleged mantle of immunity of a non-sitting president. Petitioner cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit criminal acts and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. It will be anomalous to hold that immunity is an inoculation from liability for unlawful acts and conditions. The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any trespasser. (Estrada v. Desierto, En Banc, G.R. No. 146710-15, 02 March 2001)

2) Impeachment, not a pre-requisite for accountability

When impeachment proceedings have become moot due to the resignation of the President, the proper criminal and civil cases may already be filed against him. (Estrada v. Desierto, En Banc, G.R. No. 146710-15, 02 March 2001)

2. Presidential privilege

a. EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE

1) Concept

Executive privilege – means the power of the President to withhold certain types information from the courts, the Congress, and ultimately the public. Apart from diplomatic and military secrets and the identity of government informers, another type of information covered by executive privilege relates to information about internal deliberations comprising the process by which government decisions are reached or policies formulated. (Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountabilty of Public Officers and Investigations, En Banc, G.R. No. 180643, 25 March 2007)

a) Adheres to the Office of the President

Executive privilege is not a personal privilege, but one that adheres to the Office of the President. It exists to protect public interest, not to benefit a particular public official. Its purpose, among others, is to assure that the nation will receive the benefit of candid, objective and untrammeled communication and exchange of information between the President and his/her advisers in the process of shaping or forming policies and arriving at decisions in the exercise of the functions of the Presidency under the Constitution. (Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountabilty of Public Officers and Investigations, En Banc, G.R. No. 180643, 04 September 2008)

The confidentiality of the President’s conversations and correspondence is not unique. It is akin to the confidentiality of judicial deliberations. It possesses the same value as the right to privacy of all citizens and more, because it is dictated by public interest and the constitutionally ordained separation of governmental powers. (Ibid.)

b) Rooted on separation of powers

Executive privilege is rooted on the doctrine of separation of powers, a basic postulate that forbids one branch of government to exercise powers belonging to another co-equal branch; or for one branch to interfere with the other’s performance of its constitutionally-assigned functions. It is partly in recognition of the doctrine that “presidential conversations, correspondences, or discussions during closed-door Cabinet meetings which, like internal-deliberations of the Supreme Court… or executive sessions of either house of Congress… cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government.” (Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountabilty of Public Officers and Investigations, 2007 case, supra.)

2) Steps to follow in claiming executive privilege

The steps to follow in claiming executive privilege. Foremost of these are:

1) It must be clearly asserted and by the Government to which the privilege belongs;

2) there must be a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department having control over the matter; and,

3) the statement of the claim must be specific and the claim must state the reasons for withholding the information. (Ibid.)

The Senate cannot require the executive to state the reasons for the claim with such particularity as to veritably compel disclosure of the information which the privilege is designed to protect in the first place. (Ibid.)

3. Disqualifications Added

a. ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION

1) Holding any other office or employment

The President, Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, and their deputies or assistants shall not, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, hold any other office or employment during their tenure. (Section 13, Article VII, 1987 Constitution)

2) Practicing any profession

3) Participating in any business

4) Be financially interested in any Government transaction

They shall not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly, practice any other profession, participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries. (Section 13, Article VII, 1987 Constitution)

b. AVOID CONFLICT OF INTEREST

They shall strictly avoid conflict of interest in the conduct of their office. (Section 13, Article VII, 1987 Constitution)

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