MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV should not be arrested without a warrant from the civilian courts.
Duterte made the statement more than a week since voiding Trillanes' amnesty through a proclamation, where he also ordered state forces to take the rebel-turned-lawmaker into custody.
Trillanes, who led uprisings as a Navy officer in 2003 and 2007, has been holed up in his office since last week, when the President's order was made public.
Asked if there was urgency to arrest his fierce critic, Duterte said “nobody’s interested” to arrest Trillanes.
“The military does not have the interest. I don’t have the interest. He can stay there (the Senate) as a boarder,” Duterte told reporters.
“I said don’t arrest until there’s a warrant. It’s only the civilian courts [which can order the arrest], but there is no order yet. So if there’s no order, huwag pakialaman (let him be).”
Trillanes has been mulling on leaving the Senate building after a Makati court hearing his coup d’etat case deferred issuing an arrest warrant against him.
The Department of Justice had asked two Makati Regional Trial Court branches, which handle the now revived coup d'etat and rebellion cases against Trillanes, to issue an arrest warrant and hold departure order against the senator.
But the fierce opposition lawmaker changed his mind Thursday, citing how his driver was tailed by men in motorcycles on his way to a gas station.
Duterte earlier issued Proclamation No. 572 voiding Trillanes’ amnesty, saying the former rebel did not file an Official Amnesty Application Form and also "never expressed his guilt for the crimes that were committed.”
Recently, the government also cited a supposed defect in Trillanes' 2011 amnesty: that then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin usurped then President Benigno Aquino III’s power to grant amnesty by affixing his signature on the amnesty certificate.
Duterte and his officials said Aquino should have signed the certificate.
“Be that as it may, whether amnesty or pardon, it is only the president [who has the authority to grant it], maski anong sabihin mo (whatever you say),” he said.
Trillanes’ camp and some of Aquino’s closest allies have slammed the new argument presented by the government. Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno even called this reasoning “pure hogwash.”
Aquino’s spokespersons Abigail Valte and Edwin Lacierda also said it was still within Gazmin’s power to sign the amnesty certificate.
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. According to Valte, the task delegated was the determination of those qualified for amnesty, not the granting of the amnesty itself.
Trillanes, who campaigned against Duterte's presidential bid in May 2016, earlier described the government's move as political persecution.