By Genalyn Kabiling
No order authorizing the arrest or silencing of government critics has been issued by President Duterte.
The President said critics of government have the “time of their lives” to talk, disputing allegations that he was using his authority to silence dissent.
“I have yet to sign anything ordering the arrest or the silencing of anybody in this government especially the critics,” Duterte said over government television last Tuesday.
“The fact that they are doing it everyday only goes to show that I am giving them the time of their lives to just talk and talk and talk. Wala naman… It’s an invented phrase kasi ‘yang ‘silencing,” he said.
The President recently voided the amnesty given to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for two past military uprisings due to his failure to meet its requirements, including admission of guilt.
Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition groups have slammed the President’s amnesty recall as an attempt to silence critics of government.
Duterte however explained that the amnesty of Trillanes was flawed since it was signed by former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, not then President Benigno Aquino III.
He maintained that only the President has the power to grant amnesty and could not delegate such power to his alter ego. He said his predecessor made a “glaring mistake” when he let Gazmin approve such amnesty to Trillanes.
“I would rise and fall on the proposition that only the President himself physically doing the pardoning and granting the amnesty,” Duterte said.
“An act of pardon, an act of amnesty is always an act of state which cannot be done by a mere Cabinet member, especially if that Cabinet member was the one or was one of those who investigated and made the recommendation and approved the recommendation himself,” he added.
The President said the amnesty procedure was “totally wrong” since former President Benigno Aquino III issued a “motherhood” amnesty proclamation. The proclamation did not contain the names of the grantees, he added.
He said the problem arose when Gazmin recommended and approved the amnesty papers himself. He noted that Gazmin was “actually protecting Aquino” when he signed the document.
“He recommended to the President in a cover letter and then he signed,” he said.
“He was actually protecting Aquino. And there are — all the time sa lahat ng ano, they were protecting Aquino,” he added.