MANILA, Philippines – September 4, Tuesday, unexpectedly became a big news day when people came across Proclamation No 572 under the advertisements section of newspaper Manila Times.
The document, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 31, declares the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV void from the start because Trillanes supposedly did not fulfill all the necessary requirements.
Too busy on Tuesday to keep abreast of all the developments on this issue? Here's the lowdown on how the headlines developed:
What amnesty? President Benigno Aquino III, through a proclamation that also got Congress concurrence in late 2010, granted amnesty to Trillanes and 78 other military and police officers in January 2011. Trillanes had been accused of masterminding the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege against the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Here's some trivia about Trillanes.
What grounds does Duterte cite for voiding the amnesty? Duterte's proclamation states that the amnesty is void because Trillanes never applied for it anyway and never admitted to his guilt. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which keeps all the relevant documents, issued a certification on August 30 that "there is no available copy" of Trillanes' application. However, media reports and videos documented Trillanes applying for amnesty in January 2011.
Can Duterte really do this? 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 amnesty. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there's no need for Congress approval because the grant of amnesty itself is considered void.
Where is Trillanes' amnesty application? The Department of National Defense (DND) said it is still looking for Trillanes' documents and that it had yet to exert all efforts to locate them. Trillanes could use the documents for his defense once they are found, the DND said.
What does Trillanes say? Trillanes presented proof that he applied for amnesty and admitted guilt. He showed photos of the document, media interviews, and videos. Trillanes said he was not afraid of Duterte and would not evade arrest, but he will challenge the legality of the presidential proclamation.
Trillanes saw Solicitor General Jose Calida as behind the move, as the senator was leading the investigation into the questionable contracts of Calida's family business with the government. The day the proclamation was published, Trillanes was in fact leading a hearing on the controversy.
Was Calida involved? Calida was evasive when asked about his role in crafting the proclamation but the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed to reporters that it was Calida who asked for confirmation that Trillanes' amnesty application papers were missing.
What does Duterte or Malacañang say? Duterte had yet to speak publicly about Proclamation 572. But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque insisted there was "nothing political" about voiding the amnesty and that Duterte was merely upholding the rule of law.
Right after this statement, however, Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte was protecting the Philippines from a "political offender" and his assaults against the state. He did not elaborate which acts of Trillanes are "inimical" to the country.
What does Benigno Aquino III say? As the President who granted amnesty to Trillanes, Aquino said Trillanes, based on records, did apply for amnesty and that Duterte should "respect" and "recognize" this. He also said that Duterte's unprecedented revocation of amnesty might affect government peace deals with rebels and insurgents.
What does Vice President Leni Robredo say? The Vice President condemned the proclamation, saying it showed Duterte was only out to silence critics. She also said that this was a case of politics being used to distract the public from pressing issues like the rice crisis, rising prices, hunger, and unemployment.
What do other lawmakers say? Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said Congress approval was needed to revoke the granting of amnesty. Opposition senators vowed to fight what they called an "illegal and abusive exercise of presidential power." Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said it violated Trillanes’ right against double jeopardy since he had already been absolved of crime and courts already dismissed cases against him.
Senator Leila de Lima, another Duterte critic now in jail, said these developments showed a "panicking" Duterte. Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, meanwhile, called it "political persecution."
What do lawyers say? The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Duterte was “reinventing or redefining the law to suit political agenda.” The controversial presidential act was another test case and a "case of first impression" since it was unprecedented and without textual basis.
What now? For now, Trillanes would stay in Senate premises where Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured him and opposition senators that he would not be arrested. The Department of Justice applied for a warrant of arrest and a Hold Departure Order against Trillanes to keep him inside the country. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Trillanes can opt to ask for clemency from Duterte.
The DND also said that with the voiding of the amnesty, Trillanes was reverted to active duty. He now faced administrative and criminal charges in connection with the coup attempts against the Arroyo administration. – Rappler.com
Follow the developments here: