Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 September 2018


Reader, the “void ab initio” argument that has been used to justify the revocation of the amnesty granted in 2011 to Trillanes et al., is a reprise of the administration’s shamefully successful argument used to kick out Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (i.e., she didn’t have to be impeached because her appointment to the position was void ab initio—from the beginning).

Will it gain traction?  Two factors militate against it: 1) the justices don’t have any axes to grind, so they will be more clear-headed; and (2) even if they have, the facts of the case fairly scream in favor of Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

What are these facts? 

President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572, entitled “Revocation of the Department of National Defense Ad Hoc Committee Resolution No. 2 (#1), dated January 31, 2011 insofar as it granted amnesty to former LTSG Antonio Trillanes IV,” states that the amnesty granted Trillanes was “void ab initio because he did not comply with the minimum requirements to classify under the Amnesty Proclamation.”

As a consequence of which, Mr. Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice and the Court Martial of the AFP to pursue all criminal and administrative cases filed against him. The AFP and PNP are also ordered to “apprehend” him so that he can be recommitted to the detention facility he had been in before the amnesty.

But what were these minimum requirements that Trillanes did not comply with which voided the amnesty ab initio? The 10th and 11th Whereases of Proclamation 572 provide them: 1) Trillanes did not file an Official Amnesty Application form, and 2) Trillanes did not admit his guilt for the crimes committed in the Oakwood Mutiny and Manila Peninsula siege.

What was the proof that Mr. Duterte offered for this? Well, with regard to the first, there is a certification dated Aug. 30, 2018, issued by Lt. Col. Thea Joan Andrade of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, J1, stating that “there is no available copy of the application for amnesty in the records.”

Notice, Reader, how the Duterte administration jumped from “no available copy,” which could have meant it may have been misfiled or it has been lost, to “Trillanes did not file.”

With regard to the second, Mr. Duterte offers a quote from Trillanes, source unnamed, to the effect that “we are not admitting guilt to the mutiny and coup d’etat charges…”

So presumably, Reader, if Trillanes can show, or give proof that he did comply with the requirements for amnesty, then Mr. Duterte will have to call off his dogs (tuta), right? No more apprehending, no more detention.

After all, this is not a Duterte-said-Trillanes-said situation, where you believe who you want to believe. There is a documentary trail here. What does it show?

For one, he did file an official amnesty application form (on Jan. 5, 2011), in Camp Aguinaldo.  Proof: media coverage—after all, he was an elected senator. Additional proof: documents from the Department of National Defense and from the committee recommending approval and stating that all requirements had been fulfilled. The kicker is that the application form contains a statement in which the applicant admits his guilt, and recants all statements he made to the contrary. It is a printed statement—and if the applicant signs the form, he automatically has admitted guilt.

Facts, fairly screaming. Documentary.

Pity that presidential counsel Sal Panelo (who, as early as March 2017, had threatened to look into Trillanes’ amnesty) did not bring this up to his principal. Pity

that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra stopped his research at 2010, when, if he had extended it one more year, he would have found out that the RTCs (148, 150) had dismissed all cases against Trillanes et al.

Pity that the AFP generals don’t have the guts to tell their commander in chief that they will not be able to pursue the court martial case against Trillanes, because they have already given him his clearances and, in fact, paid him his military benefits. They wouldn’t have done that if there was a case against him. He is now a civilian, free and clear.

And pity that the PNP seems ready to arrest Trillanes, even without a valid warrant.

This is not the rule of law. This is rule by law.