President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the arrest of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, the second presidential critic from the Senate to be threatened with detention.
Trillanes, who is holed up in the Senate to avoid arrest, has also in the past accused Duterte of corruption and his son of involvement in drug dealing, drawing a pledge of revenge from the President.
Opposition politicians immediately condemned the arrest order as political. They compared it with the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima, who is behind bars on drug charges that she says are false.
Trillanes’ arrest order stems from an amnesty granted in 2010 over his involvement in a coup attempt against then-President Gloria Arroyo and another effort to overthrow her.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are ordered to employ all lawful means to apprehend... Trillanes,” said the order printed in the Manila Times.
The government said Duterte has canceled the pardon because Trillanes, a former navy officer, did not complete the requirements of filing an official application and admitting guilt.
Duterte is out of the country on an official visit to Israel.
Trillanes led scores of junior officers in taking over part of the Oakwood Premier in 2003 to protest Arroyo’s alleged corruption and mismanagement.
Duterte also wants Trillanes put on trial for his brief takeover of the Manila Peninsula hotel in 2007 after he and several armed followers seized the hotel and demanded Arroyo’s resignation.
The arrest order came a year after Trillanes had Duterte’s eldest son Paolo brought before a Senate public inquiry to face allegations—which he denied—that he was involved in drug trafficking.
Trillanes also accused the President of hiding unexplained millions in his bank accounts.
Duterte vowed at the time to exact revenge. “I will destroy him or he will destroy me,” he said in a speech.
Operatives from the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were deployed outside the Senate building, apparently to carry out Duterte’s arrest order.
Duterte signed Proclamation 572 to revoke the senator’s amnesty given by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.
In the proclamation, Duterte said Trillanes did not file an Official Amnesty Application Form as per certification dated Aug. 30, 2018, issued by Lt. Col. Thea Joan Andrade, stating “there is no copy of his application for amnesty in the records.”
But the Palace defended the move as being “based on law and facts.”
“We are saying he was given amnesty by President Aquino because of politics and the declaration of void ab initio is based on law and on facts,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a press briefing in Israel.
“In the first place, he did not ask for the amnesty. It was given to him on a silver platter by the previous administration. So, when you did not ask for amnesty, you are not entitled to it,” Roque said.
Roque, who read the contents of the Proclamation No. 572, said the grounds for the declaration were Trillanes’ failure to admit his crimes or any involvement with illegal acts and his failure to file an application for amnesty.
“The acknowledgment [of the crimes] is important because the amnesty is an act of beneficence on the part of the State. It will rub out all the incidence like nothing happened, but it needs a confession-- which Trillanes failed to do,” Roque said.
Roque also dismissed claims that the Duterte administration is hitting back on one of its top critics, insisting there’s nothing political behind the call for the apprehension of Trillanes.
He also said that the revocation does not need concurrence of Congress.
“It’s not needed because first of all, it’s the job of the President to enforce the law. So, when it was confirmed that Trillanes did not meet the preconditions for amnesty, the Executive declared it void ab initio,” said Roque.
“But Senator Trillanes will have his day in court, not only to prove his innocence on the charges of coup d’état against him, but also on the revocation of the amnesty. I’m sure he will go running to court,” he added.
Roque said they were not undoing Trillanes’ amnesty.
“We are not undoing it. It was never effective because he did not comply with the requirements, that’s the meaning of void ab initio. There’s nothing to undo because it’s not valid from the very beginning,” Roque said.
Roque also denied claims that the move was sudden, saying officials began reviewing Trillanes’ case two years ago.
“It’s two years in the offing. There was maximum tolerance shown, but when it was confirmed that there was no compliance with the requirements set forth for the amnesty, the President didn’t have any alternative but to execute the law,” Roque said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra echoed Roque, saying Trillanes’ amnesty never existed.
“It has never been valid for non-compliance with certain mandatory requirements,” he said.
He also denied that the revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty was politically motivated.
“It’s not a question of political opposition. It’s a matter of compliance with the law,” Guevarra said.
The Justice Department has sought the issuance of a hold departure order and an arrest warrant against Trillanes.
Calida declined to comment on Trillanes’ claim that he was behind the revocation of his amnesty.
A Defense department official said without the amnesty, Trillanes was considered back in active duty.
Defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Trillanes would then have to face administrative and criminal charges in connection with the coup attempts against the Arroyo administration.
Aquino, who granted Trillanes pardon under his term, said he personally reviewed the records, vouching that the senator applied for the program.
In an interview with Rappler, Aquino called on the government to respect and recognize the amnesty.
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