MANILA- Insisting that he is not picking on his fiercest critic, President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said it was Solicitor General Jose Calida who initiated action that eventually led to the voiding of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's amnesty.
Duterte, who just arrived from trips to Israel and Jordan, explained that he simply "cannot refuse" withdrawing Trillanes' amnesty after Calida found the grant anomalous.
"Yung kay Trillanes, alam mo ang totoo niyan, ang nag-research, si Calida. Just like kay Sereno, he was the one," the President said in a speech.
(It was Calida who did the research on Trillanes just like in the case of Sereno.)
Calida had filed the quo warranto plea that led to the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice in May in an unprecedented Supreme Court ruling.
"Kung ano ang sinabi niyo doon, 'yun ang paniwalaan ko. Eh kung hindi ko pinaniwalaan si Calida, eh di ipinatapon ko na 'yan, hindi ko alam kung saan," he added.
(What he said there, I believed. If I did not believe Calida then I would have thrown him out.)
Malacañang on Tuesday announced that Duterte nullified Trillanes' amnesty for his supposed failure to formally apply for it and admit guilt.
Duterte's Presidential Proclamation No. 572 ordered police and the military to arrest Trillanes, as it in effect revived coup d'etat and rebellion charges the former Navy lieutenant faced for leading uprisings in 2003 and 2007.
Military spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo earlier confirmed as well that it was the solicitor general who initiated the search for Trillanes' amnesty records. Calida, however, has refused to discuss his supposed role.
"I'm sorry I cannot discuss that because we have what we call privileged communication between the lawyer and the clients, which is the Republic of the Philippines," Calida told ANC earlier this week.
Calida explained his office "was not necessarily" in charge of the review "because we are a law firm and we do what is our duty."
Describing the government's top lawyer to be "medyo bright na matino (a little bright and upright)," Duterte said he adheres to Calida's judgment whenever the latter finds something to be anomalous.
"Si Calida, medyo bright na matino. 'Pag sinabi ng SolGen may mali, and this has to be corrected, I cannot refuse. He is the government lawyer," Duterte said.
(Calida is a bit bright and upright. If the SolGen says something is wrong and this has to be corrected, I cannot refuse.)
"I am a mayor and president, I cannot insist lalo na (especially) in view of the fact that it was already recorded as a public paper," he added
Trillanes is leading the legislative inquiry into the alleged conflict of interest in government contracts of Calida's security firm.
His Senate investigation began on Tuesday, shortly after the proclamation voiding his amnesty came to public light.
In withdrawing his amnesty, the Duterte administration was "trying everything" to stop the legislative probe against Calida, said Trillanes.
The lawmaker is leading the investigation into Calida's Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc., which he said bagged around P358.3 million in government contracts.
Trillanes has vowed to go after officials of the Duterte administration who he believes are involved in his possible arrest, namely Calida, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.
"Pagdating ng panahon, 'pag wala na si Duterte, hahabulin ko talaga sila if they insist dito sa ginagawa nilang kalokohan," Trillanes earlier said.
(When the time comes, when Duterte is no longer in power, I will run after them if they insist on this foolishness.)
"Ngayon 'yung magpapagamit, 'yung mga abogadong nagsasalita diyan, ako talaga hahabulin ko ang mga ito. Kakaririn ko kayo," he added.
(Now, those who will allow themselves to be used, these lawyers talking, I will run after you. I will never stop.)
Trillanes has questioned Duterte's order before the Supreme Court. The President has said he would defer to the court's judgment.