MANILA - Instead of confronting the head of the agency who moved to have him arrested, a calm Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday pleaded to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to be an instrument of justice.
Trillanes made the appeal during the Senate’s finance committee hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for 2019, their first meeting since the DOJ's filing of motions to have the senator arrested over coup d'etat and rebellion charges.
“Your department is very powerful. You can be an instrument of dispensing justice. Sadly, in the wrong hands, it can be used also as an instrument of injustice,” he said.
“Kung may kaso talaga, walang problema dun. Pero huwag nating gawan,” he added, citing his own case and the case of Sen. Leila de Lima who is currently detained on drug trafficking charges.
Trillanes urged the justice secretary to look at the situation in the United States where government institutions are investigating US President Donald Trump, regardless of his influence. This, he said, is the mark of a developed country.
"Pag nakita niyong mali, even sa OSG, pag nakita niyong hindi tama ‘yan, you will have to say no. Mabigat yan, it takes a lot of moral courage to do that.”
“I hope Sec. Guevarra, you’re in a position to start. Maganda ‘yung panimula ninyo…you can start saying no,” he said.
Trillanes is may be arrested due to a pending motion for issuance of an arrest warrant and hold departure order filed by the DOJ before the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 148 over the 2003 Oakwood mutiny coup d’etat case.
He earlier posted bail before the Makati RTC Branch 150 after the court granted a similar motion filed by the DOJ for his arrest over the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.
Trillanes said he is ready to put everything behind.
“I hope in the remaining years of the Duterte administration, magiging ehemplo ang DOJ. What’s done is done. Yung nangyari sa akin ngayon, I can be put away in prison or in detention without bail for a missing application form. Palagay ko, in any definition of justice, talagang wala yun,” he said.
“Let me be the last casualty for that,” he added. “I hope you can give your word, Sec. Guevarra na injustice stops with me. Akin ang huling kaso.”
In response, Guevarra told Trillanes he agrees with him that the DOJ should not be used as a weapon to persecute.
“I have always made it a point for the Department to observe the rule of law and to base all of its actions on the available evidence and nothing else,” he said.
Guevarra, however, said he could not comment on the specific cases of Trillanes and de Lima since he is bound by the sub judice rule covering cases already being heard in court.
The hearing on Wednesday was on the Department of Budget and
Management’s P21.35 billion proposed budget for the DOJ for 2019.
This is P10 billion less than the DOJ’s proposal but more than its current budget, P19.66 billion.
During the hearing, Trillanes himself moved for the restoration of the DOJ’s intelligence funds from the proposed P108 million to its current P150 million.
Senate finance committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda accepted Trillanes’ proposal but told DOJ officials in jest not to use intelligence funds to spy on Trillanes.
Trillanes himself was in the mood to joke that had Solicitor General Jose Calida been present, he would have increased the Office of the Solicitor General’s budget as well.
But he promised to sponsor the committee report on the Senate bill granting survivorship benefits to the surviving legitimate spouse of deceased retired members of the OSG.
Calida was supposedly on standby for a possible meeting with the President. It was Calida who initiated the inquiry into Trillanes’ amnesty.
Legarda also promised to follow up a bill granting additional benefits and compensation to personnel of the Bureau of Immigration.