More Magdalo men face arrest — DOJ

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
More Magdalo men face arrest â DOJ
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra hinted on this possibility yesterday as he revealed that a review on the amnesty given to Magdalo soldiers has begun.
Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — More former mutineers from the Magdalo group granted amnesty by the previous Aquino administration might suffer the same fate as Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and get rearrested.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra hinted on this possibility yesterday as he revealed that a review on the amnesty given to Magdalo soldiers has begun.

Voiding the amnesty for the other Magdalo members is “a possibility I cannot preempt,” Guevarra said on the sidelines of the celebration of the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s 121st anniversary.

“That’s the matter being reviewed by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) people – to check whether the other members of that group, the Magdalo group, might have also not complied. So I’m not preempting them, but my understanding is that their cases might be reviewed or opened,” he said.

“We cannot take away that risk that they’re found to be deficient or non-compliant with the requirements for amnesty. Then any other person who might have not complied may suffer the same situation as Senator Trillanes,” Guevarra explained.

The DOJ chief said the ongoing review on the amnesty grant for other Magdalo members is proof that the government is not singling Trillanes out.

“We cannot say the government is picking on him, no, and being selective. Just so happened that he’s the most vocal and he’s the leader of the pack, so to speak. So, it was just natural, if not logical, to start with him,” he explained.

Among the Magdalo soldiers granted immunity by former president Benigno Aquino III were Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and Office of Civil Defense deputy administrator Nicanor Faeldon, who are now on the opposing sides of the political spectrum.

Guevarra also welcomed the decision of the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150, which handled the rebellion case against the Magdalo soldiers for the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege, to issue warrant of arrest and hold departure order on Trillanes as DOJ prosecutors had sought.

He stressed that it was an affirmation of the DOJ’s position that Proclamation No. 572 has reopened the coup d’etat and rebellion cases against Trillanes despite the earlier dismissal of the case by the Makati RTC.

“By that very fact that the trial courts accepted the motions and deliberated the motions, that by itself is already a recognition by the court that it continues to have jurisdiction over the subject matter and even over the persons or the accused,” he explained.

The DOJ chief said they expect Makati RTC Branch 148, which handled the coup d’etat case against Magdalo soldiers, to rule on the prosecutors’ motion for issuance of arrest warrant and HDO against Trillanes within this week.

Unlike the rebellion case, the coup d’etat case is non-bailable.  

Court martial? No rush

Despite the issuance of an arrest order on Trillanes, the military will not rush its court martial proceedings against him.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would take its time as President Duterte’s voiding of Trillanes’ amnesty is still being challenged before the Supreme Court.

“We will take this one step at a time, baka ma-technical tayo. So arrest muna then wait for further development,” he said yesterday.

Trillanes posted bail Tuesday afternoon right after the Makati City RTC Branch 150 issued a warrant for his arrest.

Branch 148 also of the Makati City RTC, however, has yet to decide on whether the coup d’etat charges against him in connection with the 2003 Oakwood mutiny would also be revived.

AFP chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said that the military “submits to the majesty of the Supreme Court (SC) and yields to its wisdom.”

With the high tribunal still tackling the petition filed by Trillanes questioning Duterte’s Proclamation 572, Galvez said court martial proceedings would be held in abeyance.

Meanwhile, chief presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo said Trillanes should face the music instead of crying political persecution.

“The (arrest) order is anchored on solid legal ground,” Panelo said, dismissing Trillanes’ claim that he is being singled out by Duterte.

“Trillanes should face the music and dance as Frank Sinatra’s would croon in his song with the same title. He has to stop milking the issue and act pathetically as if he is a victim of injustice,” Panelo added.

The law of karma has finally caught up with Trillanes because of his “shenanigans,” he said, referring to the senator’s attacks against the President and his administration.

“He has been using his position as senator in planting the seeds of hate and sedition against PRRD (President Duterte) and the government,” he said.

Panelo also defended Judge Elmo Almeda’s issuing a warrant of arrest and hold departure order against the senator. 

“Judge Almeda is a no nonsense judge who has a reputation for independence and probity,” Panelo said, refuting claim by Trillanes’ camp that the judge succumbed to pressures from Malacañang.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., for his part, said Trillanes should just focus on preparing his legal defense instead of playing the “victim card” and “resorting to ad hominem attacks against the President.”

Roque said the senator should view the development as a welcome opportunity to submit evidence to prove that the grant of amnesty to him was valid.

In a separate media interview, Roque dismissed claims that Duterte is obsessed with the opposition senator who had exposed his and his family’s alleged illegally acquired wealth during the presidential campaign in 2016.

“In the first place, the decision was issued by the RTC. It’s the court’s decision to void his amnesty and not the President’s,” he said in Filipino.

He also cited the Supreme Court’s decision to junk Trillanes’ petition for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

Roque also rebuffed criticisms that the administration is not addressing the issues of inflation – specifically the soaring prices of goods and fuel. He reminded critics that the President issued an administrative order on Tuesday removing non-tariff barriers to rice importation and easing procedures for the issuance of import permit. He attributed the rising inflation to the continuous rise in the cost of fuel, which he said is beyond the administration’s control. – With Michael Punongbayan, Christina Mendez


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