MANILA - The amnesties granted by the previous Aquino administration to the soldiers who joined the mutinies led by Senator Antonio Trillanes are also "technically" void, chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Monday.
Panelo claimed that the amnesties given to Trillanes and the Magdalo band of soldiers were invalid "from the beginning" because these were allegedly signed in 2011 by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin -- not President Benigno Aquino III.
"The power to grant of amnesty as well as pardon is exclusive to the President. You cannot delegate that power to any alter ego," Panelo told ANC.
"That makes the grant of amnesty void from the very beginning," he added.
Asked to clarify if his pronouncement covers all of Trillanes' fellow mutineers, Panelo replied: "Theoretically yes, unless they can show me that the president then signed a grant of amnesty."
But even if the amnesty turns out to be valid, Panelo maintained that the President has the prerogative to nullify the reprieve.
"The state has the inherent right to protect itself from any attacks coming from whatever source through the President," he reasoned, adding that Trillanes sowed hate against the government and accused Duterte of keeping undeclared wealth.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a proclamation released last week, withdrew Trillanes' amnesty because of his alleged failure to apply for it properly and express guilt for his crimes.
Duterte on Saturday also accused Gazmin of usurpation of authority for allegedly recommending and granting the amnesty of Trillanes even without the proper documents.
Aquino's former spokesperson Edwin Lacierda dismissed Duterte's allegations against Gazmin.
"There is a lawful designation by the President and the proclamation authorizing the Department of National Defense and its head, actually Voltaire Gazmin, to look into it. There is no irregularity or usurpation of any authority," Lacierda said Saturday.
Trillanes added that Gazmin merely recommended the amnesty after it was processed by a committee under the defense department.
Trillanes' fellow mutineers are also facing a review of their amnesty, Panelo earlier said.
Some of those who were with Trillanes during the 2003 and 2007 uprisings are currently serving in government. Among them are Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Civil Defense Deputy Administrator Nicanor Faeldon and MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim.
'ISSUE UP TO COURT'
Only a court, however, has the authority to determine the validity of the amnesty, which should have Congress concurrence, said former military chief and former congressman Rodolfo Biazon.
"Iyan ay dapat maliwanagan sa korte, hindi kahit sino, not even the President," he told radio DZMM.
(That should be clarified by the court, not by anyone else, not even the President.)
"Itong issue na ito ay mas malaki kaysa sa personal, individual issue against Trillanes. Dito nakasalalay iyung ating paniniwala sa ating konstitusyon, legal processes, institutional processes," he added.
(This issue is bigger that the personal, individual issue against Trillanes. Our belief in our constitution, legal processes, institutional processes rests on this.)
Trillanes has asked the Supreme Court to block the withdrawal of his amnesty. He remains holed up for a week now at the Senate, from where arresting officers have been banned.