Lawyer details money gripes vs Trillanes in ICC withdrawal move

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2020 01:14 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2020 03:43 PM

MANILA -- Complaints over unpaid legal fees and discontinued allowances pervaded a new communication sent by lawyer Jude Sabio, who asked the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor to “thrash” his case against President Rodrigo Duterte.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensuoda earlier opened a preliminary examination of at least 52 sets of information — formally known under ICC rules as “communications” — on extrajudicial killings under Duterte, a move Sabio described as a “vindication of the hardship and sacrifice that I had gone through.”

But the lawyer, in the same communication mailed to the Hague-based ICC on Tuesday, told Bensouda’s office to “expunge” his previous complaint against Duterte in the ongoing preliminary examination, which is set to be completed this year.

Sabio said the complaint he filed in 2017 over Duterte’s “crimes against humanity” was “just part of the political propaganda” of former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV other opposition figures “of which I do not wish to be a part.”

But much of Sabio’s decision to withdraw his complaint was also driven by issues over money, with support supposedly drying up when he was no longer “needed.”

These were the same issues he raised in a bitter falling-out with Trillanes last year.

TRICKED?

Sabio said he was not paid close to P700,000 in legal fees for lawyering for Edgar Matobato, a confessed member of a Davao City-based death squad and whose accounts were at the core of the ICC complaint.

“I was tricked when I was told to make a billing for the cases of Matobato only to be told that after all there is no agreement of payment,” the lawyer said in his new communication, a copy of which was obtained by ABS-CBN News.

Sabio said he used to receive a P50,000 monthly allowance from Trillanes, who later increased the amount to P100,000. 

But the lawyer said he began receiving only half of it again starting February 2018 when Trillanes said he was “having a hard time with his finances in the Senate.”

When Bensouda announced the preliminary examination that same month, Sabio said he “expected” Trillanes to “restore” the amount to P100,000 “or even increase it in light of such momentous event.”

“I had never asked for payment for my earlier submission in the ICC,” he said, noting that he made do with a P30,000 “pocket money” from Trillanes when he filed the ICC complaint in The Hague.

The former senator earlier said the amounts he had given to Sabio came only as a form of “aid.”

Lawyer Larry Gadon, who assisted Sabio in the new communication sent to the ICC, said the withdrawal was "not only about money" but "about conviction."

"He was just used and exploited for this political propaganda. Na-realize niya na kaya hindi na siya sinuportahan logistically is because hindi naman pala totoo," Gadon told ANC's Early Edition on Wednesday.

(He realized that the reason why he was not getting logistic support was because the allegation was false.)

SHEER POLITICS

In February last year, Sabio said he was told that he would no longer receive a month allowance once Trillanes’ term ended 4 months later.

The lawyer insisted that financial support, including those for 2 key witnesses, should have continued until the ICC case was completed.

On more than one occasion, he said he “ran out of money for food and hotel” while handling Matabato’s case in Davao because Trillanes’ group failed to send money.

“But I kept my peace because I believed in the advocacy against extrajudicial killings,” said Sabio, who now alleged that Trillanes and other opposition figures were “motivated, not by justice, but rather by sheer politics.”

“They are interested only in the political propaganda,” Sabio said.

“When there is still media publicity generated, they render full support, but when publicity subsides, they refuse support.”

NO SUBSTANTIAL EFFECT

In a statement, Trillanes said Tuesday that Sabio merely facilitated the writing of the testimonies of Matobato and fellow witness Arturo Lascañas, a former police officer who also blew the whistle on extrajudicial killings allegedly ordered by Duterte.

Sabio’s withdrawal of his complaint will have “no substantial effect at all” in the ongoing preliminary examination, said lawyer Neri Colmenares, whose National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) is assisting relatives of extrajudicial killings in a separate ICC complaint.

The ICC prosecutor, he said, could file a case against Duterte based on evidence from the other communications.

Colmenares said the complaint filed by the families was enough to “indict” Duterte, citing witnesses’ affidavits, official government reports, and the president’s “admission to ordering the killings.”