THE attack of Trillanes’s amnesty has been a monumental fiasco: blunder on data research, blunder on legal maneuver and blunder on public relations strategy.
I said that here earlier. And others who neither hate nor love President Duterte are saying it too.
Instead of dumping Antonio Trillanes IV into a dustbin of irrelevance, the moves against the last-term senator have boosted his political stock. A few people are even floating the idea that the Oakwood Mutiny and Manila Peninsula Siege coup plotter might be contender in the next presidential race, in 2022 or earlier in the election for transition president if the shift to federalism would push through.
Maybe an exaggeration of what Trillanes has accomplished. But the current smear-and-destroy campaign against him, capped with moves to strip him of his amnesty grant and put him back to prison, has boosted his popularity. Suddenly, he has become the most visible and voluble person standing to call out Duterte’s alleged excesses.
The results were not quite what the president expected. He signed Proclamation #572 last Aug. 31, then left two days later for his Israel and Jordan visits. When he returned last Sept. 7, Trillanes was not in jail. Instead, he has had the full glare of media attention.
Trillanes went to the Supreme Court while state lawyers sought two Regional Trial Courts to revive the cases of coup d’etat and rebellion against him. That, as the military prepared to activate the court martial against the former Navy lieutenant.
Tide of public opinion
But what turned back the multi-pronged assault? Information has poured that (1) the factual basis for revoking the amnesty grant, explicitly stated in the document, could be false as Trillanes, by news records of the event, appear to have complied with the requirements; and (2) legal opinions from both independent and partisan persons argued that amnesty wipes out the crime, once granted cannot be revoked and, even if nullified, cannot be done without concurrence of Congress.
Mistakes of facts and the law led to the proclamation that bombed and the p.r. debacle that followed. Public opinion, though not harsh on Duterte, condemned the sloppiness of the attack on Trillanes. The senator was not exactly lovable. On the amnesty issue, however, he seems to have facts, the law, and much of public opinion behind him.
Malacañang has struck back with:
New legal arguments, such as the claim that then president Noynoy Aquino who issued the amnesty should’ve done it personally. PNoy did so but processing of applications was delegated to the defense department as the amnesty covered a class of persons, the rebels, not just Trillanes.
The spin that since the Supreme Court rejected Trillanes’s petition for a restraining order, there’s no more legal impediment to arrest him. The SC precisely saw no need to tackle the T.R.O. issue because it recognized the president’s “public commitment” not to lock up the senator without a court-issued warrant.
A propaganda tour de force, namely a talk-to-the-nation and a press-con, which were later downgraded to a tete-a-tete with Duterte’s No. 1 lawyer, Salvador Panelo. Not the promised format but a bomb of sorts was exploded: the plot against Duterte.
Face-saver, not license
Having been raised a number of times before, the issue did not cause as much impact as disclosing the specifics of the plot. It failed to convince the public that it is plausible, not just a concoction that suspiciously looks like a reprise of devices used during Marcos’s martial regime.
The SC gave Malacañang a face-saver by rejecting the T.R.O. request. But it would be gross error to regard it as license to arrest Trillanes without a court order. If they’d jail Trillanes, it would be Blunder #4, which could raise his pedestal high enough for an ad hoc hero and potential candidate for president.