Press Release
July 30, 2007


A resolution overwhelmingly approved last week by the Senate did not seek the exculpation of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV from his pending court case but merely sought permission to allow him to participate in the proceedings of the Senate and perform his duties as an elected parliamentarian.

Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) made this clarification in response to the criticisms that the resolution, which he initiated, constitutes an encroachment on the independence of the judiciary.

"I introduced that resolution, arguing that Sen. Trillanes should be allowed to participate in the functions of the Senate. That resolution did not seek the freedom of Trillanes. Neither did that resolution aim to exculpate Trillanes. Much less did that resolution impose itself in the judiciary because we respect the separation of powers among the three branches of government," Pimentel explained.

Pimentel argued that the sovereign will of more the 11 million Filipinos who wanted Trillanes to represent them in the Senate should be respected, otherwise his election will be rendered meaningless.

The resolution expressing the sense of the Senate to allow Trillanes to attend Senate sessions was approved by a 17-4 vote.

Aside from Pimentel, those who voted in favor of the resolution were Senate President Manuel Villar, President Pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Mar Roxas, Benigno Aquino III, Jamby Madrigal, Rodolfo Biazon, Francis Escudero III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, Mar Roxas, Ramon Revilla, Jr. and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Four senators voted against the resolution - Juan Ponce Enrile, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Joker Arroyo and Richard Gordon.

Pimentel said they were not even asking the court to grant bail to Trillanes, since this is the job of his lawyer.

He said there is no reason to fear that Trillanes may escape while he is discharging his duties in the Senate. At any rate, he said an adequate number of security escorts should be fielded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines while Trillanes is being transported to and from the Senate and while he is inside the premises of the Upper Chamber. The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms should also provide the personnel needed to secure Senator Trillanes.

Commenting on the opinion that the election of a person accused of political offenses to the Senate should extinguish his criminal liability, Pimentel said this issue will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

"Under existing jurisprudence, that can erase the liability of the respondent in an administrative case. But not in a criminal case," the minority leader said.

"And we do not want to start a precedent where scoundrels who commit a crime can then run for public office and get elected and his liability will be extinguished."

Trillanes is facing coup d' etat charges before the Makati Regional Trial Court and a military tribunal for his alleged involvement in the failed July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Pimentel said the Trillanes case resembles that of the late Senator Justiniano Montano who was charged with double murder, which was non-bailable, in the early 1960s. But he was allowed to post bail by the high tribunal in the belief that he would not escape and the evidence of his guilty was not strong.

Pimentel said he was pleased that the resolution, which was originally supported only by seven opposition senators, eventually was voted upon by 17 senators (excluding Trillanes).

"This shows that if the issues are crucial enough, I think there will be a crossing of party lines so that even as we are only eight at this time, I think that when we espouse the causes of the people, our colleagues in the Senate will support us," he said.

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