Trillanes and Lim get bail but will stay in jail

MANILA, Philippines—It’s a case of so near and yet so far for Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and 16 other Magdalo rebel soldiers.

Despite Makati Judge Elmo Alameda’s grant of their bail request in connection with rebellion charges involving the siege of Peninsula Manila hotel in 2007, the Armed Forces said they still had to be detained pending the resolution of their court-martial cases for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

“According to the Trial Judge Advocate General [Col. Gilbert Roa], they will only be freed until after the military has agreed, because they are still facing general court-martial cases,” Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the AFP spokesperson, told reporters Wednesday.

In a 16-page order promulgated on Tuesday, Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 said that despite the testimonies of witnesses and evidence presented, the prosecution failed to establish that the accused had mounted an armed uprising against the government.

“The walkout from the court, the marching to Peninsula Manila hotel and the press conference held in the same hotel denouncing the administration of President Gloria Arroyo are not sufficient to prove the nonbailable crime of rebellion,” he said.

He added that at the very least, the incident could be considered “contumacious conduct constitutive of direct contempt, and not rebellion.”

P200,000 bail

Apart from Trillanes and Lim, those covered by the order are Navy Captains Gary Alejano and Segundino Orfiano; Lieutenants Eugene Gonzalez, Andy Torrato, Arturo Pascua Jr., James Layug and Manuel Cabochan; 2nd Lt. Jonnell Sangalang; 1st Lt. Billy Pascua; Ensign Armand Pontejos; Cpl. Clecarte Dahan; and Privates First Class Juanito Jilbury Jr., Emmanuel Tirador, German Linde, Julius Mesa and Cesari Yasser Gonzales.

The court set bail for the accused at P200,000 each, an amount that their lawyer, Ernesto Francisco, hopes to reduce to P40,000 when he files a request as soon as possible.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a former AFP chief of staff, said Trillanes “is not about to go free because there is still the Oakwood case.”

Still, Biazon said, the grant of bail was “one step hurdled in [Trillanes’] legal battle.”

Brawner said Trillanes was still facing court-martial proceedings in relation to the short-lived mutiny in 2003, when the Magdalo group of soldiers took over the Oakwood Premier apartments in Makati City and called on President Macapagal-Arroyo and other officials to step down.

A general court-martial is also trying a number of cases against Lim, a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party, who is implicated in the Peninsula siege in November 2007 and the Marine standoff at Fort Bonifacio in February 2006.

The cases include conduct unbecoming an officer, conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, and disrespect to the President, according to Lim’s lawyer, Vicente Verdadero.

The 16 other Magdalo soldiers are also facing court-martial proceedings for the Peninsula case.

‘Bright spot in judiciary’

In a handwritten statement to the media, Trillanes said: “I am very happy for my companions as their long awaited freedom is finally at hand.

“I thank Judge Elmo Alameda for displaying fairness and impartiality in his decision to grant bail. This proves that there are still bright spots in the judiciary.”

Francisco said he visited Trillanes at his detention cell in Camp Crame, the general headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

“He is confident that there will come a time when he would be able to get out,” the lawyer said by phone.

In his own statement, Lim said that after four years of incarceration, freedom was “just around the corner.”

“The door that has closed us from the outside world and unjustly incarcerated us in our pursuit of truth and meaningful change is slowly opening,” he said.

He added that the grant of bail was “a triumph of hope” within the justice system and “a step in the right direction” in confirming his and his comrades’ innocence of the rebellion charges.

Mini celebration

Alan Tanjusay, Lim’s spokesperson, said the jailed Magdalo soldiers held a “mini celebration” upon hearing of Alameda’s decision.

He said the detainees were “very optimistic and upbeat.”

“I’ve never seen them like that before,” he said.

According to Tanjusay, the group had a lunch of menudo, pork sisig and soft drinks together.

But Brawner said the soldiers would remain detained at Camp Crame as Colonel Roa had yet to study Alameda’s order and make a recommendation to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado.

Brawner said an assessment of whether the rebel soldiers could be allowed temporary freedom might take a week.

He also pointed out that under the military justice system, “there is no such thing as bail.”

Verdadero confirmed that Lim could not leave detention yet. He said a pleading would be submitted to the military court for Lim’s release.

“We welcome the ruling because with all due respect to the prosecution, it shows that their evidence could not sustain the charges they filed against [the soldiers],” he said.

Prove uprising

Judge Alameda said the standoff at Peninsula between Trillanes’ group and government forces composed of strike teams from the military and police tasked to secure the area did not necessarily mean the accused were “liable for the crime of rebellion.”

He said it was “necessary for the prosecution to at least prove that the accused have risen publicly and taken up arms against the government.”

Alameda also cited the prosecution’s purported failure to establish the ownership of the firearms—four rifles and a pistol—found by the authorities at the hotel after the standoff.

“With limited fire power, it is difficult to discern that the crime of rebellion could be committed since the crime involves a public uprising and the taking up of arms of a multitude or a vast movement of men,” he said.

Like protest rally

The judge also said that the group’s march to the hotel from the court was “no different from the numerous protest [rallies] along the streets of Makati, which is not an unusual occurrence.”

“What made the march peculiar was the presence of known personalities like Senator Trillanes and other detained prisoners … who have just been found guilty of direct contempt for walking out during the hearing of their case,” he said.

Alameda said Lim’s press conference seeking support “does not fall squarely within the ambit of rebellion.”

“The reading of [Lim’s] statement over radio and television did not allow the accused to deprive President Arroyo of her powers and prerogatives to enforce the law,” he said.

Excited and nervous

Speaking with reporters at Camp Crame, Lim’s wife Aloy said that as was her routine in the past four years, she rose at 5 a.m. Wednesday to pray for the court’s favorable decision on her husband’s petition for bail.

“I’m both very excited and nervous. I have mixed emotions about the court’s decision,” she said.
Aloy Lim said she visited her husband at Camp Crame unaware of Alameda’s ruling.
“I’m very surprised. I’m here just for a regular visit,” she said. “I cannot contain my excitement. Even my knees are trembling.” With a report from Marlon Ramos.

Source: Inquirer


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