Constitutional Law & Civil Rights

Constitution silent on Amnesty Revocation: Sotto

Date: 04 September 2018; Type: Legal News; Source: Philippine News Agency

MANILA, Sept 4 (PNA) - Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday the Constitution is silent on the process regarding the revocation of amnesty, amid claims from his fellow lawmakers that President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 should have the concurrence of Congress.

The proclamation revoked the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in 2010 for charges arising from his participation in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula incident.

Several lawmakers have expressed the belief that since amnesty programs need the concurrence of Congress, the same concurrence should be present in the revocation of amnesty.

In an interview, Sotto said the amnesty issue is the same with the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) being heard at the Supreme Court.

He said like in the ICC, there is a requirement in the Constitution that there should be a concurrence from Congress to enter into an amnesty program.

“But there is nothing in the Constitution that says... and it is silent in any revocation (that) it should pass through Congress also. Walang ganun (There’s nothing like that). The proper courts would be the proper venue,” Sotto said.

Sotto added that it is also up to the courts to decide if the arrest order for Trillanes is “questionable.”

In Proclamation No. 572, Duterte ordered the arrest of Trillanes after declaring that the amnesty given to the latter by virtue of Proclamation No. 75 was void from the start, noting that the senator did not comply with the "minimum requirements to qualify under the amnesty proclamation."

The proclamation stated that as a consequence, the DOJ and Court Martial of the Armed Forces of the Philippines "are ordered to pursue all criminal administrative cases filed against Trillanes in relation to the Oakwood Mutiny and the Manila Peninsula incident."

At the time Proclamation No. 75 was issued, Trillanes was facing trial for a non-bailable offense of coup d e’tat at a local court and also facing trial for mutiny or sedition, and other military offenses before the Military Tribunal.

Opposition lawmakers are maintaining that all cases against Trillanes have already been dismissed and the arrest order is tantamount to a “warrantless arrest.”

“I would rather be neutral in that respect. Who am I to judge whether there is legal basis or not? I cannot be a judge of that. The proper courts will be the judge of that,” Sotto said.

Meanwhile, Sotto said “it is within the power of the President” to revoke the amnesty given to a rebel.

“Better they ask the courts about that. Definitely, it is within his power,” he said.

He also said he does not believe that the revocation of amnesty and subsequent arrest order for Trillanes is an attack on the Senate as an institution.

“I don’t think so, not at all,” Sotto said.

Trillanes is the second senator facing arrest following Senator Leila de Lima's arrest and detention over drug charges.

Trillanes submitted himself to the custody of the Senate to evade the arrest order against him and give him time to seek legal remedies.

Sotto said authorities could not arrest the lawmaker as long as he stays within the Senate premises.

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