No politics in sedition raps vs Trillanes: Panelo

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    MALACAÑANG yesterday distanced itself from the sedition charges slapped against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and said politics had nothing to do with the decision of the justice department.

    “We never engage with politics,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said a day after government prosecutors charged Trillanes and 10 others for alleged conspiracy to commit sedition in connection with the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.

    Panelo said the prosecutors had investigated the allegations against Trillanes and his co-accused and after finding probable cause, recommended the filing of the charges.

    “(But)if the evidence presented to them does not show there is (conspiracy), then they have no other alternative but to dismiss the case,” he said.

    Panelo assured Trillanes and the other respondents they will be accorded fair chance to defend themselves.

    “Again, the President says, let the law take its course. There are remedies available to them. They should avail of them,” he said.

    Panelo likewise said politics did not play any role in the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clear Vice President Leni Robredo and several opposition leaders of sedition, among others.

    The presidential spokesman said Duterte does not interfere in proceedings involving the departments and other government agencies.

    Meanwhile, the decision of the DOJ to exonerate members of the clergy from involvement in the supposed plot to overthrow the Duterte administration has given the Catholic bishops mixed emotions.

    Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vice president Bishop Pablo David said that while they are happy for being cleared from the sedition charges, they are saddened that some of their brother priests have been indicted.

    “Happy that the criminal charges of sedition, inciting to sedition, obstruction of justice, cyber libel and estafa filed against me, my brother bishops, and the rest of my fellow respondents by the PNP CIDG have been dismissed by the panel of prosecutors that did the preliminary investigation,” David said.

    “Sad that the same panel still found probable cause to indict the two priests, Fr. Albert Alejo SJ and Fr. Flavie Villanueva SVD, and several other individuals of conspiracy to commit sedition,” he added.

    The Caloocan prelate said they remain hopeful that the accused priests will soon be cleared like them.

    “That no probable cause decision was only right and long overdue. Those who filed the charges knew they had only manufactured it. I thank our lawyers and the panel of prosecutors for upholding the truth,” said Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani.

    David and Bacani were among the bishops cleared of the charges. The two other clergymen were Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco and former CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

    Villegas urged the accused priests to stand firm in their belief.

    “Pray for those who have been charged. I know the Lord will turn your anxieties into hope.

    Do not be afraid,” Villegas said.

    On Monday, the DOJ ruled that the clergymen showed no intention of committing sedition and that the complaints filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group lacked evidence.

    The sedition charges stemmed from the viral “Bikoy” video accusing Duterte and his family of involvement in the illegal drug trade. – With Gerard Naval