MANILA - The sedition and other charges filed against known critics of President Rodrigo Duterte for alleged involvement in videos that linked him to the drug trade is a form of political harassment aimed at Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition said Saturday.
"Talagang political harassment at para sa akin kung 'yun ang alegasyon, ang target tingin ko talaga si Vice President para tanggalin siya sa pwesto," sabi ni House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada.
(This is political harassment and for me, the allegation, the target I think is to remove the Vice President.)
Police on Thursday filed a complaint against Robredo and other opposition figures for their alleged role in the viral "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos, which featured a whistleblower, hooded figure "Bikoy."
The complaint was based on an affidavit by Peter Joemel Advincula, the man who introduced himself as Bikoy who said the opposition was behind the videos. He was also among those charged in the complaint.
Among those named as respondents were Robredo, opposition senators Leila De Lima and Risa Hontiveros, their former colleagues Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino, opposition senatorial candidates including Tañada, and prominent bishops and priests who have criticized the administration.
In an interview on DZMM radio Saturday morning, Tañada said those behind the filing of charges probably think that this could be the fastest way to unseat Robredo as the electoral protest that former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos filed against her has yet to be resolved.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier expressed his preference for Marcos as his successor, in case he steps down.
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal has to recount votes in three pilot areas identified by Marcos.
"Tingin ko mayroon mga nagiisip na mas madaling matanggal si Vice President dito sa larangan ng ginawa ng administrasyon ngayon,” he said.
(I think some thought that it would be easier to oust the Vice President through what the administration is doing now.)
With a supermajority in the House of Representatives, an impeachment complaint could easily sail through even if the allegations lack evidence.
The question is whether or not the Senate, which is tasked to sit as an impeachment court, would follow through, Tañada said.
"Pero ang tanong, 'yung mga senador ba ay sasama sa ganung sarsuela o hindi kasi alam natin two-thirds naman ang kailangan doon sa Senado para ma-convict ang isang impeachable officer,” said the former lawmaker, who ran for the Senate under the opposition ticket in the May elections but lost his bid.
(But the question is, will the senators join the charade or not because we know that you need a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict an impeachable officer.)
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday its National Prosecution Service received the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
The charges include sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice.
"Dahil kumplikado ang case na ito we deemed it necessary na i-elevate na ito sa Department of Justice for them to resolve and assess," said CIDG-NCR chief, Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay.
(Because the case is complicated, we deemed it necessary to elevate this to the DOJ for them to resolve and assess.)
Ibay dismissed allegations that politics was behind the complaint, saying the police are only doing their job.
"Trabaho lang namin mag-investigate, ayon lang doon sa reklamong dumating sa amin. Ginawa lang namin 'yung trabaho namin," said Ibay.
(It is our job to investigate, that's it, investigate the complaint filed before us. We just did our job.)
The "Bikoy" videos went viral at the height of the May electoral campaign. Advincula initially stuck to his allegations against the President's family and distanced himself from the opposition as he sought legal aide when he first surfaced on May 6.
On May 23, he appeared in a PNP press conference to say his claims against the Dutertes were all lies and that the opposition had orchestrated the alleged smear campaign.
The Liberal Party denied involvement in the videos.