MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – The Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 on Monday, October 22, junked a government plea to have opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV rearrested over previously dismissed coup d'etat charges.
Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano dismissed the motion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue an arrest warrant against the chief critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Noting that the same court had already dismisssed the coup charges against Trillanes in September 2011, Soriano said that decision "has become final and executory."
The judge said he nonetheless gave it a second look upon orders from the Supreme Court (SC).
In his decision, Soriano cited a "well-established doctrine" that a "final and executory judgment shall be immutable."
The court, Soriano added, "finds itself powerless to disturb the said doctrine" even if it does not dispute the legality of the issuance of the President's August 31 proclamation that voided the amnesty granted in 2011 to Trillanes and other ex-soldiers behind the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
Duterte's Proclamation No. 572 has sparked a huge legal debate and criticism because it's the first of its kind in recent Philippine history. Trillanes himself questioned it before the SC.
But the High Court did not grant Trillanes' petition to nullify the President's order and instead threw the case back to the two local courts that previously handled his cases, pre-amnesty.
Duterte's proclamation specifically ordered the police and military to arrest the senator and return him to a military facility.
But even he and the military establishment pushed back, eventually saying they would defer to the courts.
Two Makati courts – branches 148 and 150 – handled the rebellion and coup charges against Trillanes after the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. After Trillanes and his fellow mutineers were granted amnesty in 2011, the two courts dismissed the cases against them.
Clash with Alameda
Judge Soriano's order now creates a glaring clash in legal standards, because his neighbor in the RTC, Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda, reopened the rebellion charges against Trillanes and ordered his arrest in the wake of Duterte's proclamation.
Alameda however allowed Trillanes to post bail of P200,000.
Coup and rebellion are generally non-bailable offenses if the judge finds the evidence strong, but Alameda had previously granted Trillanes' petition for bail before the 2011 amnesty. Thus he did the same in September even as he reopened the rebellion case against the senator. (READ: EXPLAINER: Why Judge Alameda disregarded affidavits in Trillanes case)
In the case of Branch 148, Judge Soriano spent more than 3 weeks deciding. In between, he issued an anti-climactic deferment, asked for an additional hearing and pleadings, and contemplated on it once more.
Last October 11, the case was once again submitted for resolution. (READ: Judge Soriano is at 'last stage' of deciding Trillanes case)
Duterte's proclamation voiding the amnesty, as well as the reopening of dismissed cases at the lower courts, have been slammed by law experts as unconstitutional and a blatant violation of a person's right against double jeopardy.
Soriano's junking of the DOJ motion for a warrant concludes his exhaustive hearings and pleadings on 1) whether there is factual basis to void Trillanes' amnesty and 2) whether the court can reopen a case that has long been dismissed.
Because the rebellion charges have been reopened at Branch 150, Trillanes will continue fighting the legality of Proclamation No. 572 through his petition pending at the SC. Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, a chief justice contender, is handling the petition.
But for now, Duterte's fiercest critic remains free. – Rappler.com