Jail time now also possible for former mutineers turned Duterte appointees

Mara Cepeda

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Jail time now also possible for former mutineers turned Duterte appointees
Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte, ex-lawyer of Magdalo, delivers a privilege speech condemning the revocation of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's amnesty

MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte said former coup plotters who are now appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte may also face jail time following the revocation of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty. 

Belmonte delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday, September 5, condemning President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No 572 voiding the amnesty granted to Trillanes for supposedly failing to apply for amnesty and non-admission of his guilt.

Belmonte said Duterte’s order against Trillanes could set a precedent for when the President becomes dissatisfied with former coup plotters who are now working in government. 

So pag napuno na ang powers that be, hindi lang sa katulad ni Senator Trillanes na maingay na oposisyon, kundi pati na rin sa mga hindi makaharang sa tuluy-tuloy na drug smuggling sa Customs, sa sloppy disaster response, sa patuloy na pagtindi ng traffic, sa palyadong airport, sa rampant inflation, o krsis sa bigas, puwede na ring gamitin ang doctrine na ‘yan para ipakulong sila,” said the lawmaker.

(So when the powers that be get fed up, not just with outspoken opposition members like Senator Trillanes but even those who cannot stop drug smuggling in Customs, sloppy disaster response, the perennial traffic problem, an inefficient airport, rampant inflation, or the rice crisis, that doctrine can also be used to send them back to jail.)

How many people were granted amnesty? According to Belmonte, there were 19 officers and 20 enlisted personnel whose applications for amnesty were approved by the Department of National Defense (DND) in the same approval for Trillanes.  

He added 192 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines were granted amnesty. (READ: LIST: Who’s been granted amnesty?)

According to Belmonte, the grant of amnesty is a “grant of second chance.”

Ang amnesty ay isang politikal na desisyon na nagsasabing niyayakap ng gobyerno ang maaaring maitulong ng isang grantee nito sa ating bansa (An amnesty is a political decision that says the government is embracing what the grantee can possibly offer to the country). It is a grant of second chance. It is a reaching out in the name of unity. It is a signal that we have chosen to move forward as a nation,” said Belmonte.

Trillanes, one of Duterte’s toughest critics, had led Magdalo soldiers in the staging of the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege  during the presidency of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

Belmonte was a former counsel of the Magdalo party. He was also arrested along with 6 junior military officers over alleged destabilization plots against Arroyo.

Belmonte later became a stalwart of the Liberal Party.

Malacañang already said the documents related to amnesty granted to other Magdalo soldiers who mutineed against  Arroyo will be reviewed as well

Who are former mutineers granted amnesty who are now Duterte appointees? Belmonte mentioned two in his speech: Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Danilo Lim and Office of Civil Defense Deputy Administrator Nicanor Faeldon.

In the House of Representatives, Belmonte and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano were also granted amnesty. (READ: Revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty ‘clear act of revenge’ – Alejano)

Belmonte said there are also former mutineers who did not seek amnesty but “benefitted” from the dismissal of their cases. 

“Then Major Jason Aquino, our current NFA (National Food Authority) Administrator comes to mind. Unlike Senator Trillanes, wala silang admissions at all, pero nakinabang sila (they did not have any admissions, but they still benefitted). I know of other in positions of responsibility – in the CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines), in the DND, in PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), Customs, and other government agencies and private sector corporations,” said Belmonte. 

“Also, there are those who were lucky enouch not to be prosecuted at all. I see them all over the place, even holding prominent positions even in Malacañang,” he added. 

Martial law looming? Like other opposition lawmakers, Belmonte said Duterte’s order against Trillanes “finds no basis in fact or in law.”

He said Duterte’s revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty might even set the ground for a dictatorship to return to the Philippines. 

Tila nalimutan na natin ang panahon ng diktadura. Hindi ko po makakalimutan ang panahon na yun, Mr. Speaker. Masyadong madami sa ating mga kababayan ang nagbigay ng kanilang kabataan, nagbuhos ng dugo, pawis at buhay para kalabanin ang mga ito para pumayag bumalik lang ang lahat,” said Belmonte. 

(It seems we have already forgotten the dictatorship regime. I cannot forget that time, Mr. Speaker. Too many of our countrymen gave up their childhood, shed their blood, and sweat, and lost their lives for the dictatorship to return.)

Inaamin ko, Mr. Speaker, natatakot ako. Pero sanay na akong matakot para sa sarili ko. Mas takot ako para sa mga anak ko, para sa mga anak natin,” he added.

(I admit, Mr. Speaker, that I am afraid. But I am used to being afraid for myself. I am more scared for my children, for all our children.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.