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Calida to seek reversal of Makati court ruling before CA

Pia Ranada
Calida to seek reversal of Makati court ruling before CA
(3rd UPDATE) Malacañang says Solicitor General Jose Calida's appeal will be based on the assertion that Judge Andres Soriano should not have used 'secondary evidence' as basis for his decision keeping Senator Antonio Trillanes IV free

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Solicitor General Jose Calida will go straight to the Court of Appeals (CA) in a bid to reverse the decision of Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano junking the motion for an arrest warrant for Senator Antonio Trillanes IV

“He will not file a motion for reconsideration, but go immediately to the Court of Appeals and appeal the ruling of the court with respect to the non-issuance of warrant of arrest,” said Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, October 23.

The appeal will be filed “soon” as Calida is already preparing the petition, he added.

However, contrary to Panelo, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that filing a motion for reconsideration with Makati City RTC Branch 148 is still an option the government could take.

“An MR (motion for reconsideration) is not precluded,” said the justice secretary in a message to Rappler.

He said he has not yet spoken to Panelo about the administration’s legal strategies when it comes to Soriano’s decision. Filing a motion for reconsideration first is the proper method so as to respect the hierarchy of courts.

Disagreement on evidence

Calida’s basis for appealing Soriano’s decision before the CA, said Panelo, is the assertion that the Makati judge ruled based on secondary evidence presented by Trillanes’ lawyers. (READ: Makati judge contradicts Duterte, says Trillanes filed for amnesty)

Trillanes’ camp produced news articles, video reports, and witnesses who saw him apply for amnesty firsthand, but was unable to produce his amnesty application. The Department of National Defense had already said the application is no longer in its records. (READ: Trillanes says DND may be charged for ‘losing’ his amnesty application)

“The court made that conclusion on the basis of secondary evidence which should not have been given due course,” said Panelo.

Malacañang insists that only Trillanes’ amnesty application is sufficient evidence.

For the Palace, only the document would prove Trillanes admitted guilt and complied with all other amnesty requirements. (READ: Malacañang insists it can still void Trillanes’ amnesty with Makati court ruling)

“He (Soriano) said the issue was only to the existence and due execution of the document. I disagree, because the very issue is not only the due execution of the document, but the very contents itself. Did he really apply as provided by law? Did he really admit guilt? Did the document show on its face as well as the required narrative?” said Panelo.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, how would you know if he really applied if you don’t see the document itself and see that it was filled up to the letter?” he added.

But Soriano, in his ruling, cited jurisprudence stating that in cases where the only issue is the existence of a document and its due execution, “secondary evidence may be admitted even without accounting for the original.”

The voiding of Trillanes’ amnesty in Proclamation No. 572 is based on the supposed non-existence of his application form as it asserts that Trillanes “did not file an Official Application Form.”

Duterte’s reaction

Asked for President Rodrigo Duterte’s initial reaction to Soriano’s decision, Panelo said the President believes the most important part of the ruling is how it concluded that it was within his powers to issue Proclamation No. 572.

“We have the same reaction, that what is important is the proclamation was declared to be valid, that it was not in violation of the Constitution, that it’s purely an executive act, that it does not violate the equal protection of the laws clause in the Constitution, it is not a bill of attainder, that it does not encroach on the actions of a co-equal branch of government, that it does not require the concurrence of Senate,” said Panelo.

Soriano indeed upheld the legal power of Duterte to issue Proclamation No. 572, but he struck down the proclamation’s factual basis on the alleged non-filing of the application form. (READ: Senators praise judge’s ‘courage’ in junking Trillanes arrest– with a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.