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DoJ may use drug dealer as witness in case vs senator

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FORMER Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV

GOVERNMENT prosecutors will consider using a self-confessed drug dealer as a witness in the inciting to sedition charge against a former senator critical of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and 10 others.

“We will think about it,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia I. Laroza-Torrevillas told reporters on Thursday.

She said Peter Joemel Advincula was the sole witness of the police when it filed a sedition complaint against Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV last year.

The Justice department last month indicted Mr. Trillanes along with 10 other people including Mr. Advincula for allegedly circulating a series of videos accusing President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his family of being in the illegal drug business.

Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo was cleared of the charges.

Mr. Advincula, who was featured in the videos, in May sought legal assistance in filing charges against members of the drug syndicate he formerly belonged to. He later surrendered to police over estafa charges, and tagged the Liberal Party as being behind the propaganda.

The Liberal Party has accused the government of political harassment and persecution, saying the complaint is based on lies.

Human Rights Watch earlier said authorities should drop the “preposterous complaint” against opposition politicians, religious leaders and human rights advocates. It said the case was a “transparent attempt to harass and silence critics” of Mr. Duterte’s bloody drug war.

Inciting to sedition carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of P2,000.

Ms. Torrevillas said that they have to assess the evidence in considering Mr. Advincula as a witness.

The Justice department dismissed the sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa, and obstruction of justice complaint against all 31 respondents, including Mr. Trillanes, Ms. Robredo, detained Senator Leila M. De Lima, former Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, and other opposition candidates during the midterm elections.

Assistant State Prosecutor Michael John M. Humarang said there were no “corroborative evidence” that would point their participation other than the allegations of Mr. Advincula.

Mr. Trillanes said the case is another proof that the administration “continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics, and the media.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas





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