Trillanes to military: Duterte won't last long, don't do anything illegal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday warned the military against violating laws for the sake of following President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Isipin niyo lang si Mr. Duterte, saglit na lang yan (Just think about it. Mr. Duterte won't last long). Please do not do anything illegal or unconstitutional," Trillanes told Senate reporters in a chance interview.

He told the military to consider that Duterte's Proclamation No. 572 is "absurd." He said it would not be smart to stand by the order, noting that anything can happen to the 73-year-old President, who had admitted experiencing "perpetual pain", while denying allegations that he is seriously ill.

Trillanes was reacting to the pronouncement of the Department of National Defense (DND) that court martial proceedings are underway to put him under trial again for military uprisings against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

The DND insisted that Trillanes' trial was only suspended when then President Benigno Aquino III granted him amnesty in 2011. But now that the Duterte government voided his amnesty, the military is determined to go after him, even as a civilian.

"The acts for which he was charged happened while he was in active service. While he's a civilian now, the jurisdiction of the court martial was acquired when he was an active officer of the armed forces," DND Internal Audit Service chief Atty. Ronald Patrick Rubin said in a separate press briefing.

Trillanes on Wednesday afternoon presented documents that he was already dismissed from the Armed Forces in 2007, stressing that the DND no longer has jurisdiction over him. The soldier-turned-senator also said the cases against him for coup attempts have all been dismissed.

 

Trillanes, a former naval officer, was involved in three mutiny attempts against the Arroyo administration – 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 jailed but freed under an amnesty granted in 2011.

Trillanes said democracy is dead under the Duterte administration, but promised to abide by the law in this fight.

"Being a senator now iba na ang aking nasa arsenal ngayon (my arsenal is different now). I'm using this platform in fact to make institutions work," he said.

Taking the fight to the SC

Trillanes called on institutions, including the Supreme Court, to not be afraid of Duterte. He said he will question Duterte's order to nullify his amnesty before the high court.

"Wag kayong matakot dito. Malapit na ito, hindi naman ito magtatagal (Don't be afraid of this. This shall pass soon)," he said.

Lawmakers and legal experts said an amnesty cannot be revoked by the President unilaterally, noting it needs to go through proper judicial processes.

"Ang issue is wala ring nakalagay sa Constitution na dapat iconcur ng Kongreso ang (The issue is that the Constitution does not state that the Congress should concur) revocation, so the issue will again be tossed to the Supreme Court to tell us whether it should be concurred in or not, or not necessary," Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III told reporters on Wednesday.

 

The Constitution states that the President has power to grant amnesty "with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress," but is not clear on how to revoke it.

Duterte's proclamation states that the amnesty granted to Trillanes was void from the start because he did not comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under the Amnesty Program. It alleges that Trillanes never admitted guilt for the coup attempts, and failed to take an oath and formally apply for amnesty. These are claims Trillanes had debunked through presenting videos and documents of his application for amnesty.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who serves as officer-in-charge while Duterte is on a trip to Israel and Jordan, on Tuesday asked the Makati Regional Trial Court to issue an alias warrant and hold departure order against Trillanes. But Guevarra earlier said Trillanes can be arrested anytime with the nullification of his amnesty.

The court has yet to decide on the Justice Department's petition, and scheduled a hearing on September 13.

Trillanes is staying at the Senate building in Quezon City – as advised by his lawyers and fellow senators – to avoid any possible arrest. The DND said it is coordinating with the Senate regarding Trillanes' custody, while the national police said it will not arrest the senator without a court order.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.