By Daniel Llanto          

The Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a criminal case against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and 10 others for their involvement in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos that linked President Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.

Also indicted for the same sedition charges was the man who called himself “Bikoy” in the controversial videos, Peter Joemel Advincula.

In the videos that DoJ considered part of a de-stabilization plot, Advincula also implicated Vice-president Leni Robredo, the whole 2019 Senate opposition slate Otso Diretso and about two dozen other alleged opposition sympathizers.

But while DoJ recommended the filing of charges against Trillanes and 10 others who allegedly prepared and circulated the videos, the charges against Robredo and the rest filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) were dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Justice Undersec. and DoJ spokesman Mark Perete said Trillanes and his 10 cohorts would be charged with the crime of conspiracy to commit sedition.

Members of the Otso Diretso slate included in the complaint by PNP-CIDG and then cleared by DoJ are former Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, former senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Quezon representative Lorenzo Tañada III, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.

Also cleared were Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., Fr. Ruben Reyes, Brother Armin Luistro, lawyer Theodore Te, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, IBP’s incumbent national president Domingo Egon Cayosa.

Similarly cleared were lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Yolly Villanueva Ong, Danilo Songco, Philip Sawali and Serafin Salvador.

“The complaint filed by PNP-CIDG against all respondents were dismissed for lack of probable cause. But the Panel found that, based on the evidence presented, the eleven respondents (Trillanes’ group) can be charged with the crime of conspiracy to commit sedition,” Perete said.

The resolution on the sedition complaint was released last January 31 but the details were made public February 10.

The same resolution, however, recommended the filing of charges against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and 10 others who prepared and circulated the video. Under the rules, resolutions of the panel of prosecutors can still be appealed before the DOJ secretary.

Based on the complaint, Advincula as Bikoy was allegedly engaged by the respondents for “Project Sodoma” to “spread lies against the President, his family and close associates and make them appear as illegal drug trade protectors who earned staggering amounts of money.”

The complaints also alleged that the circulation of the series of videos was part of a de-stabilization plot meant to “to agitate the general population into staging mass protests with the possibility of bringing down the President from the position and allow Vice-President Robredo to instantly succeed” and “help bring down the popularity of the administration senatorial candidates and in turn boost the campaign of Otso Diretso candidates for the 2019 mid-term elections.”

Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said the dismissal of the sedition case against  Robredo was an affirmation that the claims she was part of an alleged plot to oust President Duterte were merely lies and that it was just a form of political harassment.

Gutierrez said the decision of the DoJ Special Panel proved that the accusations about Robredo’s involvement in the Ang Totoong Narcolist video series were just “fabricated.”

Apart from Trillanes and Advincula, also charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City were Jonnel Sangalang, Yolanda Ong, priests Flaviano Villanueva and Albert Alejo, Vicente Roman III, actor Joel Saracho, Eduardo Acierto, publicist Boom Enriquez and a certain Monique.

The DoJ special panel said the “interlocking pieces of proof” include the on-line publication of the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos, the press conference of Advincula at the IBP office where he admitted to being the hooded figure in the video and Acierto’s press statement accusing the President and his close allies of having a hand in illegal drug trade.