A prominent Dabawenyo lawyer and Law School Dean said President Rodrigo Duterte has the authority to revoke an amnesty and order the issuance of a pending warrant of arrest against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Lawyer Ramon Edison Batacan, senior partner of the Batacan, Montejo and Vicencio Law Firm and Dean of the Rizal Memorial Colleges (RMC) College of Law, told Edge Davao in an interview that the revocation of the amnesty granted to Sen. Trillanes is an authority the President can exercise.
“I think it is a revocatory act rather than a declaration that the amnesty is void, which the President can exercise,” Batacan said. “As a consequence, the President can order the service of a warrant against Senator Trillanes, being the Commander-in-Chief.”
Although Batacan believed it was a revocatory act, the text of Proclamation 572 referred to the executive act as declaring “void ab initio” the amnesty granted to Senator Trillanes under a proclamation issued by former President Benigno Aquino III.
In Proclamation 572 he signed on Aug. 31, Duterte said the grant of amnesty to Trillanes under Aquino’s Proclamation No. 75 is declared void ab initio “because he did not comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under the Amnesty Proclamation.” The Armed Forces of the Philippines records also showed that Trillanes did not file an application for amnesty under oath with the Department of National Defense (DND) ad hoc committee.
The proclamation also states that Trillanes “never expressed his guilt for the crimes that were committed” on occasion of the coup attempt, which “carries life imprisonment.”
Asked on the possible legal remedies available to the opposition lawmaker, Batacan said Sen. Trillanes can go to court.
“Of course, Senator Trillanes can question the legality of the service of the warrant before the courts. Then the issue becomes judicial,” Batacan said.
He added that if the Senator is arrested, he can petition for habeas corpus.
“If he is arrested, one possible remedy is petition for habeas corpus. It is a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure his release,” Batacan stressed. “The premise of the petition is that his detention or arrest is unlawful.”
Another remedy, according to the veteran Law professor, is to challenge directly the validity of the proclamation, on the premise that it is unconstitutional.
As of posting, Senator Trillanes has sought custody from the Senate. His colleague Sen. Franklin Drilon also said the Senate will take custody of Trillanes pending his legal remedies in the regular courts. Senate President Vicente Sotto III meanwhile has already instructed the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms not to allow arresting officers inside Senate premises.
In a report by the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press conference while with the President on state visit to Israel said the review of Trillanes’ case began two years ago, showing results that the former Navy officer did not comply with the requirements of the law granting amnesty to mutineers.
“Una po, hindi ito biglaan (First, it’s not sudden). It’s two years in the offing. There was maximum tolerance shown,” Roque said in a televised press conference in Israel. “But when it was confirmed that there was no compliance with the requirements for the amnesty, the President has no other option but execute the laws. So trabaho lang po (He just did his job),” he added.
Roque said “admission of guilt is very important” in granting the amnesty which, he emphasized, is just an act of beneficence on the part of the state.
Trillanes and other former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police participated in the so-called Oakwood Mutiny in 2003, the Marines stand-off in 2006, and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007.
He was detained but granted amnesty in 2010 through Aquino’s Proclamation 75.
Roque said he believes that the amnesty was given by the previous administration to Trillanes “on a silver platter.”
According to a separate report by ABS-CBN News website, Trillanes in fact applied for amnesty which requires an admission of guilt, on January 5, 2011. The report also said that in his application form, Trillanes signed a portion acknowledging his involvement in uprisings that entail “a violation of the 1987 Constitution, criminal laws, and the Articles of War” and recanting his statements in the past that are contrary “to this express admission of involvement/participation and guilt.”