MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's voiding of the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is his way of protecting the Philippines from a "political offender," said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
This comes after Malacañang claimed no politics colored Duterte's decision to revoke Trillanes' amnesty and order his arrest.
In a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday, September 4, Panelo said that, beyond the grounds stated in Proclamation No 572, Duterte is within his right to cancel Trillanes' amnesty because the senator allegedly "abused" executive clemency.
"The State cannot be shackled by an act of clemency it has given to a political offender when the latter pursues subsequent acts inimical to its interest and violative of its fundamental charter," said Panelo.
He did not elaborate on the "acts" of Trillanes deemed "inimical" to the state. The senator, however, is a known fierce critic of Duterte's, consistently calling him to explain allegations of hidden wealth, the involvement of his son Paolo Duterte in the smuggling of shabu, and for transparency on the state of his health.
Duterte's chief counsel also said that the Philippine state "through the President," should protect itself from any harm coming from personalities like Trillanes.
"The State, acting through the President, has the inherent right to protect itself from assault coming from whatever source. As Chief Executive and Head of Government, he has the power to issue orders protective of the State and its people," said Panelo.
He invoked the 1987 Constitution in saying that the revocation of Trillanes' amnesty is part of Duterte's "prime duty of the government to serve and protect the people under Article II, Section 4" of the charter.
Panelo's remarks come after Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque insisted that there is "nothing political" with Duterte's decision to void the amnesty granted to Trillanes by the previous administration.
He said the proclamation was "based on law and on facts," claiming Trillanes never applied for amnesty to begin with and thus was never eligible for such.
There are media reports and videos, however, of Trillanes applying for amnesty, along with other military officers involved in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.
The proclamation cited an Armed Forces of the Philippines certification that "there is no available copy" of Trillanes' application. Duterte signed the proclamation the day after.
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 email@example.com.