Court handling rebellion case asks Trillanes for actual amnesty form

MANILA, Philippines – The hearing on Friday, September 14, at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 may not have gone exactly the way the lawyers of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV wanted.

Branch 150's Judge Elmo Alameda deferred deciding on the motion to issue an arrest warrant, but he started discussing factual issues and even went as far as asking for a copy of Trillanes’ actual application form for amnesty.

It is not exactly ideal for Trillanes as his lawyers insist that the Makati RTC no longer has jurisdiction to retry a case that was dismissed 7 years ago, in September 2011.

Robles just shrugged it off as the lower court trying to establish facts.

Alameda asked the prosecution if the military certification that said “there is no available copy” of the amnesty application form was enough basis to say that Trillanes did not really submit a form.

"He may or he may not have (submitted the form)," Department of Justice (DOJ) Acting Prosecutor General Richard Fadullon began to say, trying to set aside its importance.

This led Alameda to tell Fadullon: "But that is the ground," citing President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 527 which voids Trillanes' amnesty based on non-compliance with requirements such as the application form.

Nonetheless, Alameda still turned to Trillanes’ lawyer Rey Robles and said that the best proof to debunk the prosecution is a copy of the actual application form. (READ: DOJ to court: 'Simply ignore' case dismissal, get Trillanes out of his 'hole')

Admitting that Trillanes cannot locate his copy yet, Robles offered a CD copy of a news video showing Trillanes filing his application form at the Department of Defense (DND) in January 2011.

“The court is not after secondary evidence,” Alameda told Robles.

Instead, Alameda suggested that Robles get an affidavit from Colonel Josefa Berbigal, the officer of the DND Ad Hoc Committee Secretariat who administered Trillanes’ oath when he applied for amnesty. 

Robles also offered that they can get other members of the Ad Hoc Committee to testify for Trillanes. 

Honorio Azcueta, former undersecretary and chair of the Department of Defense ad hoc committee on amnesty, had earlier attested that Trillanes filed a valid application for amnesty.

"Marami naman nang kaso na na-decide on secondary evidence, circumstantial evidence (There have been many cases decided based on secondary evidence or circumstantial evidence),” Robles said. 

Jurisdiction

Robles clashed with Fadullon on the theory of whether or not the lower court can proceed on the motion for an arrest warrant.

For Fadullon, while the Supreme Court deliberates on Trillanes’ petition, the proclamation remains to be constitutional. Thus, the lower courts can proceed.

For Robles, the Supreme Court must rule on the validity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 527 first, before the lower courts can even decide to issue a warrant.

Robles’ assertion prompted Alameda to slightly raise his voice: “Why, (are these proceedings) premature?”

“The court is guided by the Supreme Court that the issues of whether or not Trillanes filed an application or admitted guilt are factual in nature and that the RTC shall be given leeway to resolve as regards to the legality of the proclamation,” Alameda said.

The judge was referring to the Supreme Court’s denial of Trillanes’ request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), referring the case to the lower courts.

"I welcome it as an implementation act on the directive of the Supreme Court since you are a trier of facts, then inaalam mo at magkaroon ka ng masusing pagsisiyasat nang sa gayon meron kang basehan bago ka gumawa ng iyong paghatol (you are trying to find out, so you can have a thorough examination for you to have basis before you make a judgment)," Fadullon told reporters afterwards.

Alameda handled the rebellion charges against Trillanes in connection with the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. He dismissed the charges in 2011 because of the amnesty.

Critical to the Branch 150 case is the question of rebellion, as rebellion has been held to be a continuing crime.

In a continuing crime, “authorities may resort to warrantless arrests of persons suspected of rebellion, as provided under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.” – Rappler.com 

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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