MAYNILA - Three bishops accused of taking part in the plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte have spoken up, denying the allegations of Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, the hooded figure in the viral “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.
In their counter-affidavits submitted to Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors last week, Lingayen, Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David and Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, Jr. denounced as “false” the accusations that they are supposedly part of a “shadow group” providing financial and logistical support as well as security and accommodations to persons supposedly involved in Project Sodoma.
All 3 bishops asked DOJ prosecutors to dismiss the sedition complaint for lack of merit and probable cause.
In his affidavit submitted to the DOJ, Advincula claimed he met with Villegas, Fr. Albert Alejo and a certain Jonell, allegedly Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s security aide, at the Jesuit Residence at the Ateneo de Manila University on December 12, 2018 at 6 p.m., where they supposedly discussed making an exposé about the President and his family’s involvement in the illegal drug trade.
But according to Villegas, he was in Orani, Bataan on that day, arriving at 3 p.m. at the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Rosary to give a homily for a mass which ended at 7 p.m.
He attached a copy of a video recording of the mass and an affidavit of the parish priest who invited him.
Villegas however admitted to meeting Advincula once – on April 24 this year – when Advincula approached him after breakfast at the Jesuit Residence in Ateneo to talk about his hardships in life.
“I was so moved that I gave him my personal rosary blessed by Pope Francis, prayed for him, and blessed him. Soon thereafter, I left for Dagupan City and never saw, spoke with, or in any way communicated with Mr. Advincula again,” he said.
Villegas clarified the meeting lasted for about 30 minutes and there was no discussion about any plan to overthrow the President.
“I am a man of peace and a man of God…I have no malicious or illicit desire to bring down this or any administration, and I have never conspired with any person to carry out any nefarious plot to bring harm to this administration and any of the people who serve it,” he said.
David, meanwhile, pointed out how Advincula changed his statement regarding his supposed meeting with the Caloocan bishop on February 9 this year.
In his affidavit submitted to the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on May 29, Advincula claimed Trillanes and his aide Jonell were present during the meeting with David and Fr. Alejo.
But in his affidavit submitted to the DOJ only July 18, Trillanes allegedly called through ProtonMail, a secure email service.
While David admitted to meeting Advincula on that day, he said Advincula was not formally introduced to him as it was only Fr. Alejo who sought for the meeting.
But he said the “chubby bespectacled young man” who turned out to be Advincula came across as a “glib-talker.”
“The word ‘drug syndicate’ immediately came across as a warning signal to me. I told him that while the Church indeed sometimes provide sanctuary to people who feel their lives are in danger, so far, we have only provided help to crime-witnesses, not to people who have been involved in crimes themselves,” David recalled telling Advincula.
“I advised Fr. Alejo to seek help from people who might be in a better position to help deal with the man’s alleged situation, and, whispered to him to better check first on the veracity of the man’s story who came and left as a total stranger to me,” he added.
Bacani, for his part, denied having met, talked to or corresponded with Advincula or any of his representatives.
He also denied discussing with anyone any plans to bring down the Duterte administration.
“I was one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and firmly believe that its promise of a new social order with the poor as the center of our development should be achieved only through democratic means and therefore I have not, do not and will not participate in any plan to bring down President Duterte, by any illegal or violent means,” he said.
“Moreover, I am a 79-year-old retired bishop, with neither the energy, the desire, or even standing to do so,” he added.
The bishops submitted their counter-affidavits on August 8, a day before the DOJ’s probe into the sedition complaint which started on August 9.
DOJ prosecutors have tentatively set the submission of the counter-affidavits of more than 30 other respondents on September 6.