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VOID AB INITIO TOO

Makati judge concedes: My 2011 decision never existed due to void amnesty


Makati Judge Elmo Alameda has conceded that his September 2011 decision dismissing the rebellion case against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV should be treated as if it never existed.

This Alameda said as he admitted being convinced that the senator had failed to meet the basic minimum requirements for amnesty, namely: the filing of an application form and the admission of guilt.

This failure was the basis for President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation 572 that declared as void ab initio or nullified the amnesty given to Trillanes by former President Benigno Aquino III in November 2010.

Despite Trillanes' arguments and evidence, the judge of the Makati Regional Trial Court's (RTC) Branch 150 said he was "morally convinced of the sufficiency and legality" of Duterte's proclamation.

In his ruling, Alameda said that like Trillanes' amnesty, his own September 2011 decision dismissing the rebellion case has also been rendered void ab initio.

"The order... being a void order, it has no legal and binding effect, force or efficacy for any purpose. In contemplation of law, the order dated September 7, 2011 is non-existent and therefore cannot attain finality," Alameda said.

The judge also said former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had an "erroneous belief" that Trillanes had complied with the requirements when he [Gazmin] issued a certificate of amnesty to the senator.

After evaluating the parties' submissions, Judge Alameda said Trillanes failed to present "primary evidence" to prove that he filed an application for amnesty before the Department of National Defense's Ad Hoc Amnesty Committee, detailing events that transpired during a hearing the judge conducted on September 14, 2018.

"As can be gleaned from the answers given by the counsel of Sen. Trillanes, it has now become glaringly clear that Sen. Trillanes failed to substantiate his claims that he filed his application for amnesty," Alameda said.

Since the "official copy" of the application form "could not be established," the judge said the court "should not give credence and weight" to the documents and witness affidavits Trillanes had filed to support his claim that he did apply.

"Evidently, he failed to present the original hard copy, a duplicate copy, or even a photocopy showing that he personally accomplished and filed with the DND Amnesty Committee his Official Amnesty Application Form duly acknowledged and stamp marked received by said office," the judge wrote.

"Such substitute documents must be disregarded, being barren of probative weight to prove compliance by Senator Trillanes of the minimum requirements set forth in the rules and procedures in the processing of amnesty application pursuant to Proclamation No. 75 Series of 2010," he added.

Trillanes slammed Alameda's ruling, saying it had dealt a serious blow to democracy. The senator has since posted a P200,000 bail to secure his temporary liberty.

It remains to be seen how Judge Andres Soriano of the Makati RTC's Branch 148 would rule on a similar Department of Justice (DOJ) motion seeking an arrest warrant and a hold departure order against Trillanes, for his other, non-bailable case of coup d'etat.

Proclamation No. 75, signed by former president Benigno Aquino III, was the directive that granted amnesty to former and active military and police personnel who may have committed offenses in connection with the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the 2006 Marines Stand-off, and the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege.

Trillanes had gone to the Supreme Court to contest the constitutionality of Duterte's proclamation, which alleged that he failed to file an application for amnesty and admit his guilt for offenses committed in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege.

But the justices referred the resolution of the relevant factual issues to the RTCs, which prompted both Trillanes and the government, through the DOJ, to submit evidence to support their respective claims.

In his ruling, Alameda ruled that since the senator cannot produce a copy of his amnesty application, which should have contained his admission of guilt, "it can be safely stated" that Trillanes failed to comply with the said requirement.

The judge also cited a GMA News Online article, which reported Trillanes availing of amnesty and saying that he was admitting only to "violating some rules" but not to mutiny and coup d'etat charges.

"Seemingly, the statements and declarations made by Sen. Trillanes when interviewed by GMA News... are in conflict and irreconcilable with his adamant position that he applied for amnesty and admitted his guilt," Alameda said.

Jurisdiction?

The judge also asserted his continuing jurisdiction over the former Navy officer.

He agreed with the prosecution that the amnesty nullification stripped the case dismissal of its basis.

"The order dated September 7, 2011 being a void order, it has no legal and binding effect, force or efficacy for any purpose. In contemplation of law, the order dated September 7, 2011 is non-existent and therefore cannot attain finality and the doctrine of immutability of judgment cannot apply," he wrote.

This runs contrary to Trillanes' argument that the case dismissal has been "final and executory" for the last seven years, and that the rebellion case can no longer be "resurrected."

Citing jurisprudence, Alameda said that the dismissal order "is not entitled to the respect accorded to a valid judgment but may be entirely disregarded or declared inoperative by any tribunal in which effect is sought to be given to it."

The judge brushed off Trillanes' contention of double jeopardy, saying the case can be revived because its dismissal was void in the first place.

"Thus, the requirement is that the dismissal of the case must be without the consent of the accused is not present in this case... As previously explained, the order of dismissal was void, hence the case may be reinstated without placing Sen. Trillanes in danger of being put twice in jeopardy," Alameda said.

Despite ruling in favor of the prosecution, Alameda however clarified that he has not yet ruled on the merits of the rebellion case.

"The prosecution is yet to present its evidence in chief at the time the case was dismissed on September 7, 2011," he said. — MDM, GMA News

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