VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Duterte voiding Trillanes amnesty explained

President Rodrigo Duterte Aug. 31 voided Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty and ordered his immediate arrest.

Here are four things you need to know.

1. What is amnesty?

The 1987 Constitution empowers the president to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of the Congress.

Amnesty is the forgiveness granted to persons which “overlooks and obliterates the offense” they are charged, notes Joaquin Bernas in his constitution reviewer.

In 2010, then president Benigno S. Aquino III granted Trillanes and several other members of the armed forces amnesty for their involvement in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, the 2006 Fort Bonifacio marine standoff and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

The three coups aimed but failed to oust Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Trillanes, a junior military official, faced coup d’etat charges and was subsequently jailed.

In granting Trillanes amnesty, Aquino was exercising executive clemency, the constitutional power which allows presidents to erase the guilt of persons undergoing trial, to pardon those convicted of crimes or reduce punishments.

Through Proclamation No. 75, Aquino declared, with the concurrence of Congress, that the crimes Trillanes and his co-accused committed related to the failed coups were effectively extinguished.

2. What is Duterte’s order about?

Duterte, through Proclamation No. 572 published Sept. 4 in the broadsheet The Manila Times, declared the amnesty granted to Trillanes invalid from the start.

Signed Aug. 31 before Duterte left for his official visits to Israel and Jordan, the proclamation claimed Trillanes “did not file an official amnesty application form” and “never expressed his guilt” for the Oakwood and Manila Peninsula coups.

Noncompliance with these mandatory requirements, said justice secretary Menardo Guevarra in a press conference, meant the amnesty is “void ab initio… as if it never existed.”

Proclamation No. 572 also directed the armed forces and the police to “employ all lawful means to apprehend” Trillanes so the senator “can be recommitted to the detention facility where he had been incarcerated.”

“He will be placed in custody, as to where that will be, that is a matter that we need to await a little,” Guevarra said, adding the Senate can probably put Trillanes under its custody if he is attending sessions.

“For now the proclamation only covers him, but I believe that maybe others who might be similarly situated are also, (their amnesty) applications might have, are also being reviewed,” Guevarra said.

Asked if the proclamation needs the concurrence of Congress, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said no.

“Our position is hindi po kinakailangan iyan dahil unang-una, (that is no longer needed because in the first place), it is the job of the President to implement the law,” Roque told journalists in Israel.

3. What is Trillanes’ response to the voiding of his amnesty?

In a Senate privilege speech Sept. 4, Trillanes refuted the main arguments of the Duterte proclamation by showing video clips from 2011 of himself filing his amnesty application and admitting to “breaking the rules.”

“My amnesty was granted after all requirements have been complied with,” Trillanes said.

“I even took oath in front of then defense officials. All my cases covered by the amnesty have been dismissed,” he added.

In an earlier ambush interview with several journalists, the senator likened the allegations against him with those thrown against fellow senator Leila De Lima.

“Wala yun, bogus lahat yun. Parang yung kaso kay Secretary, ay Senator De Lima, bogus yan (All the allegations against me are bogus. Just like the case against former justice secretary and now senator de Lima, they’re all bogus),” he said.

Trillanes and De Lima are both critics of the Duterte administration.

Trillanes had earlier accused Duterte of undeclared wealth. De Lima has been in detention since February 2017 for drug-related charges, which her camp maintains is fabricated and is political persecution.

4. What has the Senate done about Trillanes’ arrest order?

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has placed Trillanes under his custody, saying the Senate will “not allow any senator to be arrested in the Senate premises.”

Senators Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila De Lima, meanwhile, criticized Proclamation No. 572 in separate statements.

The proclamation and reopening of his criminal cases “will violate Trillanes’ right against double jeopardy,” Drilon said, adding the trial court has already dismissed his cases.

“Here was a guy who, without setting one foot out of prison, was granted amnesty, not by one person but by 11 (million) people,” said Recto, recalling Trillanes’ successful 2007 senatorial bid. “When he won the reelection in 2013, more people —14 million this time — affirmed that the absolution earlier bestowed on him was right,” Recto added.

“The revocation of the proclamation,” Pangilinan said, “is a clear persecution against one of the administration’s toughest critics.”

“This signals the growing crackdown on the political opposition and the president’s further slide into full authoritarian rule,” Hontiveros said.


Bernas, J.G. (2011). The 1987 Philippine Constitution: A Comprehensive Reader.

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 75, s. 2010.

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 572, s. 2018.

People’s Television, Press Briefing ng DOJ ukol sa pagbawi sa amnesty ni Sen. Trillanes, Sept. 4, 2018.

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Sept. 4, 2018.

Rappler, Trillanes: Mr. Duterte, hindi ako takot sa iyo, Sept. 4, 2018.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s Facebook page, Privilege Speech of Sen. Trillanes at the Senate Session Hall, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Dispatch from Crame No. 373: Statement of Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Duterte’s revocation of Sen. Sonny Trillanes’ amnesty, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Hontiveros to Duterte: You can never jail the resistance, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Sen. Bam on revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Statement by Senate Minority Leader and former Justice Secretary Franklin M. Drilon on the revocation of the amnesty of Senator Antonio Trillanes, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Statement on the Revocation of Amnesty Granted to Senator Trillanes, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Transcript of Ambush Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, Sept. 4, 2018.

Senate of the Philippines, Trillanes amnesty had congressional concurrence, any arrest sans Senate, House illegal: Pangilinan, Sept. 4, 2018.

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International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the
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