Duterte orders arrest of top Philippine critic over 2003 mutiny against Gloria Arroyo

Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (centre), a former military mutiny leader, walks back to his office at the Philippine Senate in Manila, on Sept 4, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of one of his top critics over a failed mutiny more than a decade ago, in what observers see as his latest move to silence political opponents.

In a proclamation dated Aug 31 that was published in the Manila Times' classifieds Tuesday, Mr Duterte revoked an amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes for 2003 and 2007 coup attempts against former leader Gloria Arroyo.

The order said the military and police should "employ all lawful means" to apprehend the former naval officer so he can be detained and stand trial.

Mr Duterte is currently travelling in Israel and Jordan. His spokesman Harry Roque didn't immediately reply to requests for comment.

Mr Trillanes told reporters on Tuesday that amnesty is an act of Congress that can't be revoked through executive order.

"This is a clear case of political persecution," he said in a televised briefing. "It should be clear to everyone that Mr Duterte is a dictator. He doesn't respect the institutions."

Mr Trillanes becomes the second senator and fierce Duterte critic to face arrest after Senator Leila de Lima was detained in February 2017 on drug-trafficking charges, which she has denied.

Days before the May 2016 election, Mr Trillanes filed a plunder complaint against Mr Duterte, who was then Davao City mayor.

Mr Trillanes tried twice but failed to unseat Ms Arroyo, who is now speaker of the House of Representatives and a Duterte ally. In July 2003, Mr Trillanes led more than 300 junior military officers in taking over a hotel in Manila's business district, but surrendered later that day.

In 2007, he tried a second coup attempt by seizing another luxury hotel district but it was similarly quashed by the armed forces.

Mr Trillanes' amnesty was granted in 2011 by Mr Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino, leading to his release from detention. He won a seat in the Senate in 2007 while campaigning from detention, and was re-elected in 2013.

Mr Duterte's order said the amnesty was revoked because he didn't file an application for pardon and never expressed guilt for the crimes committed, as required by law. Mr Trillanes on Tuesday denied that he violated any terms of the amnesty.

Said Mr Antonio La Viña, a professor at Ateneo de Manila University: "This is a blatant attack on the critical and political opposition."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.