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I. Immunity of public officers

1. DOCTRINE OF STATE IMMUNITY

a. President

1) Executive Immunity

The President during his tenure is immune from suit. (Estrada v. Desierto, En Banc, G.R. No. 146710-15, 02 March 2001)

The presidential immunity from suit exists only in concurrence with the president’s incumbency. (In the Matter of the Petition for the Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Habeas Data in favor of Francis Saez v. Arroyo, En Banc, G.R. No. 183533, 25 September 2012)

Conversely, this presidential privilege of immunity cannot be invoked by a non-sitting president even for acts committed during his or her tenure. Courts look with disfavor upon the presidential privilege of immunity, especially when it impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right. (Ibid.)

b. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives

1) Parliamentary Immunity

A Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session. (Section 11, Article VI, 1987 Constitution)

No Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof. (Ibid.)

c. Public officials, In General

GENERAL RULE: While the doctrine of state immunity appears to prohibit only suits against the state without its consent, it is also applicable to complaints filed against officials of the state for acts allegedly performed by them in the discharge of their duties. The suit is regarded as one against the state where satisfaction of the judgment against the officials will require the state itself to perform a positive act, such as the appropriation of the amount necessary to pay the damages awarded against them. (DOH v. Phil. Pharmawealth, Inc., G.R. No. 169304, 13 March 2007)

The suability of a government official depends on whether the official concerned was acting within his official or jurisdictional capacity, and whether the acts done in the performance of official functions will result in a charge or financial liability against the government. (Ibid.)

EXCEPTIONS:

1) WHEN MADE TO ACCOUNT ON HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY: The rule on state immunity does not apply where the public official is charged in his official capacity for acts that are unauthorized or unlawful and injurious to the rights of others. (Ibid.)

2) WHEN SUED IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY: Neither does the rule apply where the public official is clearly being sued not in his official capacity but in his personal capacity, although the acts complained of may have been committed while he occupied a public position. (Ibid.)

The aforecited authorities are clear on the matter. They state that the doctrine of immunity from suit will not apply and may not be invoked where the public official is being sued in his private and personal capacity as an ordinary citizen. The cloak of protection afforded the officers and agents of the government is removed the moment they are sued in their individual capacity. This situation usually arises where the public official acts without authority or in excess of the powers vested in him. It is a well-settled principle of law that a public official may be liable in his personal private capacity for whatever damage he may have caused by his act done with malice and in bad faith, or beyond the scope of his authority or jurisdiction. (Arigo v. Swift, G.R. No. 206510 16 September 2014)

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