Bikoy reloaded
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 10, 2019 - 12:00am

President Rodrigo Duterte is not a candidate in the coming May 13 elections. But he has gotten the brunt of the brickbats as the campaign period winds down. With the election day drawing near – exactly three days from now – there is palpable last ditch negative campaign to bring down the edge of his administration-backed senatorial candidates who are obviously enjoying President Duterte’s continuing two-digit approval rating. 

That’s how Malacanang Palace sees it. The President is the real target of the latest smear campaign through the emergence of “Bikoy” who posted a video called “Ang Tunay na Narco List.” In that video, “Bikoy” directly accused the President’s partner Honeylet and their daughter along with his son Paolo Duterte as alleged beneficiaries of the illegal drug trafficking trade.

The President’s latest approval rating remains high despite sustained accusations against him of allegedly fomenting state-sanctioned extrajudicial killing of suspects caught in the controversial “Tokhang” police anti-illegal drugs operations.

If these bitter attacks do not affect the presidential approval rating, the next best thing is to drag down his immediate family members, including his closest adviser, former Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go. Although a neophyte in politics, Go has broken into the “magic 12” winning circle in mock polls as no less than the President personally endorsed him.

After several days the online video of “Bikoy” went viral, an ex-convict named Peter Joemel Advincula claimed he is the man whose face was covered in hoodie and admitted as the one who made these accusations against President Duterte. Advincula presented himself to media at the office of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Pasig City last Monday. Reading from a prepared statement, he claimed fearing for his life after his expose against the President and sought free legal assistance from the IBP. 

Unfortunately for Advincula, he met with someone with huge elephant memory. That someone turned out to be Hutch Altavas, a young political officer of then Senate majority leader and now Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

Altavas recognized Advincula as the same man whom he met in December 2016 when the latter made almost the same allegations. Not only did Altavas very well remembered their face-to-face meeting inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) at Muntinlupa City, he was even able to preserve the best pieces of evidence that included the visitor pass of his visit at the medium security compound at the NBP and text messages they exchanged. 

We had the privilege of being the venue of these uncovering the truth behind “Bikoy” when we had the Senate president as guest in our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay. Upon the invitation of Sotto, we conducted for the first time our breakfast news forum in the Senate Lounge at the GSIS building in Pasay City.

The Senate President presented a power point presentation comparing the details of Advincula’s allegations in his affidavit that he issued in 2016, and the one he purportedly made in the “Ang Totoong Narco-list” videos that have striking similarities except for a few names of those implicated. Sotto brought along Altavas who talked about his personal encounter with Advincula who, through third party intermediary, requested to testify at the Senate.

At that time, Sotto recalled, the illegal drugs case against Senator Leila de Lima was the subject of on-going investigations by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee. As it turned out, Advincula attempted to peddle the same story a few years ago and implicated several government officials of the previous administration, including no less than ex-president Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Aquino III.

Altavas dug up from their records the 2016 sworn affidavit of Advincula and compared the names listed in May 6 statement of “Bikoy” as those behind supposedly an illicit drug cartel operating here in our country. Some names were changed and new ones added as “patrons” and “patriarchs” of the “Quadrangle” drug cartel operating in the Philippines. 

Perhaps because his tough stand against illegal drugs jibes with that of the Duterte administration, Sotto surmised Advincula thought he would be able to get the interest of the office of the Senator. Himself a victim of black propaganda in the past that dragged his name as alleged coddler of illegal drugs syndicate, Sotto would not want the integrity of any person unfairly damaged by very serious accusations such as those dished out in the “Bikoy” video.

Hence, his staff at the Senate who included Altavas conducted due diligence to check and validate the allegations contained in Advincula’s affidavit.    

Altavas reported back to Sotto he found Advincula’s allegations were not credible, especially on the specific bank accounts of people supposedly into the “Quadrangle” drug cartel. Sotto described the self-confessed Bikoy appears to be a “flip,” meaning mentally unreliable, quoting the evaluation made by Altavas on Advincula.

“What’s important is the lesson, also possibly for a good legislation, is before you believe claims like these, especially one that destroys the reputation of other people, investigate first, vet it first,” Sotto pointed out. The Senate, he stressed, as an institution must not allow itself to be used by shady characters in the likes of Advincula.

While we were still holding our Kapihan breakfast forum, Sen. Panfilo Lacson announced the cancellation of the scheduled public hearing about the “Bikoy” expose by his Senate committee on public order. The IBP, too, announced rejecting Advincula’s request for legal help.

In his Twitter account, Lacson posted: “SP Sotto said it all. We are now recalling the letter of invitation sent to Advincula yesterday. Notices will be sent out for the cancellation of the committee hearing on Friday. Enough of this nonsense.”

This “nonsense” though got the attention he sought out. 

Woe to those who took hook, line and sinker Bikoy’s re-loaded “Quadrangle” tale.

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