UP Law calls for dismissal of sedition rap vs lawyers
Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 others are facing criminal charges over the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" video series.
Ramon F Velasquez (CC BY-SA 3.0)

UP Law calls for dismissal of sedition rap vs lawyers

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2019 - 2:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — Faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Law on Monday called on the Department of Justice to junk a "baseless" sedition complaint that they said were "nothing but pure harassment, intimidation" against fellow professors Theodore Te and Serafin Salvador Jr and former professor Florin Hilbay. 

The Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in July accused 38 respondents of conspiring to oust President Rodrigo Duterte based on Peter Joemel Advincula's affidavit claiming the viral "Bikoy" videos were orchestrated by members of the Liberal Party.

Advincula says he is the "Bikoy" in the videos alleging Duterte and his allies have ties to illegal drugs.

The complaint is for "sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice."

This came after Advincula first asserted ties between presidential son Paolo Duterte, then-senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go and a drug syndicate operating out of Albay. 

The statement, which contained 93 signatures, described Advincula as "a person whose credibility is in serious doubt." 

It went on to cite the UN's Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provides that governments are to ensure that lawyers shall be able to carry out their professional duties "without intimidation" and without threat of prosecution. 

READ: DOJ starts probe into sedition raps vs Robredo, others

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has assured the public that the complaint would be resolved justly. "I assure everyone of utmost fairness on the resolution of this case. The evidence, or the lack of it, will speak for itself," he told reporters in a text message in July.

Also accused in the complaint were former senatorial candidates Chel Diokno, Gary Alejano, Romulo Macalintal, Samira Gutoc, as well as Vice President Leni Robredo herself. 

The respondents have denied involvement in any supposed conspiracy against the administration.

"This disturbing incident does not augur well for democracy," the UP Law faculty said.

"It is meant to silence legitimate criticism and dissent of lawyers and other members of the opposition."

Although the Duterte administration says it is committed to upholding freedom of expression, a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations revealed that 51% of Filipinos thought it "dangerous" to publicize anything critical of the administration, even if it is truthful.

In response to the statistic, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement in August that "the president respects criticisms as long as the same is not baseless, unfounded or false. He even urges the people, including writers and reporters, to freely express whatever sentiments they have."

Yet numerous cases against critics of the president, both in the government sector and in the media, have been filed. 

Sen. Leila de Lima, one of the president's more vocal critics, has been in detention at the police hedauqarters in Camp Crame over three drug charges she says are politically-motivated.

"Ours is a president who not only respects everyone's right to free speech but listens to our plight as he ensures that the fibers of our country's democracy are preserved and enhanced," Panelo said. 

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