Opposition senators to fight 'illegal, abusive' Duterte order vs Trillanes

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition senators on Tuesday, September 4,  vowed to fight the Palace-ordered arrest of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, which they called an “illegal and abusive exercise of presidential power.”

The senators said in separate statements that Proclamation 572, which revoked the amnesty granted to Trillanes in 2010, was only meant to silence a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We stand by Senator Trillanes, and will use all legal means to fight this illegal and abusive exercise of presidential power,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.

He said the revocation of an amnesty grant that had congressional concurrence “is a clear persecution against one of the administration's toughest critics.” 

“Instead of addressing the rice crisis now engulfing the nation, this government is more concerned with silencing its critics using illegal and unlawful methods,” said the Liberal Party president.

“Absent our concurrence any arrest is illegal. We urge the Armed Forces and the PNP not to enforce an illegal arrest,” he added.

Pangilinan said Proclamation 75, which granted Trillanes amnesty in 2010,"could not be easily set aside by the whims of one man."

'Double jeopardy'

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Proclamation 572 "has no basis" as it was premised on Trillanes' alleged failure to apply for amnesty.

Drilon said it was "obvious" that Trillanes applied for amnesty as the Regional Trial Court dismissed the Oakwood mutiny-related criminal cases against him.

"The court must have found the application and grant of amnesty valid; otherwise, the cases would not have been dismissed," the former justice secretary said.

Drilon added that when Trillanes was granted amnesty, "it was as if, no crime was committed." 

"Given that the court had already validly terminated and dismissed the criminal cases arising from the same actions, the issuance of Proclamation No 572 and the reopening of the criminal cases will violate Senator Trillanes’ right against double jeopardy," Drilon said.

'Growing crackdown'

Senator Risa Hontiveros said Proclamation 572 “signals the growing crackdown on the political opposition and the President's further slide into full authoritarian rule.” (READ: Revocation of Trillanes' amnesty 'clear act of revenge' – Alejano)

“Together with the unjust incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima and the sham electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo hanging like a Damocles sword over her head, I fear that all these form part of President Duterte's grand plan to wipe out the opposition and consolidate complete political power unto himself,” she said. 

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV shared Pangilinan’s view that the Duterte administration was more concerned with jailing the political opposition than with addressing the rice supply problem in the country.

“Suportado natin si Sen Sonny sa laban na ito…. Huwag na tayong lumayo sa mga tunay na problema ng bayan. Tama na, sobra na ang pananakot at pang-aabuso sa mga tulad ni Senator Trillanes na hinding-hindi magpapatahimik,” Aquino added.

(We support Senator Sonny in this fight.... Let's not stray far from the real problems of the country. Enough – the abuses against people like Senator Trillanes, who can never be silenced, are too much.)

'Panicking Duterte'

Senator Leila de Lima, another outspoken Duterte critic who has been in jail  for over a year for what she called trumped-up drug charges, expressed her condemnation and “utmost disgust” for Proclamation 572 which she called a sign of a “panicking Duterte.”

“If there is ZERO basis in fact and in law to revoke Sen Sonny’s amnesty, then, why did Duterte issue his Proclamation? Walang legal, legal dito (There is no such thing as legal here). It was simply a political move to try to silence Senator Trillanes. Another palpable case of political persecution,” De Lima said.

“Kay Sen Sonny at iba pang kasamahan ko sa oposisyon: Tatagan 'nyo po ang inyong loob at laging manalig sa Diyos at sa bayan na matatapos din ang kadiliman at kawalang katarungang ito. Tuloy ang laban!” the LP senator added.

(To Senator Sonny and others in the opposition: Just stay strong and always believe in God and the nation, that there is an end to this darkness and injustice. The fight continues!)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, another LP member, noted that more than 14 million people voted to reelect Trillanes in the Senate in 2013, a mandate that should be honored.

"If he had committed offenses after Peninsula, if he had broken any law since, then the right course is to charge him, and not to nullify an amnesty that had been granted to him. He should be granted every opportunity to challenge the revocation of the amnesty in complete freedom,” Recto said.

"I think Senator Trillanes had done time for the mischief he had created during her (Arroyo's) incumbency," added the senator, who served as National Economic and Development Authority chief for a year during the latter part of the Arroyo administration.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III refrained from issuing the Senate position on Proclamation 572 pending a discussion among senators. He said he has yet to receive an official copy of the document.

“The matter concerning one of our colleagues will have to be discussed by the Senate as a collegial body,” Sotto said.

“I will refrain from making any personal comments on the matter as it concerns a serious and legal case which, based on my recollection, does not have any precedent in the past that can be used as reference,” he added. 

Former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who granted Trillanes amnesty for his participation in 2003 and 2007 coups during his watch, upheld the validity of the amnesty and called on his predecessor to do the same. 

Trillanes said he would not evade arrest but he would challenge the legality of Proclamation 572. (READ: Trillanes vows to face arrest: 'Mr Duterte, hindi ako takot sa iyo'Rappler.com

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