Supreme Court wonât issue TRO on voiding of Trillanes amnesty
The SC denied his plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction against the implementation of Proclamation No. 572 that voided the amnesty granted to him by the previous administration.
AP/Bullit Marquez/File
Supreme Court won’t issue TRO on voiding of Trillanes amnesty
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has failed to secure relief from the Supreme Court (SC) in his bid to avoid arrest and prosecution on cases stemming from adventurism during his colorful military career.

The SC denied his plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction against the implementation of Proclamation No. 572 that voided the amnesty granted to him by the previous administration.

SC spokesperson Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said a majority of the SC justices present in regular session yesterday voted to dismiss the urgent prayer in the petition filed by the arch critic of President Duterte last week, which sought to annul the proclamation over alleged violations of the 1987 Constitution.

Guerra stressed that the SC did not see the urgency to act on Trillanes’ plea as it considered “categorial pronouncement of Duterte that Trillanes will not be apprehended, detained or taken into custody unless a warrant of arrest has been issued by the trial court.”

“There is no extreme and urgent necessity for the Court to issue an injunctive relief, considering that the respondents have acknowledged Trillanes’ right to due process. In fact, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has caused the filing of pertinent motions before the Makati regional trial courts,” she pointed out.

The spokesperson said the SC also cited technical grounds in denying the senator’s plea for TRO. 

“Preliminarily, the issues of whether or not Trillanes filed an application for amnesty and whether or not he admitted his guilt for the crimes subject thereof appear to be factual in nature. Only a trial court (RTC), and in certain cases, the Court of Appeals, are trier of facts,” she said.

“Hence, it is appropriate that the Makati RTCs should be given leeway in exercising their concurrent jurisdiction to head and resolve the pleadings/motions filed by the parties as regards the legality of Proclamation No. 572,” Guerra added.

Guerra said the SC opted to allow the Makati RTCs handling the cases against Trillanes in connection with his participation in the Oakwood Premier mutiny in 2003 and The Peninsula Manila siege in 2007 to hear the motions filed by the DOJ seeking arrest of the senator and reopening of cases against him after the voiding of his amnesty.

Apart from denying Trillanes’ TRO plea, the SC also ordered the respondents – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde – to answer the petition and gave them 10 days to submit their comment.

This means the SC will still rule on the merits of the case.

Without the TRO from the SC on Proclamation No. 572, the scheduled hearings of Makati RTC Branch 148 on Trillanes’ coup d’etat case and Branch 150 on his rebellion charge later this week will proceed.

Branch 148 is set to resolve the motion of DOJ prosecutors seeking the issuance of arrest warrant against Trillanes as well as a hold departure order (HDO) against him.

Branch 150, on the other hand, has already denied DOJ’s motions for issuance of arrest warrant and HDO, but was still set to hear and decide whether or not to reopen the rebellion case against the senator.

The assailed order struck down Amnesty Proclamation No. 75 issued by former president Benigno Aquino III insofar as it absolved Trillanes of criminal liability in uprisings against former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The three-page proclamation, which took effect last Tuesday, specifically ordered the AFP and PNP to “apprehend” the opposition senator and recommit him in the detention facility where he had been incarcerated prior to the grant of amnesty in 2011.

It also directed the DOJ and the AFP Court Martial “to pursue all criminal and administrative cases” against Trillanes in relation to the Oakwood mutiny and Peninsula siege.

As this developed, the DOJ and Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) yesterday welcomed the decision of the SC.

In separate statements, Guevarra and Solicitor General Jose Calida lauded the SC for denying the prayer of Trillanes in his petition for issuance of TRO on Proclamation 572.

“There is really no extreme urgency to speak of, as the trial courts have set the DOJ’s motions for alias warrant of arrest and HDO for hearing, thereby giving Trillanes an opportunity to be heard,” Guevarra stressed.

The DOJ chief also saw the SC ruling as a vindication of their position that the coup d’etat and rebellion cases against Trillanes before the Makati RTCs branches 148 and 150, respectively, should proceed.

“The SC has also acknowledged the trial courts’ continuing jurisdiction over the coup d’etat and rebellion cases, notwithstanding the alleged ‘finality’ of the orders of dismissal based on the grant of amnesty to Trillanes,” Guevarra stressed.

“More importantly, the SC has recognized that the issue of validity of Proclamation No. 572 involves factual questions that only the trial courts may properly resolve,” he added.

Calida, for his part, also immediately welcomed the development.

