The panel also dismissed other complaints of libel and cyberlibel, estafa and obstruction of justice that were filed by the PNP-CIDG against the respondents.
Office of the Vice President/Released, file
Trillanes sedition rap stays; Robredo, Otso cleared
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday dismissed the sedition complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) against Vice President Leni Robredo, seven Otso Diretso opposition candidates and four Catholic bishops.

Out of the original 36 respondents, the DOJ-National Prosecution Service (NPS) only recommended 11 of the respondents – including former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Jonnel Sangalang, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva and dismissed police official Eduardo Acierto who were reportedly part of the Technical Group of “Project Sodoma” – for indictment for conspiracy to commit sedition, under Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code.

Also recommended to be indicted were Peter Joemel Advincula, alias Bikoy; Joel Saracho, who reportedly acted as the narrator; Boom Enriquez, the videographer; a certain Monique, Enriquez’s assistant; Yolanda Ong and Vicente Romano III, scriptwriters; and Fr. Albert Alejo, who made the preparations with the Jesuit Communication Foundation, where the videos were allegedly recorded.

The DOJ dismissed the complaint filed against the other respondents, namely, Robredo, Sens. Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and seven of the Otso Diretso candidates: former Magdalo representative Gary Alejano, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Samira Gutoc, former Quezon representative Lorenzo Tanada III and former senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

Also absolved of any criminal liability were Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines vice president Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, former CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., former education secretary Armin Luistro and Fr. Ruben Reyes.

The complaint against the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) incumbent president Domingo Egon Cayosa and former president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo as well as former Supreme Court spokesman and Free Legal Assistance Group member Theodore Te were also dropped.

The complaints against lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Philip Sawali, Serafin Salvador, Carmelita Salvador, Danilo Songco and a certain attorney Chito were likewise dismissed.

In its 57-page resolution dated Jan. 27, the DOJ panel of prosecutors also found no probable cause to recommend the filing of sedition or inciting to sedition against the respondents because 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 or rise against the government.

The panel also dismissed other complaints of libel and cyberlibel, estafa and obstruction of justice that were filed by the PNP-CIDG against the respondents.

The panel explained that 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.”

Based on the testimonies and evidence presented during the preliminary investigation, the DOJ reportedly gathered proof against the 11 respondents, such as the online publication of the Bikoy videos; Advincula’s press conference at the IBP, where he reportedly admitted to being Bikoy and supposed whistle-blower Acierto’s press statement dated March 25, 2019, where he accused the President, his family and close associates of links to drugs and drug syndicates.

There were also reportedly admissions made by respondents, particularly coming from Advincula and certain admissions of Trillanes, that bolster the “existence of a grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to commit the crime of sedition.”

Sometime in April last year before the midterm elections, videos implicating members of the President’s family and his close associates in the drug trade were made public.

On May 7 last year, Advincula held a press conference at the IBP, where he claimed, among others, to be the “Bikoy” who appeared in the videos.

Advincula would later surrender to the authorities and alleged that the videos were made and released as part of Project Sodoma designed to make “fake news and false stories about the President, his family and his associates” to erode public trust in the present administration, remove the President, install Robredo as president and Trillanes as vice president.

This was reportedly aimed to boost the candidacy of the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates.

Advincula said his involvement in Sodoma started when he sought financial assistance from Alejo.

Advincula alleged it was Alejo who introduced him to Sangalang. Alejo also reportedly informed Sangalang of Advincula’s previous imprisonment at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and his possession of documents relating to the drug links of De Lima and former president Benigno Aquino III.

Advincula further claimed that Trillanes later met him and asked that he instead implicate Duterte members of his family and close associates in the drug trade.

Robredo yesterday welcomed the DOJ’s junking of the sedition case filed against her and other opposition figures in connection with the alleged plot to oust Duterte.

“This is proof of what I’ve been saying from the beginning, that this case was based on blatant lies and politicking. Now, the DOJ clearly stated that they have no evidence against me. I hope this is the end of all these intimidations (against the opposition),” Robredo wrote in Filipino in her personal Twitter account.

Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said the dismissal of the case “is a definitive condemnation of the fabricated accusations and trumped-up charges brought against her and 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… 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,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

Robredo was in her hometown Naga City when the DOJ released the decision.

Meanwhile, Trillanes described the filing of the conspiracy to commit sedition case against him as “absurd.”

“This latest absurd case is but another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics and the media. But let me assure Mr. Duterte that we will not be cowed by such political persecution,” the former senator said. – With Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

OTSO DIRETSO ROBREDO
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