DOJ asks Makati court to reconsider part of ruling denying Trillanes arrest plea

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2018 09:19 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked a Makati court to reconsider part of its ruling denying the issuance of an arrest warrant and hold departure order against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

In its 10-page motion for partial reconsideration filed at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 Thursday, the DOJ said that while the court correctly ruled in upholding the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 572, it erred in disregarding the factual bases for its issuance.

The court handles coup d'etat charges filed against Trillanes for his role in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny. 

It had ruled that Trillanes applied for amnesty and admitted guilt and, thus, there was no basis to have him arrested as the coup d’etat case had long been dismissed. In the same breath, the court upheld the legality of Duterte's proclamation.

In contrast, Makati City RTC Branch 150 ordered Trillanes' arrest on Sept. 25 in connection with the rebellion case filed against him for his involvement in the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. Trillanes posted bail on the same day. 

In its motion, the DOJ insisted that as it upheld Duterte's proclamation, the court should have presumed that the President had already determined Trillanes’ non-compliance with the requirements for applying for amnesty.

Under Presidential Proclamation No. 75, former President Benigno Aquino III's grant of amnesty for Trillanes, applicants are required to submit an amnesty application form, admit guilt and recant previous statements inconsistent with their admission.

But the DOJ said Trillanes' application could not be found. 

“The places or offices where said document could and should be found, i.e. J1-Armed Forces of the Philippines, DND (Department of National Defense) Records Division, Office of the Undersecretary for Defense Affairs, and even in the records of this Honorable Court, has no copy thereof, which raise doubts as to its very existence, and more importantly, the required attachment of narration of facts and recantation,” the DOJ argued.

The DOJ said Branch 148 was wrong in giving weight to the testimonies of Trillanes’ “seemingly confused and biased witnesses” over the credible witnesses of the prosecution.

It claimed that Ad Hoc Committee members Lt. Col. Josefa Berbigal and former Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, who vouched for Trillanes’ application, “contradicted each other when neither were (sic) unable to produce the amnesty application form or even identify where it is kept.”

Instead, the DOJ argued, the court should have considered the testimonies of “unbiased and credible” prosecution witnesses such as Lt. Col. Thea Joan Andrade and DND officials who said there was no copy of Trillanes’ application in their records.

“To the mind of the People, the records of the application for amnesty of accused Trillanes would have been enough to prove whether he filed an application, admitted guilt, and recanted previous inconsistent statement of guilt,” it said.

The DOJ’s motion, however, did not address the court’s ruling that the prosecution’s own witnesses testified that Trillanes did apply for amnesty.

The motion also claimed the court was wrong in concluding that since it was established that Trillanes applied for amnesty, he also expressly admitted his guilt.

It noted that Berbigal’s testimony did not mention that Trillanes attached a narration of facts to his supposed application, which is allegedly required to be included as an annex in the amnesty
application form.

The DOJ also faulted Trillanes for his failure to explain why he does not have a copy of his application form, and questioned why the court blamed government officers tasked to keep his documents instead.

“[T]he wrongful acts of its agents cannot also be taken against the State, as in fact, Proclamation No. 572 sought to correct the error committed by the DND Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee,” read the motion.

Lastly, the DOJ argued that Trillanes’ coup d’etat case is an exception to the rule on immutability of final and executory judgments.

Branch 148 had said that since the dismissal of Trillanes’ case had long become final, it could no longer be disturbed following the doctrine of immutability of judgments.

But the DOJ insisted that since the senator did not comply with the requirements for amnesty, the order dismissing the coup d’etat case is void and could never be final and executory.

“In legal contemplation, it is no judgment at all. It neither binds nor bars anyone. Such judgment is ‘a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw.’ It is a terrible and unspeakable affront to the society and the people,” it said.

The DOJ's plea was filed four days after Branch 148 issued its ruling.

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier said Solicitor General Jose Calida was already preparing a petition to question Branch 148’s order before the Court of Appeals, but Guevarra insisted that the justice department should decide on the next legal step.