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President Duterte to abide with the rule of law on Trillanes

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After being criticized for being bully and harassing his arch-enemy Senator Antonio Trillanes IV by voiding the amnesty given by then President Benigno Aquino III, President Rodrigo Duterte backpedalled on his desire to make a military arrest for Trillanes.

Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces to comply with the judicial process and wait for the courts to issue a warrant for the arrest of his arch critic.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the announcement yesterday as dozens of soldiers and policemen remained positioned outside the Senate waiting for a cue to arrest the former Navy officer turned Senator.

Roque said in a press briefing here in Aman, capital of Jordan, “The President has decided that he would abide with the rule of law. He will wait for the decision of the court, the regional trial court, on whether it will issue a warrant of arrest.”

“He will allow the judicial process to proceed and he will await the issuance of the proper warrant of arrest, if there is indeed one to be issued, before Senator Trillanes is arrested and apprehended,” he added.

Roque said Duterte made the decision after a “lengthy discussion” with Cabinet members on the sidelines of his three-day official visit here.

The Department of National Defense (DND) confirmed deferring action on Trillanes’ case, but did not mention getting ordered by Duterte.

In a statement released by the Department of National Defense, it said “The DND has received areport that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).”

AFP Spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo,did not mention that the order came from Duterte but stressed the military is united and committed to the chain of command and rule of law. He said the AFP is now in the process of constituting a General Court-Martial (GCM) to try Trillanes.

As background, before going to Israel and then later on to Jordan, the President issued Proclamation No. 572 ordering Trillanes’ arrest by voiding his amnesty given by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2011. In the proclamation made by Duterte on August 31, he said Trillanes’ amnesty was void from the beginning because of his failure to meet some requirements for him to qualify for the program.

Trillanes, who led the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 and the Manila Peninsula Siege in 2007 to force the resignation of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for corruption and election fraud, claimed he is being persecuted for being critical of Duterte.

Trillanes originally wanted to turn himself but later sought Senate at his sanctuary for the time being when he was told that the proclamation was illegal. Senate President Vicente Sotto III vowed not to let Trillanes get arrested at the Senate premises who has been staying in the Senate since Tuesday.

Because of the voiding of his amnesty, the lawyers of the Senator have turned to the Supreme Court for help to quash the Duterte administration from enforcing its proclamation and having him arrested for coup d’etat charges.

As for Malacañang, Trillanes’ separation from the military would not remove his liability or exempt him from court-martial proceedings.

In which Roque said, “It is clear that while we are waiting for the decision of the Regional Trial Court on whether to issue a warrant of arrest, the decision of Sen. Antonio Trillanes to  stay in the Senate has no basis. Perhaps it is just drama because no one will arrest him without a warrant of arrest.”

While others see it as political persecution against Trillanes who is Duterte’s number 1 critic, Roque dismissed that this has something to do with politics.

The Palace Spokesman explained, “The President was just implementing the law. He voided Trillanes’ amnesty because he did not comply. This only turned into political issue when the Aquino administration gave amnesty to the senator on a “silver platter.”

Roque believes the government has a strong case against Trillanes as the latter has not presented a copy of his official application for amnesty.“The best evidence is the duly-received application form. I cannot understand why he does not have a copy of it… Thats very important for someone who allegedly applied for amnesty for a capital offense that they should have a copy and I find it hard to believe that he does not have one.”

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra appealed to the public to stop voicing opinions on the issue as Trillanes had already filed a petition with the SC questioning the legality of Duterte’s order. He express his exasperation about everybody making his or her own interpretations of the law without seeing documents related to the issue.

The justice chief said, “He will be given his day in court.We can be slapped with contempt of court if we continue to discuss this matter, legal issues which are already pending before the Supreme Court. So I respectfully ask everyone to please stop commenting on these issues already.”

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the government should be clear about what violation or oversight was committed in the granting of amnesty to Trillanes.

“The issue here is if theres violation of amnesty granted by President Aquino to rebels. Its a factual issue,” the former Chief Justice said, who is also a member of the consultative committee tasked to review the 1987 Constitution.

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