Justice Department rejects OSG bid to bring more sedition probe witnesses

Lian Buan

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Justice Department rejects OSG bid to bring more sedition probe witnesses
The prosecution panel also denies OSG's request to summon Jude Sabio who wrote in a column that Trillanes tried to get him as lawyer for Bikoy

MANILA, Philippines – It’s the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which is crying violation of due process this time.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution panel denied Friday, September 6, the request of the OSG to introduce 3 new witnesses to the preliminary investigation of the Bikoy inciting to sedition complaint against key members of the opposition.

The panel denied the request because it was beyond the deadline it gave the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the OSG to complete their evidence.

“This is denial of due process on the part of the government,” said Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda.

Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santiago explained that they have to strictly follow the procedure and the rule that they must resolve the complaint within 60 days. The panel earlier imposed an August 23 deadline for the CIDG to complete all its evidence.

“Please note the filing of the reply is not a right of the complainant, we will not be entertaining any reply,” said Santiago. (READ: Meet the lawyers fighting Bikoy’s sedition complaint)

Santiago was referring to a reply-affidavit that Miranda wanted to file after the panel rejected on the spot the OSG’s request to subpoena lawyer Jude Sabio, one of the 3 intended witnesses.

Senator Antonio Trillanes’ lawyer Rey Robles called the OSG and CIDG’s new moves as “fishing expedition.”

Former senator Rene Saguisag, lawyer of Senator Risa Hontiveros, said the OSG could have asked for time to file a reply.

“Yung gumalaw sila ng padalos-dalos tapos ngayon hihingi sila ng paumanhin para magdagdag (They acted hastily, and now they’re asking if they can submit more) shows the ramshackle, rush rush rush quality of the work of the OSG,” said Saguisag.

The new witnesses

The OSG wanted to introduce two witnesses aided by Larry Gadon; one is Guillermina Arcillas who has filed a kidnapping complaint against Senator Antonio Trillanes, and the other is Perfecto Tagalog who has submitted an affidavit to the CIDG also against Trillanes.

Arcillas said Trillanes and lawyer Jude Sabio coerced her into filing an affidavit accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of drug links. Arcillas said Trillanes had her held in a convent in Manila and barred her from leaving, thus the kidnapping complaint.

Tagalog told the CIDG that Trillanes also tried to coerce him into making statements that would link Paolo Duterte to rice smuggling.

It follows the common thread that Trillanes, as well as the rest of the 35 other respondents in the complaint, supposedly conspired to bring down the Duterte government.

The 3rd witness was Sabio, lawyer for confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato, and the lawyer who filed the crimes against humanity complaint against Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sabio wrote a column on Mindanao Gold Star Daily saying that Trillanes tried to get him as lawyer for Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy.

Miranda said she has not talked to Sabio yet. “It’s the panel that should subpoena him,” Miranda said.

In an earlier pleading, the OSG said it need not produce all evidence at this level, which was a response to the opposition’s accusation that their complaint lacked substantial proof.

“The complaint that we filed was complete at that point in time, but they want to know the truth, and corroborate whom they say is a perjured witness, bakit ayaw nila (why are they objecting?),” Miranda said.

Asked for reaction, Sabio just told Rappler the OSG must talk to his wife instead who has personal knowledge of the incidents he wrote about in his column. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.