Trillanes, officials decry 'political persecution' in voiding of amnesty

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Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and some fellow government officials believe he is the latest target of the government's crackdown on President Rodrigo Duterte's critics.

"It's a clear case of political persecution," Trillanes told Senate reporters Tuesday amid his impending arrest as the President invalidated the 2011 amnesty granted to him by the previous administration. This is in connection with his involvement in coup attempts.

 

Trillanes got the support of Vice President Leni Robredo, who condemned the move as an attack against another staunch critic.

"Ang desisyon ng Palasyo na ideklarang void ang amnestiyang binigay kay Senator Antonio Trillanes IV ay isa namang patunay na gagawin ng administrasyong ito ang lahat para patahimikin ang sinumang kumokontra rito," Robredo said in a statement.

[Translation: "The decision of the Palace to declare as void the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is another proof that the administration would do everything to silence those who oppose it."]

Trillanes was placed under Senate custody Tuesday afternoon as policemen were deployed outside the Senate building for his possible arrest. Senate President Tito Sotto said the senators will not allow Trillanes' arrest within Senate premises.

"We cannot allow a senator to be arrested in the Senate premises until the senator voluntarily goes with them like in the case of Senator Leila de Lima before," Sotto told reporters in a chance interview.

 

De Lima, another staunch Duterte critic, has been detained on drug cases which she claimed were all trumped up.

At the House of Representatives, minority solons belonging to the Makabayan bloc said the move against Trillanes shows the government's "intensifying political persecution" of its critics.

'Amnesty can't be revoked'

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, stressed that the granting of amnesty is "a completed act" that can no longer be revoked.

This was also the statement of former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who said Duterte "has no unilateral constitutional authority to nullify an amnesty given and accepted 8 years ago."

The Constitution states that the President has power to grant amnesty "with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress."

Senator Kiko Pangilinan in a statement said an amnesty "could not be easily set aside by the whims of one man."

Meanwhile, Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano, Trillanes' comrade, also lambasted the order, saying it has no basis since their group complied with the requirements for an amnesty.

"Kung hindi ho balat sibuyas ang gobyerno sa kritisismo ng taumbayan, nasaan na ho ang checks and balance? Hindi ho nasa balikat ng isang tao ang kapakanan at kinabukasan ng ating bansa," he said.

(Translation: If the government was not sensitive, where is the checks and balance? The welfare and future of our country are in the shoulders of a person.)

Alejano called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to refrain from following "illegal" orders from the President.

"The president is not above the Constitution. And I am calling the AFP and PNP that they should not follow illegal orders," he said.

During the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Trillanes, a former naval officer, was involved in three mutiny attempts: Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, the Marines stand-off in February 2006, and the Manila Peninsula incident in 2007.

Trillanes and the other Magdalo soldiers involved were given amnesty by President Benigno Aquino III in November 2010 under Proclamation No. 75. This is the decision that Duterte wants revoked through his Proclamation Order No. 572, signed August 31 and published on a newspaper on Tuesday.

Malacañang said there was "nothing political" in the President's move, arguing that the Aquino administration erred in giving Trillanes amnesty.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it was "not valid from the beginning" since Trillanes never admitted his guilt – a requirement for amnesty to be granted.