DOJ set to start preliminary probe on sedition, libel raps over ‘Bikoy’ videos

By Jeffrey Damicog

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to begin August 9 the preliminary investigation over the complaint filed against Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and her co-respondents concerning their alleged involvement in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” viral videos.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

“The special panel of state prosecutors will start the preliminary investigation of this case very soon,” DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday (July 26).

“Subpoenas may be issued today,” he added.

Meanwhile, the DOJ chief assured “utmost fairness in the resolution of this case.”

“The evidence, or the lack of it, will speak for itself. in the ordinary course of things, the complaint shall be dismissed as to those respondents against whom no evidence is presented, while those against whom sufficient evidence is presented shall accordingly be indicted. let’s wait until this process is completed,” he stated.

Guevarra has already selected a three-person panel of prosecutors, who will conduct the preliminary investigation of the complaint, namely, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas and Assistant State Prosecutors Michael John Humarang and Gino Paolo Santiago.

The complaint was filed last July 18 by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) which accused Robredo and 35 others of having committed sedition, inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice.

The case stemmed from the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” which features Peter Joelmel Advincula alias Bikoy who accused a number of personalities including family members of President Rodrigo Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade.

READ MORE: Opposition, clergy face raps over 'Bikoy' videos

The PNP-CIDG had also included Advincula as a respondent in its complaint, but explained it has been its practice to include as respondents its witnesses, and it will be up to prosecutors whether to discharge them as state witnesses.

“As averred by Mr. Advincula, he was engaged by the respondents to spread lies against the President, his family and close associate, making them to appear as illegal trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money,” read the PNP-CIDG complaint.

Aside from Robredo and Advincula, those who have been named as respondents in the complaint are incumbent Senators Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros and Leila De Lima, as well as former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The complaint also named as respondents include most of the losing “Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party, namely, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, former Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, and Samira Gutoc-Tomawis.

Lawyers included in the complaint are former Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Theodore Te, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Egon Cayosa, former IBP President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, Philip Sawali Minerva Ambrosio, Serafin Salvador and someone known only as Chito.

Catholic Church leaders were also respondents in the complaint including Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vice president and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, former CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, former Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, and Fr. Alber Alejo.

Other respondents include former Police Sr. Supt. Eduardo Acierto, Jonnell Sangalang, Yolanda Villanueva, Bro. Armin Luistro, Boom Enriquez, Vincent Romano III, Danilo Songco, a certain Monique, Joel Saracho, and Carmelito Salvador.