POSTSCRIPT / October 25, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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What Trillanes won was just a reprieve

SENATOR Antonio Trillanes IV may have celebrated too early. That psychological point he won this week in the skirmish at the Makati court was just a reprieve before he faces a tough battle on higher ground that he is likely to lose.

The superior forces of the Duterte administration lie in ambush position at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Trillanes knows what await him but there is not much he can do about it, except wring the most public sympathy from his debacle.

Proceeding from largely the same set of facts arising from the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Peninsula Manila hotel siege involving the former navy officer, two separate Makati regional trial courts arrived at two dissimilar conclusions:

* RTC 150 (Judge Elmo Alameda presiding) issued on Sept. 25 a warrant for Trillanes’ arrest on rebellion charges that were revived as the court upheld Proclamation No. 527 voiding Proclamation No. 52 that cleared Trillanes and closed the case in 2011. The judge allowed him to post bail.

* RTC 148 (Judge Andres Soriano presiding) refused on Oct. 22 to issue an arrest warrant since the coup d’etat charges against Trillanes were already dismissed with finality in 2011 after he complied substantially with the documentary requirements of Proclamation No. 52. But the judge left open the possible revival of the case by a higher court and chose not to disturb the validity of Proclamation No. 527.

In the dispositive portion of his ruling, Soriano said: “Well established is the doctrine that a final and executory judgment shall be immutable. The Court, in fact, loses jurisdiction over the case when its decision has become final and executory.

“Given its findings, both on the legality of Proclamation No. 572, and its factual bases, the Court finds no reason to disturb the doctrine of immutability of a final and executory judgment.

“Meanwhile, the law is vibrant. Jurisprudence is its lifeblood. Subsequent jurisprudence may forge new horizons in which exceptions to the immutability of a final and executory judgment may be born. For now, the Court finds itself powerless to disturb the said doctrine even it had sustained the factual bases for the issuance of Proclamation No. 572.”

Trillanes emerged with a victory statement after Soriano rejected the state’s petition for his arrest and recognized the secondary evidence he submitted showing that he had applied for amnesty and admitted his crime in writing.

In both rulings, Trillanes avoided arrest – in RTC-150 by posting bail, and in RTC-148 by the court’s not reviving the charges. That could be enough reason for the embattled senator to rejoice, but the administration’s legal hounds would not relent.

It appears that the administration’s key contention is that Trillanes has failed to produce the originals of his application for amnesty required under Proclamation No. 52 together with his written admission of his criminal acts.

Presenting the needed documents – something he said he could not do because he could no longer find the papers — would take the wind out of Proclamation No. 572 issued by Duterte last month voiding Proclamation No. 52 that had granted amnesty to Trillanes’ group.

Duterte’s camp has to defend his proclamation at all costs. The court’s trashing it as illegal would show that the President, a lawyer and former prosecutor, erred grievously or allowed himself to be misled by his minions into issuing a defective document.

The administration can be expected to marshal all its resources when/if it seeks a partial reconsideration of Soriano’s decision or elevates Trillanes’ case to the Court of Appeals and/or the Supreme Court.

As we write this, we cannot divine which between the option for reconsideration mentioned by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and the case’s elevation to the higher court as announced by Solicitor General Jose Calida will be followed.

The law can be argued convincingly either way. With the administration’s superior firepower and the polluted environment in the battle area, the prospects of victory at the Supreme Court do not look bright for Trillanes, IMHO.

 One bettor bags $1.6-B mega-lotto pot

ONE still unidentified bettor won Tuesday’s MegaMillions US lottery jackpot of $1.6 BILLION (P86.4 billion), the biggest prize in US lottery history. His winning combination was: 5-28-62-65-70-5. The pot in the next draw on Friday restarts at P40 million.

There is another popular US lottery – the PowerBall whose jackpot on Oct. 25 (Friday in Manila) is at least $620 million (P33.480 billion). Winning combination consists also of six numbers – the first five numbers taken from 1 to 69 and the sixth from 1 to 26.

We report on fat jackpots because countless Filipinos worldwide have been chasing the elusive dollar gold pot at the end of the lottery rainbow. Bettors who are not in the States usually place bets at $2 per play through their relatives in the US.

MegaMillions is played in 44 states, plus in Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands. Draw is at 11 p.m. ET every Tuesday and Friday. A player wins if he pins down six numbers in any order — five of them drawn from 1 to 70 and a sixth mega-number taken from 1 to 25. A player can leave it to the computer to choose random numbers for his bet.

The millions that lined up at betting stations dwarfed the caravan of more than 7,000 asylum seekers from South America (mostly from Honduras) walking through Mexico to the US border where President Trump has threatened to post soldiers to block them.

A MegaMillions jackpot winner can claim a one-time cash payout or take 29 annual escalated installments after an initial sum. Most winners get the lump sum cash, although it comes out smaller after taxes are withheld.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 25, 2018)

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