The Palace likened to fraud the actions taken by the previous administration in granting amnesty to former rebel soldier Antonio Trillanes IV who is now a senator.
Trillanes also continues to violate the concept of amnesty and seeks to subvert it, presidential spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.
He added: “The principle of immutability of final court decisions or rulings may not be used as a shield to perpetuate illegality.”
Proclamation 572, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on 31 August, declared the amnesty granted to Trillanes void ab initio (from the beginning).
Panelo issued the statement in response to the senator’s reply to the rebellion case against him. A hearing on the senator’s appeal is set on 16 November.
It was former President Benigno Aquino III who issued Proclamation 75 in 2010 which was found defective.
President Rodrigo Duterte last September said the amnesty was one of the glaring mistakes of the previous administration.
“If it is wrong, it’s wrong. You cannot correct that and (it is) one of the glaring mistakes of the Aquino administration,” Duterte said in a one-on-one with Panelo at Malacañang Palace.
Mr. Duterte said the procedure in the issuance of Proclamation 75 by Aquino in 2010 was “totally wrong in the sense that he just issued the proclamation” without giving particular names.
“It was a motherhood statement to cover the individual and any of the acts of the mutineers,” he said.
Mr. Duterte also blamed Aquino for designating former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to investigate and sign the amnesty itself.
“You know, it is not possible to do that. Why? Because an act of pardon or amnesty is an act of State. It cannot be delegated to anybody but to the person or the President himself,” said Duterte, a former fiscal.
Panelo cited a case of fraud as a comparison of the defective amnesty which he said “can never stop the government from enforcing the law in the interest of protecting the people.”
“As the government prosecutes the criminal charges against Senator Trillanes through proper legal channels, it will continue to respect the independence of the Judiciary in deciding his cases, as well as afford him his constitutional right to due process,” Panelo added.
Panelo said the decision of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 to uphold the legality of Proclamation 572 was also not an intrusion or usurpation of the powers of other independent branches of government.
Mr. Duterte’s issuance of the proclamation is a valid exercise of executive power as stipulated in the Constitution to ensure the enforcement of all laws, including the lawful prosecution of those who violate such laws, Panelo added.
“Contrary to the claim of Senator Trillanes, Proclamation 572 is by no means an intrusion or usurpation of the powers of other independent branches of government,” he said.
He added the Makati court is correct in stating the President’s proclamation does not trample upon the congressional prerogative to concur with the grant of amnesties, since it is not the amnesty proclamation that was declared void but its implementation.
“The court will still have the prerogative to rule upon the prosecution of Senator Trillanes,” he said.
No bill of attainder
Proclamation 572 cannot also be considered as a bill of attainder or an ex post facto law precisely because it is an executive exercise of power and not a legislative one, he added.
A bill of attainder is a law which targets a person or group of persons.
Trillanes appealed to Makati RTC Branch 148 to reconsider Judge Andres Soriano’s ruling handed down on 22 October upholding the legality and validity of the proclamation which voided his amnesty.
In his appeal, Trillanes argued that the edict was intended not only to void the amnesty granted him but also to reverse the court’s final and completely executed order dismissing his coup d’état case.
No threat on solon
He also alleged that with his amnesty voided, an arrest without a warrant was ordered and that the proclamation was an exercise of judicial powers in violation of the principle of separation of powers.
Panelo refuted this, saying there was no threat of illegal arrest and that the President “even categorically directed law enforcement agencies to wait for the proper issuance of appropriate warrants from the courts if such be justified.”
Trillanes still enjoying his freedom, albeit after posting a P200,000 bail and still able to present his arguments before the court are “testaments of the government’s respect for his constitutional right to due process,” according to Panelo.
He said as the case continues to be tried in court, the government will continue to respect the independence of the judiciary in deciding the outcome and Trillanes’ right to due process.