Can blockchain help Trillanes?
Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ amnesty hinges on a simple choice between two documents. This is a learning moment to visualize how wonderful blockchained records would be.
Proclamation No. 75 and Congress’ Concurrent Resolution No. 4 (2010) granted amnesty for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Peninsula Manila siege. The recipients were screened by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Trillanes showed a certificate of amnesty signed by Gazmin in 2011.Proclamation No. 572 (2018) cited an Armed Forces personnel office certification that it had no record of Trillanes’ application for amnesty. It asserted that Trillanes never qualified.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s response was fair: Do not comment unless you reviewed the actual documents, and Trillanes cannot be arrested without a court order.
The Supreme Court likewise framed the issue as factual. Since it is not a trier of facts, the arena is the Makati trial courts, where prosecutors filed petitions to resume trial.
The military has no jurisdiction. Although it does have over past offenses by discharged soldiers, Republic Act No. 705 (1991) removed court martial jurisdiction over ordinary crimes, such as rebellion and coup d’etat.
The 2006 Navales case records how potential Oakwood court martial offenses were absorbed by criminal prosecution. The military did charge Trillanes with conduct unbecoming of an officer, but the only penalty is dismissal.
The courts previously tried Trillanes for rebellion and coup d’état, but dismissed both cases after receiving Gazmin’s certificate.
Criminal charges may be refiled after dismissal with the accused’s consent. But a court must first declare his amnesty void, or there would be no crime to try.
An executive proclamation may assert facts but cannot reverse a judicial order. And as the Supreme Court stressed, there must be due process if asserted facts revoke vested rights, such as amnesty rights.
Can one somehow argue warrantless arrest under the “continuing crime” doctrine for rebellion? Jurisprudence does not support this, where the suspect joined government and is thus no longer rebelling.
Does the president need to personally sign the final certificate? The “Qualified Political Agency” doctrine (a Cabinet secretary’s act is the president’s) is irrelevant. The point is, the Constitution requires the president to personally grant only the amnesty itself, not implement it.
After the Marcos dictatorship, President Corazon Aquino granted a broad amnesty for political crimes. She created an amnesty committee in each province. This did not require a Cabinet secretary in each province.
If the screening of thousands for a broad amnesty had to be reapproved by a president and Congress (imagine an intervening election), who would apply?
Was there a “bill of attainder” or legislative finding of guilt against a person? There was no law, just a factual assertion by the executive.
This thought exercise thus leaves only one issue: for a judge to review the Gazmin and Armed Forces certificates and pick one.
One might naturally lament this as needless drama, and that we should be able to confirm government records instantly.
Blockchain technology is precisely designed to foster trust with two features: decentralization and immutability.
A stock exchange is a trusted middleman that tells us who owns what at the end of the day. Blockchain removes the middleman and distributes the transaction records to thousands of nodes, each independently recording the transfers. Fake entries are impossible, unless one somehow takes over a majority of nodes.
And since no one person controls the nodes, there can be no bias, tampering or selective memory.
Trillanes should champion laws that make specific blockchain records authoritative evidence: notarizations, land titles, incorporations, medical records for health insurance contexts, credentials from universities, and even votes in elections.
Surely, technology can make life simpler than lawyers do!
React: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan. This column does not represent the opinion of organizations with which the author is affiliated.
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