A prominent Philippines lawmaker and critic of President Rodrigo Duterte who has been holed up in the country’s Senate has left accompanied by police officers after an arrest warrant was ordered by a Manila court.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was arrested on charges of rebellion, following an earlier move by the president to revoke an amnesty granted to the senator for his involvement in a number of coup attempts that happened over a decade ago.
“I will go with the arresting team when there’s a warrant, no matter how unjust that warrant may be,” Trillanes said, according to CNN Philippines.
The Makati Regional Trial Court issued the arrest warrant after the country’s Supreme Court refused to back the senator over the validity of the amnesty.
Images posted by the Manila-based network showed Trillanes having his mugshot taken as part of the booking procedure.
The issuance of the warrant brings to a head a standoff which began in late August, when Duterte placed an ad in national newspapers, saying clemency for the senator had been voided due to his “failure to apply for amnesty and refusal to admit his guilt.”
The threat of imminent arrest following the announcement forced Trillanes to remain in the Senate, where, given his position, he is afforded constitutional immunity against arrest.
Bail has been set at P200,000 ($3680). Trillanes is banned from leaving the country under the terms of the bail.
Rights groups have criticized the senator’s arrest. “The arrest today of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is part of the persecution of critics of the Duterte administration, the latest in the relentless campaign to silence those who dared to challenge the president’s murderous ‘drug war,’” Carlos Conde, Researcher, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch said.
“Trillanes’s arrest today sends a chilling effect among other critics of the Duterte administration.”
Trillanes, a former Vice-Presidential candidate and longtime thorn in Duterte’s side, has questioned then-Police Chief Ronald Del Rosa about extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s bloody, protracted war on drugs, and has also organized the testimony of former members of an alleged death squad that operated under the president while he was mayor of the city of Davao in the country’s south.
The senator, a former naval officer, received amnesty in 2011 under President Benigno Aquino for his involvement in three coups attempts in 2003, 2006 and 2007 during Gloria Arroyo’s presidency – the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, the Marines standoff in February 2006, and the Manila Peninsula incident in 2007.
Former President Benigno Aquino III told CNN Philippines that Trillanes had applied for amnesty for his role in the uprisings and his case had been reviewed. He was found to have qualified.
‘Outright and baseless lies’
Trillanes told CNN in early September that he considered the proclamation published in the Times to be based on “questionable and outright baseless lies,” and said he and his legal team would “question the validity and legality of this presidential declaration through the Supreme Court.”
He added that, along with video evidence of his filing his request for amnesty, he was in possession of a certificate of amnesty given to him by the Aquino administration.
Shortly after, the Supreme Court declined to support a petition from Trillanes to issue a temporary restraining order against the proclamation, forcing him to remain in limbo within the bounds of the Senate, CNN Philippines reported.
At the time it did rule that Trillanes should not be arrested until a warrant was issued from the Makati court.
Trillanes is not the first opponent of the president to be threatened with arrest – in 2017 staunch Duterte opponent Leila De Lima was arrested after having been accused of abetting the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.
She has consistently insisted she has no involvement in the illegal drug trade.