Duterte amnesty order risks instability, activists say

Philippine leader accused of 'despicable act of tyranny' for revoking amnesty awarded to one of his major critics
Duterte amnesty order risks instability, activists say

Philippine opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes speaks to journalists at the Senate building where he is staying to avoid arrest after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the revocation of the senator's amnesty. (Photo by Angie de Silva)



Activists cried out "persecution" while opposition legislators warned of political instability after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte revoked this week an amnesty granted to an opposition senator.

Senator Antonio Trillanes was granted amnesty in 2011 for his role in a failed coup in 2003 and for leading another failed military uprising four years later.

Duterte, however, ordered the arrest of the senator after he proclaimed that the amnesty was "void from the beginning" due to Trillanes' alleged failure to comply with amnesty requirements.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said revoking the amnesty granted to Trillanes and reopening cases against him that were previously dismissed by the courts were "recipes for instability."

Trillanes, a former lieutenant in the Philippine Navy, has become one of Duterte's fiercest critics. 

An amnesty is granted by a president of the Philippines and is backed by a measure passed by both Houses of Congress.

Drilon said an amnesty is an "act of the office of the president and not the person of the president," hence, regardless of who is sitting president, "it should be binding on the entire government."

If Trillanes, who has repeatedly accused Duterte of having hidden wealth, is jailed, he would be the second senator critical of the Duterte administration to be locked up.

In 2017, Senator Leila de Lima, who criticized Duterte's anti-narcotics war, was arrested and charged with having links to the drug trade during her stint as justice secretary.

Duterte's order, which came out early this week, instructed the Justice Department and the armed forces to pursue criminal and administrative cases against Trillanes.

The senator called it "a stupid executive order," saying, "it's a clear case of political persecution.

A group calling itself the "Movement Against Tyranny" called Duterte's order "a despicable and desperate act of tyranny that all freedom-loving Filipinos should reject and condemn."

The group called on the judiciary not to allow itself to be used in such "a dastardly attack on a co-equal branch of government."

In an interview, Trillanes said he would pursue his fight against Duterte "even if this may cause my death."

"This is the price I have to pay," said the senator as he showed documents proving that he followed all the requirements before he was granted amnesty.

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The senator asked the Supreme Court on Sept. 6 to reject and nullify Duterte's order.

The Department of National Defense, however, said the military could arrest Trillanes because the senator is supposedly now a soldier after the amnesty was ordered void.

Leonel Abasola contributed to this report.

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