Philippines: Appeals Court Rejects Rebellion Case against Duterte Foe

Marielle Lucenio
Manila
2021-03-02
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Philippines: Appeals Court Rejects Rebellion Case against Duterte Foe Then-Philippine Sen. Antonio Trillanes holds a copy of an amnesty order granted for his participation in military rebellions in 2003 and 2007 while speaking to reporters in Manila, Sept. 11, 2018.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

The Philippine Court of Appeals announced on Tuesday the rejection of a lower court’s ruling that would have revived a rebellion case brought against Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and a leading critic of the Duterte administration who as a military officer participated in a 2007 uprising. 

In a 59-page order dated March 1 and released Tuesday, the court’s Sixth Division ruled in favor of the request by the ex-senator to nullify a lower court’s decision reviving a rebellion case linked to his role in a failed hotel siege in Manila’s Makati financial district 14 years ago. Trillanes was granted amnesty in 2011.

“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” Trillanes told BenarNews. “I thank the CA justices for this decision. I hope all justices have this kind of sense of justice to check the prevailing authoritarianism in the country.” 

The court vacated a lower court’s decisions in September and December 2018. It noted that the lower court never conducted a full evidentiary hearing and relied on affidavits and documents only to revoke the amnesty order.

“The court inquiry cannot be merely summary and cursory, but one that shall give the parties ample opportunity to be heard on their respective evidence,” the appeals court said. “It acted with grave abuse of discretion that amounted to excess of jurisdiction, thus ousting it of jurisdiction, when it shunned testimonial evidence.

“He has been granted amnesty about a decade earlier and by reason of which the rebellion charge against him was dismissed in 2011, only to have the rug pulled from under his feet because of a purported noncompliance with the conditions of the amnesty that was processed so many years earlier,” the court said.

Trillanes’ court victory came less than a month after another critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Leila de Lima, was acquitted on one of three drug charges filed against her. De Lima, who remains in the senate despite being incarcerated for four years, is behind bars on the other charges.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, granted amnesty to Trillanes in 2011, who as a Navy lieutenant helped lead two rebellions – one in 2003 and the 2007 attempted siege.

Trillanes, who left the senate in 2019, holed up in the senate building in September 2018 to defy an arrest order after Duterte had revoked his amnesty. Trillanes turned himself in to authorities about three weeks later and was charged with rebellion.

Duterte spokesman Harry Roque declined to comment on the decision, saying he had “no idea” about the case’s details.

Trillanes, who has drawn Duterte’s wrath, did so most recently by accusing him of mass murder and warning that the “time for reckoning is near” after the International Criminal Court in December said there was  reason to believe “crimes against humanity” occurred during the president’s drug war.

“Duterte may try to ignore the jurisdiction of the ICC over him, but deep inside he knows he cannot get away from this one,” Trillanes had said.

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