Duterte scraps amnesty for fiercest political foe and orders his arrest

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Trillanes
President Duterte and Senator Trillanes

President Duterte has ordered the arrest of his fiercest political critic after revoking an amnesty for his involvement in a failed military coup 15 years ago.

Senator Antonio Trillanes has repeatedly accused the president of holding hidden wealth, extrajudicial killings and involvement in the illegal drug trade.

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An executive order printed in the Manila Times today (Tuesday, September 4) said an amnesty given to Trillanes in 2010 was voided because he had not met “minimum requirements to receive it”, such as filing an official application and admitting guilt.

The order instructed the justice department and armed forces to pursue criminal and administrative cases against the senator, while police and the military were ordered to arrest him and put him in detention.

Trillanes called it “a stupid executive order” and said he would not resist arrest or try to escape.

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“This is a clear case of political persecution, but I will not cower. There’s a time for reckoning for you and your minions,” he told reporters at the senate, where he currently enjoys immunity from arrest.

If Trillanes is arrested, he would become the second member of the 24-seat Senate to be detained. Former justice secretary Leila de Lima has been jailed for 18 months after being accused of being involved in the prison drug trade.

The pair are two of President Duterte’s most outspoken critics and have led separate Senate enquiries into his role in alleged extrajudicial killings and the drug trade.

Trillanes was granted amnesty by former President Benigno Aquino for involvement in a failed 2003 coup and mutiny in 2007.

Both incidents were against then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an ally of the president who in July became speaker of the House of Representatives.

“This incident, should be clear to everyone that Mr Duterte is a dictator,” Trillanes said today. “He does not respect institutions. That is why we’re like this: ordinary people are killed and critics are jailed.”

In a privilege speech in Senate today, Trillanes presented proof that he had in fact applied for the amnesty and admitted guilt, as required.

His presentation included a television news report which showed him applying for the amnesty and discussing his part in the coup. (Watch below)

FAST FACTS:

What amnesty? 

President Aquino, through a proclamation agreed by Congress in 2010, granted amnesty to Trillanes and 78 other military and police personnel. He had been accused of masterminding the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

What are the grounds for voiding the amnesty? 

The proclamation states that the amnesty is void because Trillanes never applied for it and never admitted his guilt. The Armed Forces of the Philippines issued a certification on August 30 that “there is no available copy” of the application. However, media reports and videos documented him applying for the amnesty in January 2011.

Is it constitutional? 

Section 19, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution states that the president has the “power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.” But it is silent on the requirement to revoke an amnesty. 

Where is the amnesty application? 

The Department of National Defense said it is still looking for the documents. Trillanes could use them for his defence once they are found.

What does the senator say? 

Trillanes believes Solicitor General Jose Calida is behind the move, as the senator was leading an investigation into government contracts won by Calida’s family business. The day the proclamation was published, the senator was due to lead a hearing on the controversy.

Was Calida involved? 

Calida was evasive when asked about his role in crafting the proclamation. However, the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed to reporters that it was Calida who asked for confirmation that the amnesty application papers were missing.

What next? 

For now, the senator will stay inside Senate premises where Senate President Vicente Sotto assured him that he would not be arrested.

The Department of Justice has applied for a warrant of arrest and a Hold Departure Order against Trillanes to keep him inside the country.

The Department of National Defense has said that with the voiding of the amnesty, Trillanes has effectively reverted to active duty and could be liable for court martial.

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