BUCKING AMNESTY? Former customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon during the oath-taking ceremony for PDP-Laban members on September 12, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Ex-Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s revocation of the amnesty granted to his former fellow mutineer, opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Faeldon, now a Deputy Administrator at the Office of Civil Defense, had served as customs chief under the Duterte administration, but was forced to resign following a corruption scandal in the agency.
Like Trillanes and Magdalo members from the military, he joined the botched 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege under the Arroyo administration.
Along with them, Faeldon was also granted amnesty by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2011.
Faeldon backed the candidacy of Duterte in the 2016 presidential race and is a known close associate of the President's son Paolo. He has long ago parted ways with the Trillanes bloc in Magdalo. (READ: Former mutineer Alejano explains why Faeldon is no longer Magdalo)
After taking his oath as a member of the ruling party PDP-Laban on Wednesday, September 12, Faeldon said their 2011 amnesty application process was indeed questionable and invalid.
In fact, he said he is more than willing to go back to jail for it. He escaped from prison in 2005, one of the reasons the Trillanes bloc stopped considering him a Magdalo member.
“I can go back to jail tomorrow. The process is void, bakit hindi natin sundin yun? (Why not follow it?) We cannot act above the law… The process we have gone through is not in accordance with the Constitution,” Faeldon said.
“I believe... after seeing the cards of both parties, it became clear to me that, I think, there really is a problem. If we all agree that the act of pardon and amnesty is an act of the state and it cannot be delegated to another official except the President, then there really is a problem,” Faeldon said in a mix of Filipino and English. (READ: False claims of Duterte, Panelo on Trillanes amnesty issue)
When pointed out that he can easily say that because he is close to the President, an irked Faeldon replied: “That's your opinion. Hindi po (No), come on, I’ve been to jail 6 times already so don't tell that to me.”
Faeldon said he was among the last soldiers to avail of Aquino’s amnesty grant because he did not like one of the conditions: an apology to former president Gloria Arroyo.
Unlike Trillanes, Faeldon said he submitted a separate affidavit where he admitted his guilt in violating specific crimes. He, however, said he still has to look for a copy.
“It’s pointless because if the law is yung sinabi ni President (what the President said), wala nang masasabing issue (then there's no issue anymore). Let’s all go back to jail and restart the process,” Faeldon said.
Duterte had said former defense chief Voltaire Gazmin, who signed the certificate and granted the amnesty of Trillanes in 2011, is liable for “usurpation of authority.”
But while the power to grant amnesty to a specific set of people indeed lies with the President, the process that it entails is delegated to committees. Unlike a presidential pardon, it requires the concurrence of Congress. (READ: FALSE: Duterte says Gazmin didn't have authority to give Trillanes amnesty')
A look at past amnesty proclamations also shows that at least 6 Philippine presidents delegated – through a signed proclamation – the final approval of individual amnesty applications to a panel or a committee.
In an interview on Wednesday, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno labeled Duterte's new theory as "hogwash." (READ: Sereno tells Duterte: 'Ipinahamak mo ang AFP')
"The theory that we heard yesterday [from the President], where an amnesty order, specifically each and every one, has to be signed by the President himself... I think everyone who understands the nature of amnesties, who understands administrative law, knows that this is pure hogwash." – Rappler.com
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