By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on October 2, admitted some lapses in the transfer of documents, which included the supposedly missing application for an amnesty by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
“Apparently, there were some lapses in the document, which were not yet brought down to J1. Our suspicion (is that) the repository of all these documents did not bring the documents to us in GHQ,” replied AFP Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez when Trillanes asked if his application was for a general amnesty.
The J1 is AFP General Headquarters’ (GHQ) personnel division which handles papers of its staff both active and retired.
Trillanes said those responsible for the supposed “loss” of his amnesty application should be held liable in court.
“Did I apply for amnesty?” asked Trillanes during the Senate finance committee deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of National Defense for 2019.
He also questioned military officials present in the budget hearing if they conducted an internal investigation to account for his missing amnesty papers.
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana told Trillanes he was “not knowledgeable” on what happened because the processing of his amnesty application was done during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
But he admitted that last August 16, he received a call from Solicitor Gen. Jose Calida asking him if they could produce the amnesty records. He related that his staff was able to produce Proclamation No. 75 issued by Aquino, as well as an amnesty document signed by then-Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin.
“’Yun lang ang galing sa amin, those are the only two documents that were given to (Calida) which I think are public documents anyway,” Lorenzana told the Senate hearing.
But later on, he said, Calida wrote the GHQ to ask for some other records like Trillanes’ amnesty application.
Lorenzana said a J1 staff, however, certified that the Senator’s amnesty application could not be found or “inexistent” at the GHQ.
“Those are the documents that SolGen. Calida got from DND and GHQ,” he emphasized.
When Trillanes asked if the DND has already conducted its own investigation on the missing document, Lorenzana said: “We did, we did, Senator. And in fact, we dug up we couldn’t find any.”
“So, we reached out to the members of the ad hoc committee on amnesty, and they still don’t have answers. Their answers are not forthcoming. Anyway, we have invited them also (at the HQ to shed light on this missing document),” he said.
Trillanes was implicated in at least two military uprisings — the 2003 Manila Peninsula siege and the 2007 Oakwood mutiny, to overthrow the government of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
On the other hand, Galvez said they had tried to reach out to the ad hoc committee which processed the Senator’s amnesty application.
He also said that based on the Ad Hoc committee’s head Honorio Azcueta and the head of its secretariat Colonel Josefa Berbigal, Trillanes applied for a general amnesty. “They already certified Trillanes applying,” said Galvez.
“Lt. Col. Josefa Berbigal is the one who administered your oath,” Galvez said.
Berbigal, an officer at the Judge Advocate General’s office, has filed an affidavit in court, supporting Trillanes’ claim that he applied for amnesty and it was granted by the past administration.
In voiding Trillanes’s amnesty, President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No 572 cited his failure to apply for a general amnesty and to admit his guilt in the crimes committed.
Duterte also ordered the Department of Justice and the Court Martial of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “to pursue all criminal and administrative charges” against the Senator.
Before Trillanes could ask more questions, Sen. Panfilo Lacson interrupted and reminded him that they were in a budget briefing, and that there were better platforms for his questions.
However, Lacson said that he would be lenient that time and allow Trillanes to continue his questioning.
Trillanes reiterated his question to the AFP chief: “Did I apply for amnesty?”
Galvez deferred to the affidavit of Berbigal that Trillanes indeed applied.
“Based on the testimony of (Col.) Josefa Berbigal,” he said.
“So, I applied, Sir. According to her?” Trillanes asked.
“According to her,” answered Galvez.