THE justice department yesterday filed charges of conspiracy to commit sedition against former Sen. Antonio Trillanes and 10 others before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court in connection with the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos that linked family members of President Duterte to the illegal drugs trade in the country.
At the same time, Department of Justice (DOJ) junked due to lack of evidence the sedition, inciting to sedition, cyber-libel, estafa and obstruction of justice charges slapped against Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition figures also in relation to the same video presentation.
Aside from Trillanes, also hauled before the Quezon City court were Peter Joemel Advincula alias “Bikoy,” Jonnel Sangalang, Yolanda Villanueva-Ong, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Fr. Albert Alejo, Vicente “Enteng” Romano III, actor Joel Saracho, Eduardo Acierto, Boom Enriquez and one alias Monique.
The prosecution is expected to use Advincula as a state witness against his co-accused.
Trillanes, in a message sent to reporters, said the case filed against him and his co-accused was “another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against political opposition, critics, and the media.”
“But let me assure Mr. Duterte that we will not be cowed by such political persecution. On the contrary, we are more determined and motivated to continue our fight for democracy and rights of our people,” Trillanes said.
In a four-page information filed with the court, the DOJ accused the respondents of allegedly conspiring to commit sedition as defined and penalized under Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
“That sometime between the period of August 2018 to May 2019, in Quezon City, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously come to an agreement and decide to rise publicly and tumultuously, and to employ force, intimidation and other means outside of legal methods against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the duly-elected President of the Republic of the Philippines and the highest public officer of the land, by circulating malicious and scurrilous libels and fabricating evidence against him and his immediate family members,” the complaint sheet read.
The DOJ alleged that the respondents through their acts “make it appear that the President and his family are engaged in a drug trade syndicate, with no other purpose but to inflict an act of hate or revenge against the President of the Philippines and his immediate family members.”
The DOJ cited as evidence the online publication of the Bikoy videos which insinuated that members of Duterte’s family and some of his political allies were recipients of grease money from narco-traders.
In the course of the preliminary investigation, the DOJ said prosecutors were able to supposedly establish that the six-part videos were made by Advincula, with Saracho as the narrator; Enriquez, the videographer; and alias Monique as Enriquez’ assistant; and Ong and Romano as scriptwriters.
The DOJ panel likewise said Alejo arranged the production of the videos at the Jesuit Communication Building located inside the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.
The panel also cited the press conference of Advincula at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) where he, among others, admitted that he was Bikoy, the supposed whistleblower featured in the videos, and the press statement of Acierto on March 25, 2019 accusing Duterte, his family and close associates of supposed links to the illegal drugs trade.
It also quoted the admission and allegations of Advincula when he recanted his accusations against Duterte which the panel said bolstered the “existence of a grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to commit the crime of sedition.”
“The following interlocking pieces of proof provide a complete picture of the grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to create hatred or revenge against the President and his family with the end in view of toppling and destabilizing the current administration,” the DOJ said.
ROBREDO ET AL CLEARED
While filing a case against the former senator, the DOJ cleared Robredo and other respondents after the panel of prosecutors said they found the evidence against them “wanting.”
“While the video series contains libelous imputations against President Duterte and his family which tend to create hatred or revenge against them, nonetheless no words were uttered which tended to incite the people to take up arms against the government,” it said.
Cleared with Robredo were De Lima, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and members of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate, namely former senator Bam Aquino, former Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, former education secretary Armin Luistro, former IBP president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Serafin Salvador and Philip Sawali; IBP national president Domingo Egon Cayosa, former Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te and clergy members Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr., and Honesto Ongtico, Archbishops Pablo Virgilio David and Socrates Villegas.
Robredo felt vindicated, saying: “Patunay lang ito sa sinasabi ko noon pang simula: na lantarang kasinungalingan ang batayan sa kasong ito, at ito ay pamumulitika lamang (It’s proof of what I’ve been saying from the start – that it’s a blatant lie and that it’s just politicking.”
The Vice President said she expects the allegations to end now that the DOJ has already found out that there is no evidence against her.
“Umaasa ako na ito na ang katapusan ng panggugulong ito (I expect that this will be the end of this ruckus),” the Vice President said in a statement.
Robredo’s spokesman, former Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez, said the dismissal of the case “is a definitive condemnation of the fabricated accusations and trumped-up charges brought against her.”
Gutierrez said the dismissal “stands as vindication of what she has maintained from the start: that these charges were never anything more than lies and political harassment.”
“We hope that this decisive conclusion by the panel, which it discusses thoroughly in its 51-page resolution, puts an end to this campaign of lies against the Vice President. And while she has not once allowed this baseless persecution to distract her from fulfilling her mandate of serving the Filipino people, she can now continue her work without this added and unnecessary burden,” he said. – With Raymond Africa and Wendell Vigilia