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Off-guard

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The public was caught off-guard this week by the proclamation President Rodrigo Duterte issued revoking the amnesty granted to opposition lawmaker Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

While the President signed Proclamation 572 on 31 August, none of the media outfits seemed to have gotten wind of the proclamation that there was barely a report on it save for a few opinion pieces.

The proclamation was published in the classified ads section of 4 September 2018 issue of a major daily. It said that the amnesty extended to Trillanes was void from the beginning.

“The grant of amnesty to former Lt. Sgt. Antonio Trillanes IV under Proclamation 75 is declared void ab initio because he did not comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under the Amnesty Program,” the proclamation said.

Under the same proclamation, President Duterte ordered the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “to pursue all criminal and administrative cases” against Trillanes in relation to the Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula siege, which happened in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

The Philippine National Police and the AFP were likewise instructed “to employ all lawful means to apprehend” Trillanes so that he can be recommitted to his previous detention facility, the PNP Custodial Center.

As expected the supporters of Trillanes decried the revocation of amnesty and alleged it to be an obvious political persecution and they unleashed their disgust in a flood of comments in the social media.

Trillanes himself called the proclamation “a big joke” and immediately capitalized on it for media exposure by claiming he is ready to face anything the administration may throw his way.

“I’m confident, having gone through even worse acts of persecution. These darkest moments are normally followed by light. Things will catch up with Duterte,” said Trillanes at a press briefing.

He insisted that he complied with all the requirements for the grant of amnesty and even showed videos and photos that purportedly proves he personally filed an application for it—one of the steps required for the amnesty.

Notwithstanding the protestations of Trillanes, DoJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra stood firm on the legality of the proclamation, noting that it clearly states the minimum requirements for the grant of amnesty that the senator failed to meet.

Guevarra explained that based on the findings of the lawyers who reviewed the matter, Trillanes failed to comply with those requirements.

“We’ve got to see the document itself. That seems to be missing, the group that looked for it didn’t seem to find it in the documents of the AFP,” said Guevarra in an interview. “If Trillanes is planning to file an action in court to challenge Duterte’s proclamation, he can very well show his proof.”

The AFP certified there was no copy of Trillanes’ application for amnesty in its records.

Curiously, while Trillanes has shown videos and photos in a bid to disprove the accusation that he failed to comply with the requirements of the amnesty, he has yet to actually produce the received copy of such application.

He must have such a copy. It is standard procedure in the bureaucracy to require several copies of documents being submitted so that the owner can keep a duly-received copy of the papers, proving the fact of filing.

Supporters of Trillanes likewise cited orders from a Makati court dismissing the rebellion cases against the senator and others involved in the Manila Peninsula caper based on the amnesty granted to them.

But if we were are to consider the government’s position that the amnesty granted to Trillanes, et al. was void ab initio, then it can be strongly argued that the court order also has no effect since it was predicated on the very same amnesty.

Disputes over the legality of the proclamation can be settled by factual means. All Trillanes must do is show the right document to prove that he indeed complied with the amnesty requirements.

He could claim that he too was caught off guard by the proclamation that he still has to search for the proper documents to prove the grant of amnesty was proper and legal.

But unless he can do so all the allegations he is under political persecution are off kilter.

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