DAVAO CITY - Senator Antonio Trillanes said he pleaded not guilty to 4 libel cases filed by President Rodrigo Duterte's son, as he appeared before a local court in the chief executive's home turf.
The President's most vocal critic said the cases were a form of "harassment." He said he flew to Davao to show that he was ready to face them.
Trillanes said he opted not to defer the arraignment to "demonstrate that we are recognizing the authority and jurisdiction of the Davao courts."
The cases were filed by former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and the President's son-in-law, lawyer Maneses Carpio -- both of whom Trillanes linked to alleged drug smuggling and extortion.
The lawmaker earlier posted bail of P96,000 for the libel cases.
"Mga harassment cases lang po ito talaga just to inconvenience me para ma-distract ako. Pero di ako madi-distract, I will continue with my mandate as a member of the opposition," he told reporters.
(These are all harassment cases just to inconvenience and distract me. But will not be distracted. I will continue with my mandate as a member of the opposition.)
"Nandirito tayo ngayon sa Davao para harapin ito, para ipakita natin na hindi natin tinatakbuhan o tinatalikuran ang mga ganitong hamon," he added.
(We are here in Davao to face this, to show that we will not run or turn our back from these challenges.)
PERSONA NON GRATA
This is the first time that Trillanes set foot in the President's hometown since he was declared persona non grata a year ago after saying it was the most dangerous Philippine city.
Trillanes said Davao residents were "surprisingly warm" but he understood that some were hurt by his opposition stand.
Asked if he felt safe in the city, Trillanes said he was surrounded by police officers and the media so "it's difficult to do anything malicious."
Triallanes said he would return to Davao for the trial if his schedule allows.
He is facing separate sedition and coup d'etat cases for leading botched mutinies against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when he was still a Navy officer.
Those cases were revived after Duterte withdrew amnesty for the senator.