MANILA, Philippines – The presidents of 14 De La Salle schools and universities across the country, along with De La Salle Philippines' Chief Executive Officer Edgar Chua, urged the Duterte administration to drop the sedition charges against its "perceived critics" over the viral Bikoy videos.
"We call on the current administration to end the filing of charges against its perceived critics and instead perform its duty to protect the democratic space for dissent, grievances, and critical perspectives," they said in a statement Friday, August 2.
"The government is for all and not just those who agree with the policies of the administration," they added.
Along with Chua, the statement was signed by the following:
They slammed the sedition allegations against former education secretary Armin Luistro and human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, saying they are Lasallians "who are at the forefront of the advocacy to uphold human life, dignity, and liberty."
Luistro serves as De La Salle Philippines president, while Diokno was dean of the De La Salle University College of Law.
"Fighting for these ideals does not equate to sedition nor inciting to sedition. They are merely exercising their freedom enshrined in our Constitution which guarantees 'the freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances,'" they said.
What sedition allegations? The statement comes after Luistro and Diokno were among the 36 individuals accused of sedition in the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
The charges stemmed from the viral Ang Totoong Narcolist videos that tagged President Rodrigo Duterte and his family in the drug trade.
The man who admitted to be "Bikoy" in the videos, Peter Joemel Advincula, earlier surfaced to support the allegations, but later did a complete turnaround by not only recanting the allegations but also accusing those in the CIDG complaint as behind the videos.
"We strongly denounce these charges against them and the leaders of the opposition especially as these are based solely on the affidavit of a convicted felon Joemel Advincula," the La Salle leaders said.
They also urged PNP officials to live up to its ideal of service, honor, and justice, and ensure it would not allow itself to be politicized.
Speak out: They then called on all Lasallians to support Luistro and Diokno, and urged all Filipinos to "continue to voice out their views in support of human rights and democratic principles."
"As we continue to pray for all those charged, we also pray that our leaders in government may be enlightened as we all seek a country that is socially and politically inclusive," the presidents said.