Duterte Orders Arrest of Philippine Senator, One of His Top Critics


  • Senator Trillanes led two coup attempts against Arroyo
  • Police, military ordered to arrest lawmaker to face trial

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of one of his most prominent critics in the Philippine Senate, declaring that an amnesty granted to the senator years ago he u over his role in two military uprisings was invalid.

The senator, Antonio Trillanes, a former naval officer, called Mr. Duterte’s order the act of a dictator and said he would not resist arrest. If he is detained, he will be the second well-known Duterte critic in the Senate to be put behind bars.

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“If the ordinary folk are being killed, he is now jailing his critics,” Mr. Trillanes said Tuesday, referring to Mr. Duterte’s bloody crackdown on narcotics. “That is the situation in the Philippines.”

The president’s order, which was signed last week and made public on Tuesday, declares that the amnesty granted to Mr. Trillanes in 2010 by Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, was “void ab initio,” or invalid from the start.

The amnesty applied to Mr. Trillanes’s role in two brief, bloodless uprisings. In 2003, he was one of about 300 junior military officers who declared themselves in rebellion against the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is now the speaker of the House of Representatives and a Duterte ally.

The officers occupied the Oakwood Hotel in the Manila area, but they soon surrendered after Ms. Arroyo promised to look into their allegations of corruption within the Philippine military.

The 2007 rebellion, which was even briefer, took place while Mr. Trillanes and other officers were on trial for the first one. He and some of the other defendants walked out of court, joined other military officers in the Manila streets and took over another upscale hotel, calling for Ms. Arroyo’s ouster.

That mutiny was put down dramatically within hours, after military forces crashed an armored personnel carrier into the lobby.

Mr. Trillanes, a charismatic figure who was the public face of the rebellion, was elected to the Senate from jail that same year. As a senator, he has been one of the most prominent figures in the opposition to Mr. Duterte, particularly over his war on drugs, which has left thousands of people dead at the hands of police officers and unknown gunmen.

Last year, another vocal presidential critic in the 24-seat Senate, Leila de Lima, was jailed on charges that she had protected drug dealers. Senator De Lima, a former justice secretary, has denied the charges and accused Mr. Duterte of exacting political payback from her.

“This is all bogus,” Mr. Trillanes said on Tuesday. “Like the case they have against Senator De Lima.” He said Mr. Duterte was trying to silence critics of the drug war and called him “a dictator who does not respect institutions.”

Mr. Duterte was visiting the Middle East on Tuesday. His order said that Mr. Trillanes’s amnesty was invalid because the senator had not met the “minimum requirements” for it, including filing an official application for amnesty and admitting his guilt.

“It never was effective, there was nothing to undo,” the president’s spokesman, Harry Roque, told reporters in Jerusalem, according to Reuters.

The leader of the opposition in the Senate, Francis Pangilinan, called the presidential arrest order “clear persecution.” He said Mr. Duterte could not legally revoke Mr. Trillanes’s amnesty himself because it had required, and received, the approval of both houses of Congress.

“It could not be easily set aside by the whims of one man,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “Absence our concurrence, any arrest is illegal.”

Mr. Duterte was also criticized by Anwar Ibrahim, a prominent Malaysian politician allied with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who was visiting Manila on Tuesday for a business conference. “My consistent view is we cannot abuse power to victimize opposition participants,” said Mr. Anwar, who was imprisoned for years while in the Malaysian opposition.

“If I meet President Duterte, I will tell him I support some of his measures,” Mr. Anwar said at a news conference. “But I will also tell him to continue to ensure there is a vibrant democracy and the respect for the rule of law in the Philippines.”

from New York Times

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