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DOJ hounds Trillanes, turns to another court

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday asked another regional trial court (RTC) in Makati City to reopen the rebellion case filed against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in connection with the 2007 Manila Peninsula hotel siege, order his rearrest and issue a hold departure order (HDO) against him.

State prosecutors filed the motion as President Duterte, who was ending an official visit to Jordan, decided not to seek Trillanes’ arrest by the military without a warrant of arrest issued by a civilian court.

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3-day standoff

The decision eased a three-day standoff between Mr. Duterte and Trillanes, who spent a sleepless night in the Senate on Friday expecting to be arrested.

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The President issued Proclamation No. 572 on Tuesday revoking Trillanes’ amnesty and ordering his immediate arrest.

The DOJ has said that Mr. Duterte voided Trillanes’ amnesty because the senator did not file a proper application and admit his guilt for his role in coup attempts against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Documents

Trillanes on Tuesday showed the media documents to prove that he applied for amnesty in January 2011.

But presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday that the President decided to abide by the rule of law and wait for a civilian court to issue an arrest warrant against his fierce critic “after a long discussion” with members of his Cabinet on Thursday night.

“The President decided that he will abide by the rule of law. He will await the decision of the court, the [RTC], if they will issue a warrant of arrest,” Roque said in a news briefing in Amman, Jordan.

Mr. Duterte does not want the military to arrest Trillanes and try him in a court martial because, being a former prosecutor, the President knows the proper criminal procedure, he said.

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“[The military] should await the warrant of arrest,” Roque said.

The presidential spokesperson had earlier said that under the proclamation, Trillanes could be arrested on orders of either the Makati RTC or the military, which “continues to have jurisdiction over the senator.”

The mutineer-turned-senator has been holed up in the Senate since Tuesday.

Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon and State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat filed the “very urgent” four-page motion for the issuance of an alias warrant of arrest and HDO against Trillanes before Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati RTC Branch 150.

The court handled the rebellion case of Trillanes and his coaccused in the hotel siege.

The DOJ previously failed to get an arrest warrant against the former Navy junior officer from Makati RTC Branch 148, which handled the coup d’etat case against Trillanes in connection with the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

No court order

But luck was not on the side of Fadullon and Sytat as Branch 150 also failed to grant their request on the same day.

The branch’s clerk of court, Diosfa Valencia, said Alameda did not issue any order on Friday as the court had yet to retrieve the case documents from a Makati warehouse.

Alameda dismissed the rebellion case against Trillanes on Sept. 7, 2011, after then President Benigno Aquino III issued Proclamation No. 75 on Nov. 24, 2010, which granted amnesty to the military officers and enlisted men involved in the 2003, 2006 and 2007 rebellions.

In seeking an arrest warrant from a second court, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra denied that his office was engaged in “forum shopping.”

The term relates to a practice in which litigants who get an adverse judgment from a court go to another court hoping to win a favorable decision.

Guevarra welcomed Trillanes’ filing of a petition on Thursday asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary injunction against Mr. Duterte’s proclamation.

“Proper move indeed, instead of arguing his case in the media,” Guevarra said.

Noting that Branch 148 had scheduled the hearing of the DOJ motion on Sept. 13, Guevarra said that “the case has, in fact, been revived.”

Sources at the Supreme Court said a special raffle for Trillanes’ petition was held on Friday with Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta chosen as member in charge.

The state prosecutors informed Branch 150 of the President’s proclamation, which said the amnesty given to the senator was void from the start.

According to court records, the rebellion case in connection with the Makati hotel siege did not reach the trial stage because of Aquino’s amnesty grant.

‘Means to flee’

In justifying its request for an HDO, the DOJ said that Trillanes had the “means and resources” to flee to another country in order to escape Philippine criminal jurisdiction.

On Trillanes’ petition to the Supreme Court seeking the invalidation of Proclamation No. 572 and the issuance of a temporary injunction, Fadullon said that until the injunction was issued, there was no reason for the RTCs not to continue with the proceedings “because the cases were criminal in nature.”

On Trillanes’ complaint of possible double jeopardy, Fadullon said no retrial was needed since the facts of the case had been established. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO, JAYMEE T. GAMIL, FAYE ORELLANA, CATHERINE GONZALES AND MARLON RAMOS

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