Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV smiles after receiving news that Judge Andres Soriano (above left) of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 had denied the Department of Justice’s motion seeking a warrant for his arrest. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra (lower left) said in a press briefing that the Supreme Court has the final say on the issue.
Geremy Pintolo
No arrest for Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2018 - 12:00am

Coup d’etat case closed, but amnesty voiding upheld

MANILA, Philippines — There is no reason to have Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV arrested or barred from leaving the country for an offense already dismissed and for which he had expressed remorse, a Makati trial court has ruled.

Late yesterday afternoon, Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano released his 33-page resolution denying the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s urgent ex-parte omnibus motion for the issuance of a hold departure order and arrest warrant against Trillanes, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration.

But in the same resolution, Soriano upheld the constitutionality of President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572, which voided the amnesty granted by the Aquino administration to Trillanes on charges of coup d’etat and rebellion.

“Both on the legality of Proclamation No. 572 and its factual bases, the court finds no reason to disturb the doctrine of immutability of a final and executor judgment,” Soriano said in his resolution.

Based on the doctrine, the court can no longer touch its previous dismissal of the coup d’etat case in 2011.

“For now, the court finds itself powerless to disturb the said doctrine even if it had sustained the factual bases for the issuance of Proclamation No. 572,” Soriano declared.

Earlier, another Makati City RTC – Branch 150 – had granted the DOJ’s motion for an arrest warrant for Trillanes on the charge of rebellion in connection with the Peninsula Manila siege. But the court allowed Trillanes to post P200,000 bail.

The DOJ’s petitions were prompted by Duterte’s Proclamation 572, which declared Trillanes’ amnesty void from the start because of the senator’s supposed failure to file an application and admit his guilt.

In his proclamation, Duterte ordered law enforcement agencies to have Trillanes “recommitted to the detention facility where he had been incarcerated for him to stand trial for the crimes he is charged with.”

In upholding Proclamation 572, Soriano said the directive “merely sought to correct what the executive branch perceives to be an erroneous grant of amnesty to Trillanes.”

“The court finds no basis to believe that Proclamation 572 has breached any constitutional guaranty or that it has encroached on the constitutional power of either the judicial or the executive branch,” the resolution read.

He stressed, however, in the same order that Trillanes “did file his amnesty application in the prescribed form in which he also admitted guilt for his participation in the Oakwood mutiny, among others, and in which he further recanted all previous statements that he may have made contrary to the said admission.”

DOJ prosecutors argued during hearings that Trillanes did not apply for his amnesty at all.

The DOJ tried to prove its claim by presenting officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Department of National Defense (DND) who insisted that they had no records of Trillanes’ amnesty application from the ad-hoc amnesty committee established in 2010 or from its secretariat.

The committee was in charge of processing amnesty applications of soldiers involved in the following uprisings: the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny for which Trillanes was slapped a coup d’etat case before Soriano’s Branch 148; the February 2006 Marine standoff; and the November 2007 Peninsula Manila siege for which Trillanes was charged with rebellion case before RTC Branch 150.

“The fact that no records of the application exists in the files of the Secretariat and/or the Ad Hoc Committee or the other offices of the DND does not itself mean that no application was filed,” Soriano emphasized in his order.

Moreover, the court said testimonies from other witnesses, as well as photographs, media coverage and other pieces of evidence had clearly shown that Trillanes had indeed filed his amnesty.

Defense witnesses included Col. Josefa Cañares Berbigal, head of the ad-hoc amnesty committee’s secretariat; former defense undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, head of the amnesty committee; Trillanes’ fellow soldiers Dominador Rull and Emmanuel Tirador; and even prosecution witness Mark Merueñas, then a reporter of GMA News Online who covered the senator’s filing of his amnesty application.

“The prosecution failed to rebut Trillanes’ witnesses and evidence,” Soriano said.

Former president Benigno Aquino III, in his Proclamation 75 in January 2011, granted amnesty to Trillanes and other junior soldiers who participated in the Oakwood mutiny and the Peninsula Manila siege.

Eight months after the issuance of the amnesty proclamation, RTC Branch 148 – then presided by now retired judge Oscar Pimentel – dismissed the coup d’etat case against the senator. Branch 150 presided by judge Elmo Alameda junked the rebellion case.

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