Who is the Makati judge handling Trillanes' amnesty case?

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Since a controversial proclamation to void the amnesty of Senator Antonio Trillanes, the opposition lawmaker's fate rests on the shoulders of a trial court judge.

The Justice Department has turned to Presiding Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano of Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 148 for an alias warrant that could enable Trillanes' arrest and a hold departure order that would bar him from leaving the country.

Soriano's predecessor Judge Rita Bascos Sarabia dismissed the coup charges against Trillanes "pursuant to the amnesty" in 2011.

A hearing for the Justice Department petition is set for September 13. Before he makes a decision, Soriano is expected to review about 53 volumes of records on the case.

But who is this presiding judge, and what are his legal options on the case?

Background and previous cases

Soriano was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III to the Makati RTC on April 2012, after he served at the Malolos RTC Branch 13 in Bulacan since 1998. The 62-year-old judge is set to retire on November 30, 2026.

On the year of his appointment, Soriano handled the cases of former army first lieutenants Lawrence San Juan and Rex Bolo, who faced coup d'etat charges over the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

The judge convicted the two, but the Court of Appeals cleared them in 2015. Unlike Trillanes and other mutineers, San Juan and Bolo did not avail of pardon or amnesty.

The Oakwood mutiny was among the three coup attempts against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where Trillanes was involved. The other two were the Marines stand-off in February 2006, and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007.

In 2016, Soriano also convicted Franklin K. Meneses, the president of IT firm Cytronics International Inc., for failure to remit the Social Security System contributions of its employees. Meneses got jail time between six to 12 years, and was ordered to pay ₱1.2 million in contributions and penalties.

During his time as a judge in Bulacan in 2006, Soriano found Ronald Quesada, who was paralyzed in the arms and legs, and an accomplice guilty for the rape of a teenage girl in 2003.

Since his time as a judge, Soriano has been a contender for three judicial posts. In 2010, he vied for the position of Supreme Court administrator — but eventually lost to Midas Marquez. In 2014, he was shortlisted by the Judicial Bar Council for the Sandiganbayan, but then-Manila RTC Judge Ma. Theresa Gomez-Estoesta was appointed in the fifth division. The following year, he was again shortlisted for the Court of Appeals, but he lost out to Makati Judge Perpetua Atal-Paño.

Soriano graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1983 and was admitted to the Philippine Bar the following year. He worked as a private practitioner for three years between 1986 and 1989.

Touching Trillanes' case

Trillanes' camp has since questioned Duterte's proclamation at the Supreme Court.

However, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is not sure whether the case should even be in Soriano's court. IBP President Abdiel Fajardo told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday that Soriano was free to say the case was not within his jurisdiction.

Fajardo cited Sarabia's decision to dismiss the charges against Trillanes.

"You cannot reverse the final ruling of a co-equal judge. Only a higher court can reverse, review, modify the orders of a trial court judge," said Fajardo.

"When the case was dismissed, there's no pending criminal information anymore... Therefore the [RTC] could not act on anything — not even an alias warrant, because the status of the case was it was dismissed," he added.

Administration officials maintain that the proclamation was enough to restore those cases. However, constitutional expert Fr. Ranhilio Aquino also noticed the absence of pending charges, and said it would be more prudent if the government would just "file the case again."

Fajardo opined that the Justice Department could also turn to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court if it disagreed with the RTC decision.

CNN Philippines Senior Researcher Ella Hermonio contributed to this report.