Duterte critic hides in Senate after President calls for arrest

Posted at 4:35 AM, Sep 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-05 06:35:51-04

A Philippines lawmaker is set to spend a second night holed up in the Senate Wednesday after the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, announced he was seeking his arrest over coup attempts that happened over a decade ago.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a long standing and vocal critic of Duterte, told CNN he would remain in the Senate where he remains under the protection of Senate leaders while his lawyers examined his options.

As night fell, armed police officers stood guard outside the building awaiting for Trillanes to leave, according to CNN Philippines.

The senator received amnesty in 2011 under President Benigno Aquino for his involvement in three coups attempts in 2003, 2006 and 2007 during Gloria Arroyo’s presidency.

In an advertisement in national newspaper Manila Times, Duterte said clemency for the senator had been voided due to his “failure to apply for amnesty and refusal to admit his guilt.”

Trillanes told CNN that he considered the proclamation to be based on “questionable and outright baseless lies,” and said he and his legal team would “question the validity and legality of this presidential declaration through the Supreme Court.”

He added that, along with video evidence of his filing his request for amnesty, he was in possession of a certificate of amnesty given to him by the Aquino administration.

“The application was processed having satisfied all the requirements, a certificate of the amnesty was given to me, that is the proof of its validity.”

Regardless, he said he would comply with the Justice Department should he be arrested. “I will not resist arrest. I will not escape,” he said.

He is not the first opponent of the president to be threatened with arrest — in 2017 staunch Duterte opponent Leila De Lima was arrested after having been accused of abetting the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.

She has consistently insisted she has no involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Return to AFP?

Opposition party member Gary Alejano called on the country’s security forces to refrain from following “illegal” orders from the President.

“The president is not above the Constitution. And I am calling the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) that they should not follow illegal orders,” he told reporters, according to CNN Philippines.

Trillanes, a former naval officer, was involved in three mutiny attempts during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, the Marines standoff in February 2006, and the Manila Peninsula incident in 2007.

Former President Benigno Aquino III told CNN Philippines that Trillanes had applied for amnesty for his role in the uprisings and his case had been reviewed. He was found to have qualified.

Trillanes resigned from the military when he ran for the Senate. However, in the wake of the Presidential proclamation, the Department of National Defense (DND) has said Trillanes could be tried again before a court martial.

A DND spokesman told CNN Philippines that as a member of the military facing trial, “Trillanes should be detained at the AFP custodial center, but the Senate is insisting it has jurisdiction over the senator.”

In response, Senate President Tito Sotto said they would not allow Trillanes to be arrested inside the Senate premises.

“To preserve the dignity of the Senate, we have to not allow any senator to be arrested in the Senate premises. Outside the Senate premises, that’s no longer our concern, but within the Senate premises, that’s the decision of the leadership,” he told members of the media.

Supporters rally

Vice President Leni Robredo, another staunch critic of President Duterte (the role is independently voted for on the presidential ticket) denounced the arrest warrant as a political ploy to silence dissenters.

“The decision of the Palace to declare as void the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is another proof that the administration would do everything to silence those who oppose it,” she said in a statement.

Trillanes told CNN that he was “truly humbled by the outpouring of support… the Vice President and former President Aquino, these are very significant pillars of our society at this point.

“Particularly for Aquino, he’s the one who granted me the amnesty. He should be the one able to decide if I complied.”

He said that his situation was not as grave as when he was first faced the charges, but he was worried about Duterte’s dismantling of the country’s democratic institutions.

“Once we let him get away with it then we’re almost in a de facto martial law or dictatorship,” he said.