A legal atrocity
The decision of Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Elmo Alameda to revive the rebellion case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that he himself dismissed, and to issue a warrant of arrest and a hold departure order against the President’s chief critic, is a legal atrocity.
It is fundamentally unfair, because it shifts the burden of proof; it is deeply undemocratic, because the court abandons its duty to serve as a check on power; and it is essentially antijudiciary, because it betrays a clear partisanship.
The ruling is another unfortunate addition to the growing body of judicial rationalizations that Inquirer columnist John Nery calls “jurisPRRDence” — court rulings “that break both law and logic, offend the Constitution and overturn normality,” just to meet President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s “partisan political objectives.”
How else can Alameda’s decision, which was handed down on Tuesday, be understood? Its entire argument centers on this passage:
“To prove that Senator Trillanes did not apply for amnesty under Proclamation No. 75, the prosecution presented a certification dated Aug. 30, 2018, issued and signed by one Thea Joan Andrade, Lieutenant Colonel JAGS, Chief, Discipline, Law and
Order Division, to wit:
“‘To whom it may concern:
‘This is to certify that based on the records of this office, ex-LTSG Antonio F. Trillanes IV O-11797 PN was granted amnesty on Jan. 21, 2011, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 75 dated Nov. 24, 2010… However, there is no copy of his application for amnesty in the records.
‘This certification is issued upon the request of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida.’
“The Court’s evaluation of the above certification is that it confirms the claim of the prosecution that Senator Trillanes did not apply for amnesty.”
Truly, there is none so blind as he who refuses to see.
The certification Andrade issued at Calida’s request confirms that “there is no copy” of the application, not that Trillanes did not apply at all.
In fact, the same certification confirms that, “based on the records of this office,” Trillanes, as a former member of the military (“ex-LTSG”), was in fact granted amnesty.
So an honest and fair evaluation of Andrade’s certification should lead to the conclusion that Trillanes’ application for amnesty is missing. That’s it.
Because this secondary document was in the safekeeping of Andrade’s division, the responsibility for its loss, and any administrative or criminal liability, lies with Andrade and her staff, not with Trillanes.
If, say, Judge Alameda’s passport was to be challenged at the airport because the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot find the application or renewal form he filled out and filed, he would have the right to be incensed, both at the absurdity of the challenge and the DFA’s negligence. The passport itself is proof that the process was followed.
But Alameda was not content to stop at making his illogical and unjust evaluation. He proceeded to overturn one of the most fundamental of rights guaranteed by the Constitution — the presumption of innocence — and shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.
“Since Senator Trillanes wants to establish a legal right on the amnesty granted to him, he has therefore the burden of proving his compliance with the minimum requirements to entitle him to be granted amnesty…”
In other words, and even without as much as a modicum of introspection, Alameda presumes that Trillanes is guilty of not complying with the amnesty requirements, and wants him to prove his innocence.
This is wrong, plain and simple. The burden is on Andrade’s office, to explain how the secondary document went missing, and on the Department of Justice, to prove that the grant of amnesty to Trillanes — itself confirmed in the certification — must be considered anomalous, violative of the presumption of regularity.
The power to grant amnesty, shared by the political branches of government, is not something that the courts should trifle with. At the same time, abuse by any branch should be decisively met by the countervailing force of judicial reasoning. This did not happen with Alameda’s ruling.
Indeed, Alameda showed a curious preference. He immediately presumed that Proclamation No. 75, issued by President Benigno Aquino III in 2010, must be invalid or has no effect on Trillanes.
He also immediately presumed that Proclamation No. 572, issued by President Duterte last month, supersedes Aquino’s amnesty proclamation.
Now why would he think that?
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