Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the “remarks” of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV against President Rodrigo Duterte are not covered by the lawmaker’s parliamentary immunity.
In his statement posted on Facebook, Panelo said the inciting to sedition charges filed against Trillanes was not based on his criticisms against Duterte, but was based on his call on the military “to violate the person of the President”.
“The claim of Senator Trillanes of parliamentary immunity was found unavailing because his malicious remark could not, by any stretch of imagination, be related to the discharge of his official functions as a legislator,” Panelo said.
While freedom of speech is the hallmark of democracy, Panelo said a “market place of ideas” has inherent limitations.
“(That) even the mantle of parliamentary immunity is not absolute,” he added.
Last week, a Pasay City prosecutor has found probable cause to charge Trillanes with inciting to sedition in connection with his privilege speech on Oct. 3, 2017 at the Senate.
“So here’s the answer now. If the soldiers could see this, they will use the M60 machine gun on you. These are many. The magazines will be emptied if you’re looking for PHP40 million, Mr. Duterte,” Trillanes said as quoted in the complaint.
The complaint also stemmed from Trillanes’ claim that Duterte has PHP2 billion in his bank account, which is “tending to create in the minds of the public a feeling of hatred and disgust towards the President.”
Under the Revised Penal Code, Panelo said a person could commit the crime of inciting to sedition if he provokes others by means of speeches or presentations to the accomplishment of any of the acts which constitute sedition.
“Senator Trillanes incited the soldiers to use a machine gun on the President and roused the people to force the President to do certain acts in order to inflict an act of hate upon the President and disturb peace and order, thereby preventing the government from maintaining the same. Under the law, those acts constitute the crime of inciting to sedition,” he explained.
Panelo added that it is clear that “inciting people to commit sedition against the President or the Government cannot be considered as part of Senator Trillanes’ official functions.”
Panelo also said Trillanes was wrong when he compared his criminal case to the President’s move to withdraw from the Rome Statue, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He said Trillanes is being heard by executive and judicial authorities having jurisdiction over his person while Duterte is being subjected to violations of his constitutional rights to due process and the presumption of innocence by a law (Rome Statute) “which is not even enforceable in this country.” (PNA)