Duterte critic’s senate holdout continues

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is facing criticism from within government to his order to arrest one of his most prominent critics who has now been hiding in the senate building for 12 days to avoid arrest.

Senator Antonio Trillanes welcomed backing from the senate leadership, military and judiciary, which he said “forced Duterte to stand down” and wait for the courts to rule on the legality of the executive arrest orders.

“Duterte overreached and miscalculated. He wanted to push the boundaries of his executive power but the brazenness of the manner in which he did it, forced the institutions to push back. Duterte was forced to stand down, at least, at the moment,” Trillanes said.

The Department of Justice yesterday (Friday) again failed to secure an arrest warrant and a hold departure order against Trillanes.

Judge Elmo Alameda gave the opposing camps five days to reply to each other’s motions and to submit further evidence.

The populist president’s attempt to use troops to conduct a warrantless arrest against a critic drew parallels with martial law in the 1970s under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who Duterte has praised.

The president has unsuccessfully tried to make the military arrest Trillanes and court martial him over various cases, including a 2007 siege when Trillanes led troops to occupy luxury hotels to expose corruption in the military under then president Gloria Arroyo.

“The fact that Senator Trillanes has not been arrested is a victory for the rule of law and due process. We must, however, remain vigilant,” Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberals, told the media.

The opposition has repeatedly called on the generals to disobey illegal orders from the executive branch.

Trillanes’ lawyer Reynaldo Robles said the embattled senator would continue to seek refuge inside the senate, instead of risking arrest, despite Duterte’s assurances.

The military stepped back when senate leadership gave Trillanes refuge and stood its ground against arrests without a court warrant, leading the 73-year-old president to angrily dare the military on September 11 to mutiny against him.

“I have stated my clear stand on the matter. If the [military] thinks I am not competent, that I am not qualified to be sitting here – I discussed this with them in a command conference – it’s up to you. If you want another president, fine,” Duterte said earlier in the week.

President Rodrigo Duterte remains popular. Picture credit: Wikimedia