The lead prosecutor who indicted former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and 10 others for conspiracy to commit sedition said the decision to bring them to court was based on evidence they agreed to circulate "malicious" allegations against the president and his family.
Politics played no part in the indictment, which may be the first case filed for conspiracy to commit sedition, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas said Thursday.
"We are only doing our job. If there is evidence, we will file. Kung wala po, wala po. Kaya nga ang sabi ko po doon sa mga respondents, kasi you see mga high-profile po ito, if there is no evidence against you, do not worry," she said at a press conference.
"The panel is fair, the department is fair. [Kung] wala pong ebidensya, wala. Di po kami namumulitika, fair po ang department," she added.
The charge is conspiracy to commit sedition under Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code -- a bailable offense that is distinct from sedition or inciting to sedition. Torrevillas said the law punishes "mere agreement" to commit the crime of sedition.
In this case, the prosecutor said that though there was no inciting people to rise against the government, there was an agreement among the defendants to accuse President Rodrigo Duterte and his family of drug links "with no other purpose but to inflict an act of hate or revenge" against them.
The case stemmed from the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group's (CIDG) complaint against top opposition figures, including Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, former senators Trillanes and Bam Aquino, and almost the entire Otso Diretso senatorial slate, as well as some lawyers and bishops.
The allegations were largely based on the word of one man: Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy, who claims to have witnessed a plan of the opposition to discredit the Duterte administration.
The center of the complaint was the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" video series, in which Duterte is accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade. Advincula alleged this was a part of the anti-Duterte plot.
Prosecutors ended up tossing out the sedition charges and on Monday leveled only a conspiracy case against 11 out of dozens of respondents: Trillanes, Advincula, former police official Eduardo Acierto, Jonnel Sangalang, Yolanda Ong, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Fr. Albert Alejo, Vicente Romano III, Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, and one alias "Monique."
Their alleged acts of producing and uploading the Bikoy videos, Advincula's holding of a press conference, and Acierto's own allegations against Duterte "clearly manifested that indeed there was a grand conspiracy," Torrevillas said.
Assistant State Prosecutors Gino Paolo Santiago and Michael John Humarang were also part of the panel that came out with the indictment.
Bikoy as state witness?
Asked about the weight of Advincula's statements, Torrevillas declined to answer, saying an assessment will affect the already pending case.
She also said is is "too early to tell" if they will move to use Advincula as a state witness.
"We will think about it, kasi remember that si Advincula lang po ang witness ng CIDG, but the prosecution is not precluded from utilizing other witnesses, other evidence when we already reach the court," she said.
She said they may use other witnesses who may come out to corroborate Advincula's allegations. She refused to divulge if new witnesses have surfaced. —NB, GMA News