MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has voided amnesty granted in 2011 to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of the president's fiercest critics.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, government officer-in-charge while the president is on an official trip abroad, said the voiding of amnesty is premised on Trillanes' supposed failure to comply with the requirement for a grant of amnesty: actually applying for it.
Trillanes, a mutineer and among the leaders of the Magdalo group, had been facing charges of coup d'etat and rebellion in two different courts in Makati.
The Department of Justice said that the court, in 2010, suspended promulgation of the decision on the coup case against him.
The senator said the case has already been dismissed due to the amnesty, which the executive department said was void from the start.
Guevarra told Philstar.com that the court could take Duterte's Proclamation 572 into consideration and revive the case.
What the DOJ cites: 2010 ruling
Trillanes was charged with coup d’etat before Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148.
Judge Oscar Pimentel, in an order dated Dec. 16, 2010, said: “[I]f some of the accused would not be able to finish and finalize their applications for amnesty on or before Jan. 22, 2010, then the promulgation of Judgment would as stated above be suspended until a new Judge would be appointed to take charge of this Court.”
“With said manifestation, the Court informed all the accused that the Court will defer the promulgation and resolve the motion of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, James Layug and Gary Alejano, not only to defer the promulgation of the decision and cancellation of the same, but also to consider the promulgation of the decision mooted by Proclamation No. 75,” the court ruling also read.
Pimentel was, at the time, due to retire in three days.
State prosecutors have cited the 2010 decision in seeking the issuance of an alias warrant against Trillanes. Alias warrants are issued when the original warrant has already been returned to the court that issued it.
They said the court has yet to promulgate a decision on Trillanes’ case: The case is alive.
What Trillanes and Alejano cite: 2011 court ruling
Branch 148 dismissed the case in a 2011 ruling.
“The instant case against accused [Trillanes, Alejano and Layug] is hereby dismissed pursuant to the grant of amnesty to them by Proclamation No. 75 dated November 24, 2010 by President Benigno Aquino III,” read the order penned by Acting Presiding Judge Ma. Rita Bascos Sarabia.
The court said the three had "submitted their Certificate of Amnesty issued by the Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee of the Department of National Defense signed by Hon. Voltaire Gazmin, by Secretary of National Defense."
Another court ruling from a Makati court, this time from Branch 150, also said that the case of rebellion against Trillanes had been dismissed.
Judge Elmo Alameda, in an order dated September 7, 2011, also cited the amnesty proclamation in dismissing the case.
What is amnesty?
According to Article VII, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution the president has the “power to grant amnesty with concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.”
Amnesty, as defined by the Supreme Court, is an act that “looks backward, and abolishes and puts into oblivion, the offense itself.”
The landmark case of People v Patriarca also stated that the amnesty “overlooks and obliterates the offense with which [the accused] is charged, that the person released by amnesty stands before the law precisely as though he had committed no offense.”
What the executive department says
But Guevarra insisted that the amnesty cited in the 2011 ruling was void from the beginning.
Woven Pants Basketball Flex Men's Nike He said that Trillanes did not comply with two requirements: A personal, official filling out of the application for amnesty and an admission of guilt specifically to the crime charged.
This, despite video footage showing Trillanes personally filing the application for amnesty, the first requirement. Trillanes' filing of his application was widely covered by media, including The STAR.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Trillanes, 18 other mutineers apply for amnesty
Trillanes was also required to sign a “general admission of guilt.”
He said at the time: "Let me be clear, we admit guilt as far as rising up against the most corrupt president this country ever had."
A case of double jeopardy?
Guevarra on Wednesday told ANC’s "Headstart" that Trillanes will not be exposed to double jeopardy, or having the accused answer twice for the same offense.
But the Justice secretary stressed that the cause for the dismissal of the case against Trillanes—the amnesty—was void in the first place.
Where does this put the case now?
Guevarra said that with the review and President Duterte's proclamation voiding the amnesty, the ruling “may be reconsidered by the court upon the prosecution’s motion.”
“If the case, which is pending, hasn’t been terminated in acquittal or conviction, then the first jeopardy has not actually been terminated,” Guevarra said in a separate ANC interview.
“With a revival of the case, it is a mere continuation,” he added.
What the Integrated Bar of the Philippines says
Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, for his part, stressed that “it would be a serious legal anomaly for the same court to order the arrest of a person the Information against whom it had already ordered dismissed.”
He also added that only a higher court “may review rulings of a trial court.”
Trillanes has said that he will take his case to the Supreme Court.