Mission: Massacre the opposition
From the very beginning, the series of viral videos under the umbrella title “Ang Totoong Narcolist” (“The Real Narcolist”), featuring a hooded figure under the alias “Bikoy,” had a suspicious stink about it.
For sure, the videos’ contents were explosive, purportedly revealing the real personalities behind the narcotics trade in the country, most prominently and shockingly including members of President Duterte’s family.
Authorities had an interesting reaction to the videos’ allegations. Instead of investigating the veracity of Bikoy’s claims, law enforcement set about seeking to unmask the hooded figure, initially arresting one Rodel Jayme who allegedly helped spread the videos through his website, MetroBalita. Then, one Peter Joemel Advincula came out, claiming he was Bikoy and appealing for help and protection from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). The Palace dismissed him forthwith as a serial liar—“You lie in one, you lie in all,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo—while the police tagged him as a wanted person for estafa and other crimes. In short, a con man.
So it was a jaw-dropping moment when, days after Advincula failed to get the IBP’s backing for his allegations against members of the President’s family and official circle, the PNP trotted him out—now as their friendly witness. With police officialdom arrayed behind him at a press conference, Advincula proceeded to turn the tables on the alleged sponsors and makers of the video series, most prominently the political opposition.
Advincula further stretched his 15 minutes of fame by signing an affidavit against those he claimed were behind the videos. Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group officials then used the affidavit to file a complaint of sedition and inciting to sedition against 36 individuals, among them Vice President Leni Robredo, now former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, several opposition figures and other individuals, including priests and bishops.
The complaint accused Advincula’s alleged financiers and supporters of “spreading lies against the President, his family and close associates, making them appear as illegal drug trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money.” They also face charges of libel, cyberlibel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice.
Advincula’s lawyer, a gadfly who can be counted upon to make an appearance at every publicity-rich event, has claimed that the sedition charges could be the basis for the impeachment of Robredo.
Now there’s a wrinkle in the otherwise seamless packaging of events. A report recently surfaced that, contrary to claims of Malacañang that it had nothing to do with the sedition charges, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) had helped draft Advincula’s affidavit. The OSG in a statement said it was merely carrying out its “legal duty” to serve the state and its agencies when they seek legal advice.
Former Solicitor General and opposition senatorial candidate (and one of the 36 accused) Florin Hilbay begged to disagree. The OSG, he said, has no authority to assist in initiating the filing of criminal cases. The Solicitor General’s act of assisting the PNP in filing the charges lies beyond the scope of the OSG’s authority.
In criminal cases, Hilbay noted, the OSG enters the picture only in the appellate stage, once an accused who has been convicted appeals the conviction to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Otherwise, there’s a conflict of interest, “because when you reach the appeal stage, the OSG’s hands are tied.”
Certainly, the inciting to sedition case against the 36 accused fairly reeks of, if not conspiracy from the very top, then of impropriety from the President’s underlings. Former UP law dean Pacifico Agabin has said that while “there’s nothing illegal” in the OSG stepping into the case, it does not “look good on the part of the government.”
“It might not look good in the larger context, in the context of the position of the parties,” he explained. “Most of the respondents are all opposition figures, so it might be seen as an attempt to silence the opposition.”
It certainly looks like it. What the administration and its attack dogs are setting out on seems like an attempt at a wholesale massacre of the opposition. Lazy and seemingly in a hurry, they are using the claims of the man they had once branded a charlatan, and weaponizing the law and the courts, to get rid of any and all contrarian voices in one fell swoop. With the OSG’s grudging admission of having prepped him up, Bikoy’s stink now leads directly, indisputably, to Malacañang.
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