Duterte says defiant Philippine senator will not be arrested without warrant

The decision failed to ease tensions between the president and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Antonio Trillanes IV (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Antonio Trillanes IV (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided not to seek the arrest of an opposition senator without a court warrant after the defiant legislator asked the Supreme Court to declare the order illegal.

The decision failed to ease tensions between Mr Duterte and Antonio Trillanes IV, the volatile president’s fiercest critic in Congress, who has taken refuge in the Senate.

“This is not true,” Mr Trillanes said of Mr Duterte’s assurance.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the president made the decision “to abide with the rule of law” after a long discussion with cabinet officials travelling with him.

Rodrigo Duterte in Jordan (Raad Adayleh/AP)

Mr Duterte is to return home from a visit to Jordan on Saturday, a day earlier than scheduled.

“The instruction is to abide with the rule of law,” Mr Roque said. “If there is no warrant of arrest issued by any court, do not apprehend Senator Trillanes.”

Backed by dozens of supporters, Mr Trillanes did not 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”.

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

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

He refused to leave the Senate and asked the Supreme Court in a petition to declare Mr Duterte’s order illegal without a court warrant, which, if upheld by the high court, could open the president to impeachment bids.

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.

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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.

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.

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 being given 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 had 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 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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