By Vanne Terrazola
Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV denied the claims made by lawyer Jude Sabio on his alleged links to self-proclaimed whistleblower Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, and his unpaid legal fees.
In a lengthy open letter published on social media Monday, Trillanes responded to Sabio’s allegations, a move which he said he held off until the lawyer finally spoke to the media.
According to ABS-CBN News, Sabio was willing to testify against Trillanes in the sedition charges filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) versus opposition personalities over the viral “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.
Sabio, to recall, filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Duterte’s war on drugs based on the testimony of Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed hitman of the so-called Davao Death Squad which supposedly acted upon the orders of Duterte.
Trillanes brought Matobato as a witness in the Senate’s investigation in 2016 on the alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.
On Sabio’s claim that he owes some P700,000 in lawyer’s fees, Trillanes said he was not Sabio’s client and did not ask him to prepare the billing for serving as Edgar Matobato’s legal counsel.
“Maliwanag mismo sa interview mo na hindi ako ang nagpagawa sayo ng billing na yan at hindi rin ako ang kliyente mo. Si Edgar Matobato ang kliyente mo at maliwanag sa ating lahat na pro bono ang engagement niyo dahil hindi nya naman kayang magbayad,” Trillanes wrote.
(It was clear in your interview that I was not the one who asked you to prepare that billing and I was not your client. Edgar Matobato was your client and it was clear to all of us that all your engagements with him are pro bono because he can’t pay you.)
Despite their non-lawyer-client relationship, Trillanes confirmed giving Sabio P50,000 to P100,000 monthly “aid” since late 2016 until his term ended last June 30. But Trillanes said this should not be counted as “retainer” since he did not need the lawyer’s services for his cases.
“Sa madaling salita, tulong ang binibigay sayo buwan-buwan dahil nga naiintidihan ko ang kalagayan mo (To put it simply, I was giving you monthly assistance because I understood your situation),” the former lawmaker said.
Aside from the monthly aid, Trillanes also recalled giving money to Sabio for his debts, rentals, plane tickets to Cagayan de Oro, as well as his mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE).
“Sa katunayan, mga limang beses ako nagbigay ng pang MCLE pero isa lang ang pinasukan mo. Sa madaling salita, never akong nagkulang sayo (In fact, I gave you money five times for your MCLE but you only went to one. I was not remiss in helping you),” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said he also shouldered Sabio’s pocket money, round trip tickets, and hotel accommodation when the latter went to the The Hague, Netherlands to file his communication to the ICC.