MALACANANG ON Monday said former defense secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin may be held liable for usurpation of authority when he approved the amnesty for Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV in 2011, which he himself recommended to then president Benigno S.C. Aquino III.
Meanwhile, a Makati court on Monday deferred the issuance of a warrant of arrest and hold-departure order (HDO) against the opposition senator, citing due process in his behalf.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo on Monday said “It’s the President that should grant amnesty” for Mr. Trillanes, adding that “(i)t’s for [the Defense department] only to evaluate….He (Mr. Gazmin) responded by saying ‘approved, I’ve granted the amnesty’ per his letter to (former) president (Aquino).”
Siya mismo nag-grant, siya mismo nag-recommend… (It was he who recommended and granted [the amnesty]). So, what’s the crime of Volts? Usurpation of authority,” Mr. Panelo said.
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in an interview with DZRH that Mr. Gazmin could be sent to jail. “Well, possible po (That is possible),” he said.
In his press briefing at the Palace on Monday afternoon, Mr. Roque said, “The President’s belief as a lawyer is that an amnesty must be personally granted by the President, it cannot be further delegated to other officials. It is a presidential prerogative so the position of the President is that only the President should have signed the order of amnesty.”
Mr. Roque said President Rodrigo R. Duterte has “the means to come up with his own legal conclusions,” adding that “this is an additional ground that he is invoking not included in the grounds cited by Solicitor General (Jose C. Calida).”
On this significance to others who were granted amnesty, Mr. Roque said: “Well, if the President’s theory is correct, then similarly-situated individuals would have similar amnesties which could be declared as being null and void ab initio. But right now, the only one being invoked null and void ab initio is that of Senator Trillanes.”
For his part, Judge Elmo M. Alameda of Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 said in his order that the court was not convinced with the Very Urgent Ex-Parte Omnibus Motion against Mr. Trillanes as filed by Prosecutor General Richard Anthony D. Fadullon on Sept. 7.
“The Court is not persuaded with the argument of the prosecution that its omnibus motion should not be set for hearing and should be acted by this Court ex-parte,” the decision read.
“While the motion has been denominated as ex-parte, the court after thoroughly considering the grounds and the arguments raised therein, is of the view that acting on the motion without setting it for hearing would definitely prejudice the right of the accused to due process,” it added.
Mr. Fadullon’s motion followed a week after Proclamation No. 572 voiding Mr. Trillanes’s amnesty. It was also Makati RTC Branch 150 which dismissed the rebellion case against Mr. Trillanes in connection with the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege on Sept. 7, 2011, following the grant of his amnesty that year.
Mr. Alameda also stated in his decision: “As earlier mentioned, the reliefs applied for involved the issuance of a warrant of a case that has long been dismissed by this court. There is also the constitutional issue raised before the Supreme Court by the accused on the validity or legality of the revocation of Proclamation No. 75 which may be the ground for this court to wait for the ruling of the Honorable Supreme Court because of the presence of strong probability that the issues raised therein would be rendered moot if this court would proceed to act on the Omnibus Motion,” it read.
Mr. Trillanes has sought a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court against Mr. Duterte’s proclamation.
Meanwhile, Makati RTC Branch 148 set a hearing on Sept. 13 on the HDO and arrest warrant being sought against Mr. Trillanes for his coup d’etat case, in connection with the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.
In a statement on Monday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines issued a statement saying in part, “To begin with, amnesty once granted cannot be simply dissolved by the invocation of the words ‘void ab initio’ as though it were some magical incantation that can nullify vested rights. The IBP reiterates that amnesty is an exercise of sovereign power that automatically confers upon the grantee vested rights appurtenant to the obliteration of the ‘offense with which he is charged. A person released by amnesty stands before the law precisely as though he had committed no offense,” the statement read.
IBP also said: “Within the bounds of sub judice, the IBP thus calls for sobriety in this time of political confusion. It exhorts the courts to resist collateral attacks against its judgements and creeping incursions on its independence. An independent and impartial judiciary remains the most powerful bastion that protects our cherished constitutional rights against the excesses of political power.”
Mr. Trillanes on Monday said he will remain in the Senate premises even after the military has announced that court martial proceedings against the senator would be deferred, pending a decision by the Supreme Court.
“There is still an order in the military to arrest me….I know for a fact, based on our engagements with the Armed Forces (of the Philippines), that they still have a standing order to arrest me,” he told reporters at a press briefing outside his office.
The senator has been cooped up in the Senate since Sept. 4 following the Palace’s announcement of the Aug. 31 proclamation voiding his amnesty.
In a statement last Sunday, AFP chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said he has ordered court-martial proceedings against Mr. Trillanes placed on hold until the Supreme Court has ruled on the senator’s challenge to the presidential proclamation. — Arjay L. Balinbin, Camille A. Aguinaldo, and Vann Marlo M. Villegas