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Ex-DND panel chair, official tell courts: Trillanes applied for amnesty in 2011

Camille Elemia

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Ex-DND panel chair, official tell courts: Trillanes applied for amnesty in 2011

Former defense amnesty panel chair Honorio Azcueta and head of secretariat Josefa Berbigal submit sworn affidavits saying Senator Antonio Trillanes IV complied with all the requirements in 2011

AMNESTY. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV presents to the media a copy of an older amnesty certificate granted to an ex-mutineer to show that other presidents also did not sign such documents. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday, September 24, submitted supporting documents to prove that the amnesty granted to him in 2011 was valid and legal.

Trillanes submitted the sworn affidavits of former defense undersecretary and ad hoc amnesty committee head Honorio Azcueta and Colonel Josefa Berbigal, former head of the panel secretariat, to Makati City Regional Trial Court Branches 148 and 150.

These documents state that the senator applied for amnesty on January 5, 2011, pursuant to Proclamation 75 of then president Benigno Aquino III. This is contrary to the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered the revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty on the basis of the absence of the senator’s application form and his alleged failure to admit to his guilt.

“I know that Senator Trillanes filed his amnesty application because I was the one who personally received Senator Trillanes’ amnesty application on January 5, 2011,” stated Berbigal, who now serves as a commissioned officer of the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Before accepting his application, I asked Senator Trillanes to read the pre-printed statement contained therein making a general admission of his guilt for his alleged offenses before asking him to take his oath for the said amnesty application,” she added.

She said the committee studied the senator’s application and found it “to be in order, complete and in compliance with all of the requirements of Proclamation No. 75 series of 2010,” which was signed by former president Aquino. Berbigal also said Trillanes used the official form provided by the ad hoc panel,

For his part, Azcueta said he deemed it best to answer all issues surrounding Trillanes’ amnesty in his affidavit, where he reiterated that the senator’s amnesty was valid.

“As chairman of the DND ad hoc amnesty committee, I conscientiously performed my duties in accordance with Proclamation 75 and the DND Circular, and also strictly complied and caused strict compliance with all requirement pursuant to the same,” Azcueta said.

“As such, the amnesty applications which were recommended to be for approval by the Committee, including that of Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, underwent the necessary and the applicable procedures,” he added.

Other presidents did not sign certificates

Trillanes also presented to the media a copy of an amnesty certificate granted to an unidentified soldier, who was a member of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa, Soldiers of the Filipino People, Young Officers’ Union (RAM-SFP-YOU) and was part of coup attempts in 1987 and 1989.

The amnesty to this batch of ex-mutineers was granted on December 6, 2001, based on former president Joseph Estrada’s Proclamation 21 signed in 1998. But at the time of the grant, Estrada was already ousted from office.

The certificate was issued on April 5, 2004, under the administration of then president Gloria Arroyo. Like that of Trillanes, the amnesty certificate contained no signature of the president.

CERTIFICATE. Senator Trillanes presents a copy of a soldier's certificate of amnesty to show other presidents do not sign such documents. Photo from Trillanes' office

Instead, it was signed by Alvin Dans, chairman of the National Amnesty Commission, Remedios Balbin, commissioner, and the late Angelo Reyes, Jose Lina Jr, and Simeon Datumanong as ex-officio members.

Trillanes’ amnesty certificate was signed by then defense chief Voltaire Gazmin.

Photo from Trillanes' office

President Duterte has said that it was Gazmin who signed the certificate and granted the amnesty of Trillanes in 2011, when, he stressed, it is the President who has the sole constitutional mandate to do so. (READ: Duterte: Ex-DND chief Gazmin liable for ‘usurpation of authority’)

“The power to pardon and the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress is a presidential power. It cannot be delegated to anybody else,” he added.

But while the power to grant amnesty to a specific set of people indeed lies with the President, the process that it entails is delegated to committees. Unlike a presidential pardon, it requires the concurrence of Congress. (READ: FALSE: Duterte says Gazmin didn’t have authority to give Trillanes amnesty’)

In fact, at least 6 Philippine presidents delegated – through a signed proclamation – the final approval of individual amnesty applications to a panel or a committee.

Aside from the rebellion case before Makati RTC Branch 150, Trillanes is also facing coup d’etat charges before Branch 148. Trillanes said the case in Branch 150 is already submitted for resolution. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.