Beyond the amnesty

"Somebody should have advised President Duterte not to issue Proclamation No. 572 declaring void the amnesty given to Senator Antonio Trillanes by his lackluster predecessor."


Legal circles are abuzz on what to do, with many speculating that the decision by the RTC Judge Andres Soriano of Makati Branch 148 upholding the validity of the amnesty despite it having disappeared from the custody of the Armed Forces, is legal. The presumption that then Lt. SG Antonio Trillanes IV was granted amnesty should favor the grantee. In the absence of amnesty papers, legal procedures should be construed in favor of the accused and his cohorts who were all accused of staging a mutiny and for their brief occupation the Oakwood Building and Manila Peninsula Hotel. The case should ipso facto be dismissed.

In the cases filed against Trillanes for attempted coup d’ etat before RTC Judge Elmo Alameda, Makati Branch 150, appears to be a last-ditch attempt to salvage the case from inevitable dismissal. The case would equally not hold water much that the presumption of the validity of the amnesty refers to the case for which he was granted amnesty. Even if said document appears to be missing, the presumption that it exists should be interpreted in favor of the grantee. Sad as it is to say, the dismissal was an awaited event.

Be that is it may, somebody should have advised President Duterte not to issue Proclamation No. 572 declaring void the amnesty given to Senator Antonio Trillanes by his lackluster predecessor. At its face value, the proclamation was void ab initio for the reason that the basis upon which it was issued does not exist. When Solicitor General Jose Calida and Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra initiated their case against Trillanes on the bases of Proclamation No. 572 declaring void the alleged amnesty given to Trillanes by his benefactor, President Noynoy Aquino, both were acting on the presumption that an amnesty in favor of Trillanes exists.

Simple logic and common sense dictates that one cannot declare void or illegal an amnesty or law on the basis of infirmity if it does not exist. The word verification upon which all complaints should comply cannot be truthfully stated if what is being verified is nonexistent. It becomes a case of one presumption after another, and no case can prosper on the basis of presumption. To be impartial in our analysis of the bungled case against this rather loquacious renegade soldier, the decision of Judge Soriano favoring the validity of the amnesty based on the video clips and the testimony of his co-accused-turned-clappers was, in all honesty, also based on presumption.

I am saying this because the judge himself never saw the amnesty document but our legal procedures and practice, doubts always favor the innocence of the accused. The duty of the judge is to decide according to the facts alleged and proved or in Latin, ”judicis est judicare secondum allegata et probata.”

One reason why the judge could not give in to the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida is the likely possibility it could create precedents that could overturn all established judicial decisions. A second look at the missing amnesty paper allegedly extended to Trillanes by B.S Aquino would surely not favor the administration. To prosecute him based on the presumption that the amnesty given him was invalid is to revert back the issue to Aquino himself for knowingly allowing one to run for an elected public office while facing serious charges of mutiny and/or launching an attempted coup d etat against the Arroyo administration.

Many will be dragged into the case. As columnist Ricardo Saludo put it, officials of the B.S. Aquino administration can be held accountable for gross negligence and for serious case of graft and corruption for failing to do their duty of examining the qualifications of the candidates, whether or not they are qualified for the office.

The case of Trillanes and his cabal of renegade soldiers cannot be described as isolated because they were on the media limelight for some time. The commissioners of the Commission on Elections can be charged for negligence, just as the President of the previous administration can be held for culpable violation of the constitution and for graft and corruption because the issuance and processing of amnesty papers directly falls on his table.

But if he did not, as argued by the Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra, that could spell a trouble for B.S. Aquino because the loquacious senator is insisting that he was given an amnesty, which reason why he was allowed to run for senator. Holy cow, he was even allowed to run for the position of vice president! For Noynoy to say he never granted amnesty to Trillanes is to sign his own death warrant.

Without the amnesty, there would be a chain of serious violations beginning with the fact of being allowed to run, receiving salary and his shares of the corrupted pork barrel, and even daydreaming to become the vice president, funded and brokered by the party in power even if the purpose is to divide the expected landslide votes of Bongbong Marcos.

This now logically explains why Judge Soriano will never buy the argument that the amnesty given to Trillanes never existed. Even if one sets aside his political prejudice that Soriano is an appointee of B.S Aquino, that is rather beside the point for even he is not, it will not spare him the blame of rendering a wrong decision that would inferentially absolve Trillanes, not based on facts but based on the presumption that there was no amnesty given him.

Only from there can one proceed to examine the infirmities in the amnesty to warrant the issuance of Proclamation 572. The issue then would be shifted to the legality of the proclamation. It would now be up to the opposition led by Trillanes and his grandstanding Liberal Party to question the validity and legality of the proclamation. In the meantime, he cannot seek to enjoin the court from not issuing an arrest order while the validity of his amnesty is being determined.

Neither can the government proceed to separately hear the charges filed against Trillanes and his group for their brief occupation of Oakwood before Judge Elmo Alameda. The two cases are interconnected, not to mention that the charges arose from almost one and the same incident. Paradoxically, if the case filed before Judge Alameda is given due course, effectively that will overturn the decision rendered by Judge Soriano to the effect that the amnesty given to Trillanes existed was ipso facto invalid. This will not only result in the government being embarrassed but could give the opposition the opportunity to make a hero out of this loquacious senator.

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Topics: Andres Soriano , Antonio Trillanes , Elmo Alameda , Armed Forces of the Philippines , Jose Calida
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