Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV addresses reporters outside his Philippine Senate office after a regional trial court judge issued a ruling denying the Justice Department's request for an arrest warrant against him Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

  • The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody
  • Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption

MANILA: A Philippine judge rejected on Monday an effort by President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest one of his fiercest critics, a decision hailed by opponents as a check on the leader and a victory for the rule of law.
The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody on charges for which the lawmaker had already been granted amnesty.
Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption and his son of involvement in drug dealing.
"We wish to thank Judge Andres Soriano who has singlehandedly upheld justice and the rule of law in the country despite extreme pressure coming from the Duterte regime," a beaming Trillanes told reporters.
The order for Trillanes' arrest stems from the president voiding in September an amnesty granted eight years ago to the senator, an ex-navy officer, for his role in two coup attempts in the mid-2000s.
Duterte alleged the lawmaker did not complete the requirements of filing an official application and admitting guilt, but Monday's ruling threw out those arguments.
However, this decision is unlikely to be the final word on this case. The Philippines' top court is weighing the constitutional questions posed by Duterte's amnesty revocation and the government all but pledged to appeal.
"This is not the end. Nobody has to claim total victory here," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters. "This may be subject to review by the higher courts."
Monday's news came as Trillanes was on bail over another military uprising case that was revived by Duterte revoking the lawmaker's amnesty.
His arrest last month in that case made Trillanes the second senator critical of Duterte's drug war to be detained. Leila de Lima has been behind bars since February 2017 on charges she says were concocted to silence her.
Human Rights Watch called Monday's decision a temporary victory for rule of law in the Philippines.
"The Duterte administration's campaign is designed to silence Trillanes," HRW researcher Carlos Conde told AFP.
"We expect it (the government) to continue, even ramp up, this political harassment and intimidation," he added.
Trillanes had faced rebellion and coup d'etat charges for being among military officers who rose up against then president Gloria Arroyo over alleged corruption and mismanagement.
He led scores of junior officers in taking over part of a main district of Manila in 2003 and seized a posh Manila hotel in 2007 along with several armed followers as they demanded Arroyo's resignation.


Philippines cuts age of criminal liability from 15 to 12

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of housewives and mothers, that participate in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the provincial government and Duterte's war on drugs at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga province, Philippines December 22, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 48 min 52 sec ago
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Philippines cuts age of criminal liability from 15 to 12

  • Earlier vote to set age at 9 overturned
  • Human rights groups slam the decision

MANILA: A controversial decision by lawmakers in the Philippines to lower the country’s age of criminal liability to 12, has been slammed by human rights groups.
The move on Wednesday overturns a recommendation last week to slash the current minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 9 years old.
Opponents of the bill, seen as a key part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to crack down on crime, said the decision would only worsen the plight of Filipino children. 
Lawmakers approved the proposed bill during a second reading, after it was initially passed by the House of Representatives’ committee on justice last Monday, saying it would better protect children from criminal exploitation.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the proposed measure. Its representative in Asia, Carlos Conde, told Arab News: “If the Senate makes good on its promise to pass this version and it is signed into law by the president (Duterte), this would no doubt worsen the plight of Filipino children caught up in the justice system.”
Conde pointed out that children in the Philippines aged between 14 and 9, already face “mandatory confinement” of up to 12 years for committing murder, kidnapping and taking vehicles, and a range of drug-related crimes.
“Children in the Philippines have already been subjected to the extreme violence of Duterte’s ‘drug war,’ with police and government agents killing dozens during anti-drug operations for being suspected drug users or the pawns of drug dealers,” added Conde.
“The proposed law will not only stigmatize children even more, it will turn them into scapegoats in the government’s abusive anti-crime campaign.”
The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also slammed the proposed bill and said that “punishing children for the crime and abuse of syndicates and other people is against the state’s responsibility to look after the interests and welfare of children.”
Julius Cainglet, advocacy committee chairman of the country’s National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), said: “We should not punish our own children for society’s failure to care for them properly. This (the bill) would be a major setback for our internationally-renowned efforts at ending child labor.”
House of Representatives’ Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Michael Romero said the proposed measure was in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’s ruling on MACR. He said 12 years old was a “just and appropriate” minimum age of criminal liability but added that 9 years old was “simply too young.”
Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House committee on justice, said that during the period when the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country had been 15, there had been a huge rise in crime committed by children.
“This bill was brought about by the alarming increase in the number of criminal syndicates using minors to carry out criminal acts,” Leachon said. “It is time to pass this bill in order to protect our children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment.”