DOJ indicts Trillanes, 10 others on conspiracy to commit sedition over 'Bikoy' videos

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ indicts Trillanes, 10 others on conspiracy to commit sedition over 'Bikoy' videos
In this May 23, 2019 file photo, the Philippine National Police presents Peter Joemel Advincula, the man claiming to be the "Bikoy" in the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" video series.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines (Update 3; 2:34 p.m.) — The Department of Justice is bringing opposition figure former Sen. Antono Trillanes IV and members of the clergy to court for supposedly conspiring to discredit and eventually oust President Rodrigo Duterte by releasing a series of anonymously posted videos alleging the president, his family, and his allies had links to the illegal drug trade.

State prosecutors found probable cause to charge Trillanes and the following with violation of Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code or Conspiracy to Commit Sedition over the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" video blogs:

  • Peter Joemel Advincula
  • Jonnel Sangalang
  • Yolanda Villanueva Ong
  • Fr. Flaviano Villanueva
  • Fr. Robert Alejo
  • Vicente Romano III
  • Joel Saracho
  • Eduardo Acierto
  • Boom Enriquez
  • "Monique"

The Information or charge sheet is filed before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court.

Under the Revised Penal Code, the crime of "conspiracy to commit sedition" is punishable by imprisonment of from two years, four months and a day to four years and two months and a fine of up to P2,000.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said in a statement that the prosecution panel found "interlocking pieces of proof" that 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 "pieces of proof" are the following:

  • The online publication of the Bikoy videos: Saracho acted as narrator, Enriquez as videographer, “Monique” as assistant, Ong and Romano as scriptwriters; Fr. Alejo prepared the JesCom, where the video was taken.

JesCom may refer to Jesuit Communications, which is in the Ateneo de Manila University campus. JesCom, according to its website, is the media arm of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.

  • Press conference of Advincula at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on in May 2019
  • Press statement of Acierto on March 25 where he accused the presidential family of drug links
  • Admissions made by respondents: Advincula’s admission of Trillanes which bolster the “existence of a grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to commit the crime of sedition”

Other raps junked

The prosecution panel only indicted Trillanes and the 10 others on conspiracy to commit sedition, but dropped the CIDG’s sedition, cyber libel, libel estafa and obstruction of justice complaints against all respondents.

"In finding no probable cause for sedition or inciting to sedition, the Panel found the element of public and tumultuous uprising wanting," Perete explained in the statement.

Perete also said that the panel found that while the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video series contained "libellous imputations" against Duterte, there were no words that “tended to incite the people to take up arms or rise against the government.”

Trillanes: Absurd case

In a statement to media, Trillanes called the charge against him an "absurd case."

He said the indictment "is but another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics and the media."

He said, however, that he will not be cowed by the case, which he branded as political persecution.

"On the contrary, we are more determined and motivated to continue our fight for democracy and the rights of our people," Trillanes, who had previously been charged with inciting to sedition, and is facing a revived rebellion case after Duterte ordered an amnesty granted during the Aquino administration void.

Government 'star witness' Peter Advincula

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which drew largely from the statement of respondent-witness Peter Joemel Advincula, a convicted swindler.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III previously said Advincula— who twice claimed, in vastly different circumstances, to be the hooded man in the video—reached out to his office in 2016. Advincula accused then-President Benigno Aquino III, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of having links to a so-called "Quadrangle" drug syndicate.

READ: The shifting narratives on the 'Bikoy' videos, according to Peter Advincula

The complaint is the largest legal suit of the government against the opposition, with more than 30 personalities, ranging from politicians to members of the clergy, accused of scheming to bring down the government.

The Palace has said that it has nothing to do with the complaint, but during the preliminary investigation, the respondents questioned the participation of the Office of the Solicitor General in drafting Advincula's affidavit.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government's chief lawyer, insisted its authority in helping the PNP in its complaint.

The Palace also held press briefings to present a supposed "matrix" of personalities allegedly associated with the "Bikoy" videos.

READ: Inside the inciting to sedition charge vs 'sharer' of 'Bikoy' videos

This is a developing story.

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