SC will be final arbiter of opposing rulings on Trillanes cases – NUPL, IBP
The Supreme Court would be the final arbiter of the conflicting decisions of two co-equal courts handling rebellion and coup d’ etat case of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, the heads of two lawyers’ organization said Tuesday.
“The Supreme Court would have the last legal say on divergent rulings of two co-equal trial courts,” lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said.
The coup d’ etat case for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the rebellion for the Manila Peninsula siege case were dismissed in 2011 following the grant of amnesty to Trillanes pursuant to Proclamation 75. However, after it was discovered that Trillanes allegedly failed to submit his application form and admit guilt, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 572 to revoke the grant of amnesty.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) then filed separate motions before the Makati Regional Trial Court Branches 148 and 150 to have the courts order the senator’s arrest, issue a hold departure order and revive the cases that were dismissed seven years ago.
The Makati City RTC Branch 150 that handled the rebellion case granted the motion of the Department of Justice and ordered Trillanes’ arrest.
Makati RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda in his Sept. 25, 2018 decision said “the court is morally convinced of the sufficiency and legality of the issuance of Proclamation 572.”
Meanwhile, Makati RTC Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano who handled the coup d’ etat case shared Alameda’s view. In his order released Monday, he affirmed that the proclamation was valid in terms of its legality as it was an act of the executive allowed under the law. It also does not violate constitutional provision on due process.
But the similarity, however, ends here.
Soriano, in his ruling said that while the constitutionality or legality of Proclamation 572 was valid, its factual basis was not. Proclamation 572, according to Malacañang, was issued to correct a wrong because Trillanes was given amnesty despite his failure to comply with the basic requirements to be given amnesty—submission of an application form and admittance of guilt.
The basis for issuing Proclamation 572 was the certification issued by Lieutenant Col. Thea Joan Andrade, Chief, Discipline, Law and Order Division of the military. The certification stated that “there is no copy of his [Trillanes] application for amnesty in the records.”
Alameda said an evaluation of the certification “confirms the claim of the prosecution that Senator Trillanes did not apply for amnesty.”
The court further said that since Trillanes wanted to establish his right to the amnesty, he should present evidence to counter the government. But the senator through his counsel had failed to convince the court “that he indeed complied with the minimum requirement to personally fill-up and file the amnesty application form.”
Soriano, in his ruling, however, noted that Andrade’s testimony was not an indication that no amnesty application form was filed as he noted that Andrade herself stated that it was not her intention to state that Trillanes did not file an amnesty application form.
Soriano added that while the actual application form was missing, the court took into consideration authenticated photographs and secondary evidence to prove Trillanes’ compliance.
“Jurisprudence dictates that when the issue is the existence and due execution of a document and not its contents, the best evidence rule cannot be invoked…It is sufficient that the party offering secondary evidence establish the existence and due execution of the document,” read Soriano’s order.
“On the basis therefore of the unrebutted evidence, both preponderant and admissible secondary, presented by Trillanes, the court finds and so holds that Trillanes did file his amnesty application,” Soriano said.
But Alameda, in his order insisted that the best evidence on the case would be the application form itself, and “could not give credence to a secondary evidence.”
“This is the mischief that we had feared. Two co-equal courts coming up with different conclusions on essentially the same set of facts,” Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Abdiel Dan Elijan Fajardo said.
Fajardo said both parties can seek a partial reconsideration of the ruling–the Trillanes camp insofar as it upholds the legality of the proclamation and the government with respect to the findings of fact.
“These rulings will eventually have to be evaluated by the Supreme Court. The high court will be the final arbiter once the conflicting findings become ripe for review,” he added. /muf/ac
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