Other amnesty grants might be affected too - Roque
MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Monday said charges may be filed against former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of usurpation of authority in granting amnesty to mutineer-turned-senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Duterte has said that Gazmin, who investigated Trillanes' case, was also the one who granted the amnesty to Trillanes and his fellow mutineers, when such power is vested in the Commander-in-Chief.
Asked whether charges may be filed against Gazmin, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told radio dzRH: “Well, possible po. Ang punto po ni Presidente, hindi lang kulang ng requirement iyong amnesty ni Senator Trillanes, kung hindi pati iyong tao na nagbigay sa kanya ay walang otoridad sa ating batas na magbigay ng amnesty.”
(Well, it’s possible. The President’s point is that not only was Trillanes’ amnesty lacking requirements, but the person who gave such had no authority in law to grant one.)
Roque said going by the President’s “theory” that it should be former President Benigno Aquino III who signed the amnesty papers instead of Gazmin, “then similarly situated individuals will have similar amnesties which could be declared as being null and void ab initio (from the beginning).”
“Of course there has to be a declaration that it is null and void ab initio. Without that declaration then I suppose it remains valid…but as I said, this is now a matter to be resolved by the Philippine Supreme Court,” he added.
Roque defended Duterte from criticism that he was singling out Trillanes. He said the senator’s amnesty was voided mainly for his role as mutiny leader.
Speaking to ANC on Saturday, Aquino III'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," Lacierda said.
"There is no irregularity or usurpation of any authority," he added.
Lacierda noted that Gazmin as defense chief "acted lawfully," and that Congress concurred with the grant of amnesty to Trillanes and his fellow mutineers.
Trillanes, in a press conference, also denied Duterte's allegations that Gazmin railroaded his amnesty application.
Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, also backed the chief executive’s assertion, saying the amnesties given to Trillanes and the Magdalo soldiers were invalid "from the beginning" because these were allegedly signed in 2011 by then Gazmin -- not then President Aquino.
"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.
Duterte voided Trillanes' amnesty on August 31 and ordered the restoration of criminal and administrative charges against the lawmaker. His proclamation was made public on Tuesday last week.
The proclamation stated that Trillanes’ amnesty was void from the beginning because the soldier-turned-senator did not file an Official Amnesty Application Form and also "never expressed his guilt for the crimes that were committed.”
Trillanes has disputed the arguments presented by the proclamation as well as the pronouncements of government and military officials about his cases.
Trillanes was charged with coup d'etat before the Makati Regional Trial Court and violation of Articles of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) before a military court.
Aquino, through Proclamation No. 75 Series of 2010, granted amnesty to Trillanes and several other military rebels in 2011, leading to their release from detention.
Roque, however, said the amnesty papers must bear the President’s signature for it be effective.
The cases stemmed from Trillanes' and the Magdalo band of junior military officers' takeover of the Oakwood luxury apartments in Makati City on 2003 and of the Manila Peninsula hotel in 2007.
In both instances, the Magdalo protested alleged corruption under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Trillanes won a seat in the Senate in 2007, campaigning from detention, and was reelected in 2013.