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Trillanes amnesty row: ’Twas Calida ab initio

/ 07:27 AM September 09, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday admitted that he issued Proclamation No. 572 voiding the amnesty granted to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in 2011 and ordering the former rebel military officer’s arrest based on a research conducted by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

In a speech at Davao International Airport upon his arrival from official visits to Israel and Jordan, the President defended his proclamation while raising new arguments against the grant of amnesty to Trillanes.

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“The truth is, it was Calida who did the research on Trillanes’ case. When the SolGen says there’s something wrong, it has to be corrected. I cannot refuse,” said the President, who described Calida as “bright and matino (straight).”

“He is the government lawyer, I am not. Even if I’m a mayor or President, I cannot insist, especially if it is already recorded as a public paper. So I have to believe in him,” he added.

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The spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Col. Edgard Arevalo, had earlier said it was Calida who initiated the proceedings that led to the revocation of the senator’s amnesty.

In his new arguments, the President said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin usurped the authority of then President Benigno Aquino III by recommending and then approving Trillanes’ amnesty.

Trillanes, the President said, also failed to submit an affidavit narrating his wrongdoing in connection with his participation in the 2006 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula hotel siege by rebel soldiers.

According to the Chief Executive, it is the president who has the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.

Usurpation of authority

“The power to pardon and the power to grant amnesty  with the concurrence of Congress is a presidential power. It cannot be delegated to anybody else,” he said.

The President pointed out that it was Gazmin who recomended that a general amnesty be given to rebel soldiers, including Trillanes, and then approved it.

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“So what’s the crime of Volts? I will tell you — usurpation of authority,” he said. “Imagine, you pardon criminals in the country and you can delegate it to just somebody [else].”

But Department of National Defense documents show that it was the Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee that recommended to Gazmin the approval of amnesty applications and informed Aquino about the development.

The President also said Trillanes should have submitted an affidavit to go with the amnesty application.

The Chief Executive’s fresh arguments were not mentioned in his proclamation, which said that the senator did not file a proper application and admit guilt for his role in coup attempts against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a decision that eased tension between him and Trillanes on Friday, the President said he would not seek the senator’s arrest without a warrant from a civilian court.

Trillanes said the President’s statements indicated that he was scrambling to patch the holes in the proclamation.

‘Patching holes’

“It just shows that [Mr. Duterte] is not just an evil person, he also has a weak mind,” he told reporters at the Senate, where he has been holed up since last Tuesday to avoid arrest.

“Look, they’re patching the holes that Calida left,” he added.

The mutineer-turned-politician also said the filing of a libel case against him by the President’s son, Paolo, and Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras’ threat to take him to court on a complaint of inciting to sedition showed the weakness of the amnesty revocation.

The President denied that he revoked Trillanes’ amnesty to silence him.

Asked if he ordered Calida to do the research on the grant of amnesty to his fiercest critic, the President said the senator had it coming.

Golden rule

“Do not do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you,” the President said. “Did I target him? I did not. It was Calida who found something wrong in [Trillanes’] documents. I don’t have problems with the others [who were granted amnesty].

Trillanes said he was “shocked” by the President’s allegation against Gazmin.

Aquino’s former Solicitor General, Florin Hilbay, called the government’s shifting tones on the revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty as a “dawning realization” that the President may have made a mistake.

“I think it’s a dawning realization that they made a mistake with [Proclamation No. 572], Hilbay told reporters when he visited the senator at the Senate on Friday night. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio

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