Duterte blinked

Pres. Duterte meets the press upon arrival fromhis official visit to Israel and Jordan Sept. 8. Malacanang photo.

Three days after Pres. Duterte attempted to nullify the amnesty granted to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV by his predecessor Pres. Benigno Aquino III, the institutions that he expected to execute his order and support him blindly did not deliver forcing him to backtrack.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in his media briefing in Amman, Jordan last Friday before the presidential party returned to Manila after official visits to Israel and Jordan, announced that the President has decided to abide with the rule of law.

Roque said Pres. Duterte had convened a cabinet meeting while he was in Jordan about his order to arrest Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV as contained in his Proclamation 572 : “Kahapon po, binigyan ko ng kumpirmasyon na nagkaroon po ng pagpupulong si Presidente sa lahat po ng Gabinete na sumama sa biyaheng ito. Pinag-usapan po nila kung ano ang magiging posisyon ng administrasyon tungkol po dito sa pag-revoke ng amnesty kay Senator Trillanes. At matapos po ang mahabang talakayan, nagdesisyon ang Presidente that he will abide with the rule of law; aantayin po niya ang desisyon ng hukuman, ng Regional Trial Court kung sila ay mag-i-issue ng warrant of arrest. So uulitin ko po, desisyon ng Presidente is he will allow the judicial process to proceed, and he will await the issuance of the appropriate warrant of arrest if there is indeed one to be issued ‘no before Senator Trillanes is arrested and apprehended.”

Coming from lawyer we have known to be brilliant, Roque’s statement was a painful to the ear.

The President does not choose whether or not he will abide with the rule of law. It is his duty to enforce the law. When he assumed the presidency, he swore “to preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation.”

Proclamation 572, signed on Aug. 31 but made public through a paid notice in the Manila Times Sept 4 while the President, his Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdia, and several members of his cabinet were in Israel, declared void ab initio the amnesty granted to Trillanes in 2010 because “there is no copy available copy of his application for amnesty in the records” and that the former Navy Officer allegedly did not admit to the charge of coup d’etat for what they did on July 27, 2003 in Oakwood Hotel and in Manila Peninsula on Nov. 29, 2007 when Trillanes and some 300 young officers and soldiers took a standagainst the corruption in the government and election cheating of Gloria Arroyo.

Proclamation 572 ordered “ and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to employ all lawful means to apprehend former LTSG Antonio Trillanes so he can be recommitted to the detention facility where he had been incarcerated for him to stand trial for the crimes he is charged with.”

Legal experts were dumbfounded with the stupidity of Proclamation 572.

Foremost issue: The President cannot order an arrest. Only a judge may order an arrest.

Another issue: The military cannot arrest a civilian, which Trillanes is. The military’s job is secure the country against external threats.

Trillanes to be reinstated to the military? As what, LTJG?

Lawyer Vic Verdadero, experienced in court martial proceeding having defended Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Danilo Lim and several Scout Rangers officer implicated in the 2006 standoff, said “When Sonny (Trillanes) filed his COC for senator he was considered resignedfrom the service, and that was when he was still incarcerated in Crame. So how could the revocation of the amnesty reinstate him to military service? If ever the revocation of the amnesty is legal, what may be reinstated is the charge of coup de tat lodged in the civilian court, subject to the limitation of prescription.”

Trillanes, who has spent seven years in detention and won his first senatorial mandate while in jail, said he will not hide or run away. But he didn’t make it easy for Duterte’s forces. He sought the sanctuary of the institution of the Senate. His colleagues, some openly, some personally, supported him.

The House of Representatives, under Speaker Gloria Arroyo, did not issue any statement on Proclamation 572 unlike when it was under the ousted Pantaleon Alvarez who would bark at the snap of Duterte’s fingers.

More importantly, the military didn’t move to do the illegal thing of arresting Trillanes. As it is in military practice, they will do as ordered- form a court martial in compliance with Proclamation 572 but at the same time mindful that the senator has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the Duterte’s proclamation.

In his statement Sunday, AFP Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., who was with the President in Israel and Jordan, issued a loaded statement: “While I am aware that the troops have individual views on many issues, those merely hallmark an intelligent and matured organization like the AFP. But we always put the interest of the organization and the nation above our own.”

He reminded the organization that “Our loyalty is to the Constitution. I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the Chain of Command.”

He added: “When the GCM resumes, it shall proceed from where it stopped in its proceedings when Presidential Proclamation 75 was signed. The proceedings, however, will be held in abeyance until the SC has ruled on the merits of PP572.”

The Department of Justice was not able to obtain an arrest warrant and hold order from The Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148. The court scheduled a hearing on Sept. 13.

Unfazed or frantic, perhaps, the DOJ went to another court, Makati Branch 150 in what many see as forum shopping.

Meanwhile, Trillanes has showed the public documents relevant to his amnesty grant debunking the basis stated in Proclamation 572.

Upon his arrival from Jordan last Saturday, Duterte said he issued the proclamation based on the information supplied to him by Solicitor General Jose Calida about alleged deficiency in Trillanes amnesty.

Calida has an axe to grind with Trillanes, who initiateda Senate investigation on his alleged violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees for the multi-million worth of government contracts obtained by his family-owned security agency.

The scenario that Duterte wanted when he issued Proclamation 572 was for him to return from Israel and Jordan and go straight to jail where Trillanes would have been incarcerated. With full media coverage, Duterte would have had a hell of a time taunting the senator.

That didn’t happen. He blinked. So his spokesman said he has decided to abide by the law.


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