Knowing better

Whoever decided to file inciting to sedition charges against opposition politicians and clergymen on the say-so of a whistleblower that the administration had earlier discredited did no favors for President Rodrigo Duterte.

Knowing better

On Thursday, the Philippine National Police filed charges before the Department of Justice against Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and several bishops and priests, accusing them of being behind the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” online video that linked the family of President Duterte to the illegal drug trade.

In the letter-complaint, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group asked the DOJ to prosecute the respondents for inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice.

Also named respondents were "Otso Diretso" opposition senatorial candidates Gary C. Alejano, Florin T. Hilbay, Romulo B. Macalintal, Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, and Lorenzo R. Tañada III.

Peter Joemel Advincula, the self-confessed "Bikoy," the hooded man in the "Ang Totoong Narco-list" videos, was also named a respondent, though it seemed apparent that the government plans to use him as a state witness against the opposition leaders.

Also impleaded as respondents were former Education secretary and now La Salle president Armin Luistro, Jonnel Sangalang, a member of Trillanes’ Senate staff, Eduardo Acierto, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, lawyers Minerva Ambrosio, Serafin Salvador, Philip Sawali and Egon Cayosa, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, and clergy members, Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr. and Honesto Ongtico, Arcbishops Pablo Virgilio David and Socrates Villegas and Fathers Robert Reyes, Flaviano Villanueva and Albert Alejo.

The PNP-CIDG submitted Advincula’s sworn statement detailing his supposed meetings with the respondents and how they planned a campaign to “spread lies against the President, his family and close associates, making them to appear as illegal drug trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money.”

The objective, the police said, was to oust the President to make way for Robredo to take power.

That the PNP sees fit to base its charges on Advincula’s testimony is truly remarkable, given the fantastic nature of the tail and its opinion of the man in May, when he first surfaced to affirm his accusations against members of the President’s family.

At the time, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Advincula had a habit of selling information, not always accurate or true.

"This is how he lies,” the police chief said in a mix of English and Filipino “Before he gives information, he asks for money. He knows how to sell information.... especially false information.”

Albayalde said they discovered that Advincula was convicted over a large-scale illegal recruitment case, for which he served six years in jail.

The police chief also said Advincula had a pending estafa case before the National Bureau of Investigation.

“It seems like he’s good at swindling people and he knows how to talk. Just imagine, you’ll be charged with large-scale recruitment. That means he has fooled a lot of people,” Albayalde said.

From the police chief's own mouth, the PNP' star witness clearly suffers a severe lack of credibility. Its decision to file charges against opposition leaders can only be interpreted, then, as one of two things. The first of these possibilities is that the PNP is completely inept and gullible, and has joined the ranks of the “lot of people” that Advincula has fooled. A second possibility is that the police, fully aware that their witness is lying, have cynically decided to file charges anyway in the mistaken belief that this will somehow help President Duterte. Finally, they could be taking orders from a higher authority as a means to harass the political opposition and the President's critics.

Sadly, none of these possibilities speaks well of the police, who really ought to know better.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Philippine National Police , Department of Justice , Leni Robredo , Peter Joemel Advincula
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