CA affirms dismissal of rebellion raps vs Trillanes

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    THE government yesterday lost another round in its continuing political-legal clash with former senator Antonio Trillanes IV after the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the rebellion case against the latter as it overturned a lower court’s decision to reinstate the case filed in connection with the former soldier’s involvement in the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

    In an order dated March 1, the CA’s Sixth Division reversed the decision of Makati City RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion.

    “The respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion when, without taking ample time to pause and ponder, whether or not it retained jurisdiction, summarily and cursorily considered the Omnibus Motion upon a matter involving a criminal action that it has long ago dismissed,” part of the 59-page decision penned by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr. said.

    “It acted with grave abuse of discretion that amounted to excess of jurisdiction, thus ousting it of jurisdiction, when it shunned testimonial evidence,” it added.

    Trillanes challenged Alameda’s order dated September 25, 2018, which granted the request of the Department of Justice for an arrest warrant to be issued against him, and the subsequent order dated December18, 2018 that affirmed it.

    It was the DOJ that had moved to revive rebellion cases filed against Trillanes before Alameda’s sala and the coup d état case before the sala of Judge Andres Soriano of Makati RTC Branch 148.

    The justice department’s move came after President Duterte voided the amnesty granted to Trillanes during the Aquino administration on the ground that the application form could not be located by the Department of National Defense.

    Soriano had refused to reopen the case as he ruled that Trillanes has sufficiently proven his amnesty application through the affidavits and documents submitted by his camp, as well as testimonial evidence from several witnesses including former Defense Secretary Honorio Azcueta, who was the chairman of the DND Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee, and Col. Josefa Berbigal, the head of the Committee Secretariat.

    Though Trillanes submitted the same pieces of evidence to Branch 150, Alameda ruled otherwise and reinstated the rebellion case.

    Alameda said the affidavits of defense officials proving that Trillanes applied for amnesty were not sufficient proof that he had indeed submitted an application.

    Alameda was the same judge who in 2011 dismissed the same rebellion case after Trillanes submitted a certificate of amnesty granted by then president Benigno Aquino III.

    The appellate court said that if Soriano and Alameda followed the same process, they would have arrived at the same conclusion.

    “The same fact patterns upon the same set of rules, when evaluated, should generally and predictably elicit the same results regardless of who conducts the evaluation or how many evaluators there may be, but in the case of petitioner, two divergent outcomes came out.

    We are of the view that, had only one approach been taken, one that allowed the reception of evidence in full measure, common answer to common questions of facts would have been elicited. Proper use of the rules of evidence would have reflected the appropriate appreciation of the admissibility, weight and sufficiency of the Certificate of Amnesty and Proclamation No. 572, amongst other pieces of evidence,” the CA ruled.

    Proclamation No. 572 was the order issued by Duterte revoking the amnesty granted to Trillanes.

    In the same ruling, the appellate court upheld the validity of Duterte’s proclamation even as it pointed out that the DOJ failed to comply with the procedural rules in assailing the validity of the Makati RTC’s dismissal of the rebellion case in 2011.

    “In the criminal case subject of herein petition, the prosecution did not file an action for the annulment of or for relief from the Order of September 7, 2011, nor did it move for the issuance of a writ of certiorari to invalidate the said order. The alleged void Order, which dismissed the rebellion charge, was attacked only through the Omnibus Motion filed in the same case, which prayed for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and hold departure order against the petitioner,” the CA said.

    “The attack, therefore, was merely a collateral one. Tested against the outlined procedural standards above, the remedy resorted to by the DOJ cannot be anything else but irregular and improper. The respondent court gravely abused its discretion when it took cognizance of DOJ’s Omnibus Motion, set aside its Order of September 7, 2011, and revived the criminal action against the petitioner,” it added.