MANILA, Philippines – In charging 11 people, including former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, of conspiracy to commit sedition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will try to prove in court the repeated claims of the Duterte administration about the existence of a destabilization plot.
"The panel cannot close its eyes to the fact that there was a plan intended to topple the Duterte administration," the panel said in its 52-page resolution charging Trillanes et al of conspiracy to commit sedition, signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas and Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Gino Paolo Santiago.
The panel also charged Peter Joemel Advincula, alias Bikoy, the supposed whistleblower in the Ang Totoong Narcolist (The True Narcolist) video, over which the complaints were filed.
But Torrevillas said the Bikoy videos were not the only proof that there was conspiracy to topple Duterte.
"The press conferences, the coming out of Eduardo Acierto linking the President and his family to the illegal drug syndicate, and remember the timing, these evidence came out when it was almost election period," Torrevillas said during a news conference on Thursday, February 13.
Torrevillas was referring to the media interviews of former police official Acierto where he alleged to have intelligence about the alleged involvement in the drug trade of Duterte's economic adviser Michael Yang. Acierto said both Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) ignored his intelligence.
Asked whether the panel found evidence showing that the charged individuals – who include known advertising executive Yoly Villanueva Ong and Vice President Leni Robredo's former communications officer Boom Enriquez – were involved in the Acierto interview, Torrevillas did not answer directly.
"The Acierto press conference confirms only the conspiracy, the conspiracy hatched at that time which is an act of hate against the President," said Torrevillas.
Acierto was charged along with Trillanes.
The others charged with conspiracy to commit sedition are Ong, Enriquez, Jonnell Sangalang, Vicente Romano, JM Saracho, and a certain "Monique" for allegedly helping produce the Bikoy videos.
Also charged are priests Flaviano Villanueva, SVD and Albert Alejo, SJ, who, according to Advincula, assisted him and gave him shelter throughout the so-called project.
Why conspiracy to commit sedition?
Sedition under Article 139 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) is said to be "committed by persons who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to attain by force, intimidation, or by other means outside of legal methods, any of the following objects..."
Article 139 lists 5 modes of sedition, one of which applies to Trillanes et al, according to Torrevillas: conspiring to "inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee."
Yet in its resolution, the panel said "there is nothing in the subject videos which calls or addresses the people to rise publicly and tumultuously against the present administration."
How can there be a conspiracy to commit sedition when there is no crime of sedition? Torrevillas replied, "Conspiracy to commit sedition is a different crime. We are talking here of two different crimes. We are talking here of the conspiracy, which the law punishes, mere agreement."
Conspiracy to commit sedition is a different provision, Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes "persons conspiring to commit the crime of sedition."
"No need to specify one by one the overt acts because the overt acts, they are not needed in order to hold you answerable for conspiracy. Hiwalay po yun (that's separate). These are mere indications that indeed there was a grand conspiracy to commit sedition," said Torrevillas.
Torrevillas added that the production and uploading of the Bikoy videos, as well as Acierto's press conference "clearly manifested that indeed there was a grand conspiracy."
In May 2019, a different prosecution panel of the DOJ charged webmaster Rodel Jayme of inciting to sedition for creating the website Metrobalita.net which was found to have significantly spread the Bikoy videos.
How is a webmaster charged for inciting to sedition, and Advincula – who admits to starring in the videos – be charged with the lesser crime of conspiracy to commit sedition?
"I apologize but I am not aware of that case," said Torrevillas.
Both cases had the approval of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon. Fadullon approved the Jayme resolution as the acting prosecutor general, and recommended approval for the Bikoy resolution.
The Bikoy resolution's final approval came from current Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.
Advincula is the sole witness of the case, and a flip-flopping witness, making massive retractions and commiting several inconsistencies along the way.
"We cannot say for now 'yung bigat po, kasi remember that the case is already in court, at kung sasabihin po namin right now kung maganda, mabigat, relevant, immaterial or irrelevant, it will affect the case which is already filed in court," said Torrevillas.
(We cannot say for now what the weight is because remember that the case is already in court, and if we say right now that it's good, it has weight, it is relevant, immaterial, or irrelevant, it will affect the case which is already filed in court.) – Rappler.com