Philippine opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV talks to reporters outside his office where he remains holed up in the Philippine Senate in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Image Credit: AP

Manila: Former defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin took on official functions not delegated to his office when he signed the order giving amnesty to Senator Antonio Trillanes, a Duterte administration official said.

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“Gazmin, as the then Defence Secretary, signed documents giving amnesty to Trillanes in November 2010. The authority to grant amnesty, according to our Constitution is exclusively reserved to the President,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing Monday afternoon.

Roque, a lawyer, said Gazmin had apparently overstepped the limits of his authority as defence chief.

“He could be liable for usurpation of authority for taking on official functions not reserved to his office,” the palace spokesman said.

Roque said that the inadequacy of Gazmin’s authority to sign the proclamation giving amnesty to Trillanes for his role in the 2003, 2006 and 2007 power grab attempts, was among the reasons President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 572 last week.

Void 'ab initio'

Proclamation No. 572 stated that the amnesty on Trillanes was “void ab initio” or nullified from the start.

The order from Duterte, which was made public last September 4, prompted Trillanes, a former junior navy officer, to seek refuge at the Senate and invoke parliamentary immunity.

He is already on his sixth day holed up at the Senate.

Trillanes was just among the several junior military officers who cordoned themselves inside the then Oakwood Residences in Makati City’s Central Business District and rigged explosives around the building while airing their gripes against the government of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003.

The mutiny ended on the same day that it started and the ringleaders arrested, including Trillanes, who was a navy senior-grade lieutenant, a rank equivalent to captain in the Army.

Asked by reporters why despite the number of military officers who were involved in the incident, the Duterte administrations appear to be dead set on pinning down Trillanes, “he was the leader of the coup plotters,” said Roque.

Trillanes was among the leaders of the Magdalo, a clique in the military.

He served seven years and seven months in prison, from where he won a Senate seat, without being allowed to campaign.

Fomented rebellion while in detention

Aside from the Oakwood mutiny, the vocal Trillanes fomented several rebellions while in detention, including one in 2006 and other in 2007, during the term.

Trillanes has brought the case involving Duterte’s issuance of Proclamation 572 before the Supreme Court.

Prosecutors said Trillanes on September 7 filed a “motion to dismiss” appeal on Duterte’s order.

Lawyer Edwin Lacierda, former presidential spokesman under Aquino, said Gazmin was qualified to issue the amnesty.

Congressional concurrence 

“It is a simple case of reading Proclamation No. 75 (the amnesty proclamation issued by Aquino on Trillanes and all the other coup plotters). The proclamation was issued by the president and concurred by both Houses,” Lacierda asserted.

“In Section 2 of the Proclamation, the defence department was tasked to process the application and approve the respective applications if they comply with the requirements.

"Thus, the proclamation, which has the effect of law, authorised the department and its head to approve the individual amnesty applications,” he said.

“Under the doctrine of qualified political agency, the Secretary of National Defence is the alter ego of the president. Thus, in both law and legal philosophy, the act granting the amnesty and the delegated authority to Sec. Gazmin are well supported,” Lacierda asserted.