[OPINION] Trillanes amnesty is valid
Makati Judge Elmo Alameda rejected Senator Trillanes’ secondary evidence showing that he had actually filed an amnesty application. The judge wanted nothing less than his receiving copy of such amnesty application. Judge Alameda did not give credence to Senator Trillanes’ Certificate of Amnesty as later supported by the affidavits of DND personnel who testified that the Senator actually filed the application and took an oath.
For its part, the DOJ claims that the Certificate of Amnesty is void ab initio because the amnesty was procured by fraud. But at the time the rebellion case was dismissed, the DOJ, as part of its duty, must have exercised due diligence and actually found that there was in fact an application form. It can be confidently said with utmost certainty that the rebellion case would not have been dismissed by Judge Alameda if the DOJ found out then that there was actually no amnesty application form.
If the DOJ found an application form many years ago when the amnesty was still fresh, it stands to reason that such application form should also exist in the DND record up to now, because the DND record must be the same despite the passage of time. If the application form is not on file in the DND, it does not necessarily mean that no such application form was filed, which is a conclusion that cannot be indulged in for being contrary to what the DOJ had found out many years ago.
Judge Alameda’s ruling is incongruous and legally absurd. The Certificate of Amnesty in the possession of Senator Trillanes is a public document entitled to full faith and credit. It is presumed to have been issued regularly under the proper and appropriate legal process. In case of doubt, Judge Alameda should have resolved the doubt in favor of the integrity of the public document.
Verily, such amnesty certificate is a public document emanating from the government itself. It is no different from a land title, a marriage contract, a birth certificate, a driver’s license, passport, or any other document issued by the government. If we are to follow the logic of Judge Alameda’s ruling, then any other public document will have to be subject to an inquiry as to the existence of a prior application form. Everytime a person presents a land title especially in court, or any other public document, any interested person is now legally entitled to require the presentation of the previous application form to support such public document.
In order to be sure, a person who possesses a public document must always carry with him his prior application form, because any government functionary can legally question the validity of the public document. If a traveler is in the airport and presents a passport, a BID agent can legally ask for a previous application form, which makes it necessary for the traveler to always bring with him a previous application form. A policeman can require the presentation of a previous application form if he flags down an erring motorist. A court can now challenge a person holding a land title to present a previous application form. Many more examples can be shown to support the absurdity that results from the ruling of Judge Alameda which is in direct contradiction with basic principles of evidence in relation to public documents.
What is even more, there is a complete absence of a material allegation or indication that the Certificate of Amnesty of Senator Trillanes manifestly contains a badge of falsity. It is not claimed by the DOJ that Senator Trillanes has a Certificate of Amnesty that is produced out of magic or is manifestly false as allegedly supported by the purported non-existence of a previous amnesty application form in the record of the DND.
The position of Calida and DOJ is that since the DND record contains no such amnesty application form, then Senator Trillanes did not file an application form. But that is jumping into conclusion, because it could also mean that the DND has misplaced it or the document was stolen by Calida who has an ax to grind against Trillanes. If the amnesty application form is missing in the DND files, that is not the problem of Senator Trillanes, because he is not the custodian of such application form. After all, he already has a Certificate of Amnesty, even if he is no longer in possession of a receiving copy of an amnesty application.
Senator Trillanes is not an official custodian of the record of the amnesty including his application form. As long as Senator Trillanes has a Certificate of Amnesty like a passport or a driver’s license, he is not duty bound to keep or carry with him his previous application form.
If as a lawyer I am in possession of a final court decision, can such decision be asserted to be void ab initio, just because the court has lost the complaint filed by my client? Am I supposed to present the complaint that led to such decision in order for such decision to be honored?
When a land title in the Register of Deeds is lost, there is a judicial process called reconstitution of title; and when an owner’s duplicate copy of the title in the possession of a landowner is lost, such person can ask the court for the issuance of another such copy. The same is true with court documents that are lost or destroyed.
Senator Trillanes is not an official custodian of the record of the amnesty including his application form. As long as Senator Trillanes has a Certificate of Amnesty like a passport or a driver’s license, he is not duty bound to keep or carry with him his previous application form. The official custodian rather is the DND which is legally obliged to keep all papers related to the amnesty submitted to it on file either physically or in an electronic database. If a paper is lost or missing, then it is its bounden duty to look for it and/or to reconstitute it.
One possible way to do it is to inform the person concerned, in this case Senator Trillanes, and require him to submit a copy of his amnesty application. Or the DND could have probed the purported missing amnesty application by looking at other contemporaneous data like certain official logbooks. As a matter of fairness, the DND should first have conducted a probe in order to give the Senator an opportunity to give his side.
Unless there is competent, prima facie evidence that the Certificate of Amnesty is manifestly false for having been produced out of magic or at the infamous "Recto," the law does not require Senator Trillanes – or any person for that matter in relation to any public document – to show a previous application form for such public document. Only when the Certificate of Amnesty is shown to be manifestly false or fictitious can it be credibly asserted by Calida and DOJ that the Senator’s amnesty is void ab initio or void from the beginning.
In the absence of such prima facie proof of manifest falsity, and in case of doubt, the Certificate of Amnesty, by itself, must be given absolute credence by Judge Alameda, or any judge for that matter, as an indubitable proof of Senator Trillanes’ application and grant of his amnesty, even if there is no amnesty application form either in the possession of Senator Trillanes or of the DND. After all, that is the rudimentary rule of evidence on public documents. – Rappler.com