Arrest the inflation, not the irritation

September 15, 2018

LAST week we had two big back-to-back news stories -- On September 4, we witnessed how Proclamation 572 voided the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.  Then the following day (September 5), the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced the latest inflation or the increase in the prices of goods which climbed to another 9-year high, hitting 6.4% in August 2018.  Considering the political and social ramifications of these two news items I consulted a good friend of mine, Atty. Howard M. Calleja (PPCRV’s chief legal counsel), and here is what he explained:

On September 4, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 572, Series of 2018 dated 31 August 2018 revoking the amnesty granted to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in 2010 by President Benigno Aquino III in relation to his involvement in mutinies against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003, 2006 and 2007. The President’s Proclamation nullifies or declares void ab initio the amnesty granted to Senator Trillanes stating that the senator failed to comply with the basic statutory requirements to qualify for the amnesty. The President ordered the prosecutorial arm of the government to pursue the prosecution of Senator Trillanes as well as his subsequent arrest by the AFP and the PNP. The following disquisitions wish to shed some light with regard to the exercise of President Duterte of his executive power and its legal ramifications vis-à-vis the validity of Proclamation No. 75 and Senator Trillanes’ entitlement to such.

In the exercise of the power granted to him under Section 19, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, President Benigno Aquino III issued Proclamation Order No. 75 which granted amnesty to all active former personnel of the AFP and PNP as well as their supporters who have or may have committed crimes in connection with or in relation to the Oakwood Mutiny. Senator Trillanes, then lieutenant, senior grade, at the time of the Oakwood Mutiny, applied for amnesty in 2011 and led 94 other former junior military officers and enlisted personnel in retaking their oath of allegiance to seal the amnesty granted them. Proclamation No. 75 by former President Aquino III was concurred by the Congress under Concurrent Resolution No. 4 dated Dec. 13 and 14, 2010.

As the amnesty by virtue of Proclamation No. 75 was granted through a valid process provided for under the law, it cannot be revoked. However, if there is any remote possibility that a revocation may be done by President Duterte, it should have the concurrence of all members of the Congress.

The question whether the amnesty grant is void ab initio cannot be made through a mere Presidential Proclamation as such question is within the jurisdiction of the courts.  The President claims that the amnesty is void ab initio for failure of Senator Trillanes to comply with the basic statutory requirements. As this is a question of fact, the courts should be given the chance to look into the propriety of Proclamation No. 75 as it has the authority to examine an executive or legislative act and to invalidate that act if it is contrary to constitutional principles. It must be noted that Proclamation No. 75 was issued by President Aquino III and concurred by the Congress under Concurrent Resolution No. 4 dated Dec. 13 and 14, 2010. A mere Presidential Proclamation cannot prevail over judicial discretion as it will violate the doctrine of separation of powers and disrupt the co-equal functions of each branch.

The arrest order of the President under Proclamation No. 572 violates Senator Trillanes’ right to due process.  Section 1, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Further, Sec. 2, Art. III, 1987 Constitution and the Rules on Criminal Procedure direct that only the courts, through the judge, has power to issue warrants of arrest upon finding of probable cause.

The warrant of arrest accompanying the Presidential Proclamation of President Duterte cannot be enforced as it is outside the realm of his executive powers. Not having been coursed through a court of proper jurisdiction, such arrest warrant does not produce any legal effect and cannot be subsequently enforced against Senator Trillanes.  

Moreover, it violates Senator Trillanes’ right to due process as he will be deprived of his liberty without showing of probable cause determined by a judge of a court of competent jurisdiction.

While the crime of mutiny is something that we should not take lightly given its dangerous effects to the government and nation alike, the seemingly confusing legal lacuna brought about by the circumstances between the parties leave them without any legal recourse under the law. The best way for President Duterte to deal with the matter at hand is to follow the legal processes outlined under the Constitution and question the validity of the amnesty granted to Senator Trillanes before the proper courts having jurisdiction over such matter. As for Senator Trillanes, it would do him well to question Proclamation No. 572 before the proper courts to put this matter to rest.

In the meantime, given the pressing economic problems faced by our nation, we think it is best to arrest the inflation rather than the irritation.

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