DOJ panel to assess if Bikoy can be gov't witness in new sedition case

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution panel said on Thursday, February 13, that it will assess whether to use the flip-flopping Peter Joemel Advincula, alias Bikoy, as government witness in the conspiracy to commit sedition case against opposition figure Antonio Trillanes IV.

"We will think about it, we will assess the evidence, it is too early for us to tell you right now that we will utilize him as one of our witness," said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas, head of the DOJ panel that charged Trillanes et al over the Ang Totoong Narcolist (The true Narcolist) video.

In that video, President Rodrigo Duterte is accused of having links to the drug trade.

Advincula was the main witness of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP CIDG) when it filed the sedition complaint against Trillanes, Vice President Leni Robredo, and other key members of the opposition and the Catholic Church.

In the end, the panel charged Advincula, Trillanes, and 9 other people of the lesser crime of conspiracy to commit sedition, reasoning that "there was a plan intended to topple the Duterte administration."

Advincula has made massive retractions over the years, first being involved in accusations against Duterte, then turning the tables on the opposition. Even in the affidavits to support the CIDG's complaint, Advincula also exhibited several inconsistencies.

Bikoy's hits and misses

For example, in clearing Robredo, the panel said they believed the evidence presented by the Vice President's establishing that she was in Bulacan on March 4 instead of in Ateneo in Quezon City for an alleged meeting – contrary to what Advincula alleged.

If Advincula has proven to be not credible in some parts of his testimony, why is he credible in the rest?

"May mga statement siya na based na rin sa admission ng ibang respondents, na pinatutunayan 'yung statements na binigay ni Bikoy kaya this serves also na mag-corroborate na tama itong sinasabi ni Advincula with respect to the ibang respondents," said Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang.

(He has statements that are corroborated by the other respondents, and which also serve to confirm what Advincula has said with respect to the other respondents.)

Trillanes had admitted to meeting with Advincula to vet his information, but the former senator said he did not push through with presenting him as witness in the Senate.

The others charged, for example known advertising executive Yoly Villanueva Ong and Vice President Robredo's former communications officer Boom Enriquez, are accused of being behind the production team for the videos.

Priests Flaviano Villanueva, SVD and Albert Alejo, SJ are accused of assisting and providing shelter to Advincula throughout the so-called Project Sodoma.

"Those respondents who admitted knowing and having met respondent Advincula during the time the conspiracy was hatched cannot feign ignorance of its existence and claim innocence and immunity by invoking the doctrine of res res inter alios acta," said the panel in its resolution.

Res inter alios acta is a Latin term that, in essence, means the statement of an accused cannot be taken against another co-accused. 

Torrevillas said they can use new witnesses and new evidence when trial starts.

"The prosecution is not precluded from utlilizing other witnesses, other evidence when we already reach the court, when we prosecute this case in court," said Torrevillas.

Free speech

Torrevillas said this case may be one of the first conspiracy to commit sedition cases ever filed. 

Sedition cases are often linked to freedom of speech with questions on how the acts could rise to being seditious rather than just involving the constitutional right to express dissent.

Asked this, Torrevillas reiterated why Trillanes was charged with conspiracy to commit sedition.

"Because in conspiracy to commit, mere agreement, mere decision, okay let’s commit this, without necessarily going into the overt acts of committing the act of sedition, that is already punishable under the law," said Torrevillas.

The charges have been filed before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) with the panel recommending bail at P10,000 each.

This is Trillanes' 3rd sedition-related case under the Duterte administration. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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