'No need' to add Duterte's Gazmin theory to Trillanes amnesty order

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said there is "no need" to issue an addendum to President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No 572  to include his new argument on why Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's amnesty is void.

This was the assertion of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque when asked about it in a Palace news briefing on Wednesday, September 12.

"No need because now, the case is before the Makati courts. The Makati courts will address all issues that may be brought before it," Roque said, denying the proclamation, as it is, is deficient.

Duterte first spoke of his new theory on Saturday, September 8, after arriving from Jordan. He claimed that because former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin, not former president Benigno Aquino III, signed Trillanes' certification of amnesty, the amnesty is not valid. Citing the Constitution, he said the powers of the President to grant amnesty cannot be delegated to a secretary.

The President also said then that because of his. Gazmin was supposedly liable for "usurpation of authority." (READ: FALSE: Duterte says Gazmin 'didn't have authority to give Trillanes amnesty')

But this argument is not stated as the grounds for voiding Trillanes' amnesty in Proclamation No 572, which only cited the alleged failure of Trillanes to file an application form that contains the additional requirement of expressly admitting guilt. 

Roque said Duterte's new theory could just be included in arguments made before the Makati Region Trial Courts on the validity of Duterte's proclamation. Makati Regional Trial Court Branches 148 and 150 will hear this Thursday and Friday, respectively the justice department’s motions to issue an arrest warrant against Trillanes.

"In the course of resolving this motion, all arguments will have to be ventilated before the courts," said Roque.

Constitutional Law professor Tony La Viña said that if Duterte wants to use the Gazmin theory, then he must amend the proclamation first.

Can Solicitor General Jose Calida, the executive branch’s lawyer, just add the Gazmin theory in his reply to the Supreme Court to justify the validity of the proclamation?

“Well, he can. But the SC should not address it because it is not the ground for nullifying the amnesty,” La Viña said.

Did Aquino have to sign personally?

Roque went on to assert that Aquino's Proclamation No 75, signed in 2010, granting amnesty to all those involved in the Oakwood mutiny and Manila Peninsula siege should have included a list of names of those to be given amnesty.

Any document that lists these names should have been signed by Aquino, not Gazmin, said Duterte's spokesman.

"You need indivudual names who will be beneficiaries of the amnesty to be able to avail of it. So without the names being listed and the amnesty proclaimed by the President, the position of the Palace is that it is not sufficient if it's is signed by any other person other than the President," said Roque.

But constitutional law professor Dan Gatmaytan said the Constitution "did not say he (Aquino) has to sign everything personally."

Gazmin only signed on behalf of President Benigno Aquino III, who granted amnesty to the senator and his fellow mutineers.

In Proclamation Number 75, Gazmin was only assigned to “receive and process” amnesty applications and determine whether they are entitled to Aquino's amnesty grant.

Proclamation Number 75 also stated that final decisions on amnesty applications by the DND are “appealable” to the Office of the President.

Gatmaytan said Aquino "never delegated the power to grant amnesty to any of his subordinates."

He added that Gazmin only signed Trillanes' amnesty papers "on behalf of the President" and "never assumed any power that belongs to the president." – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.