Photo which appeared on the Jan. 6, 2011 front page of The Philippine STAR shows Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV taking an oath as he submits his application for amnesty at Camp Aguinaldo.
Boy Santos
Duterte orders Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV arrest
Christina Mendez, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2018 - 12:00am

‘No amnesty application, admission of guilt’

MANILA, Philippines — Before departing for Israel, President Duterte ordered the arrest of his arch critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, issuing a proclamation that voided the amnesty granted in 2010 to the former Navy officer for his involvement in coup attempts against the Arroyo administration.

Duterte signed Presidential Proclamation No. 572, declaring as “void ab initio,” or void from the beginning, the amnesty for the senator, citing the latter’s alleged failure to comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under an amnesty program.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday confirmed the President’s issuance of the proclamation dated Aug. 31 before he left for Israel. The justice chief is the designated government caretaker while Duterte is abroad. Duterte is scheduled to leave Israel for Jordan today.

With the amnesty invalidated, Trillanes can be arrested on the strength of a warrant issued by a Makati court before he was given amnesty by the Aquino administration, Guevarra pointed out.

“There must be formal filing of application and there must be an expressed admission of guilt on the crime charged for you to be eligible for amnesty. Based on the review taken, he did not comply with these requirements,” Guevarra said at a press conference.

“This means the amnesty never existed. It’s not revoked or something that was given and being taken back,” the DOJ chief explained.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are ordered to employ all lawful means to apprehend former LTSG Antonio Trillanes so that he can be recommitted to the detention facility where he had been incarcerated for him to stand trial for the crimes he is charged with,” Duterte said in his proclamation.

“The grant of amnesty to former LTSG Antonio Trillanes IV under Proclamation No. 75 is declared void ab initio because he did not comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under the Amnesty Program,” the President said in his proclamation.

Duterte said Trillanes was granted amnesty pursuant to the decision of an ad hoc committee in the defense department and approved by then defense chief Voltaire Gazmin.

Trillanes was a junior Navy officer when he and several other fellow officers took over Oakwood Premier serviced residences in 2003 and the Manila Peninsula in 2007 – both in Makati City – to force the ouster of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom they accused of corruption and poll fraud.

“The matter of taking a look on whether an amnesty granted is valid or not is something that can be done at any time because, as you may probably have seen from the proclamation, if it’s declared to be void, that grant of amnesty is declared to be void, it can be attacked at any time because it’s void,” Guevarra added.

He also said the amnesty granted to Trillanes by then president Benigno Aquino III in 2010 does not have a proscription period.

“The matter of timing is irrelevant, there is no time element or prescriptive period as we call it in legal parlance, for something to be attacked if from the beginning it is void,” he said.

“It’s there in the proclamation,” Guevarra said, referring to possible enforcement of any pending arrest order. “I guess if he has a pending case, at an RTC, and I think there was an ongoing military tribunal, at that time, then I guess all of this will have to proceed and if taking him into custody is an automatic effect of that, then so be it.”

In revoking the grant of amnesty, Duterte said in his proclamation that Trillanes “never expressed his guilt for the crimes that were committed” during the siege of Oakwood and the Peninsula hotel.

“CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) can already effect the (arrest) order,” Guevara said, referring to a Makati court’s supposedly pending arrest warrant on Duterte.

The DOJ chief also recalled the Makati RTC Branch 148 was supposed to decide on the coup d’etat case against Trillanes but held off action due to the amnesty grant.

No persecution

Guevarra also denied allegations that the proclamation was a form of persecution of Trillanes, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration.

“This has nothing to do with him being in the opposition. This is about compliance with the law,” he explained.

The DOJ chief said that Trillanes anyway has lawyers and would know the legal remedies to pursue.

Guevara added that while the proclamation applies only to the case against Trillanes, the Palace is reviewing the amnesty for other Magdalo soldiers who joined the Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula siege and are facing coup d’etat and rebellion cases before the Makati RTC.   

In compliance with the proclamation, DOJ prosecutors filed yesterday afternoon an urgent motion seeking issuance of alias warrant of arrest against Trillanes to “update” the arrest warrant previously issued against him.

They also sought the immediate issuance of a hold departure order against the senator.

Makati RTC Branch 148 said it will review Trillanes’ case. “We have to review the records again because this actually involves about 53 volumes and the case started from another judge,” branch 148 presiding Judge Andres Soriano told reporters after receiving a motion from Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon for the issuance of hold departure order and alias warrant against Trillanes.

“I will see what I can do, but I really don’t think if I can. I’m still trying to retrieve the records. If it’s not in the office, it’s in the bodega,” he added.

Asked if there was a standing arrest warrant against Trillanes, Soriano said there was a previous dismissal of the charges against the senator.

“I don’t think there is a standing warrant of arrest right now,” he said.

To his knowledge, Soriano said the DOJ motion is the only pending case in his sala involving Trillanes.

In a related development, Solicitor General Jose Calida refused to comment on his role in Duterte’s issuance of Proclamation 572.

“I’m sorry, I cannot discuss that because we have what we call privileged communication between the lawyer and the clients, which is the Republic of the Philippines,” Calida said in an interview.

For chief presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo, there is no need for Congress’ concurrence for Proclamation No. 572 to take effect.

“Aside from the grounds mentioned in Proclamation No. 572, the amnesty can be declared null even without the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress,” Panelo said.

Duterte, as President, is the official authority considered by the 1987 Constitution as the only one empowered to grant executive clemencies, Panelo said.

“The State cannot be shackled by an act of clemency it has given to a political offender when the latter pursues subsequent acts inimical to its interest and violative of its fundamental charter,” Panelo said.

He stressed it is inherent upon the state, acting through the President, to protect itself from assault coming from whatever source.

“As chief executive and head of government, he has the power to issue orders protective of the State and its people. This is in line with the prime duty of the government to serve and protect the people under Article II, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution,” he emphasized.

While the Senate and the House of Representatives had concurred with Proclamation No. 75, Panelo noted that the two chambers had recommended that no application for amnesty shall be given due course without the applicant admitting his guilt or criminal culpability.

Consistent with such recommendation, the DND Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee crafted an implementing rule, which basically states that no application shall be approved without an express admission by the applicant of actual involvement or participation in activities detrimental to the state.

“As such, the amnesty granted to Senator Trillanes is void ab initio or one which is to be treated as invalid from the outset,” he pointed out. –  Marvin Sy, Robertzon Ramirez

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