Philippine military chief: Duterte critic requested amnesty
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine military chief testified Tuesday that an opposition senator formally applied for amnesty for his involvement in past military mutinies based on an amnesty officer’s account, contradicting the reason given by the president for revoking the 2011 amnesty in August.
Military chief Gen. Carlito Galvez told a military budget hearing at the Senate that a military officer said she administered an oath to former navy officer Antonio Trillanes IV when he applied for the amnesty. Trillanes later ran for a Senate seat and became President Rodrigo Duterte’s fiercest critic.
Duterte said he voided Trillanes’ amnesty and ordered his arrest because the senator had failed to file a formal amnesty application and acknowledge guilt. Trillanes has strongly denied the president’s claims and has shown defense department documents and news reports to counter them.
The Department of Justice has asked two Manila courts to resume criminal proceedings against him for rebellion and failed coup charges. One of the courts issued an arrest warrant last week but Trillanes was released on bail. The other court is expected to rule this week on the government petition to revive the nonbailable coup charge against the senator.
Human Rights Watch said Trillanes’s arrest last week was “part of the persecution of critics of the Duterte administration, the latest in the relentless campaign to silence those who dared to challenge the president’s murderous ‘drug war.’”
Duterte has long expressed anger against Trillanes, who has accused him of large-scale corruption, involvement in illegal drugs and extrajudicial killings in an anti-drug crackdown that has left more than 4,800 suspects dead since the president took office in 2016. Duterte has denied the allegations.
Trillanes, 47, was jailed for more than seven years for involvement in at least three army uprisings, including a 2003 mutiny against then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when he and other young officers rigged part of shopping center in the Makati financial district with bombs and took over an upscale residential building.
Trillanes used the military budget hearing at the Senate to ask Galvez whether he had formally applied for amnesty. The military chief cited a former military amnesty officer as stating she had administered an oath to Trillanes but that the senator’s amnesty papers never reached the military’s personnel office, called J1.
“Josefa Berbigal is the one who administered your oath,” Galvez told Trillanes. “Apparently sir, there (are) some lapses so the documents were never brought to J1, which is basically the repository of all the documents.”
When the government’s solicitor-general inquired about Trillanes’s amnesty documents recently, Galvez said a military personnel officer “did not find any paper and certified that there was none.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque dismissed Galvez’s statement in a news conference. “It doesn’t matter, he is not a lawyer,” Roque said of Galvez and stressed that Trillanes has failed to show his original amnesty application papers. “It’s the best evidence.”
Duterte has also accused Trillanes, without showing evidence, of plotting with other opposition politicians, including the Liberal Party, and communist rebels to oust him. Trillanes and opposition groups have dismissed the claim as a lie and asked Duterte to focus instead on addressing poverty, inflation, rice shortages, traffic jams and a decline in the value of the peso currency.
Asked by Liberal Party president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, if there was such a rebel-opposition alliance, Galvez replied, “Sir, none, sir.”
Galvez himself has been linked to a failed coup attempt in 1989 as a young officer. He was detained but was later granted an amnesty.