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Whether or

not the
President
can legally
revoke the
amnesty
Submitted by:
Garados, Riffy Mae
Ann D.

Submitted to : Judge Gener


Gito
Amnesty is a terrible policy, and it’s terrible politics.

It’s a terrible policy because you are rewarding people

for breaking the law.

-Tom Tancredo

As provided under Presidential Proclamation 572, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared on
September 4, 2018 the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV by the former President
Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III in January 2011 as void. The Senator did not comply with the
minimum requirements to qualify under Amnesty Proclamation.

Amnesty is a power granted to the President by the 1987 Constitution. Under Section 19, Article
VII of the Constitution, the President has the power to “grant amnesty with the concurrence of
a majority of all the members of Congress”. It is a public act which the court should take judicial
notice. Unlike pardon, amnesty is usually granted to groups of people in relation to political
offenses and those in breach of the law of nations and can be granted without the offender being
convicted.

The Presidential Proclamation sets the qualifications and requirements to obtain amnesty.
Proclamation No. 75 or the General Proclamation of Amnesty made clear that the amnesty
“shall not cover rape, acts of torture, crimes against chastity and other crimes committed for
personal ends.” It included a condition where the applicant should have an “express admission”
of participation and guilt, and a “recantation of all previous statements” that are not consistent
with the admission.

These were the basis to revoke Trillanes’ amnesty since he supposedly did not meet these
conditions.

The harsh reality is that the 1987 Constitution does not provide for a process of revoking an
amnesty grant.

According to Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, the Proclamation No. 75 does not
have a provision which explicitly states denial on revocation of amnesty. The recent
proclamation stated that Trillanes never admitted his guilt and that a copy of his application for
amnesty could not be found, thus rendering the amnesty granted void ab initio or void from the
beginning.

The proclamation also contained orders for the filing of criminal and administrative charges
against Trillanes and his arrest.

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As provided in the landmark case of People vs. Patriarca, the Supreme Court defined Amnesty
as an act which “looks backward, and abolishes and puts into oblivion, the offense itself” and
that which also ‘overlooks and obliterates the offense with which he is charged, that the person
released by amnesty stands before the law precisely as though he had committed no offense”

The government can arrest Trillanes if it wants to because there is no more legal impediment to
the voiding of his amnesty.

One of the glaring mistakes of the Aquino administration was to extend an amnesty. But the
procedure was totally wrong in the sense that he just issued the proclamation, no particular
names.

An act of pardon or amnesty is an act of state. It cannot be delegated to anybody but to the
person or to President himself. However, the problem is that, after recommending amnesty, the
Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed the amnesty itself. In this
case, he should be liable for “usurpation of authority” for signing the amnesty paper of Trillanes.

So, an act of pardon, an act of amnesty is always an act of state which cannot be done by a mere
Cabinet member, especially if that Cabinet member was the one of those who investigated and
made the recommendation and approved the recommendation himself. Such power to grand
amnesty, like the power to grant pardon, must be exercised by the President in person.

As cited in the case of Villena vs. Secretary of Interior, a 1939 case reiterated in a 2009 case in
Angeles vs. Gaite, the Court ruled that secretaries of departments exercise certain powers but the
law cannot impair or in any way affect the constitutional power of control and direction of the
President.

“The Court further ruled that there are certain constitutional powers and prerogatives of the Chief
Executive of the nation which must be exercised by him in person, and no amount of approval or
ratification will validate the exercise of any of those powers by any other person”.

As Chief Executive and Head of government, he has the power to issue orders protective of the
State and its people. This is in line with the prime duty of the government to serve and protect
the people under Article II, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution.

The Constitution is silent on the revocation of amnesty. To those who saying the amnesty grant
has become a vested right on Trillanes, please be reminded that amnesty is a gratuitous act given
by the State, regardless on who the President is.

However, this one should be decided by the court, because nobody can tell, by the text of the
Constitution, if revoking amnesty can be done unilaterally by one branch of the government.

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Granting that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV did file an application for amnesty and admitted
guilt, he still deserves to go back to jail for violating the terms and conditions of the amnesty.
Said violation of the terms and conditions of the amnesty is enough reason for President Rodrigo
Duterte to repeal it. Because he did not meet the conditions for a legal amnesty, it means that
perhaps, he did not have an amnesty, so there is nothing to revoke.

But then, things may change once a warrant issued for this crime that is not covered by
parliamentary immunity, being punishable with more than 6 years of imprisonment.

But my opinion is for Congress to come out with a clear resolution stating that this is the way
amnesties are done and has always been done.

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