“The OSG is elated that no less than the SC has acknowledged that Proclamation No. 572 afforded Trillanes due process. Hence, the SC found that ‘there is no extreme and urgent necessity for the Court to issue injunctive relief,’” he stressed. 

Calida also slammed Trillanes for his “baseless and inflammatory statements,” which he said were “mere delusions of a grandiose man.”

“We nurture the hope that Trillanes, no matter how remote the possibility, will finally man up and face the charges against him for unlawful actions he committed against the Filipino people,” the top government lawyer stressed.

‘SC has spoken’

The government can arrest Trillanes if it wants to because there is no more legal impediment to the voiding of his amnesty, Malacañang said yesterday.

“The SC has spoken. Trillanes has sought to restrain implementation of Presidential Proclamation No. 572, the SC denied the application for TRO. There is no legal impediment now to implement the (proclamation). He had his day in court and he failed,” Roque said at a press briefing. 

Asked if Trillanes would be arrested by the military or the police, Roque replied in Filipino: “That’s not what I meant. But if they want to, they can... I’m not saying they will do it.”

Duterte said he has not read the SC decision on Trillanes’ legal challenge to his proclamation but insisted that an amnesty is a personal act of the president.

“One of the glaring mistakes of the Aquino administration was to extend an amnesty. But the procedure was totally wrong in the sense that he just issued the proclamation, no particular names. It was a motherhood statement to cover the individual and any of the acts of the mutineers,” the President said yesterday in an interview with chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo. 

Duterte said Aquino had designated former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a committee to look into the case of Trillanes. The committee then came up with a resolution granting Trillanes and other rebel soldiers amnesty.

“On that basis, Gazmin wrote to the president that they are recommending amnesty. Correct. There’s no problem with that. The problem is after recommending, at the end of the narration, the narratives there, Gazmin signed the amnesty itself,” Duterte said.  

“You know, it is not possible to do that. Why? Because an act of pardon or amnesty is an act of state. It cannot be delegated to anybody but to the person or the president himself,” he added.

Duterte insisted that the Constitution exclusively grants to the President the power to pardon or to grant an amnesty.

“The action now taken against (Trillanes) by way of a criminal complaint is a very serious one, rebellion. Had it succeeded, it could have overthrown the government. So that an act of pardon, an act of amnesty is always an act of state which cannot be done by a mere Cabinet member, especially if that Cabinet member was the one or was one of those who investigated and made the recommendation and approved the recommendation himself,” he added. 

Roque echoed the President’s view, saying the power to grant amnesty, like the power to grant pardon, must be exercised by the President in person. He cited the case of Villena vs Secretary of Interior, a 1939 case reiterated in a 2009 case in Angeles vs Gaite. The court ruled that secretaries of departments exercise certain powers but the law cannot impair or in any way affect the constitutional power of control and direction of the President. 

  “The court further ruled that there are certain constitutional powers and prerogatives of the Chief Executive of the nation which must be exercised by him in person, and no amount of approval or ratification will validate the exercise of any of those powers by any other person,” the presidential spokesman added. 

Panelo said Trillanes’ fears of being arrested are baseless. 

“The fact remains: there was no order to arrest him. From the very start, we have been saying that,” the presidential legal counsel told CNN Philippines.  

“I think logic and common sense will tell us that if the government filed a motion for the issuance of an alias warrant of arrest, it means that we need a warrant of arrest to effect the arrest of Trillanes – it’s as simple as that. So the fear of Trillanes has no basis. That is precisely why the SC denied (his motion) – there is no basis for his fears,” he added.

Duterte reiterated the denial that the voiding of Trillanes’ amnesty was intended to silence those who are critical of him.

“I have yet to sign anything ordering the arrest and silence of anyone in this government, especially the critics,” the President said. 

“They (critics) are doing it every day. I’m giving them the time of their lives to just talk and talk and talk,” he said.

  Duterte also denied being a dictator, saying he was only preserving the country and the next generation.  

“You differentiate a dictator from the desire to protect your children,” he added.

For his part, Año suggested that it should be Senate President Vicente Sotto III who would turn over Trillanes to police authorities in the event that a warrant of arrest is issued by the Makati RTC.

This would avoid commotion if police will serve an arrest warrant against Trillanes, Año said.

“We will follow the rule of law and due process,” he said. “Everyone here is fair under the rule of law.”

On reports of destabilization plots against the Duterte administration, Año said they are looking at all the information to ensure that no group would take advantage of the current political events. – With Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas  

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