Calida evasive on role in voiding Trillanes amnesty

Lian Buan

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Calida evasive on role in voiding Trillanes amnesty
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says the Office of the Solicitor General could have reviewed Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's amnesty

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida was evasive on Tuesday, September 4, when asked about his role in the voiding of the amnesty granted to opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV, which has the effect of immediate arrest.

Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “it might have been” the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that reviewed Trillanes’ amnesty, though he said he wasn’t sure about the specifics, like when it began. 

“I am not sure who exactly conducted the review, but I suppose this might have been studied by the Office of the Solicitor General,” said Guevarra, who is also the country’s officer-in-charge while President Rodrigo Duterte is in Israel.

But Calida dodged the questions, saying, “We have such a thing as a privileged communication between lawyer and the client.”

Trillanes earlier told Senate media that he believes Calida masterminded the move.

“I don’t know about him. He’s not a judge, he’s not a prosecutor, so if he wants to file cases, let him file a case,” said Calida.

Probe into security firm 

Trillanes was the one who pushed for a Senate inquiry into the alleged impropriety of the government contracts worth at least P261.39 million won by Calida’s family-owned security firm Vigilant. Trillanes led a hearing on it also on Tuesday.

Calida cited his pending Supreme Court petition seeking to block the Senate hearing.

“It’s sub judice, it’s before the courts. If he wants to he can join us here, we will debate here,” the solicitor general said.

It is uncharacteristic of Calida to be mum about the affairs of the OSG. In filing the quo warranto petition against ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the solicitor general announced it in a press conference and even invited media to cover the filing.

“We are not as combative as before,” Calida said.

Asked why, Calida said: “As you grow older, you grow wiser. We learn by experience.”

‘Reinventing the law’

Duterte voided Trillanes’ amnesty, citing as grounds non-fulfillment of requirements such as an official application and an express admission of guilt in the charges he faced for the Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula standoff.

Guevarra, who said he was only notified of the proclamation on September 2 when Duterte flew to Israel, said it is not a revocation but a nullification “void ab initio,” meaning it was never valid from the start.

Both Calida and Guevarra said this is the first time in recent history that this was done.

It follows Sereno’s quo warranto ouster, and the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, which are also cases of first impression.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the Duterte administration keeps “reinventing the law.”

“But that’s the law. Quo warranto is in the rules of court, we’re not inventing anything. The wheel was already invented, we don’t have to reinvent it,” Calida said.

Calida said he is “ready” to face Trillanes should the senator elevate the case to the Supreme Court. –


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.