MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is violating the separation of powers when he pushed for the revival of cases against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that were already obliterated by an amnesty grant, a former UP College of Law dean said Thursday.
Speaking to ANC's Early Edition, lawyer Pacifico Agabin said complaints filed against Trillanes were already obliterated after President Benigno Aquino III granted the ex-mutineer amnesty.
"[Duterte's] proclamation, on its face, is already considered unconstitutional. It is presumed unconstitutional because first it is a violation of the principle of powers. Here is a final decision of the court, res judicata ang tawag ng mga abogado, which has been voided by a presidential proclamation, which cannot be done under the principle of separation of powers," he said.
"The President cannot declare a judgment of the judiciary after 7 years void because that would be in violation of the principle of separation of powers."
Duterte voided Trillanes' amnesty for the senator's alleged failure to file an application for the grant and his failure to admit guilt for the failed uprisings in 2003 and 2007.
Trillanes had denied these claims, showing videos and documents to prove his case.
Agabin noted the Supreme Court should immediately rule on the validity of Duterte's Presidential Proclamation No. 572 since the lower courts are proceeding "on the assumption that the proclamation is valid, when in fact that should have been threshed out first by the trial court."
He said the arrest warrant issued by a local court against Trillanes recently means it has assumed that the proclamation was valid.
"It was revived by the same judge who approved his amnesty. It is as if a dead issue has been resurrected to become alive again. It's a miracle, like Jesus Christ rising from the dead," he said.
SAME COURT, SAME JUDGE
In his decision, Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda issued the arrest order after Trillanes failed to present a copy of his amnesty application. The order noted that secondary evidence presented by Trillanes, including a sworn affidavit of Colonel Josefa Berbigal saying that the senator officially applied for amnesty, was disregarded "for being barren of probative weight."
"That is a surprise to me because the same court presided over by the same judge has already dismissed the case on the basis of the same documents presented initially 7 years before," Agabin noted.
He said the same court, in its earlier decision, found that Trillanes had complied with all the requirements of the amnesty, which explains why it issued a final decision. "He is now reversing himself," he said.
The judge's decision to reverse himself after rendering final judgment after the President's proclamation "strikes at the heart of democratic government", Agabin said, since it touches on separation of powers.
"This is really very dangerous because the government can use this method to harass or oppress specific individuals," he warned.
Trillanes remains at the Senate after he posted a P200,000 bail for temporary liberty. But Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 may also order his arrest for non-bailable coup d'etat charges.