By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
THE SUPREME COURT (SC) En Banc on Tuesday denied Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV’s petition for a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO) against President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 which voided his amnesty and directs his arrest.
The SC also directed respondents Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde to file their comment on Mr. Trillanes’s petition within 10 days.
In a press briefing, Acting Chief Public Information Officer Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said the issues as to whether the Senator filed his application for amnesty and admitted his guilt for his involvement in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege are factual concerns.
“Only a trial court, and in certain cases the Court of Appeal, are trier of facts. Hence it is appropriate that the Makati RTCs (regional trial courts) should be given leeway in exercising their concurrent jurisdiction…and resolve the pleadings/motions filed by the parties as regard the legality of Proclamation No. 572, Series of 2018,” Ms. Guerra said.
The SC also said it acknowledges “the judicial notice of the categorical pronouncement” of Mr. Duterte to not apprehend, detain, or take into custody Mr. Trillanes unless there is an issuance of an arrest warrant.
“There is no extreme and urgent necessity for the Court to issue an injunctive relief considering that the respondents have acknowledged Senator Trillanes’s rights to due process,” Ms. Guerra said.
“In fact, the DoJ (Department of Justice) has caused the filing of pertinent motions before the Makati Regional Trial Courts and the AFP has assured that court martial proceedings shall be held in abeyance pending resolution of the amnesty withdrawal,” she added.
Mr. Duterte’s proclamation also ordered the DoJ and Court Martial of the AFP to continue his criminal and administrative cases.
The DoJ had filed an urgent motion for a hold-departure order and arrest warrant against Mr. Trillanes before Branch 148 and Branch 150 of the Makati City Regional Trial Court where the senator’s coup d’etat and rebellion cases were dismissed in 2011.
Both courts have deferred this move by prosecutors and set a hearing on Sept. 13 for Branch 148 and Sept. 14 for Branch 150.
In a press conference at the Senate, Mr. Trillanes said his camp is “grateful that they (SC) have some semblance of independence” with their “carefully-worded decision.”
“They could have outrightly dismissed the petition all together. But they knew that we presented a strong case and the proclamation is badly flawed but nonetheless they give him a face saving way out. So according to my lawyers, if translated, while the petition for TRO was denied,…it took judicial notice of both Mr. Duterte and AFP that there will be no arrest, so should I go out later or tomorrow and I will be arrested and it would be in open defiance of the decision,” he said.
“As it is, they passed on the factual side of the petition to the RTC and it gives us more space to summon the (respondents) and subpoena the documents that they have, talagang maiipit si Mr. (Solicitor-General Jose C.) Calida (Mr. Calida would be hard-pressed to release the documents), and those responsible for this, makikita na talagang (it would be really seen as) fraud. Those gross misrepresentations of facts and evidence talagang (are really) falsification of documents.”
Mr. Duterte had earlier confirmed that it was Mr. Calida, as solicitor-general, who started the review of Mr. Trillanes’ amnesty.
The senator’s lawyer, Reynaldo B. Robles, also said: “We are hoping for the issuance of the TRO. But despite the fact that the Supreme Court did not issue a TRO, we are gratified by the fact that the Supreme Court has taken official judicial notice of the commitment of the President not to order his arrest and the commitment of the AFP not to arrest Senator Trillanes without a valid warrant.”
For his part, Mr. Guevarra said the DOJ “is very happy” with the SC’s decision, adding that “there is really no extreme urgency to speak of, as the trial courts have set the DOJ’s motions for alias warrant of arrest and HDO for hearing, thereby giving Sen. Trillanes an opportunity to be heard.”
“The Supreme Court has also acknowledged the trial courts’ continuing jurisdiction over the coup d’etat and rebellion cases, notwithstanding the alleged ‘finality’ of the orders of dismissal based on the grant of amnesty to Sen. Trillanes,” he told reporters in a text message.
Sought for comment on the SC’s decision, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. told reporters in a text message: “It’s the SC upholding the supremacy of the Constitution. PRRD respected the SC and it has spoken. Senator Trillanes now has to accept the ruling.”
Mr. Calida also said his office is “elated that no less than the Supreme Court has acknowledged that Proclamation No. 572 afforded Mr. Trillanes due process.”
“Clearly, the baseless and inflammatory statements of Mr. Trillanes are mere delusions of a grandiose man,” the government’s lawyer also said in his statement. “The OSG welcomes the development that no temporary restraining order was issued and we nurture the hope that Mr. Trillanes, no matter how remote the possibility, will finally man up and face the charges against him for the unlawful actions he committed against the Filipino people.”
Meanwhile, minority senators have filed a resolution directing the appropriate Senate committee to look into the “fraudulent and erroneous basis” of the President’s proclamation to ensure that the President is not using his executive powers to control the military and police force “to instill fear among critics of the administration.”
It is also for the purpose of looking into “possible remedial legislation” to prevent and/or avert any possible power abuse from the President in the future.
“Due to the issuance of said proclamation, Senator Trillanes is effectively deprived of his liberty and is under constant threat of being arrested when in truth and in fact there is no basis for an arrest, as there is no arrest warrant, as there is no warrant and there are no cases filed against him justifying his arrest,” the resolution read further.
The Resolution was signed by Senators Franklin M. Drilon, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Leila M. De Lima, Francis N. Pangilinan, and Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV.
For his part, Mr. Duterte said in his interview with his legal counsel, Salvador S. B. Panelo, on Tuesday afternoon, “Kayong mga sundalo, kung bilib kayo kay Trillanes, punta kayo du’n.” (You soldiers, if you believe in Trillanes, go to him.)
“I am challenging Magdalo to start now, siguraduhin niyo na sa inyo ang sundalo. Kung kayo ang gusto,” the President also said. (Make sure the soldiers are on your side. If they want you.)
Following Mr. Duterte’s interview with Mr. Panelo, Mr. Trillanes told reporters: “I was advised by some senators to stay here for the time being until ma-clarify (until the AFP’s stand is clarified). We’ve been trying to get a categorical statement from the AFP if they will arrest me or not, the response was they will still arrest me.”
“The AFP said that since no TRO was issued, the proclamation still stands. So what Duterte is saying, it’s a trap.” — with Camille A. Aguinaldo and Arjay L. Balinbin
By Vann Marlo M. Villegas