Escudero urges SC: Act on Trillanes petition now
Sen. Francis Escudero on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to rule on the petition of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV questioning the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order voiding his amnesty or stop it temporarily as the former military rebel faced the possibility of arrest for the nonbailable charge of coup d’état.
Escudero said the situation was urgent, as the President, through Proclamation No. 572, also gave orders for the revival of charges brought against Trillanes for taking part in military attempts to overthrow the government in 2003, 2006 and 2007.
The President scrapped the amnesty given to Trillanes in 2011, claiming the former Navy junior officer did not comply with the basic requirements for amnesty, like applying for it and admitting his guilt.
Trillanes, the fiercest critic of the President in Congress, had asked the Supreme Court to declare Proclamation No. 572 unconstitutional, pointing out that his amnesty had the concurrence of Congress and that the President’s order violated his right to protection against double jeopardy, or being tried again for the same offense.
The Supreme Court deferred ruling on Trillanes’ petition and instead handed the determination of the facts to Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branches 148 and 150, which dismissed the coup d’état and rebellion charges against him in September 2011 after he was amnestied.
At least a TRO
To put Trillanes behind bars immediately, the Department of Justice had asked the two Makati RTC branches to reopen the cases against the senator and order his arrest.
Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati RTC Branch 150 brushed aside proof of amnesty application submitted by Trillanes and ordered his arrest on Tuesday, signaling the revival of the rebellion charges against him.
Trillanes is out on P200,000 bail.
Escudero urged the Supreme Court to rule on Trillanes’ petition one way or another.
If the high court needed more time to consider the case, it should issue a temporary restraining order (TRO), he said.
“We can’t have a person’s freedom be dependent on the lack of action by the Supreme Court on a constitutional issue on the validity of the President’s proclamation,” Escudero told reporters.
If RTC Branch 148 also revives the case against Trillanes that it dismissed eight years ago, the senator will be imprisoned, as coup d’état is a nonbailable offense, he said.
Trillanes said he was considering asking the Supreme Court on Thursday to issue a TRO to stop Proclamation 572 and bringing a motion for reconsideration of Alameda’s decision.
As for the possible revival of the coup d’état case against him, he said he would just wait for the court ruling, as the matter had been submitted for resolution.
Unrecognizable justice system
Without a Supreme Court ruling or a TRO, Proclamation 572 remains valid, no matter how ill advised or wrong it is, Escudero said.
“That remains a law and is valid and could be used as basis by any court, like the RTC of Makati, as a basis for its decision,” he said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, the first critic of the President to be locked up, warned on Wednesday that the Philippine legal system would become unrecognizable if courts would continue to upend settled legal principles to accommodate the President.
De Lima condemned the decision of Judge Alameda to reopen Trillanes’ rebellion case.
“This is not the law. This is not a justice system by any means. This is the strong arm of the state falling heavily upon those who still dare to raise a critical voice. Verily, this is tyranny. This is unacceptable,” De Lima, a former secretary of justice, said in a statement.
She said the ruling would be “extremely unusual” in ordinary times. “No judge can change a judgment once it becomes final. As a general principle, old cases are never resurrected.”
But this was what the Makati RTC did in Trillanes’ case, she said.
“Settled legal principles [that] lawyers learn early in law school are fast becoming useless and irrelevant even in our courts. At the rate things are going, by the end of this administration, lawyers … no longer know the legal system and the judiciary [can] no longer recognize itself for what it has become under this administration,” she said.
Amnesty can’t be nullified
Amnesty, De Lima stressed, cannot be nullified, otherwise the concept loses its meaning.
“The nullification of a grant of amnesty does not revoke that one grant alone; it obliterates the whole concept of amnesty itself,” she said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he could not blame Trillanes and members of the opposition for thinking that the Makati RTC was influenced by the administration.
Lacson himself had spent time dodging a questionable warrant of arrest in the murders of a public relations agent and his driver.
He emerged only after the Court of Appeals cleared him of involvement in the killings in 2011.
Lacson, however, said the opposition’s claim must be backed by evidence, as in his case where it was shown that the trial court judge who ordered him arrested was applying for promotion to the appeals court, and soon got it after ruling against him.
It is a reality that courts can be influenced, he said.
But he added that he was unsure whether Trillanes was in such a situation.
Anyone claiming that the President influenced the ruling should show proof, Lacson said.
If his own experience would be used as basis, he said, the people should watch if Judge Alameda would suddenly be promoted to or apply to serve on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court.
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