Duterte: Defiant senator won’t be arrested without warrant

Antonio Trillanes IV is one of the Philippine president’s strongest critics.


Antonio Trillanes IV in his office (AP)
Antonio Trillanes IV in his office (AP)

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has decided not to seek the arrest of an opposition senator who has taken refuge in the country’s senate without a court warrant.

The decision could ease a three-day stand-off between Mr Duterte and Antonio Trillanes IV, one of his fiercest critics.

A presidential spokesman told a news conference in Jordan, where Mr Duterte was ending a scheduled visit, that the president made the decision “to abide with the rule of law” after a long discussion with cabinet officials who were travelling with him.

In a signed proclamation made public on Tuesday, Mr Duterte voided the 2011 amnesty of Mr Trillanes, who once joined mutinies as a navy officer, and ordered his arrest.

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Rodrigo Duterte made a decision ‘to abide with the rule of law’ (Raad Adayleh/AP)

Mr Trillanes has refused to leave the senate, saying Mr Duterte’s order is illegal.

Backed by dozens of supporters, Mr Trillanes did not immediately venture out of the senate building, where he has been marooned since Tuesday.

His lawyer said the senator would make sure there is no more danger of an illegal arrest.

Known for his temper and outbursts against critics, Mr Duterte has openly expressed anger against Mr Trillanes, who has accused him of large-scale corruption and involvement in illegal drugs and extrajudicial killings in an anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of suspects dead.

Mr Duterte has denied the allegations.

The Department of Justice said the president voided Mr Trillanes’s amnesty because the senator did not file a formal amnesty application and admit guilt for his role in past coup attempts.

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Antonio Trillanes IV holds copies of a court ruling granting him amnesty (Bullit Marquez/AP)

Mr Trillanes has presented TV and newspaper reports, along with defence department documents, showing he applied for the amnesty and acknowledged his role in three military uprisings between 2003 and 2007.

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The 47-year-old was jailed for more than seven years for involvement in the army uprisings, including a 2003 mutiny against then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when he and other young officers rigged part of a road in the Makati financial district with bombs and took over an upscale residential building.

After an amnesty under Mr Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, Mr Trillanes successfully petitioned two Philippine courts to dismiss rebellion and coup cases against him, allowing him to later run for public office.

Despite many legal questions, the Department of Justice asked the courts to issue a warrant for the senator’s arrest and revive rebellion cases against him.

Separately, the Department of Defence said earlier this week that it had deployed officers to the senate to take custody of Mr Trillanes and have him face a military court of inquiry into his role in the coup attempts.

Press Association

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