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Politics

Duterte critic arrested for past rebellion as court revives charges

Opposition senator says Philippine democracy is 'gone'

Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes, an opposition leader who has accused President Rodrigo Duterte and his family of amassing billions of ill-gotten wealth, has also sued Duterte for crimes against humanity over the latter’s drug war.    © Reuters

MANILA -- An opposition senator in the Philippines was arrested on Tuesday after a court upheld President Rodrigo Duterte's bid to void an amnesty deal granted to him, one of his most outspoken critics.

A Makati City trial court revived rebellion charges against Senator Antonio Trillanes, an opposition leader who accused Duterte and his family of amassing billions of ill-gotten wealth. Trillanes has also sued Duterte for crimes against humanity over the latter's war on drugs that has killed thousands.

Trillanes slammed the arrest order, saying it was "clearly a harassment case."

"Officially, our democracy is gone. This case goes beyond me," Trillanes said on Tuesday, shortly before a police team led by Metro Manila's police chief arrested him at the Senate building. He was booked at the police headquarters of Makati City, the country's financial district.

Trillanes is expected to pay the 200,000 pesos in bail ($3,676) as he returns to trial for rebellion charges. Trillanes is a former navy lieutenant who led unsuccessful attempts to seize power from then President Gloria Arroyo in 2003 and 2007 by taking over luxury hotels in the country's financial district.

President Benigno Aquino, in 2010, granted amnesty to Trillanes and other soldiers who joined the failed coup attempts, ending almost eight years of detention. He won a senate seat in 2007 while in prison.

Duterte last month voided Trillanes' amnesty, after he allegedly failed to admit guilt, a key requisite for presidential reprieves. He ordered the justice department and the military courts to revive charges against Trillanes for his participation in those failed coup attempts.

Trillanes sought, but failed, to secure a restraining order from the Supreme Court, which instead ordered the Makati tribunal to tackle the validity of his amnesty.

The Makati court found legal basis in upholding Duterte's proclamation. "Accused Trillanes failed to prove his allegation of filing his application and which contained express admission of his guilt," the court said.

Trillanes has become the second opposition senator to be arrested under Duterte. In February 2017, Sen. Leila de Lima was arrested and jailed on drug conspiracy charges. De Lima in 2016 led a congressional inquiry into Duterte for ordering extrajudicial killings when he was mayor of Davao, a city in the southern Philippines.

Since taking office mid-2016, his critics have been removed from key positions. In May, a former chief justice who was critical of the president's war on drugs was removed by her colleagues at the Supreme Court. In late July, a senior anti-graft official was dismissed for disclosing a probe into Duterte's personal wealth.

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