A former Philippine navy lieutenant accused of leading a 2003 coup plot before winning a Senate seat from jail has been released from seven years in detention in a presidential amnesty for military rebels, officials said yesterday.
Antonio Trillanes IV is the most prominent of about 300 troops who seized an upscale Manila hotel on July 27, 2003, to demand the resignation of then-Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for alleged corruption. Although they surrendered the same night without a shot fired, the mutiny underscored the Philippines’ political instability during Arroyo’s tumultuous nine-year reign.
Trillanes thanked Philippine President Benigno Aquino III for the amnesty and promised to work with him as he walked out of his cell at the national police headquarters late on Monday.
“I believe it will take a while before I recover my bearings, but it’s a pleasant experience,” he told GMA television, adding that he plans to attend a Senate session for the first time next month.
Aquino took office after a landslide election win in May promising to end corruption and in October granted amnesty to all officers and soldiers accused of plotting against Arroyo.
Nine of the officers pleaded guilty to coup charges and were sentenced in 2008 to prison terms of 12 to 40 years. They later apologized to Arroyo, who pardoned them. However, Trillanes maintained that he did nothing wrong and went on trial, though there has not yet been any outcome.
In 2007, while attending proceedings on coup charges, Trillanes and several other officers walked out of the courtroom and took over The Manila Peninsula Hotel in the capital’s financial district, again demanding Arroyo’s resignation. They gave up after troops drove an armored carrier into the lobby and fired tear gas and warning shots.
Trillanes’ stunts and anti-corruption image made him popular with the public and later in 2007 he successfully campaigned for a Senate seat.