THE Office of the Ombudsman has absolved former President Benigno Aquino III and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of treason and espionage charges for their alleged back-channel negotiations with China.
Ombudsman Conchita-Carpio Morales said there was no probable cause to indict Aquino and Trillanes for violation of Articles 114 and 117 of the Revised Penal Code.
She said there was no element of treason in the complaint against the two since “the Philippines is not at war with China.”
“Treason is a war crime. It is not an all-time offense. It cannot be committed in peacetime,” Carpio-Morales said in a resolution.
“While there is peace, there are no traitors. There must be actual hostilities.”
Reacting to the Ombudsman’s decision, Trillanes said the resolution proved his point that the case was filed to harass him and tarnish his reputation.
“This is what happens when your political opponents start to believe their own propaganda. But no matter how they twist the facts, in the end the truth will always come out,” Trillanes said.
Carpio-Morales said the territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea “does not make China an enemy of our country,” Carpio-Morales said.
“Back-channel negotiations with China cannot be construed as giving aid to the enemy.”
Carpio-Morales said Aquino acted ‘‘for the interest of the Philippines’’ when he tried to explore other means to address the ‘‘intense standoff’’ at Scarborough Shoal in April and May 2012.
“It is an inherent presidential power to pursue negotiations with other states, she said.
And Trillanes ‘‘merely acted under President Aquino’s instruction to negotiate with Chinese representatives.”
Morales also cleared Aquino and Trillanes of the espionage raps, saying the Brady Notes ‘‘are considered hearsay and, thus, should not be given evidentiary weight.’’
In May 2016, retried general Roberto Lastimoso, doctors Enrico Sampang Dioscoro Esteban Jr., retired judge Moslemen Macarambon, and former cultural communities sectoral representative Ronald Adamat filed the treason and espionage charges against Aquino and Trillanes before the Ombudsman.