Makati court can tackle validity of voiding Trillanes amnesty

MANILA, Philippines – Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch (RTC) 148 may have jurisdiction to tackle the validity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 voiding the amnesty of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Makati RTC Branch 148 Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano made the statement on Wednesday, September 5, in response to the question of jurisdiction over the case.

“There’s a factual side to that, and there’s a legal side to that. My thinking is at the very least, in the factual side, I may have – the court may have – jurisdiction,” Soriano said.

Soriano’s view is contrary to the opinion of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that the Makati court is “not the proper forum to prove that the President’s proclamation was unfounded.”

Soriano also opposed the opinion of Guevarra in saying that his court can give Trillanes the chance to present evidence. In an earlier press conference, Guevarra said reopening the case at the lower court is only for the purpose of issuing a warrant of arrest, and promulgating the decision that was put off because of the amnesty grant.

“They were not able to present evidence on their part because Senator Trillanes, he already accepted amnesty. There may still be trial with respect to the defense,” Soriano said.

Soriano earlier issued an order setting a September 13 date  for the hearing of the Department of Justice request for an alias warrant of arrest, saying "there is a need to hear both sides."

Soriano added that his court can accept evidence from Trillanes proving that he fulfilled all the requirements for his amnesty. 

But Soriano acknowledged that the Supreme Court (SC) will have the final say. So it will be largely dependent on Trillanes where to file a pleading.

Legal experts have warned against going straight to the SC, citing its current composition and past decisions that have favored the interests of the Duterte administration.

“This is like a chess game: it depends on what parties move. Then I will know how, when, and how I will be able to resolve,” said Soriano.

In September 2011, Judge Rita Bascos Sarabia, Soriano's predecessor, dismissed the coup charges against Trillanes “pursuant to the amnesty.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said this should mean there is no longer a case before Branch 148.

Asked if Sarabia’s decision has become final and executory, Soriano said:  “Frankly, that will be a matter dependent on the assessment also of the developments right now. The issue is whether the docket can be reopened or not – that’s obviously one of the issues that should be resolved by the court.” – Rappler.com

Follow the developments here:

 

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.

image