Last July 18, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) filed a criminal complaint of sedition/inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, and harboring a criminal/obstruction of justice against Robredo, those identified to be in the opposition and critics of President Duterte.
Leni Robredo FB Page
DOJ summons Robredo, 35 others in sedition raps
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday sent out subpoenas to Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 other respondents in connection with a sedition complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) over an alleged plot to discredit the President and his allies.

Last July 18, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) filed a criminal complaint of sedition/inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, and harboring a criminal/obstruction of justice against Robredo, those identified to be in the opposition and critics of President Duterte.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the subpoenas were served yesterday, and “the preliminary investigation is set on Aug. 9 at 10 a.m.”

Guevarra said the special panel of prosecutors that would handle the preliminary investigation of the criminal complaint are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas and Assistant State Prosecutors Michael Humarang and Gino Paolo Santiago.

“The Vice President is already in the process of forming her entire legal team to take this on, so we will refer this matter for study,” Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said in an interview with ANC yesterday. 

“The Vice President, from the outset, has always said that she is willing and ready to face any charges against her. The Vice President believes that you should not be frightened as long as you hold the truth,” he said.

The PNP-CIDG’s witness, Peter Joemel Advincula, who claims to be “Bikoy” in the six-part “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos, was listed as one of the respondents and at the same time their witness in the complaint. 

Advincula previously claimed that relatives and friends of the President were allegedly involved in illegal drug operations in the country, before changing his story and implicating members of the opposition in a destabilization plot against the Duterte government.

The PNP-CIDG said that the alleged crime was committed at the Jesuit Communication Building of the Ateneo de Manila University Compound in Quezon City from February to May 2019, “wherein they planned to spread false information against President Duterte’s family and administration officials in order to agitate the general population into making mass protest with the possibility of bringing down the President from the position, and allow Vice President Robredo to instantly succeed.”

The intention of the video was reportedly the “spread of false information” and that the accusation would “bring down the popularity of the administration senatorial candidates and, in turn, boost the campaign of Otso Diretso candidates for the 2019 mid-term elections,” the PNP-CIDG added.

Based on evidence, no ulterior motive

PNP spokesman Brig. General Bernard Banac said that there was no other intention in filing the sedition case against Robredo and other opposition leaders other than to fulfill its mandate of investigating possible commissions of crimes.

“The filing of a sedition case against the VP and other personalities is really based on evidence and the investigation done by the PNP. The leadership had no other intention other than that,” Banac told reporters in Filipino. 

Banac also distanced the PNP from the possible impeachment case against Robredo, which was put forward by the private lawyer of Advincula, Larry Gadon.

“The PNP has nothing to do, nor did it have any influence if there would be an impeachment case against our official,” Banac added.

Gadon said he is considering an impeachment case against Robredo after the DOJ releases its results of its preliminary investigation.

Spokesman Gutierrez said Robredo, who is an impeachable officer, could not be removed from office by a regular court.

“As an impeachable officer, you cannot be removed by any other means except impeachment. That’s the basic constitutional principle. Every first-year law student knows that. If you are convicted of a crime under the Revised Penal Code – inciting to sedition, violation of cybercrime; obstruction of justice… most of these crimes carry the penalty of disqualification from holding public office. In effect, it will result in a removal, and you will be violating the basic rule that you can only be removed by impeachment,” Gutierrez said.

“In that sense, she has immunity, that she cannot be convicted of a crime, unless she is impeached. That’s my understanding of constitutional law,” he said.

Sec. Guevarra earlier said the 1987 Constitution does not grant the Vice President immunity from criminal suit while in office – unlike the President. “The Constitution does not grant the Vice President immunity from suit. Since she is not immune from suit, the Vice President has to face the charges even during her tenure,” he said.

Gutierrez maintained the filing of charges against Robredo and other members of the opposition as well as Catholic bishops is nothing but political harassment.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) reacted to the comment of former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, who is one the respondents in the sedition complaint, who reportedly said that the OSG’s assistance to the PNP-CIDG in drafting the affidavit of Advincula is beyond the scope of authority of the OSG.

“The OSG is firm with its earlier position that as statutory counsel of the government and all its agencies and instrumentalities, the OSG is well within the bounds of law in rendering legal services sought by PNP, its client-agency,” the OSG said in a statement. 

“Hilbay ought to know that prior to the filing of a complaint with the DOJ, the PNP, as law enforcement agency, is mandated to gather all the necessary evidence to build-up a case. The legal services rendered by the OSG to the PNP are not limited to rendering opinions or representing it before the courts but also in all and every aspect where legal know-how is needed in order to fulfill the duties of the PNP,” it added.

Meanwhile, advocacy group Team Pilipinas submitted a one-page letter to the DOJ asking Sec. Guevarra to dismiss the sedition complaint filed by the PNP-CIDG against Robredo.

“As Filipino citizens who have a right and duty to protect our votes, we implore you to dismiss these charges as they are baseless and just another attempt to silence opposition against the administration,” Team Pilipinas said.

Bianca Lacaba of Team Pilipinas said they started an online petition to dismiss the charges against the Vice President last Sunday, July 21. As of yesterday morning, it had already gathered 16,809 signatures of support at online petition website Change.org. – With Romina Cabrera, Helen Flores

CYBER LIBEL ESTAFA LENI ROBREDO LIBEL OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE SEDITION
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