MANILA – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Friday tried to introduce new witnesses and evidence in the sedition complaint against former Senator Antonio Trillanes and other opposition figures pending before the justice department, but prosecutors shot down the move amid objections by lawyers of respondents.
At the resumption of the Department of Justice (DOJ) probe, Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda manifested that the complainant, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), intends to submit additional affidavits and is requesting the issuance of subpoenas to other possible witnesses.
NEW WITNESSES, NEW EVIDENCE
Miranda mentioned the names of Guillermina Barrido alias Guillermina Arcillas, Perfecto Tagalog and lawyer Jude Sabio.
Barrido is a Davao-based businesswoman who recently filed a kidnapping with serious illegal detention complaint against former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Fr. Albert Alejo, two of the respondents in the sedition complaint.
She claimed the two, along with Sabio and a Sister Ling, detained her in 2 convents in 2016 to force her to sign an affidavit linking President Rodrigo Duterte to illegal drugs.
Tagalog, meanwhile, executed an affidavit before the CIDG accusing Trillanes of trying to use him in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections by accusing the president's son and now Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte of rice smuggling.
On the other hand, Sabio, the lawyer who filed a communication against the President’s war on drugs before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in April 2017, recently came out with an article in a local Mindanao daily claiming that Trillanes tried to recruit him to lawyer for Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, the hooded figure in the viral “Ang Totoong Narco-list” videos.
Barrido, Tagalog and Advincula are all represented by lawyer Larry Gadon.
Miranda’s manifestation drew objections from the lawyers of the respondents, saying their clients should not be subjected to a fishing expedition.
Fifteen respondents had, during the first hearing in August, moved to suspend the proceedings pending receipt of all the evidence from the complainant.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas reminded Miranda that the panel is relying on her statement in the previous hearing that the complaint and all the evidence are complete.
In the minutes of the August 9 hearing, the panel warned, it will only resolve the case on the basis of the evidence submitted by the CIDG.
It reiterated this in its August 23 Order resolving pending motions and requiring the respondents to submit their counter-affidavits by September 6:
“In the interest of fair play, we stress that the panel shall only consider the evidence which had been filed and presented by the CIDG, and the respondents are therefore obliged to only controvert in their respective counter-affidavits the evidence thus submitted by the complainant CIDG.”
Miranda invoked complainant’s “right” to file a reply-affidavit, which Assistant State Prosecutor Gino Paolo Santiago rejected.
“Please note the filing of the reply is not a right of the complainant. We will not be entertaining any reply,” he said.
‘DENIAL’ OF DUE PROCESS
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Miranda decried the “denial of due process” on the part of the government.
“The complaint that we filed was complete at that point in time but they wanted to know the truth, and corroborate whom they say is a perjured witness. Ito na ang mag-corroborate, ba’t ayaw nila? (These will corroborate the statements, why won’t they allow it?),” she asked, vowing to appeal the panel’s ruling.
But Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Rafael Aquino rebutted Miranda.
“The OSG, through their solicitor who was there, went on record at the last hearing saying that the inquiry and the investigation of the CIDG was at an end. So we’re just invoking that against this new move on her part to suddenly supplement or introduce additional evidence,” he said.
“That is the violation of due process if the respondents are subjected to a fishing expedition. That is when you will have a violation of the constitutional right of every citizen to be made aware of what exactly they are being charged with,” he added.
Former Senator Rene Saguisag, lawyer for Sen. Risa Hontiveros, also chided the OSG for its “haphazard” work.
“Yung gumalaw sila nang padalos-dalos tapos ngayon hihingi sila ng paumanhin para magdagdag shows the ramshackle, rush-rush- rush quality of the work of the OSG,” he said.
SABIO TO TESTIFY IF COMPELLED
Miranda said they have not yet talked to Sabio.
In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Sabio said he will testify, if compelled.
“If forced to do so by process, how can I refuse in the interest of truth?” he said.
In his column, Sabio claimed Trillanes’ staff tried to recruit him to lawyer for Advincula but he refused.
He said he and his common-law-wife, Jo Ann, met with Trillanes at a hotel in Cubao on April 29, 2019, where he warned Trillanes against pushing through with Advincula because he felt Advincula was a trap and there was a “dire lack of funds” for the ICC case.
His wife allegedly warned the then-outgoing senator: ‘Sir, ‘wag mong itutuloy ‘yan, babagsak ka n’yan at ‘di ka na makakabangon.’ (Sir, please don’t push through with that. You will fall and you won’t be able to recover.)
But after the meeting, Trillanes allegedly only replied: “Susundan na lang ang susunod na kabanata (Watch out for the next chapter).”
SIGNIFICANCE OF SABIO STATEMENTS
Asked for comment, Gadon said he wants to include Sabio as a witness.
“If the statements of Atty. Sabio are true, then it really shows the grand design of former Senator Trillanes to destabilize President Duterte’s administration. Kasi pwede mo madugtong-dugtong yan e: the Bikoy issue, the Perfecto Tagalog issue, and then the [Guillermina] Barrido issue and this time, no less than Atty. Sabio himself is issuing statements,” he said.
Advincula, for his part, said he has not met Sabio.
“Ako din na-sorpresa that there is an article, that there is a revelation [that] came from Atty. Jude Sabio na isa pala sa kinukuha ni former Sen. Trillanes si Atty. Jude Sabio na mag-abugado sa akin. Kung magka-ganun, nasaan yung sinasabi niya na hindi ako pumasa sa vetting process?” he said.
“Kung hindi ako nakapasa, bakit April 29 sa Novotel, kinukuha niya si Atty. Jude Sabio na magiging abugado ni Bikoy? That’s the big question,” he added.
“We will just leave the lawyer of Atty. Trillanes to lawyer for that but offhand, there’s no crime there,” FLAG lawyer Aqiuno said, when sought for comment on the OSG’s move.
ABS-CBN News is still seeking Trillanes’ side as of posting.