Trillanes' crimes not covered by congressional immunity, detention cell is ready

Wednesday September 05, 2018 ()

Not only the police but also the military is ready to seize embattled Senator Antonio Trillanes IV after President Rodrigo Duterte voided the amnesty he received from former President Benigno Aquino on the military uprisings he led during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is now House Speaker.

The moment that the court issues a warrant, Trillanes can be apprehended immediately despite the congressional immunity from arrest on members of the Senate, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra added the police will have to wait for the warrant before arresting the senator.

Guevarra clarified though that he is only speaking based on the rules applying to civilians and regular courts:

"I am not in the military so I don't know their rules pertaining to arrests."

Aside from criminal prosecution, the proclamation issued by President Duterte also ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to proceed with the court martial case against the senator.

Antonio Trillanes IV
(Antonio Trillanes IV)

The AFP said it had readied the former detention cell of the senator in the AFP Custodial Center at Camp Aguinaldo to accept Trillanes for his court martial proceedings.

The jail cell has been refurbished after it has been used as a temporary holding area for drug lords, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.

According to Andolong, the jurisdiction of the court martial was established during the time Trillanes was still in the AFP.

As a Lieutenant Senior Grade of the Philippine Navy, Trillanes launched a coup attempt against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that was called the Oakwood mutiny when he and some 300 junior officers and enlisted men of the AFP took over the Oakwood towers in Makati City.

AFP Internal Audit Service head Ronald Patrick Rubin said:

"As the court martial already acquired jurisdiction over him, it was not lost just because he's already separated from the service.

"So the military proceedings would continue as these were acts that he committed while he was in active service and that the charges were instituted while he was still (a member of the AFP)."

Rubin said the AFP said it is now checking the status of the cases against Trillanes before the court martial. He said:

"They may have been dismissed on the grounds of amnesty, so if these were dismissed because of the amnesty, then the charges remain."

No immunity

Guevarra said the offenses of Trillanes are not covered by his congressional immunity from arrest:

"The immunity only applies to charges punishable by not more than six years and not on heavier accusations such as coup d'etat and mutiny.

"Coup d'etat is punishable with life imprisonment. The member of Congress involved is not immune from arrest even while Congress is in session."

President Duterte has issued Proclamation 572 that revoked the amnesty granted to him by former President Aquino in 2010.

The DoJ had sought an alias arrest warrant and hold departure order against Trillanes before Branch 148 of the Makati Regional Trial Court.

The amnesty on Trillanes was voided due to his alleged failure to apply for it and for not admitting his guilt for the failed coup attempts in 2003 and 2007.

Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) agents have been in the Senate grounds since Tuesday to "pre-position" themselves in case a warrant of arrest is issued against Trillanes, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said.

Full battle gear

Aside from the CIDG, other police and military teams were in the Senate premises in Pasay City since Tuesday — apparently to keep track of Trillanes, a former Navy officer and one of the core leaders of the Magdalo Group.

Yesterday, soldiers and members of police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), in full battle gear, were very visible roaming around the Senate premises.

About 50 policemen and soldiers had been dispatched to the Senate since Tuesday.

Police mobile patrols were also on watch on all entry and exit gates of the Senate.

Among the personalities who visited Trillanes at his office yesterday were Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto who dismissed the proclamation as illegal and supporters and partymates from Magdalo Group.

In hiding

Trillanes who continued to take refuge at the Senate is considering to challenge Mr. Duterte's proclamation at the Supreme Court. He said:

"This proclamation is a trash, we will file a petition for TRO (temporary restraining order) before the Supreme Court.

"We will be questioning the proclamation and its validity."

The senator said that, upon the advice of his legal team, he would be staying at the Senate until they can seek legal remedy on the issue. He has not gone outside the Senate building since Tuesday.

It is worth noting that while this is a normal course of action and the justices of the high court are supposed to be totally impartial, I think Trillanes may have forgotten that his riding-in-tandem Magdalo partner, Representative Gary Alejano, initiated impeachment proceedings against seven of the members of the tribunal in the House of Representatives.

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