The Senate may pass by Wednesday a resolution concurring with President Benigno Aquino III’s proclamation granting amnesty to soldiers involved in at least three attempts to overthrow the Arroyo administration, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Tuesday.
Enrile said that if the Senate formally receives the proclamation on Tuesday, senators may be able to pass the resolution concurring with the proclamation by Wednesday, the last session day before the chamber goes on a break.
"We have already expressed our sense. Unanimous na yung request dito, may consensus ‘yun (The request here is unanimous, that has a consensus)," he told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.
The Senate president was referring to an earlier Senate resolution asking Aquino to grant amnesty to the soldiers, including detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who were charged for taking part in foiled uprisings against the Arroyo administration.
Twenty senators had signed the said resolution, and only Senator Joker Arroyo did not. The three other votes are considered immaterial as these were supposed to come from the post vacated by President Aquino, from Trillanes, and fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Trillanes is facing coup d’etat charges before the sala of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 Judge Oscar Pimentel for his alleged involvement in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny. He is also facing rebellion charges before the sala of Makati RTC branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda for his supposed participation in the 2007 Manila Peninsula hotel siege.
Enrile, however, said he cannot tell whether the House of Representatives will approve a concurrent resolution just as easily. "I cannot speak for Congress. We'll have to wait for the House (of Representatives)," he said.
Senator Francis Escudero, who heads the Senate committee on defense and national security, said he is hopeful that the House of Representatives would support the amnesty proclamation.
Earlier reports said the House leadership would support the proclamation for mutineers' amnesty.
"Majority of the senators are supportive of the amnesty, I hope it's the same for the House of Representatives because this will require a majority vote in Congress," he said in a separate interview on Tuesday.
Senator Franklin Drilon said if the resolution is not passed before the Senate goes on break, senators will prioritize it once they resume session in November.
But Arroyo warned Aquino that the amnesty grant might set a dangerous precedent. "It will affect the morale of the armed forces, they will think that they can just go ahead and then after that, they’ll be pardoned anyway," he said.
He explained that since 1986, all those who went against the government have been amnestied. "I think we’re the only country that does that... it (amnesty) is always granted by the succeeding president," he said.
Enrile, however, said that amnesty is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. He added that it is better to "make use" of the mutineers instead of waste their talents in detention.
"They are not ordinary criminal elements, they did (that) out because of idealism, perhaps frustration because they also wanted to pursue their notion of good governance in the country," he said.
Arroyo noted, however, that he will not question the proclamation because that is the prerogative of the President.
Trillanes camp excited
Rolando Avarilla, Trillanes' chief of staff, said that he has yet to talk to the senator. But he said that they are rejoicing about the prospect of the detained lawmaker finally taking office at the Senate.
"We are very happy with this development because hopefully Sen. Trillanes will be able to set foot in this office and serve the Filipino people," he said.
He added that although Trillanes has also been working while in detention, it would be a big difference if he will be allowed to participate in discussions and push for his advocacy personally.
"He will vigorously push for his advocacies. Rest assured that the Sen. Trillanes you came to know will be same Sen. Trillanes who will participate in discussions in the Senate," he said.
Trillanes is currently being detained at the Philippine Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Kimberly Jane Tan, GMA News TV