MANILA (4th UPDATE) - Police on Thursday accused Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition figures of sedition and other charges for alleged involvement in the viral "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos that tagged President Rodrigo Duterte's family in the drug trade.
In a statement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said its National Prosecution Service received the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
The complaint was based on a sworn statement of Peter Joemel Advincula, the man who introduced himself as hooded figure "Bikoy" in the videos that made rounds on social media at the height of the May electoral campaign.
The PNP-CIDG filed charges of sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice against Robredo, opposition senators Leila De Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and their former colleague, Antonio Trillanes IV.
"Napakaganda ng kaso, napakaraming ebidensya," Advincula's lawyer, losing senatorial candidate Larry Gadon, told reporters.
(The case is very good, there's a lot of evidence.)
Video by Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News
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Also charged were Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former Sen. Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Moro civic leader Samira Gutoc, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, who ran for the Senate under opposition slate Otso Diretso in the May elections but lost.
The same charges were also filed against vocal critics of the Duterte administration including Archbishops Socrates Villegas and Pablo Virgilio David, Bishops Honesto Ongtioco and Teodoro Bacani Jr., and priests Albert Alejo and Robert Reyes.
Former Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te and several officials of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) were also cited in the complaint.
The DOJ said Advincula, in his statement, detailed "supposed meetings with the aforenamed personalities and how they planned what he referred to as 'Project Sodoma.'"
The plan was to allegedly "publicly discredit" the President and "destabilize his government by implicating him, his family and other government officials in drug syndicates," the DOJ said.
It was at the IBP headquarters last May that Advincula first surfaced before the media and introduced himself as "Bikoy," supposedly a former record keeper of a drug ring.
In the same month, Advincula said all his allegations against the Duterte family were "scripted" and masterminded by opposition members who wanted to remove the President from power, which they denied.
The opposition said it had nothing to do with the videos and called Advincula's allegations "absurd."
Opposition stalwart Sen. Francis Pangilinan called the charges "political harassment" and "persecution."
"Gawa-gawa, kasinungalingan, at walang basehan sa katotohanan ang mga paratang," he said in a statement released by the Liberal Party.
(The allegations are fabricated, lies, and have no basis.)
"Ginagawa ito ng mga kalaban ng demokrasya dahil si VP na lang ang nakaharang sa kanilang hangarin na ituloy ang patayan sa huwad na war on drugs nang walang nananagot, ang pagbenta ng Pilipinas sa China, at ang panghabambuhay na paghahari-harian nila sa bansa," he added.
(The opponents of democracy are doing this because the VP is the only one left in their way to continue the war on drugs without accountability, selling the Philippines off to China, and ruling over the country for life.)
Diokno called the allegations "baseless", saying the government "really" wants to send its critics to jail.
"Luto ang kasong ito. Sabik na sabik ata ang administrasyon na ikulong kami, kahit walang basehan o ebidensiya. Bilang abogado para sa mahihirap, sanay na ako sa ganitong pang-aapi. Tuloy ang laban natin para sa hustisya," said Diokno.
(This case is a sham. The administration is eager to throw us into jail even absent proof or evidence. As a lawyer who champions the cause of the poor, I am used to this kind of persecution. Our fight for justice continues.)
Media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) called the charges "cheap attempts" by the administration to take down its critics.
"...The sedition charges being instigated by the PNP and DOJ against opposition and Church figures, lawyers and artists as harassment and a cheap attempt to clamp down on dissent," LODI said in a statement.
It said the government should prosecute policemen implicated in extrajudicial killings, planting of evidence, and other crimes "instead of filing trumped-up charges against the opposition."
"It should also file charges against corrupt officials, and enforce the ruling on such personalities like Imelda Marcos...it should stop using the DOJ as a tool for suppression," it added.
-- Report from Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News