Members of the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution panel said they are confident that the case they filed against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and several others for conspiracy to commit sedition is strong.
“We discussed all the evidence and we will not file cases against anyone if we don’t have evidence,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas told reporters in a press briefing.
Trillanes and several others were accused by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court of manufacturing propaganda online against President Rodrigo Duterte and the first family, weeks preceding the senatorial elections in May last year.
The panel, who cleared a number of the other respondents including Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition figures, said pieces of evidence including the testimony of whistleblower Joemel Advincula a.k.a. Bikoy during their preliminary investigation was their sole consideration in coming out with a resolution.
“We are only doing our jobs. We assured everybody if there is no evidence against you, do not worry the panel is fair, the DOJ is fair,” Torrevillas said.
Another panel member, State Prosecutor Michael John Humarang, also said that being members of the opposition does not automatically mean that they will be included in the charge.
The panel said prosecutors who may be assigned to handle the case in court “are not precluded from utilizing other evidence” which might come out after the preliminary investigation including “other witnesses who can corroborate”.
The charges were approved by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento upon the recommendation of the panel of prosecutors led by Torrevillas and members, Humarang and Gino Paolo Santiago.
Aside from Trillanes, also charged were Peter Joemel Advincula, the man who introduced himself as “Bikoy” in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos released during the 2019 election campaign period; Jonnel P. Sangalang, Yolanda Ong, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, Vicente R. Romano III, film actor Joel Saracho, Eduardo Acierto, publicist Boom Enriquez, and a certain “Monique”.
The complaint alleged that Trillanes and the others are involved in “circulating malicious and scurrilous libels and fabricating evidence against him and his immediate family members, making it appear that the president and his family are engaged in a drug trade syndicate, with no other purpose but to inflict an act of hate or revenge against the president and his immediate family members.”
Aside from Robredo, also cleared from the charges were Senator Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Abdiel Fajardo, IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa, former Su-preme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Serafin Salvador, and Philip Sawali; former senatorial candidates Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino, lawyer Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III, Florin Hilbay, and Romulo Macalintal; Fr. Robert Reyes, Bro. Armin A. Luistro, Cubao Diocese Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco, retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David, former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas.