This May 8, 2016 on Mother’s Day, Presidential Aspirant Rodrigo Duterte treated the nation to an interesting spectacle. He filed charges of treason and espionage against sitting President BS Aquino and Senator Trillanes.

The charge alleges “back-channel talks” with China  that “only advanced [the] interest of our Asian neighbor.” The salient points of the charge state

“Senator Trillanes met with the Chinese 16 times, and he requested that the meeting [be] secret. In those meetings, Trillanes made mention that the Philippines cannot enforce coastal protection. And that made the Chinese take an aggressive [stance] and take over our areas like Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands. That alone constitutes treason,”

Will the Charge of Treason Prosper

The case smacks of a recent case filed in March 2015 where forrmer Governor Homobono Adaza levied charges of treason against BS Aquino and the members of the Philippine peace panel for the creation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The heart of the charge pointed that the President and the members of the peace panel entered into an agreement with  the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which would for all instances, create a sub-state. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales asserts the matter to be an act of treason

To my mind, the BBL is contrary to the Constitution and that its proponents committed grave disloyalty. As vexed as I was , the complaint for treason will not prosper. Let us look at the crime of treason under the Revised Penal Code

Art. 114. Treason. — Any person who, owing allegiance to (the United States or) the Government of the Philippine Islands, not being a foreigner, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort within the Philippine Islands or elsewhere, shall be punished by reclusion temporal to death and shall pay a fine not to exceed P20,000 pesos.
No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses at least to the same overt act or on confession of the accused in open court.chanrobles virtual law library

Treason, as per jurisprudence, is a crime committed in times only of an international armed conflict. The act of levying war must be against the Republic of the Philippines at a time when it is at war with a foreign enemy. Beyond World War 2, no convictions for treason ever prospered

The Case Filed By Rodrigo Duterte Follows The Same Vein.

Basic criminal law states that when all of the elements of the alleged crime are not present, the act cannot be penalized as criminal.

Currently, the Philippines is not at war. Since we are not at war, no one can be guilty of treason.

Does this mean though that Aquino and Trillanes have no criminal culpability?

Not necessarily. The acts of disloyalty may constitute another crime which legal eagles may discern. Treason is merely not the charge to file.