Sedition probe on evidence, not affidavit

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DoJ Sec, Menardo Guevarra. (DoJAC)

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday shrugged off reports that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was behind the filing of a sedition complaint against key opposition figures led by Vice President Leni Robredo.

The preliminary investigation on the case would focus on whether there is basis to file the case in court and not on who drafted the affidavit of Peter Joemel Advincula, which became the basis for the filing of the complaint against Robredo and others for allegedly trying to discredit and destabilize the administration of President Duterte, the Department of Justice (DoJ) chief said in a statement.

Guevarra added that what is of utmost importance is whether or not the evidence of the complainant, the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, will support the allegations and establish probable cause against all the respondents, regardless of who drafted the complaint affidavit.

Malacañang, for its part, said Wednesday there is nothing wrong with the OSG helping put together the sworn statement of Peter Joemel Advincula.

According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the OSG was merely “consulted” by the PNP regarding the draft affidavit of Advincula, the man who claimed to be “Alyas Bikoy” in the controversial “Ang Totoong Narcolist” series of videos which implicated President Rodrigo Duterte and members of his family to the illegal drugs trade.

“I talked with the SolGen (Solicitor General Jose Calida) earlier and he said that the PNP sought its advice on the matter. So, the draft was sent to them for review. That was their only participation,” Panelo told Palace reporters.

“The PNP just consulted [the OSG],” he added.

A report earlier published by ABS-CBN News claimed that the Solicitor General drew up Advincula’s statement after thoroughly scrutinizing the electronic copy of the said document sent to the media by his counsel, Larry Gadon.

The PNP last week filed sedition charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and other members of the opposition for their alleged involvement in the production and uploading of the viral videos with Advincula’s affidavit as its basis.

“You know, the SolGen is the lawyer of the Republic of the Philippines and all its clients are all offices and agencies of the government. Now, it is mandated under the law to counsel, to give lawyering activities to any of the offices when its office is consulted,” explained Panelo.

“There’s nothing wrong with that because it’s the duty of the SolGen on a lawyer-client relationship,” he added.

The official has also already denied that the Palace had anything to do with the filing of charges against Robredo and other critics of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“He (Mr. Duterte) is not even interested in it,” Panelo said.

The special panel of prosecutors created earlier was directed to immediately commence the preliminary investigation on the complaint.

Guevarra assigned Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia L. Torrevillas, Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John M. Humarang, and Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo S. Santiago to handle the preliminary investigation.

Aside from Robredo, others named as respondents in the complaint are Senators Ana Theresa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Leila M. de Lima; former senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV; “Otso Diretso” candidates Gary C. Alejano, Florin T. Hilbay, Romulo B. Macalintal, Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, and Lorenzo R. Tañada III; Archbishops Pablo S. Virgilio S. David and Socrates B. Villegas; Bishops Teodoro C. Bacani and Honesto F. Ongtico; Brother Armin Luistro; clergy members Robert Reyes and Albert E. Alejo; former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Abdiel Dan Elijah S. Fajardo, incumbent IBP President Egon Q. Cayosa lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Theodore O. Te, Serafin Salavdor and Philip Sawali.

The respondents have been accused of being behind the release of a series of videos online titled “Ang Totoong Narcolist.” The videos feature a hooded Advincula alias Bikoy accusing President Duterte, his family members and several associates of having links with illegal drug syndicates in the country.

Advincula is among those charged but he is likely to be used as state witness for the prosecution.

In his affidavit, Advincula said the release of the videos was part of the so-called Project Sodoma hatched by the respondents.

Project Sodoma allegedly sought to publicly discredit the President and destabilize his government by implicating him, his family, and other government officials to drug trafficking.

Planned as early as August 2018, the video allegedly also intended to derail the senatorial bid of the candidates under the Hugpong ng Pagbabgo in the last election. With Kristina Maralit

#seditionprobe #MenardoGuevarra #DoJ #AngTotoongNarcolist

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