Constitutional expert: Makati RTC should have declared proclamation on Trillanes void

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — The court handling opposition senator Antonio Trillanes' case should have voided the presidential proclamation that revoked his amnesty, a constitutional expert said on Tuesday.

In his decision on Monday, Judge Andres Soriano of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 rejected a petition for an arrest warrant for Trillanes — but upheld President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 572.

"The judge, to my mind, would have done better by not upholding the validity of the proclamation — so it would be consistent with his finding that Sen. Trillanes was entitled to the benefits of amnesty," Fr. Ranhilio Aquino told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Naturally if you sustain the proclamation, you also sustain its findings of fact," he added.

Judge Andres Soriano of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 ruled that Trillanes failed to prove the presidential proclamation was unconstitutional. However, he also found factual error in the government's case — and said Trillanes did in fact apply for amnesty.

Aquino himself, a member of Duterte's handpicked Consultative Committee for charter change, maintains that the proclamation is "not legally correct." He says Duterte cannot revoke or nullify anyone's amnesty alone.

Former senator and Armed Forces chief Rodolfo Biazon similarly argued that the President could not act unilaterally without going through Congress, which also granted the amnesty.

Biazon told The Source the decision is "not a total victory" for Trillanes yet -- just "relief" that he would not be arrested yet.

"This thing is not yet over. There are two issues in this conversation. The first issue is the order of arrest," Biazon explained. "But the more fundamental issue to be resolved here is the issue of validity of the grant of amnesty."

The former military chief added that he did not buy the government's argument that the case only applied to Trillanes, and not other soldiers who received amnesty, because he led the military uprisings.

"I was there in Oakwood, and I had to call somebody else," said Biazon, who declined to name who the person was.

When asked whether Trillanes truly led the Oakwood mutiny, Biazon said, "He may not be. It may be somebody outside."

Trillanes, a former naval officer, was involved in the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, the Marines standoff in February 2006, and the Manila Peninsula incident in 2007 - which were all against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He and other soldiers were jailed, but later granted amnesty under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. Trillanes has since become a vocal critic of Duterte.

Both Aquino and Biazon believe the validity of the proclamation has to be ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court. The latter noted that Soriano's "split" decision had an aspect that went both for and against Trillanes.

"But the (part) against (Trillanes) is something that no agency can resolve except the Supreme Court," said Biazon.

Watch the full interview with Aquino and Biazon below.