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Guilt by association

/ 05:07 AM September 05, 2018

The appointment of Menardo Guevarra as secretary of justice was met with nods of approval from a legal community exasperated by the crudeness and buffoonery of his predecessor. However, his press conference yesterday proved that, however you start, association with the current dispensation will only end with your being disgraced.

Guevarra started off by clarifying that he had nothing to do with the President’s proclamation declaring Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty null and void from the start. After washing his hands of the whole matter by saying he had been unaware of the proclamation until he was informed it had been signed—and that, furthermore, he only got to see it when the rest of the world did, when it was published in a newspaper (revealing that he is a secretary of justice out of the loop)—he proceeded to vigorously defend the proclamation.

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This might earn him the praise of Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, but it collides with the facts.

The Solicitor General’s argument (the proclamation was based on its “findings”) goes like this: The application for amnesty of Trillanes can’t be found, and, furthermore, he was quoted as having denied guilt. Since an amnesty requires both a formal application to avail of it, and an admission of guilt is a requirement, then there was no valid amnesty granted to Trillanes in the first place, and so he ought to be arrested.

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In other words, it’s a quo warranto proceeding in disguise, invoking as it does the same sort of logic: Employ alternative facts to legally zap something out of existence. The Solicitor General seems enamored with the same kind of in-your-face assertions that once led Mike Defensor to make his immortal response to the recordings of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo talking to Virgilio Garcillano: “That is the President’s voice but it wasn’t her speaking.”

That was Antonio Trillanes IV on video filing his application for amnesty, swearing before a military official as to its authenticity, but it never happened even if it’s on tape. There’s no paper to prove it. Honest to God, we asked.

Taking his cue from a legal strategy he had nothing to do with, and was apparently not trusted enough to either weigh in or review before it happened, Secretary Guevarra threw caution to the winds and decided to toe the Palace line: It will be up to Senator Trillanes, he said, to prove that the Palace’s facts are wrong.

This is what Trillanes told the press (in a video report that came out the day after the filing of his application for amnesty) on Jan. 5, 2011: “Ang nakalagay kasi sa application form is a general admission of guilt, ano, na may labag na kahit anong batas, whether sa Armed Forces or sa Revised Penal Code, and kuwan po iyan, ever since hindi po naman kami nagpanggap na yung ginawa po namin na pagpunta sa Oakwood and sa Manila Pen na natural na ginagawa ng sundalo, uhm, we are man enough to admit we have broken rules in the pursuit of our ah, moral cause, and uhm, we faced it like men, nakulong po kami and the others were separated from the service, so it’s very easy for us to admit to that… Wala po tayong regret dun sa ginawa po natin, nangyari na po iyan, yan po ang
iginuhit ng tadhana so to speak, kaya tinanggap po natin iyan.”

It may turn out that not even the Palace thinks it’s on firm footing, legally. But for now, it helps that Trillanes’ scheduled hearing on the government contracts of the security agency of the Solicitor General’s family has been wiped off the map, and there is the morale-boosting drama for the President and his supporters, to see one of the pointiest thorns in his side being hauled back to jail. If things drag on so that Trillanes is behind bars during the midterm election (and campaign), so much the better. Best of all would be an obliging Supreme Court accepting the Palace’s
alternative facts and logic—a possibility not entirely improbable.

The problem, after all, was that the pen was proving mightier than the sword—the pen in this case being Senator Trillanes’ repeated call for the President to pick up a pen and sign a waiver to his bank accounts. So the President picked up his pen to proclaim that Trillanes’ amnesty never happened. Never mind that this imperils all future amnesty holders. If all it takes is for government to shrug and say it can’t find an application, then no future amnesty is safe.

mlquezon3@gmail.com

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TAGS: amnesty, Antonio Trillanes IV, DOJ, editorial, Menardo Guevarra, news, opinion, Philippine news updates
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