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DOJ clears Robredo, indicts Trillanes and 10 others for 'conspiracy to commit sedition'

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared Vice President Leni Robredo and several opposition figures of sedition but indicted former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and 10 others for "conspiracy to commit sedition" over an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

Prosecutors indicted Trillanes, Peter Joemel Advincula alias "Bikoy," dismissed police official Eduardo Acierto, and Fr. Albert Alejo for conspiracy to commit sedition under Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code, the DOJ said Monday.

Jonnel Sangalang, Yolanda Villuaneva Ong, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Vicente Romano III, Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, and one alias "Monique" were also indicted.

Robredo, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima, former Senator Bam Aquino, members of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate, lawyers, and some Catholic bishops were not included in the indictment.

"All respondents," meanwhile, were cleared of sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa and obstruction of justice for lack of probable cause

"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 in a statement.

"It further explained that while the video series 'contains libelous imputations against President Duterte and his family which tend to create hatred or revenge against them,' nonetheless no words were uttered which tended to incite the people to take up arms or rise against the government," the DOJ added.

The Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group had filed a complaint against the respondents for those charges based on allegations by Advincula that they were involved in "Project Sodoma," an alleged plot to unseat Duterte and install Robredo in his place.

Advincula, an estafa convict, alleged that the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos, a series of videos implicating Duterte, his family, and Senator Bong Go in the illegal drug trade, were part of Project Sodoma.

Advincula claims to be Bikoy, the hooded figure who narrated the videos. He is both a respondent and a witness in the sedition complaint.

He surfaced at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' (IBP) headquarters last May 2019 to stand by the allegations made in the videos, only to surrender to the police weeks later to tag the Liberal Party as the mastermind of the series.

The IBP denied his request for legal aid. He eventually came to be represented by Lorenzo Gadon, the lawyer who filed the petition that led to then-chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's ouster in 2018 and lost in the senatorial elections the following year.

'Grand conspiracy'

The panel of prosecutors said the indictment was based on evidence that showed a "complete picture of the grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to create hatred or revenge against the President and his family with the end in view of toppling and destabilizing the current administration."

These "interlocking pieces of proof" are the online publication of the Bikoy videos, the press conference that Advincula held when he surfaced at the IBP, Acierto's press statement accusing Duterte of drug links, and "admissions" by the respondents, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said the panel found that the Bikoy videos were made by Advincula, Saracho, Enriquez, alias "Monique," Ong, and Romano, and that Alejo prepared the Jesuit Communications at the Ateneo De Manila University where the videos were allegedly taken. 

Apart from Advincula's word, the panel considered the following as evidence: USB drives, photos of the respondents, keys and access cards of the places Advincula and his companions stayed, utility bills and receipts, and purchase receipts of gadgets and electronic devices allegedly used in producing the videos.

'Absurd case'

In a statement, Trillanes called the new charge — as well as the government's filing of a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN — the "latest absurd case."

"This latest absurd case is but another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics and the media," he said.

"But let me assure Mr. Duterte that we will not be cowed by such political persecution. On the contrary, we are more determined and motivated to continue our fight for democracy and the rights of our people," he added.

The former senator also faces a revived rebellion case over the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege. His trial will resume in April. —KBK, GMA News