The government will scrutinize other applications for amnesty under the Aquino administration after the President revoked the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a Palace official said Monday.
“Every one of them will have to go through with [the review],” said Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, adding that any impropriety in their applications would be made public.
Panelo said Trillanes’ amnesty was void for two reasons: The noncompliance of the mandatory requirements and the usurpation of authority by then-Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Though it was not directly mentioned in the President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 57, Panelo said, Gazmin had represented President Benigno Aquino III in granting amnesty to Trillanes, thereby usurping the President’s exclusive power to grant amnesties and pardons.
“You cannot delegate that power to any alter ego. So, that makes the grant of amnesty void from the very beginning,” said Panelo.
This, he added, meant that all amnesties granted by the previous administration were “theoretically” void.
“Unless they can show me that then-President [Aquino], signed a grant of amnesty to all those enumerated in the letter submitted to him by Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,” said Gazmin.
Asked about the effect of Gazmin’s representation of Aquino, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said, “Similarly situated individuals will have similar amnesties which could be declared as being null and void ab initio.”
“But right now, the only one being invoked as being null and void ab initio is that of Senator Trillanes,” Roque said.
Roque did not rule out the possibility of prosecuting the former Defense secretary.
“Well, that’s possible. The point of the President is not only the lack of requirement to grant Senator Trillanes an amnesty, but also the non-authority of the person who gave him the amnesty,” said Roque in a radio interview with radio dzRH.
The Palace official, however, later clarified in his press briefing that he was unaware whether the government will take actions against Gazmin.
Roque said Trillanes should stop the “gibberish” and just present to the public his receiving copy of the sign amnesty application form.
“The Palace position is that document is very important... We are talking about three counts of coup d’état here. They should have hidden it somewhere, he said.
The administration on Monday failed to obtain an arrest warrant against Trillanes from the Makati regional trial court Branch 150.
Instead, the court scheduled a hearing on the Department of Justice’s motion that it issue the arrest warrant for the senator.
A similar request in Branch 148 is also pending.
Judges Elmo Alameda of Branch 150 and Andres Soriano of Branch 148 refused to immediately issue a warrant of arrest against Trillanes, despite the DoJ’s argument that a hearing on its motion was unnecessary.
“The court is not persuaded with the argument of the prosecution that its omnibus motion should not be set for hearing and should be acted by this court ex-parte,” Alameda said.
“While the motion has been denominated as ex-parte, the court after thoroughly considering the grounds and arguments raised therein, is of the view that acting on the motion without setting it for hearing would definitely prejudice the right of the accused to due process,” he added.
Alameda’s sala handled the rebellion case against Trillanes and others over the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege. He dismissed the case in 2011 on the ground of the amnesty granted to the former Navy officer.
Judge Ma. Rita Bascos Sarabia, formerly of Branch 148, dismissed the coup d’etat case against Trillanes over the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny on the same ground.
However, the DoJ insisted that the voiding of Trillanes’ amnesty over an alleged failure to comply with “minimum” requirements effectively removes the basis for their dismissal of the cases.
Last week, Trillanes petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the presidential proclamation that nullified his amnesty.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the President had not consulted him before revoking Trillanes’ amnesty.
But in a press briefing, he said he recalled that Solicitor General Jose Calida called him up once asking for the amnesty documents of Trillanes and his coup companions.
He said there were more than a hundred documents, and some of the pages were signed by Gazmin.
Trillanes, who has been holed up in the Senate after receiving reports of his impending arrest, said he did not trust Duterte’s order to the military not to arrest him without a warrant.
“The problem with his statement, he has ‘deniability’ so we validate with the operating units and there is still [the order for my arrest]. Probably, he is just trying to trick me into that trap but I won’t fall for that. Remember Duterte is notorious for lying to public,” he said.
“It seems he has been getting away with lie after lie after lie so this is just another lie,” Trillanes said.
At the same time, Trillanes denied Duterte’s accusation that he was conspiring with the opposition Liberal Party and the communists to oust him.
“Alright. I don’t expect them to take my word for it. They can validate it but that’s really the truth,” said Trillanes, who led the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula sage to overthrow the Arroyo government.
Also on Monday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines warned that moves by the Palace to revoke Trillanes’ amnesty would undermine the judicial process and could be considered an attack on the independence of the judiciary.
The IBP, the country’s mandatory organization for lawyers, made the warning even as it called on the courts to remain steadfast against what it called a “creeping incursions” on their independence by the Duterte administration.
“An independent and impartial judiciary remains the most powerful bastion that protects our cherished constitutional rights against the excesses of political power. As the sentinel of the rule of law, the
IBP stands ready to come to the defense of the independence and impartiality of our judiciary,” the IBP through its president, Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, said. With Joel E. Zurbano