MANILA, Philippines – In a much-awaited decision, the presiding judge of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 on Monday, October 22, contradicted President Rodrigo Duterte, and in doing so keeps the Chief Executive’s fiercest enemy, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, out of jail.
In his 33-page decision, Makati Judge Andres Soriano junked the justice department’s request to have Trillanes arrested for charges of coup d’etat that the court had dismissed 7 years ago.
Soriano also struck down the factual basis of Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572, saying that “the Court finds and so holds that Trillanes did file his amnesty application.”
Soriano also affirms that Trillanes “also admitted guilt for his participation in the Oakwood Mutiny.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earnestly argued that Trillanes did not file an application, and did not admit guilt, in trying to achieve Duterte’s order to void the amnesty that former President Benigno Aquino III granted Trillanes.
“The fact that no records of the application exist in the files of the Secretariat and/or the Ad Hoc Committee or the other offices of the DND does not itself mean that no application was filed,” Soriano said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, whose family-owned security firm is under Trillanes’ scrutiny for alleged conflict of interest, triggered the proclamation after he secured a military certification that there is no copy of the application form in the records.
While DOJ’s arguments that Trillanes didn’t apply for amnesty and did not admit guilt were dismissed, Judge Soriano upheld Duterte’s power to issue Proclamation No. 572.
“Proclamation No. 572 is purely an executive act and prerogative in the exercise of the President’s power of control and supervision over all offices and agencies of the executive department,” said Soriano.
He added that the proclamation did not “breach any constitutional guaranty” and it did not “encroach on the constitutional power of either the judicial or executive branch.”
Soriano denied the DOJ motion for a warrant of arrest on the simple reason that long-established jurisprudence says you cannot reopen a case that has been dismissed with finality. The coup d’etat charges were dismissed by Makati Branch 148 under a different judge on September 21, 2011.
“The Court finds no reason to disturb the doctrine of immutability of a final and executory judgment. Meanwhile, the law is vibrant. Jurisprudence is lifeblood. Subsequent jurisprudence may forge new horizons in which exceptions to the immutability of a final and executory judgment may be born,” said Soriano.
This creates a glaring clash between Soriano and Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda, who earlier ordered Trillanes arrested. By doing so, Alameda reopened the rebellion charges, which he himself dismissed on September 7, 2011.
Because Trillanes earlier won a bail grant for rebellion from Branch 150, Trillanes remains free. Branch 150 Clerk of Court Diosfa Valencia had earlier said the bail grant cannot be overturned.
Alameda begins hearing on the rebellion charges on November 21. Meanwhile, Trillanes still has a pending petition before the Supreme Court to declare Proclamation No. 572 unconstitutional.