DAVAO City – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday pleaded not guilty to four counts of libel filed against him by President Duterte’s eldest son Paolo and son-in-law lawyer Manases Carpio.
Trillanes, who arrived in the city early, to appear for his arraignment at 8:30 am before the Regional Trial Court Branch 54, told reporters his appearance here proved he is ready to face the charges.
He said he appeared at the arraignment “to demonstrate that we are recognizing the authority and jurisdiction of the Davao courts.”
But Trillanes downplayed the charges as “harassment cases just to inconvenience me, just to get me distracted.”
He vowed to continue with his role as a senator and speak out about the alleged excesses of the Duterte administration.
He described the reception of the Dabawenyos of him as “surprisingly warm” despite being declared by the city council a “persona non grata” in February 2018 for “spreading fake news” about Davao as the most dangerous place in the Philippines during his visit to Chicago.
“That’s a political resolution, but even if there’s nothing we can do because we had been subpoenaed by the court, even if the councilors of Davao City dislike me — to be welcomed here in Davao – we are obliged,” he said.
On Dec. 7, 2018, a Davao court issued an arrest warrant against Trillanes for four counts of libel. He immediately posted P96,000 bail or P24,000 for each case.
The court has rejected prosecutors’ request for the issuance of a hold-departure order against Trillanes.
“All told, this court finds that accused Antonio Trillanes IV is not a flight risk and that he will abide with the conditions imposed for his provisional liberty including his appearance before this Court when required,” Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 54 Judge Melinda Alconcel-Dayanghirang said in an order dated Dec. 12, 2018. The order was released yesterday.
The judge noted that Trillanes’s travels were allowed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
“While it is true that the accused has already left the country on December 11, 2018, and thus beyond the reach of this Court, however, the said travel is supported by Travel Order 2018-SR-090 (PS-OIRP) dated October 8, 2018, issued by Senate President Vicente Sotto III. The accused’s succeeding travel from January 27 to February 10, 2019, is likewise with authority of the Senate President,” the court stated.
Dayanghirang explained that from the court’s viewpoint, the trips or speaking engagements abroad “cannot be equated to flight or the voluntary withdrawal by the accused in order to avoid the continuance of the criminal proceedings.” (Antonio L. Colina IV of Mindanews, and PNA)