Guevarra to Trillanes: This is just the start, let’s go to Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines – It's not over.

Reacting to a court rejection of his department's motion to arrest opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the Supreme Court (SC) has the final say on the issue.

The lower court's verdict opens an opportunity for the High Court to "forge a new judicial principle," Guevarra said in a press conference on Monday, October 22.

“This is just the beginning, this is not the end, nobody has to claim total victory here, umpisa pa lang ito (it only just begun),” Guevarra added.

Guevarra and his prosecutors lost their case before Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148, as Judge Andres Soriano on Monday refused to reopen a case that the same court had already dismissed in 2011.

The judge said he had no reason to "disturb" the established doctrine of the finality of a court judgment.

Soriano also junked the Department of Justice's (DOJ) arguments that non-existent records prove Trillanes did not file the required application form for amnesty.

Soriano's decision was crucial, since there would have been no bail had he issued an arrest warrant.

Guevarra explained how he viewed Soriano's decision. “He made that ruling because he has no jurisprudence to go by…It’s not always the case that you must back up your arguments with decided cases because there will always be a first time wherein new and novel issues will be presented to the Supreme Court."

He added: "And you give the Supreme Court the opportunity for the first time to forge a new judicial principle."

In his decision, Soriano wrote: "The law is vibrant. Jurisprudence is its lifeblood. Subsequent jurisprudence may forge new horizons in which exceptions to the immutability of a final and executory judgment may be born."

Banking on Alameda

Guevarra’s confidence stems from the decision of Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda, who ordered Trillanes’ arrest last September 25 and upheld almost all arguments of the DOJ. 

Alameda is handling the rebellion charges that stemmed from the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege that involved Trillanes and other ex-soldiers. Trillanes was allowed bail.

Alameda effectively reopened the case, and will begin re-trial on November 21.

“Magkaiba sila ng decision eh (they have different decisions), but in the end there will be a harmonization, sort of a consolidated appreciation of all the evidence, maybe at the Court of Appeals level, or maybe even at the Supreme Court level,” Guevarra said.

In his 33-page decision, Soriano junked both the arrest warrant request and the argument that Trillanes did not file for amnesty. But he upheld the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s issuance of Proclamation No. 572 that voided Trillanes' amnesty.

Soriano said Duterte is within his prerogative to issue such a proclamation.

This opens a tiny window for further legal appreciation. 

The Supreme Court is currently tackling Trillanes’ petition seeking to nullify the proclamation. Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, a Chief Justice contender, is member-in-charge of the petition.

“If the Supreme Court in the end will say that there is basis to reopen the case because the dismissal in 2011 was void, being premised on a void assumption of amnesty extended to the senator, then the cases will be reopened,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra said he will meet with top prosecutors as soon as possible to discuss their next legal steps.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favor of Duterte in the major political cases presented before it since the start of his administration in 2016. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.