Despite saying it had evidence of a plot to oust the President, the Palace said Wednesday it saw no need to charge Senator Antonio Trillanes IV—one of the alleged plotters—with treason.
“There’s no need [to file charges]. He already faces too many cases because of three counts of coup d’état [and] that’s too much life imprisonment,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told Manila Standard
in an interview.
Roque made the remark when asked about the President’s statement Tuesday afternoon that he has a record of conversations proving a loose conspiracy involving Trillanes, communist rebels, and the opposition Liberal Party to remove him from office.
“We are not hiding any information about Trillanes as everyone knows all the crimes he committed even during the Oakwood mutiny,” Roque said.
While Duterte said the conversations were provided by a foreign government, Roque said he had no information about the President’s source.
“I don’t know if it’s a regular thing. But what I do know is that it’s the nature of an intel. Intel, precisely, is intended to provide you information to avoid eventualities,” Roque said.
“The gathering of Intel has always been recognized as a function of diplomatic missions... We also get intel information, that’s the nature of diplomatic relations nowadays,” Roque said when asked if the intel provided counted as foreign interference.
Roque also said that the President’s incitement to the military to oust him was just an expression of confidence.
“The President is confident there will be no support to oust him. His excitement is an expression of confidence that no one will follow Senator Trillanes or his companions,” Roque said.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he has evidence, provided by a foreign country, to prove there is a plot to oust him. He also warned the Armed Forces of the Philippines against siding with his enemies.
“I asked that it be declassified, and we will show it [to the public],” Duterte said as he addressed the nation with his live dialogue with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo Tuesday afternoon.
“This is my message to the Armed Forces: Just be careful. Just be careful of your connivance with the Magdalo [group of Trillanes]. Because Magdalo is not all in agreement to destabilize or overthrow the government,” he warned.
“To those who see that Trillanes made a difference for your well-being, go to them and stage a mutiny or revolution. You are free to do that. As a matter of fact, I am encouraging you, so we could end this,” Duterte said. “I am challenging Magdalo to start now. If you think the soldiers are yours, it’s fine. If the generals [think the same], so be it. Let’s show the Filipino people what you really want.”
Trillanes IV on Wednesday challenged Duterte to come out with the video recording that would prove that he was in cahoots with the communist rebels.
“He says he has a video recording of a conversation I had with a communist leader. I challenge him. I will authorize you to come out with it with no crime,” Trillanes said in Filipino.
After his arrival on Saturday at the Davao International Airport from his trips to Israel and Jordan, the President warned of a unified effort from three groups that have connived to oust him by October.
“Those three, watch them closely. The yellow Liberals, Trillanes, and the politburo… Watch them closely, those three. They are all connected,” Duterte said. “They are the ones who will oust me, and it will go into [high gear in] October,” he added. He said he had a video recording of Trilanes with the communist rebels.
Trillanes also said the President’s disclosure about a foreign government giving him information also amounts to another impeachable offense. He said there were many other crimes that the President committed, including murder and corruption.
Palace lawyers on Wednesday defended the legality of the President’s proclamation that revoked the amnesty granted to Trillanes in 2011 due to his failure to file an official amnesty application form and for his refusal to admit his guilt in two unsuccessful coup d’états against the Arroyo administration.
The President also said the amnesty was invalid because it was signed by then Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin, when amnesties may only be granted by the President.
But lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said the validity of the proclamation revoking the amnesty should only be based on the grounds or premises cited in the proclamation itself.
Ateneo law professor Tony La Viña said that if Malacañang wants to use the unlawful delegation theory, then President Duterte should amend the proclamation first.
The military on Wednesday said it will not act against Trillanes unless an arrest warrant is issued by the courts.
“No warrant, no arrest,” Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message to reporters Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied Trillanes’ petition seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order against President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572, which declared the amnesty granted to him as void ab initio.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s denial of the TRO plea of trillanes on the revocatjon of his amnesty.
Alejano said it was “a victory at this point for Senator Trillanes.”
“The recent decision is a welcome development especially given the situation in the Supreme Court. They have at least shown independence on this particular case,” Alejano said.
At the same time, Alejano shrugged off Duterte’s challenge to the military to join Trillanes’ alleged coup plot if they believe the beleaguered senator can take care of them better.
“That was actually good advertisement for Senator Trillanes because he is promoting Magdalo as a solution for those who are increasingly frustrated by the helplessness of the government in solving the country’s economic woes,” Alejano said.
“But if he meant joining a coup or a plot supposedly being hatched by Trillanes et al, that’s merely a diversionary tactic to hide the incapacity of government to address the crisis. No destabilization moves are being hatched by the opposition,” Alejano said.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the courts should decide on Trillanes’ amnesty.
“He has gone to court so let’s see what the court [says],” she said.
Ousted chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said Duterte was putting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a dangerous situation for issuing Proclamation 572 without consulting the military leadership.
She said the idea that an amnesty could be revoked could have a big implication on soldiers who, at one point of their service, had a problem with the law.
“Just imagine the idea that all the amnesties given to thousands of soldiers who had problems with the law, not only during the time of Cory [fomer President Aquino] but also whoever who went on uprisings in the Armed Forces, these can all be opened,” Sereno said.
She noted that even the amnesties given to AFP chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. and Senator Gregorio Honasan for their participation in the failed coup in 1989 against former President Corazon Aquino’s administration are in danger of getting revoked too by subsequent presidents.
But opposition lawmakers on Wednesday said Trillanes should be held accountable for his alleged crimes even as they shared the Palace’s position that the amnesty granted to him by the previous administration was defective.
At the same time, House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez accused Trillanes of being a mercenary, reiterating his call for the senator to name his donors.
“He (Trillanes) is like a mercenary. Just like in the movie, they were paid for a purpose. He had funds for that purpose,” Suarez said at a news conference.
“Again, I will reiterate the question: Where did he get or who gave him the funds?” he asked.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Lito Atienza said “it about time he answers for his crimes.”
“The amnesty given to him is defective. Only the President can grant the amnesty and not the secretary of national defense,” Atienza said. He said Trillanes allegedly had received funding from many donors during his failed coup attempts.
“It seems he has got a lot of logistics. It is about time he answers for his crimes. Whoever is involved here should be punished,” Atienza said.
“Our economy was held back several times under his engineering. No more rebellious military men should be elected,” Atienza added. With Rey E. Requejo, PNA