MANILA, Philippines ? Releasing detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV so he can discharge his functions as an elected lawmaker has found favor with Senate members following President Benigno Aquino III?s statement that the jailed senator may have been a victim of injustice under the Arroyo administration.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero and Francis Pangilinan have joined mounting calls for granting temporary liberty to Trillanes, who was elected in 2007 while behind bars for leading the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
In a text message on Saturday, Escudero said ?yes,? but did not explain why he was in favor of allowing a detained colleague like Trillanes to attend the opening session of Congress on July 26, which would allow him to cast his vote in the election of Senate officers in the 15th Congress.
Contacted by phone, Pangilinan found the proposition legally tenable.
?Yes, we do, provided the court approves his petition,? said Pangilinan, a lawyer. ?He should be allowed to participate in the election of the next Senate president.?
Trillanes has already signed a resolution expressing support for the candidacy of Pangilinan for the presidency of the upper chamber, thus his presence in the election is crucial to the latter's bid.
According to incoming Senator Sergio Osmeña III, Trillanes is one of 11 senators backing Pangilinan's candidacy for Senate president.
Interviewed by reporters during a thanksgiving party Friday night to celebrate his re-election, Enrile made it clear that he wanted Trillanes to be present during the opening session.
?If I were the court, I will allow it just for the purpose of voting,? said Enrile, recalling that to date the court has twice allowed Trillanes brief furloughs during his seven-year incarceration.
Enrile said Congress? opening session won't take a day, but just a ?few hours.?
Enrile supported Mr. Aquino's order for the Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to reinvestigate Trillanes' case.
?Well, that is the prerogative of the President. Mind you, under his oath he said, 'to do justice to every man.' If he feels that there is a basis to say that Trillanes was unjustly treated, then it is his duty under his oath,? said Enrile.
Trillanes has filed a motion in the Makati regional trial court to allow him to attend the opening of the Congress? session on July 26.
Enrile, a lawyer, pointed out that since the cases were pending in different courts, a ?proper motion must be made? by state prosecutors.
Enrile, however, raised a ?technicality? should the prosecutors eventually decide to withdraw the two cases filed before the Makati RTC ? the coup d'etat case pending before Judge Oscar Pimentel Sr. of Branch 148 and the case for rebellion being tried before Judge Elmo Alameda of Branch 150.
Trillanes is also facing a general court martial for alleged violation of Article of War Article 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).
?If he was already arraigned, then it's not easy [to withdraw the cases],? said Enrile. ?To cure that, let him request for a re-investigation because? when the dismissal is upon the request of the accused, then jeopardy would not attach.?
Lawyer Reynaldo Robles, Trillanes? chief of staff, said on Friday that the act of the then Navy Lieutenant Trillanes and about 100 rebel soldiers to take control of the Oakwood apartments in Makati and denounce what they claimed as patent corruption in the military was not a coup.
?Of course we?ve always pointed out that the charges should have not been filed. The Oakwood incident could have been a lot of things but not a coup. We?re hoping that they will withdraw the case,? Robles said.
On the court martial, Robles said that this was already ?moot and academic because the offense does not carry imprisonment.? He explained that to be discharged from the service was the penalty for conduct unbecoming an officer.
?It's our position under the law that when a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or a government employee, files his certificate of candidacy, he is deemed resigned. That is ipso facto, under the Omnibus Election Code, Section 66. So we asked for the dismissal of the case since it's already moot because Senator Trillanes is no longer part of the AFP. [But] you know, under the old [Arroyo] administration, a lot of these fell on deaf ears,? said Robles.