Sereno: Duterte endangered military with Trillanes' voided amnesty

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte compromised the amnesty given to thousands of soldiers — including his own military chief — when he voided the amnesty of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Sereno, who visited Trillanes in his office in the Senate, warned of the implications of Duterte's Proclamation No. 572, which specifically targeted the senator's amnesty. She said thousands of members of the AFP may also have their amnesties voided, following the order of the President.

"Pinahamak ni President Duterte ang AFP. Paano? Biruin mo namang buksan ang ideya na lahat ng mga amnestya na naibigay na sa libo-libong sundalo na nagkaroon ng problema sa batas, eh lahat pala iyan ay maaaring buksan," she said.

The ousted Chief Justice said Duterte's order will always cast worry on those who were granted amnesty even years ago, because it proves it could easily be taken away from them.

"Laging may agam-agam na ang mga nasarhan na ay maaari pang buksan. Malagim po ang maaaring mangyari," she said.

Sereno said even the former troops who are serving the Duterte administration are jeopardized — even the head of the military — when his term ends in 2022.

"Ang amnestiya na nakuha mismo ni General Carlito Galvez, kapag nagbago na ang administrasyon, ay maaaring buksan," she said.

Some current government officials who have received amnesty include Senator Gringo Honasan, Congressman Gary Alejano, MMDA Chairman Danny Lim, and Office of the Civil Defense deputy administrator Nicanor Faeldon.

Duterte on August 31 voided the amnesty of Trillanes on the grounds the former Navy official never admitted guilt for coup attempts, and there are allegedly no records to show he applied and complied with the amnesty requirements. Duterte gave another reason for the nullification which wasn't included in his order: he questioned why former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin approved Trillanes' amnesty, alleging he committed usurpation of authority.

However, former President Benigno Aquino III granted amnesty to Trillanes and other mutineers in Proclamation No. 75 in 2010. The proclamation tasked the Department of National Defense to receive and process applications, then determine who was eligible for amnesty. In a 2011 letter to Aquino, Gazmin identified 38 military officers and 53 enlisted personnel — including Trillanes — as qualified.

Sereno: Duterte admin confusing troops with statements

Sereno highlighted the Supreme Court's decision that denied Trillanes' plea for a temporary restraining order. She questioned Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's statements following the high court's statement it took "judicial notice" of Duterte's assurance Trillanes won't be arrested without a warrant from civilian court.

She said Roque is trying to confuse troops on what their action should be after he said there is now no legal basis not to follow Duterte's initial order to arrest Trillanes.

"It is most unfortunate that Sec. Roque would say that there is no legal impediment to effecting an arrest. The Cabinet Secretary is saying throw them all [SC decision] off the window. That is dangerous," she said.

Sereno added, "The way they structure the thought process is alarming by itself. That means there is an objective of confusing the narrative. The narrative is straight forward - the Supreme Court has already called attention that there are public undertakings which is no arrest without a warrant."

Roque on Wednesday reiterated the government's stand, "Wala na po talagang legal impediment kaya lang may such a thing as respect for the courts dahil tayo naman ay dumulong sa hukuman."

[Translation: There is really no legal impediment but we have such a thing as respect for the courts because we went to the court.]

Sereno remains to have high hopes for the AFP, saying she believes the troops will remain loyal to the Constitution and not to the whims of a person who is out to persecute political enemies.

"I do not think the AFP will turn its back on the people. I do not think the AFP will allow itself to be used by political self interests. The AFP knows it is not the tool of politicians. The AFP, I believe, will look beyond the term of any president," she said.