The Department of Justice has formed a special panel of prosecutors to conduct a preliminary investigation into the inciting to sedition complaint filed by the police against Vice President Leni Robredo, several incumbent, and former opposition senators, lawyers, and a number of bishops and priests.
The vice president and others named in the complaint are accused of being behind the “Ang Totoong Narco-list” video that implicated President Rodrigo Duterte’s family to the illegal drug trade.
READ: Leni, Leila, Bikoy face sedition raps
The panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia L. Torrevillas, and Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John M. Humarang and Gino Paolo S. Santiago.
On Thursday, the Philippine National Police filed a formal complaint before the DOJ against Robredo and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima; former senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, opposition senatorial candidates Gary C. Alejano, Florin T. Hilbay, Romulo B. Macalintal, Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, and Lorenzo R. Tanada III, accusing them of inciting to sedition, cyber libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice.
Peter Joemel Advincula, the self-confessed “Bikoy,” the hooded man in the “Ang Totoong Narco-list” videos, was also named a respondent, even though his claims were used as basis for the complaint against Robredo and her co-accused.
Others named respondents were former Education secretary and now La Salle President Armin Luistro, Jonnel Sangalang, a member of Trillanes’ Senate staff; Eduardo Acierto, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Serafin Salvador, Philip Sawali and Egon Cayosa, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, and clergy members, Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr. and Honesto Ongtico, Archbishops Pablo Virgilio David and Socrates Villegas and Fathers Robert Reyes, Flaviano Villanueva and Albert Alejo.
The PNP-CIDG submitted the sworn statement of Advincula detailing his supposed meetings with the respondents and how they planned “Project Sodoma” aimed at spreading lies against the President’s family and allies and toppling Duterte.
In filing the complaint, the PNP-CIDG cited the sworn statement of Advincula saying that he met with the respondents to plan the campaign.
“As averred by Mr. Advincula, he was engaged by the respondents to spread lies against the President, his family and close associates, making them to appear as illegal drug trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money,” said the complaint signed by Police Lt. Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
The Palace denied on Friday that it has a hand in the sedition charges filed against Robredo and 35 others.
“We have nothing to do with the complaints on VP and other senators. That’s basically a complaint of Bikoy, right? We don’t know anything,” Presidential Spokesman Panelo told Palace reporters, referring to Advincula by his alias.
Advincula claimed that he was “Bikoy,” the man speaking in the online video that made rounds on social media at the height of the May electoral campaign.
While he initially surfaced to assert the truth of his allegations, Advincula recanted after his arrest and said the video was funded by the opposition to destabilize the government.
“We have nothing to do about it and we will just let the case take its course,” Panelo said.
Robredo dismissed the charges as “hearsay” and mere harassment of the opposition.
Panelo said the news had reached the President Thursday night.
“I told him last night and he was surprised. He said ‘Who? Who filed?’ I said ‘Bikoy.’ He said ‘Oh.’”
A lawyer who said he helped Advincula prepare his latest affidavit, Larry Gadon, said the witness was in hiding because of possible threats to his life.
In the House, opposition and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Friday called for an independent commission to investigate the sedition complaint.
Lagman dismissed as malicious and baseless the allegations against Robredo, and other critics of the administration.
Trillanes said the charges were aimed at stifling democratic dissent.
He accused the PNP-CIDG investigators of clearly abusing and misusing the subpoena power recently bestowed on them to single out critics of the Duterte administration.
“They were aware they have no evidence other than the statement of a witness who repeatedly lied to the public, but they still proceeded with the filing of charges,” he said.
Lima belittled the case as “pure hogwash” as she questioned how the CIDG managed to file the cases without the benefit of any proper investigation.
The cases filed by the CIDG do not have “any semblance of decent and professional investigative work,” she added.
Hontiveros compared the case to a badly-written telenovela, with bad acting, an awful script and a terrible plot twist.
“Instead of devoting human resources and money to pursue big-time drug lords and other criminals, our police force goes on a wild goose chase to further harass and intimidate the democratic opposition,” she said.
“I find it ludicrous that after the Philippine National Police assailed the credibility of ‘Bikoy,’ even threatening him with arrest, when he came out with videos accusing President Rodrigo Duterte, his family and close political friends of links to illegal drugs, after he sings a different tune, the PNP now finds him credible,” she said.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate condemned the filing of sedition charges against the opposition as “baseless harassment.”
“It was just filed now to steal the thunder from the broadening movement against the excesses and tyrannical policies of the Duterte administration,” Zarate said.
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