Aquino, Trillanes cleared of treason
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has dismissed the treason and espionage complaint filed against former President Benigno Aquino III and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV over back-channel talks with China.
In a resolution, the Ombudsman said there was no probable cause to indict Aquino and Trillanes for violation of Articles 114 and 117 of the Revised Penal Code. The resolution was released by Trillanes to reporters on Sunday.
Trillanes welcomed the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss the espionage and treason case filed against him, saying, “it proves our point from the very start that the case was merely filed to harass and tarnish my reputation.”
“This is what happens when your political opponents start to believe their own propaganda. But no matter how they twist the facts, in the end, the truth will always come out,” Trillanes said in a statement.
The criminal complaint arose from Trillanes’ “clandestine meetings” with Chinese officials where he allegedly peddled misinformation that “emboldened” Beijing to commit its “aggressive posturing” in the disputed areas of the South China Sea.
The Ombudsman, however, said the offense of treason could not be established simply because “the Philippines is not at war with China.”
“Treason is a war crime. It is not an all-time offense. It cannot be committed in peacetime,” the resolution read. “While there is peace, there are no traitors. There must be actual hostilities.”
It added that the ongoing maritime dispute “does not make China an enemy of our country,” especially as Manila and Beijing continued to have bilateral and diplomatic relations.
“Back-channel negotiations with China cannot be construed as ‘giving aid to enemy,’” the resolution stated.
The Ombudsman said Aquino acted on the “interest of the Philippines” by exploring means of peacefully settling the “intense standoff” at Scarborough Shoal in April and May 2012.
“It is an inherent presidential power to pursue negotiations with other states,” the resolution read.
Meanwhile, Trillanes was found to have “merely acted under Aquino’s instruction to negotiate with Chinese representatives” to ease the tension.
It also said the senator’s actions could not have “emboldened” China as claimed by the complainants.
Citing a May 23, 2011, report published by news website Interaksyon, the Ombudsman noted that military garrisons and outposts had already been built in the disputed areas a full year before Trillanes embarked on back-channel negotiations.
The Ombudsman also junked the espionage allegation, as the so-called Brady Notes “are considered hearsays and, thus, should not be given evidentiary weight.”
The notes were taken by Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady regarding her own meeting with Trillanes.
Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile revealed its contents in the Senate in September 2012, after Trillanes accused him of railroading a measure to split the province of Camarines Sur.
The complaint cited the Brady Notes in accusing Trillanes of telling the Chinese that “no one cared” about the shoal and the Philippines could not enforce its coastal protection as the military needed major upgrades. This information supposedly put the Philippines in danger.
But the Ombudsman said the notes were insufficient to prove the senator disclosed vital information “with the intent or reason to believe that such information would be used by China to the injury of the Philippines.”
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