Press Release
August 11, 2009

By Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

The President enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution, but not from civil prosecution, during her term of office. Thus, she cannot be charged criminally with the Ombudsman.

Theoretically, she can be impeached for graft and corruption. But there were some representatives present at the dinner, and the administration representatives would unite to dismiss an impeachment complaint in the House.

Under R.A. No. 3019, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the term "receiving any gift" includes the act of accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than her immediate family, "even on the occasion of a family celebration, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive."

Under the rules implementing R.A. No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the grounds for administrative disciplinary action, without prejudice to criminal and civil liabilities, include:

(f) Accepting any gift of monetary value in the course of her official duties. "The propriety or impropriety of the foregoing shall be determined by its value and the motivation. A thing of monetary value is one which is evidently or manifestly excessive by its very nature."

However, the Rules also state that the prohibition does not include "unsolicited gift of nominal or insignificant value. As to what is a gift of nominal value will depend on the circumstances of each case taking into account the salary of the official, the frequency of the giving, the expectation of the benefits, and other similar factors."

The question is whether, on the one hand, the dinner was "manifestly excessive;" or, on the other hand, was merely "nominal or insignificant." But this question becomes academic, for two reasons: (1) the President's immunity from criminal suit; and (2) the President's control of the majority in the House of Representatives. After all, an impeachment is not a judicial but a political process.

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