MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said the other amnesties granted by previous presidents remain valid unless questioned before the courts, even as it admitted that the government only sought to review the amnesty granted to opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was not aware of how past presidents granted amnesties, but certainly the one given to Trillanes, a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, had caught the eye of Solicitor General Jose Calida.
He said even if the other amnesties are invalid because they underwent the same process as Trillanes’ did, “unless it is actually questioned, it is entitled to respect.”
“Sorry na lang si Senator Trillanes, pinag-aralan siya ni Solicitor General Calida at lumalabas na depektibo talaga ang kanyang amnesty. Ano'ng resulta? Iyong sa kanya lang ang maapektuhan dahil iyan lang ang up for review ng Regional Trial Court sa Makati,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
(Tough luck for Senator Trillanes as his amnesty was studied by Solicitor General Calida and it turned out that it was defective. The result? It is only his amnesty which will be affected and be up for review by the Regional Trial Court in Makati.)
Duterte earlier issued Proclamation 572 which voided Trillanes’ amnesty 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,” a claim that the senator repeatedly challenged.
But the government seemed to have changed its tune as it is now harping on another supposed defect that was not even cited in the proclamation - 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 it should be Aquino’s signature which should be on the certificate.
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, however, 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 faced coup d'etat and rebellion charges before 2 Makati courts for allegedly leading failed military uprisings in 2003 and 2007 against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Both cases were dismissed in 2011 after Aquino granted him amnesty, but the government sought to revive these charges through Duterte’s proclamation, with the justice department asking them to issue warrants of arrest against Trillanes.
Trillanes has described the government's moves as political persecution.