​DOJ pursues sedition raps vs Trillanes, 10 others

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped six criminal charges against former Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV but pursued the case of conspiracy to commit sedition with 10 other persons in connection with the publication of “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video blogs by a certain “Bikoy” in early 2019.

A three-man DoJ panel submitted to the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court on Feb. 10 a 57-page resolution dated Jan. 27 to indict Trillanes along with Peter Joemel Advincula, Joel Saracho, Yolanda Villanueva Ong, Boom Enriquez, Jonnel Sangalang, Eduardo Acierto, Vicente Romano III, Catholic priests Flaviano Villanueva and Albert Alejo, and an alias “Monique.”

In a Feb. 10 statement, DOJ Spokesperson Markk Perete said the prosecution panel found probable cause to charge with conspiracy to commit sedition the 11 out of 30 respondents in the criminal complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in July 2019.

Conspiracy to commit sedition is punishable under Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code with imprisonment of two years, four months and one day to four years and two months, and a fine of up to P2,000.

Trillanes, in a statement, immediately dismissed his indictment as an “absurd case” and considered it as yet “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. On the contrary, we are more determined and motivated to continue our fight for democracy and the rights of our people,” the former senator vowed.

While pursuing the conspiracy to commit sedition case against Trillanes et al, the DOJ prosecutors dismissed the cases of sedition, inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, and obstruction of justice lodged by the PNP-CIDG against all 30 respondents that included Vice President Leni Robredo and outspoken Caloocan Bishop Pablo David.

Perete said that while the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video series may have “libelous imputations” against Duterte, it did not find words that “tended to incite the people to take up arms or rise against the government.”

"In finding no probable cause for sedition or inciting to sedition, the panel found the element of public and tumultuous uprising wanting," he explained.

But then, he said: “The panel explained that [there] were ‘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 view of toppling and destabilizing the current administration.’”

The prosecutors cited four circumstances to prove the alleged conspiracy to discredit and eventually topple the Duterte administration. These were:

  • The publication on the internet of “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video series that featured alias Bikoy spewing accusations that Duterte, his family, and former aide-turned-senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go were among those receiving money from illegal drug trade. The panel said Saracho, Enriquez, “Monique”, Ong and Romano III were involved in the filming and production of the videos. It added that Alejo prepared “JesCom”, referring to Jesuit Communications, as the venue for the videos shoot.
  • The May 7, 2019 press conference of Advincula at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines headquarters where he “admitted” to being Bikoy.
  • The March 25, 2019 press statement of Acierto linking “Duterte, his family, and political allies” to drugs and drug syndicates.
  • The admissions of respondents, including Trillanes, that prove the “existence of a grand conspiracy” to commit sedition.

Advincula, who has made contradicting statements before and after surrendering to the police, claimed that several members of the opposition and Catholic priests and bishops were involved in “Project Sodoma,” which sought to oust Duterte and to place Robredo and Trillanes as president and vice-president, respectively, and to boost the candidacy in the 2019 senatorial elections of the Otso Diretso candidates of the Liberal Party.

To date, Trillanes, a staunch critic of Duterte, is facing at least three sedition-related complaints all filed under the Duterte administration.

Responding to the dropping of the charges against Robredo, her spokesperson Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez said in a statement that it was “a clear condemnation” of the trumped up charges against the vice president and the other accused.

“Ang resolusyon ng Department of Justice Special Panel of Prosecutors na nagsasabing walang ebidensiya laban kay Bise Presidente Leni Robredo at nananawagang ibasura ang criminal complaint laban sa kaniya at 25 (sic) pang iba ay malinaw na pagkondena sa mga gawa-gawang akusasyon na pilit ibinabato sa kaniya,” Gutierrez said.

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