Vice President Leni Robredo listens as President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22. Also in photo are former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada. | Malacañang photo by Simeon Celi

The Philippine Department of Justice on Friday, July 26 has sent out subpoenas for Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 others in connection to the “Bikoy” narco list videos.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement the preliminary investigation will be set on August 9 at 10 a.m.

This comes after the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) on July 18 filed a complaint alleging incitement to sedition, libel, cyber libel, and obstruction of justice against Robredo, opposition Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino, as well as priests, bishops, lawyers, and Liberal Party staff and allies.

The complaint is based on the statements of Peter Joemel Advincula, allegedly the “Bikoy” in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos who accused Robredo and several other opposition personalities of being involved in the supposed plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde initially dismissed Advincula as an “information peddler” for making allegations against Duterte and his family and allies. 

Later, the PNP held a press conference for Advincula where he recanted his previous allegations and claimed he was following a “script” made by the opposition.

Robredo is prepared to face the sedition complaint filed against her and 35 other individuals, her lawyer said on Thursday. 

“‘Di pa namin nakikita ‘yong affidavit. Ayaw naming pangunahan kasi ‘di pa namin nababasa (We have not seen the affidavit yet. We do not want to preempt it because we have not read it yet). But definitely the vice president is ready to face whatever trumped up charges na mailalagay sa kanya (that will be thrown her away),” Gutierrez said. 

He added, “Her legal team is already in place and they will take the appropriate steps at the right time.” 

Robredo, who denied the allegations before, dismissed the sedition complaint as “laughable.”

She rebutted by saying she is “not stupid enough to imagine we can oust a popular president with high ratings…by using someone who is obviously lying.”

Drop sedition charges

The Human Rights Watch on Thursday, July 25 said Philippine authorities should drop the sedition charges.

“The preposterous complaint against the vice president and the others is a transparent attempt to harass and silence critics of President Duterte’s bloody ‘drug war,’” Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said.

HRW noted that the Duterte administration targets political opposition figures and critics of the “drug war” like Senators Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV, and popular news website Rappler and its editor, Maria Ressa.

Possible impeachment

Advincula’s lawyer, Larry Gadon, said Robredo may face impeachment for being behind the ouster plot. However, Gadon stressed he would wait for the preliminary investigation results from the Department of Justice before filing an impeachment case against the vice president.

“If the DOJ finds probable cause to indict her for sedition or inciting to sedition, that could be used as a ground for impeachment because that would fall under betrayal of public trust,” he said.

Gutierrez, for his part, believes the sedition complaint was “politically motivated.”

“This morning, I saw in the news that Advincula’s lawyer said that if the process will result in the filing of charges, it would lead to her impeachment. I think this is a clear indicator of their true objective,” he said.

“This is not an ordinary criminal case. This is not based on a proper investigation. This is clearly politically motivated,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malacañang is keeping its distance from Gadon’s plan to impeach Robredo.

“It’s up to him. That’s his move. Every citizen has the right to do anything legal under the Constitution. But whether it will succeed or not, it will prosper or not, that’s another thing,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo at a press briefing. 

He added that the decision over the impeachment complaint would depend on Congress.

“Let Congress decide. That’s their job. We’ll just watch in amusement,” Panelo said.

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