Sedition case vs VP dropped; Trillanes indicted

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THE JUSTICE department has indicted former Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV and ten others for conspiracy to commit sedition, but another sedition-related complaint involving him along with Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo and 29 others has been dismissed.

The indictment was filed before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court last January but was released to the public only on Monday.

The other respondents include Peter Joemel Advincula or “Bikoy,” Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, Yolanda V. Ong, Vicente Romano III, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Jonnel P. Sangalang, Eduardo Acierto, and “a certain Monique.”

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said the online publication of the Bikoy videos, which insinuated that members of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s family and political allies were receiving pay-offs from drug syndicates, was one of the evidence of conspiracy among respondents.

Mr. Advincula, in a press conference last May 7, 2019, admitted to being “Bikoy,” the supposed whistleblower featured in the videos and also testified to the respondents’ conspiracy to commit sedition.

Based on the Revised Penal Code, the crime of conspiracy to commit sedition is punishable by imprisonment from two years, four months and a day to four years and two months and a fine of up to P2,000

Mr. Trillanes said the case is “but another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics and the media.”

“But let me assure Mr. Duterte that we will not be cowed by such political persecution,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said he is “very interested” to find out how the prosecution panel was able to resolve that the respondents plotted to commit sedition.

“I am very interested to find out how the prosecution panel was able to resolve that Trillanes et. al., plotted to commit sedition, considering that the crime of conspiracy deals with the state of mind of the defendants, and especially given the fact that the information was solely based on the testimony of one person,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DoJ dismissed the complaint for sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa, and obstruction of justice against all 31 respondents, including Mr. Trillanes, the vice president, detained Senator Leila M. De Lima, and former senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV.

These prominent personalities are members of the opposition.

“In finding no probable cause for sedition or inciting to sedition, the Panel found the element of public and tumultuous uprising wanting,” the DoJ said.

Ms. Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez, said the dismissal of the complaint “is a definitive condemnation of the fabricated accusations and trumped-up charges brought against her and stands as vindication of what she has maintained from the start: that these ‘charges’ were never anything more than lies and political harassment.” — Genshen L. Espedido