Manila, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday, September 4, that the Duterte administration should respect and recognize the amnesty granted to opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Aquino, who granted the amnesty during his watch, said he reviewed records, which showed that the senator did apply for it.
This is contrary to the premise of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 572, which ordered the revocation of the opposition senator’s amnesty. It also said Trillanes “refused” to admit his guilt.
“Ang klaro lang sa akin dito: Ano ang fact (What is clear to me is: What are the facts)? The issue here is he [Trillanes] never applied but records seemed to show that it is not the case and that he actually applied,” Aquino told Rappler in a phone interview.
“Now, how is he disqualified from enjoying the benefits afforded to all of them [who applied], who fulfilled requirements? The government offered it. It was the legal thing to do. It must be respected and recognized,” he added.
“Para bang nagsubmit ka, mag-a-apply ka ng amnesty to extinguish ‘yung involvement or criminal liabilities – ‘di pa ba admission ‘yun? Parang, mag-a-apply ba ako diyan kung ‘di ako involved diyan?” Aquino said.
(It’s like you submitted, you applied for amnesty to extinguish your involvement or criminal liabilities – isn’t that an admission? It’s like, will I apply for that if I weren’t involved in it?)
There was no automatic grant of amnesty, Aquino said, as everyone had to apply and go through the process.
Aquino even recalled there were two former Army officials – former Army First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan and Rex Bolo of the Magdalo group – who refused to apply and chose instead to undergo court proceedings.
Peace deals might be affected
Aquino also raised concern that the unprecedented revocation of amnesty might affect government peace deals with rebels and insurgents.
“This is out of the blue. Ano effect nito sa present and future amnesties? Para ba’ng ano logic noon? Walang way out, mag-ko-continue rebellion. Ang hinahabol mo matapos ang insurgency rebellion. Paano matitigil ang healing process para maka-move on to more positive endeavors?” he said.
(This is out of the blue. What will be its effect on present and future amnesties? What’s the logic? There’s no way out, rebellion will continue. What you’re after is to end the insurgency rebellion. How can the healing process ever end so that we can move on to more positive endeavors?)
“Hindi na ba ‘pagkakatiwalaan [ang] amnesty (Can we no longer trust the [grant of] amnesty?… Peace agreements might lose their effectivity,” he said.
Despite this, Aquino said he would rather not speculate on the motivation of Duterte for issuing Proclamation 572.
Article 7, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution states that the President shall “have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.”
In October 2010, Aquino signed Proclamation No 50 granting amnesty to Trillanes, who led the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege against the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Aquino later issued Proclamation 75 in November 2010, which superseded Proclamation 50. It was then concurred in by both chambers of Congress.
Trillanes applied for amnesty in January 2011 and was in the list of officers and soldiers granted amnesty that same month.
Trillanes and oppositions senators said they would fight the “illegal” Duterte proclamation.