October 19, 2010
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III dispelled apprehensions on Tuesday over a possible conflict that could arise once the court would decide to convict the rebel officers and soldiers who were granted amnesty by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Sotto said that even after a conviction by the lower court, the decision could still be appealed before the Supreme Court.
“One thing many have forgotten is the fact that even if convicted, the soldiers can and may appeal to a higher court,” he said in a text message.
“In other words, conviction is not final and so the amnesty comes into play,” he said, responding to Senator Teofisto Guingona’s statement Monday that it should be the court that should suspend its proceedings now that the President had granted amnesty to the rebel soldiers.
While he was inclined to share Guingona’s opinion, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said he would rather leave this matter with the court.
“They are a co-equal branch. We leave it up to them to decide how to proceed given these latest developments,” Pangilinan said in a separate text message.
“We cannot tell the courts what to do. We trust that the courts will act guided by the recent turn of events that have a direct bearing on the cases before it. That’s the best we can do out of courtesy to a co-equal,” he further said.
Some sectors raised suspicions about the timing of the President’s amnesty proclamation, coming before the reported October 28 decision by a Makati court handling the case against the rebel soldiers.
In a statement Monday, Senator Joker Arroyo warned that while the President has the power to grant amnesty, it should be exercised with “utmost prudence” and “subject to indispensable concurrence of Congress.”
Arroyo also stressed the significance of the impending decision of the Makati court under Judge Oscar Pimentel, who has tried the case of detained Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, et al.
“If he [Pimentel] decides to acquit, Trillanes immediately becomes a free man beholden to no one. If he convicts, then the Senate before voting on the amnesty measure must look at the reasons why the court so decided and measure that side by side with the blanket amnesty given by the President,” he said.
“Congressional concurrence amounts to a veto power on the President’s grant of amnesty,” Arroyo added.
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