MANILA, Philippines – A Philippine senator who has taken refuge in the Senate to avoid an arrest order by President Rodrigo Duterte asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to declare the order illegal and called on the military to defy it.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Duterte’s fiercest critic in Congress, told the high court in a petition that Duterte’s proclamation voiding his 2011 amnesty for links to failed coup attempts and ordering his arrest was baseless.
“Their basis for this proclamation is a big lie,” Trillanes told reporters in the Senate building, where he has remained since Duterte’s order was made public Tuesday. “It’s bogus, they only wanted to pin me down for being a critic of Mr. Duterte.”
Known for his temper and outbursts against critics, Duterte has openly expressed anger against Trillanes, who has accused him of large-scale corruption and involvement in illegal drugs. Duterte has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The standoff has unfolded while Duterte is on a visit to Israel and Jordan. He is scheduled to fly home on Sunday.
The Department of Justice said Duterte voided Trillanes’s amnesty because the senator did not file a formal amnesty application and admit guilt for his role in past coup attempts.
Trillanes, however, has presented TV and newspaper reports, along with defense department documents, showing he applied for the amnesty and acknowledged his role in three military uprisings between 2003 and 2007.
Trillanes, 47, a former navy officer, 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.
He and the other mutineers then demanded an end to government corruption and other irregularities. They surrendered after negotiations.
After being amnestied under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, Trillanes successfully petitioned two Philippine courts to dismiss rebellion and coup cases against him, allowing him to later run for public office.
Duterte also ordered the Department of Justice and the military to restart administrative and criminal complaints against Trillanes. The order has sparked legal questions, with experts asking whether Duterte can invalidate an amnesty declared by a previous president and approved by Congress.
In his Supreme Court petition, Trillanes said Duterte’s arrest order violated the constitution, which only empowers the judiciary to issue arrest warrants.
Despite legal questions, the Department of Defense said it has deployed officers to the Senate to take custody of Trillanes and have him face a military court of inquiry into his role in the past uprisings. A military detention cell was also being readied for him.
Trillanes called on military officials to defy Duterte’s order, which he said was illegal. He cited abuses and wrongdoings by the military when then dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Marcos was overthrown in a 1986 army-backed “people power” revolt.
“They know the lessons in history, they know what happened during martial law, they know a legal and illegal order,” Trillanes said in a news conference.
Since Duterte took office in 2016, another opposition senator has been jailed on illegal drugs charges, a critical Supreme Court chief justice has been ousted by fellow judges, and foreign critics, including an Australian nun, have been barred from entering the Philippines or threatened with deportation.