Palace to pursue case against Trillanes

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Palace’s lead lawyer yesterday denied speculation that Senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV may also get off the hook after Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez cleared Senator-elect Gregorio Honasan of coup charges in connection with the failed mutiny at Oakwood on July 27, 2003.

Chief presidential legal counsel Sergio Apostol also held the view that Gonzalez did not go beyond legal bounds when he cleared Honasan despite the claim of state prosecutors that they have the evidence to pin down the former Army colonel.

Apostol disagreed with the claim of the lawyer of Trillanes that the dismissal of the charges against Honasan would weaken the prosecutor’s case against Trillanes and other plotters of the Oakwood mutiny.

“That is their interpretation of the case. Twice Trillanes has filed for bail but both were denied by the court because the evidence of the prosecution is strong,” the Palace official said.

Assistant State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon, head of the five-member prosecution panel handling the case against the mutineers, maintained that Trillanes is “directly involved” in the siege of Oakwood Hotel.

But Fadullon disagreed with Gonzalez’s decision to junk the coup charges against Honasan, saying it was “too far off” from their recommendation.

The prosecution panel, in its resolution last April, said the evidence against Honasan showed that he had participated in planning the Oakwood hotel takeover and was the “driving force” behind the recruitment and organization of junior military officers to overthrow the Arroyo administration through force and violence.

But in response to Honasan’s appeal, Gonzalez last week ordered the prosecution panel to drop the charges against the rebel officer-turned senator. He said Honasan may have been the inspiration behind the Oakwood mutiny but there was no evidence to pin him down on the siege.

Apostol said he did not think that Gonzalez abused his discretion to evaluate the evidence in the Honasan case.

“That is a fair and honest assessment made by the justice secretary on the evidence on the case,” he said.

Earlier, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita disagreed with the assertion of some lawyers that the victory of Honasan and Trillanes in the senatorial election has the effect of extinguishing their criminal liability in connection with the Oakwood mutiny.

Ermita said that Honasan and Trillanes should “face the music,” since they have committed criminal offenses.

Meanwhile, Trillanes asked the Makati City Regional Trial Court for authority to take his oath of office in Caloocan City on July 2 and attend Senate sessions.

Trillanes said he would have his oathtaking at a covered court of a church in BF Subdivision Phase 1 at Deparo Road, Caloocan City, where he is a registered voter.

Trillanes, who clinched the 11th Senate slot in the May elections, urged Judge Oscar Pimentel to let him attend sessions and perform his duties as a lawmaker.

The former Navy officer also asked the court for permission to set up a working area at the Marine Brigade in Fort Bonifacio, meet with members of his staff and grant interviews to media on Tuesdays and Fridays.