By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 54 has rejected the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition to prevent Senator Antonio Trillanes IV from leaving the country.
In an order dated December 12, 2018, which was released to media on Tuesday, Branch 54 Presiding Judge Melinda Alconcel-Dayanghirang denied the DOJ’s motion for an issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) against Trillanes in relation to his scheduled trips abroad.
Dayanghirang found that Trillanes “is not a flight risk.”
Trillanes, meanwhile, welcomed the court’s decision.
“Winewelcome ko decision ng judge na ‘wag magissue ng HDO. Unang una libel case lang naman ito at pinakita ko na di ako flight risk. That’s very encouraging na moving forward, kung mag-proceed man ang kasong ito, may indications ng objectivity and fairness,” he said in a text message to reporters.
(I welcome the judge’s decision not to issue an HDO. First of all, this is just a libel case and I have shown that I am not a flight risk. That’s very encouraging that, moving forward, should these cases proceed, there are indications of objectivity and fairness by the court.)
The Davao City RTC Branch 54 handles the libel cases filed by former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte against his family’s staunchest critic. Last December 7, it ordered Trillanes’ arrest over four counts of libel.
The court noted that the opposition senator has surrendered himself to its jurisdiction when he posted bail on December 10 to lift the implementation of the arrest warrant.
“To the Court’s mind, the immediate voluntary surrender of the accused to the court upon his knowledge from media accounts of the warrants of arrest issued against him indicates that the risk of his flight or escape from this jurisdiction are highly unlikely,” part of the Branch 54 decision read.
“His voluntary surrender and placing himself under the jurisdiction of the court is a demonstration of his utter respect for the legal processes of this country,” it added.
The court also cited that Trillanes’ trips were authorized by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and are related to his functions as a senator of the country.
The DOJ, on the other hand, had admitted during a December 7 hearing that it “does not have evidence to show that the accused will not return to the country after his scheduled trips abroad.”
Trillanes was in Davao City on Tuesday to attend his arraignment for the libel charges, despite him being a persona non grata in the city.
Last December 11, he left for a month long trip to Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. He is set to fly to United States on January 27.