IBP hits DOJ for 'mischief' in Trillanes case

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) called out the Department of Justice (DOJ) for what it called "potential mischief" in trying to get two courts in Makati City to order the arrest of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The DOJ filed two motions for an arrest warrant within 4 days of each other before Branches 148 and 150 of the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

"An apparent act of forum shopping, IBP decries the potential mischief where we subject the judiciary to an anomalous situation where one court upholds the validity of the amnesty while the other nullifies the same," the IBP's Board of Governors said in a statement on Monday, September 10.

There were two cases filed against Trillanes before the Makati RTC: coup d'etat at Branch 148 over the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, and rebellion at Branch 150 over the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. Both cases were dismissed in September 2011 due to the amnesty granted to Trillanes by former president Benigno Aquino III.

"Arresting and incarcerating Senator Trillanes for offenses dismissed by amnesty runs roughshod over the constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy that no person shall be held to answer twice for the same criminal offense," said the IBP.

The turn of events on September 4 after the publication of President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 572 voiding Trillanes' amnesty had the DOJ scrambling for its year-old records. 

The justice department was mistaken the first time, filing a motion for an arrest warrant at Branch 148 on September 4 using as basis a December 2010 order canceling promulgation. Using that order, the DOJ said the cases were merely suspended, not dismissed. (READ: TIMELINE: Gov't gaps, retractions in voiding Trillanes amnesty)

As records show, the cases were dismissed, not suspended. Branch 148 eventually set for hearing the motion for an arrest warrant, after which the DOJ sought the same relief from Branch 150.

"The chaos that may result from the endeavors to bring Senator Trillanes to face 'justice' ironically undermines our systems that make the orderly administration of justice possible," the IBP said.

There are legal provisions that define forum shopping, one of which is when you split information and file these before different courts to increase your chances of getting a favorable ruling.

But this is a very peculiar situation as the DOJ did not split the information; it just so happened that there were two courts that handled charges at two different times in connection with the amnesty.

Even Branch 148 Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano said there is no jurisprudence to use as basis, so the case will need further study.

In the end, it's Soriano and Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda who will assess and decide, unless the Supreme Court takes cognizance of the case and issues a superior ruling.

The IBP called on the courts "to resist collateral attacks against its judgments and creeping incursions on its independence."

"Amnesty once granted cannot be simply dissolved by the invocation of the words 'void ab initio' as though it were some magical incantation that can nullify vested rights," said the IBP. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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