Makati court resumes Trillanes rebellion trial after eight-year break

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Makati court resumes Trillanes rebellion trial after eight-year break
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV waived his right to attend the hearing on May 27, 2019, his legal counsel Reynaldo Robles said.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Eight years since the court stopped hearing the government’s rebellion case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes, the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 resumed its court proceedings Monday, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s voiding last year of his vocal critic's amnesty.

The Makati RTC Branch 150 is hearing the rebellion charge against Trillanes over his role in the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. The prosecution presented its witness at Monday's hearing.

The resumption of trial was set after Judge Elmo Alameda, on Sept. 25, 2018, granted the Department of Justice's plea for the issuance of warrant against Trillanes. It ruled that Trillanes “failed to convince the Court that he indeed complied with the minimum requirement” in applying for amnesty, effectively reviving the case against the senator.

EXPLAINER: A duel of documents: DOJ, Trillanes cite different rulings

‘Filler witness’

The Department of Justice presented its witness—Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat, who was part of the prosecution team in the coup d’etat case lodged before the Makati RTC Branch 148 over the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.

Trillanes did not attend the hearing. His lawyer Reynaldo Robles explained that it is the accused’s right to waive his appearance for trial as the Senate is winding up its work.

Trillanes was at the Senate on the day of the resumption of trial and gave a privilege speech on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon.

Robles opposed the presentation of Sytat as a witness, saying her name was not on the list of witnesses approved in the pre-trial order. He said that the defense was caught by surprise by Sytat's presentation as a witness.

But Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santos told the court that the prosecution has been “experiencing difficulty” in fixing the appearance of witnesses in court.

Sytat, in the witness stand, narrated what transpired on the morning on Nov. 29, 2007, when the Makati RTC 148 was hearing the coup d’etat case against Trillanes.

Speaking to reporters after the nearly hour-long trial, Robles said that he found “the testimony is immaterial.”

He added that in his view, Sytat was just as a “filler witness.”

“They did not want to waste the hearing. In my view, she was just as filler witness, so they would not have to say that they do not have a witness available (for the trial),” he said in Filipino.

But the lawyer stressed that that was just his view and it would be best to ask the prosecution why Sytat was put in the witness stand on Monday’s trial.

 The court will resume its trial on the afternoon of July 22. Trillanes’ camp is set to cross-examine Sytat as a witness.

Amnesty woes

The Makati court revived the trial almost eight years after it dismissed the case against Trillanes citing former President Benigno Aquino III's grant of amnesty to Trillanes and other mutineers.

In 2018, Duterte declared that the amnesty was void from the beginning as the senator did not admit guilt—an admission of guilt was included in the application form for amnesty, which the military says it has no record of Trillanes filing.

Makati RTC Branch 150 found basis on the government's argument and reopened trial, while Makati RTC Branch 148, where the senator was facing a coup d'etat case, junked the government's plea for warrant.

Trillanes has challenged Duterte's Proclamation 572, that declared his amnesty void, before the Supreme Court, but the tribunal has yet to rule on his plea.

EXPLAINER: Trillanes amnesty: Two courts and two rulings that may meet at SC





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