Trillanes moves for dismissal of sedition charge over 'Ang Totoong Narcolist' videos

In this Dec. 10, 2018 file photo shows Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV visiting the Pasay court to pay the bail amounting to P96,000 or P24,000 for each of four counts of libel.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has moved for the dismissal for the conspiracy to commit inciting to sedition charge he is facing over his supposed involvement in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” anonymous videos.

Trillanes was supposed to be arraigned on Tuesday before a Quezon City court, but his lawyer Reynaldo Robles said the arraignment was reset pending the Motion to Quash Information, or a pleading seeking the dismissal of the case, they filed.

The former senator has joined the Motion to Quash filed by his co-accused Joselito Saracho, who was accused as the narrator in the anonymous video series accusing the Dutertes of having links to the illegal drug trade.

“Accused Trillanes, after reading the subject motion, believes with great faith that the subject motion [Saracho’s] raised valid legal issues which must be first addressed and/or resolved before the arraignment of the Accused,” their motion filed October 19 read.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that tagged more than 30 known opposition figures, including Vice President Leni Robredo, over the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.

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

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Only 11 people were indicted and brought to court. Trillanes and 10 others, including members of the clergy, with conspiracy to commit sedition, were charged for supposedly conspiring to discredit and eventually oust President Rodrigo Duterte by releasing the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.

Fr. Flaviano Villanueva said he and Fr. Albert Alejo pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Saracho: Information is defective

In Saracho’s motion filed October 15, he said the Information or charge sheet filed failed to contain factual allegations to establish the elements of conspiracy and the crime of sedition.

He said that the Information only contained the approximate time and place of the commission of the offense and “conclusions of law, consequently depriving the accused of their constitutional right to be informed of the nature of the charge against them.”

Part of the Information read that the accused “come to an agreement and decide to rise publicly and tumultuously, and to employ force, intimidation and other means outside of legal methods against [Duterte].”

Saracho said that due to the lack of specific details in the Information, they are left to guesswork since they are not informed of the nature and cause of charge against him.

“In People v. Pangilinan, the Supreme Court held, citing People v. Dela Cruz, that a defective or deficient information is void,” he said, adding that the two cases “emphasized that the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against an accused cannot be waived for reasons of public policy.”

Saracho moved for the dismissal of the case. “Surely, to let the accused suffer the travails of a protracted criminal trial only to be acquitted in the end on the ground that the Information from which the case originated was null and void is totally unjust and inhuman, adds to the unnecessary clogging of dockets, and should not be countenanced by the Court.”

Robles said the state prosecutor asked for 10 days to comment on the motion to quash, after which it would be submitted for resolution.

Next hearing is set on Jan. 21, 2021.

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