When Duterte weaponized the law

Posted by watchmen
April 29, 2024


By Ade Farjardo

Last week, the Supreme Court announced its junking of Proclamation No. 572 issued by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018.

The proclamation was declared illegal because it revokes the amnesty granted in favor of Antonio Trillanes, then a sitting senator, in violation of his basic rights under the Constitution, i.e., the right against ex post facto laws and the right not to be put twice in jeopardy of being penalized for the same offense.



An ex post facto law targets an individual by punishing him for acts committed at a time when said acts were not yet a crime. Such a law would be unconstitutional because penal laws may not be given retroactive application.

A man can only be punished for committing an act that he knows is punishable as a crime at the time he commits it.

It is also a basic legal principle that a person may not be prosecuted twice for the same offense. Anyone who has previously been convicted or acquitted cannot be subjected to another trial involving the same crime.



Duterte violated those rights by reviving the rebellion charges against Trillanes long after they were written off through an amnesty granted to members of the Magdalo who had participated in the Oakwood and Manila Peninsula mutinies in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

Writing for the Court, Justice Maria Filomena Singh said that Trillanes’ amnesty had long become final. The criminal cases had been dismissed with finality. Reviving those cases would violate his constitutional right to due process.

An amnesty is granted with the concurrence of Congress. Revoking it would require a similar nod from Congress.



Duterte and his legal team mangled the law, misapplied and directed it against critics who are otherwise necessary in a democratic and republican state like the Philippines.

Duterte ordered the dismissal of a deputy ombudsman who was investigating his bank accounts. Among those accounts was one that he denied in the course of his political campaign, the existence of which he was constrained to admit when people deposited nominal amounts and the bank accepted them.

He subjected former Senator Leila de Lima to criminal cases involving illegal drug trading without a corpus delicti, which by the letter of the law and extensive doctrine is required in cases of such nature.

To escape accountability for the thousands of drug war killings, he withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court, with his lawyers concocting the incredible theory that the Rome Statute is ineffectual here because it was not published in the Official Gazette.



Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the amnesty granted to Trillanes was void ab initio because he failed to produce his duly received application.

The Supreme Court rejected this nitpick in light of convincing evidence that Trillanes had duly submitted his application.

Zeroing in on Trillanes when the application forms of the other amnesty grantees also got lost, which was understandable due to the passage of time, would be a violation of his right to the equal protection of the laws./WDJ

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