Robredo, opposition members cleared, Trillanes charged with sedition

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 10) – Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo and 25 members of the opposition were cleared of sedition and other complaints, while former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and ten others were charged for their supposed involvement in an ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) made the confirmation Monday, three days after the resolution was "quietly" released by the agency's panel of prosecutors.

The panel on Monday charged Trillanes and ten other individuals supposedly responsible for circulating the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos with conspiracy to commit sedition before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City. 

Advincula, who admitted being the hooded "Bikoy" shown in the series of viral videos linking Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade, was also among those charged.

The others who violated Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code were Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, a certain "Monique," Yolanda Ong, Vicente Romano III, Fr. Albert Alejo, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Jonnel Sangalang, and Eduardo Acierto.

Advincula previously made a turnaround in his earlier claims against the Dutertes and said the opposition was behind the series of videos, prompting the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to file a complaint before the DOJ on July 18 and cite his testimonies.

But in a statement, DOJ spokesperson Undersecretary Mark Perete said the panel found "interlocking pieces of proof" that Advincula and the other respondents made an effort to "create hatred or revenge against the President and his family with the end in view of toppling and destabilizing the current administration."

"These videos, the panel found, were made by respondents Advincula; Saracho (who acted as their narrator); Enriquez (videographer) and his assistant "Monique; Ong and Romano (scriptwriters). The Panel likewise found that Fr. Alejo prepared the JesCom (Jesuit Communications) where the videos were taken," the statement read.

It added that the allegations of Advincula and the admissions of Trillanes bolstered the "existence of a grand conspiracy between and among some respondents to commit the crime of sedition."

A total of 36 respondents were initially identified in the complaint against then opposition senators, Otso Diretso senatorial bets and church officials who were previously accused of sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice. These included Senators Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, and former Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino, who were all cleared in these cases.

Trillanes called the new case "absurd," and noted that the Duterte administration is using the issue to "weaponize the law" against the opposition.

"This latest absurd case is but another proof that the Duterte administration continues to weaponize the law against the political opposition, critics and the media. But let me assure Mr. Duterte that we will not be cowed by such political persecution," he said.

"On the contrary, we are more determined and motivated to continue our fight for democracy and the rights of our people," Trillanes added.

Meanwhile, Vice Presidential Spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said the dismissal of the complaint was "a definitive condemnation of the fabricated accusations and trumped-up charges" brought against Robredo in the past.

"[This] stands as vindication of what [Robredo] has maintained from the start: that these 'charges' were never anything more than lies and political harassment."