Appeals court upholds junking of government bid to revive coup case vs Trillanes

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Appeals court upholds junking of government bid to revive coup case vs Trillanes
This undated photo shows then-Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV answering questions from media following President Rodrigo Duterte's nullification of his amnesty.
The STAR / Mong Pinto

MANILA, Philippines —  The Court of Appeals has upheld the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 ruling that junked the Department of Justice’s bid to revive the coup d’etat case against former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, which would have also led to his arrest.

The CA’s Special Eleventh Division dismissed the Office of the Solicitor General’s Petition for Certiorari that assailed the October 2018 Makati court ruling where Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano dismissed the DOJ’s motion for issuance of warrant against the senator. In the same ruling, the Makati judge upheld the validity of Proclamation 572, which President Rodrigo Duterte issued to void Trillanes' amnesty.

The Makati court in November 2018 junked appeals filed by the DOJ and by Trillanes and upheld its earlier ruling.

The appeals court, in its ruling dated May 31, said it found no grave abuse of discretion in the Makati court's issuance of those orders.

"Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is dismissed. Accordingly, the Order dated October 22, 2018 and the Order dated November 22, 2018 issued by the public respondent Honorable Presiding Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano of the RTC of Makati Branch 148… are hereby sustained," the CA said.

Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon penned the ruling, with concurrences from Associate Justices Perpetua Susana Atal-Paño and Raymond Reynold Lauigan.

This comes nearly three months after Trillanes scored a win at a separate CA division that it granted his petition challenging the Makati RTC Branch 150’s order that granted the DOJ’s plea for warrant and revived the rebellion against him.

The latest CA ruling stops the two moves that government lawyers launched in 2018 to have Trillanes, a known opposition figure, re-arrested because of Proclamation 572. Appeals may still be brought to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, Trillanes thanked the CA justices for “upholding justice in the middle of crooked use of law by Duterte against members of the opposition."

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

Proclamation 572

The appeals court sided with the Makati court and said it was correct in upholding the validity of Duterte’s Proclamation 572.

“Under the 1987 Constitution, judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government,” the ruling read.

It also affirmed the Makati court’s finding that Proclamation 572 is a valid exercise of the president's authority. It added that the proclamation did not run afoul of Trillanes’ right to due process of law nor did it place him under double jeopardy. The CA also said it did not violate his right to equal protection of the law

The CA stressed, however, that there must a factual basis for the nullification or revocation of a conditional amnesty.

Factual bases

“With the Court’s narration of the antecedents and the facts of this case, it is beyond cavil that almost seven years had passed after the RTC through Judge Sarabia dismissed this case on Sept. 21, 2011 based on the amnesty availed of by, and granted to the private respondent—only for him to confront again the prosecution’s Urgent Motion for the Issuance of [hold departure order] and warrant of arrest,” it said.

Duterte’s proclamation declared that the amnesty granted to Trillanes is “void from the beginning” because the supposedly senator failed to comply with the requirements for amnesty. The government said he did not apply for amnesty and he did not admit guilt.

But the Makati RTC Branch 148 said it holds that Trillanes filed his amnesty application in which he also admitted guilt. Judge Soriano also noted that the court has long dismissed the case—seven years ago—by virtue of Proclamation 75, signed by then President Benigno Aquino III that granted amnesty to Trillanes and other mutineers.

In resolving the petition, the appeals court said no bad faith can be attributed to Trillanes for failing to present the original copy of the application form, as this may be considered a record in custody of a public officer or office.

“It is unfortunate, however, that this document was apparently lost and/or made unavailable while in the custody of the said public officer or office through no fault on the private respondent after the lapse of about seven years from the time of its actual filing,” the ruling read.

“Contrary to petitioner’s asseverations, the evidence tends to show that private respondent complied with the said conditions of filing his application for amnesty, and admitting his guilt for the crimes enumerated under Proclamation No. 75. Therefore, it cannot be said that the grant of amnesty in favor of private respondent was validly revoked,” it added.

Trillanes ran to the SC to question the constitutionality of Proclamation 572 following the Makati RTC Branch 148's decision that categorically held that the decree lacked factual basis.




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