NBI arrests man who allegedly helped spread 'Totoong Narco List' videos

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — The man who allegedly helped circulate the now-viral videos that linked the family of President Rodrigo Duterte in the illegal drug trade has been arrested, the Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified his department's earlier statement that they have arrested the video uploader. He said the man they nabbed is a certain Rodel Jayme, who allegedly regularly shared the "Ang Totoong Narco List" videos on his website "MetroBalita." The website now shows Chinese characters.

"A certain website with domain name MetroBalita.com was constantly posting links of the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos, which allowed the public to have easier access. Using an open source tool, it was found out that the subject website was registered by a certain Rodel Jayme," he said in a media briefing.

The Justice Chief said he ordered a joint investigation on the source of the video series posted on YouTube in April. On April 28, they asked Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 to issue a warrant to search and seize the gadgets of Jayme pursuant to the cyber crime law.

On April 30, Jayme was arrested after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) found out that he was the registrant and administrator of the website that "facilitated the circulation of the videos," Guevarra said.

In the five "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos, "Bikoy" — an anonymous man claiming to be a former drug syndicate member — said Duterte's 13-year-old daughter, son and former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and his son-in-law Mans Carpio received payoffs from a drug personality. "Bikoy" said money was funneled from the drug syndicate to the bank accounts of these personalities. The videos also tagged former presidential aide Bong Go in the drug trade, saying both Go and Paolo Duterte have back tattoos to indicate their involvement in the drug syndicate.

Cybercrime violation

Jayme will be facing inciting to sedition charges in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

"Based on the retrieved conversations, there is continuity of their efforts to conduct their scurrilous libelous attacks against the government. The conversations also revealed that these attacks are planned and with backing from certain personalities,” the NBI complaint read.

Guevarra earlier said the NBI is also looking into the possibility of filing child abuse charges against Jayme for linking Duterte's minor daughter.

The NBI was also asked about the Supreme Court's 2014 decision stating only the original author of libelous online stories — not those who share them — can be penalized.

"From our point of view, he must have known those videos were produced and they were just a tool in propagating those videos," NBI Cybercrime Division head Vic Lorenzo said.

Charito Zamora, DOJ Office for Cybercrime officer-in-charge, added, "Mere sharing of videos is not punishable or would have no criminal liability, but then we don't want to say in a straight manner that they don't have any liability."

Palace involved in arrest?

The DOJ Secretary denied that Malacañang had a hand in Jayme's arrest.

"Malacañang has absolutely nothing to do with this. This is an initiative taken by the DOJ," he said.

Guevarra said they are not looking into Jayme's political links. He added it remains unclear if Jayme is linked to the Duterte ouster plot claimed by the Palace. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo claimed Bikoy is the starting point of the ouster matrix involving journalists, news organizations, and lawyers, but he later denied saying this even if he was widely quoted.

"For now we're focusing on this guy. We're not done with this guy yet. It may turn out after investigation that some other people, some special people, who propagated the video or shared the video in a very vigorous manner may have to be investigated," the Justice Chief said.

Based on the retrieved conversations, the NBI claimed there’s continuity of efforts to conduct their "scurrilous libelious attacks" against the government. The conversations also allegedly revealed that these attacks are planned — with backing from certain personalities.

In its complaint, the  NBI noted that Jayme and his cohorts did not just share and like the videos, adding the posting is a "concerted effort directed to a more complicated result."