ISSN 2330-717X

Philippines: President Duterte’s Chief Political Critic Arrested

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By Karl Romano, Jeoffrey Maitem and Richel V. Umel

A senator who has been a leading critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly anti-drug campaign turned himself in to authorities voluntarily on Tuesday, after a court ordered his arrest following a presidential revocation of an amnesty for his past role in military mutinies.

Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 granted the Justice Department’s petition for an arrest warrant and hold order against Sen. Antonio Trillanes, a former Navy lieutenant who helped lead two military rebellions against the government in 2003 and 2007.

Wearing a coat and tie, Trillanes was taken in custody from the Senate and subjected to a booking process like a common criminal. He was accompanied by fellow opposition senators, who charged that Duterte was engaged in a crusade to persecute his political opponents.

“So, officially, we don’t have democracy anymore. This case goes beyond me. You can see here that I don’t have any crimes committed because I was given amnesty seven years ago,” Trillanes told reporters before he went to the police office, where he posted 200,000 pesos (U.S. $3,679) in bail.

“This is a clear harassment against his critics in politics telling the truth that he cannot face,” the senator added, referring to President Duterte.

Trillanes was arrested after taking refuge at his office in the Senate building since early this month.

The court said Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 was factual. This proclamation declared Trillanes’ amnesty void from the beginning because of his alleged failure to comply with requirements, a fact contested by the senator.

Duterte revoked the amnesty granted to Trillanes, allegedly because the senator did not comply with requirements set out by the law. He directed the Justice Department and military to proceed with court martial proceedings against the lawmaker.

Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Sal Panelo, urged the former navy officer-turned politician to “stop milking the issue and acting pathetically as if he is a victim of injustice.”

A colleague of Trillanes, Rep. Gary Alejano, slammed the court’s order, calling the senator a victim of political persecution.

“This administration will do everything to silence Trillanes,” Alejano told reporters.

Trillanes in 2003 helped lead a rebellion against then-President Gloria Arroyo. The mutineering officers took over the Oakwood Hotel in the Makati financial district, but their rebellion was quickly put down.

In 2007, while being tried for their roles in the earlier mutiny, Trillanes and the other officers walked out of a court hearing into their case and occupied another hotel in the Philippine capital. They called for Arroyo’s removal, but the uprising ended abruptly when the armed forces drove an armored personnel carrier into the hotel lobby.

Thousands of suspected drug users have been killed since Duterte took power two years ago, according to rights advocates.

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