MANILA – Lawyers tagged in a sedition complaint on Friday filed counter-charges for perjury and offering false testimony against Peter Joemel Advincula and the Philippine National Police (PNP) unit which filed the complaint.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyers are also asking for at least P15 million in damages.
In their complaint affidavit, Otso Diretso senatorial candidates Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada, and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te accused Advincula and PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-National Capital Region (NCR) OIC Police Lt. Col. Arnold Thomas Ibay of falsely linking them to the supposed “Project Sodoma” plot to oust the President.
Diokno, Tañada and Te are long-time members of FLAG. One other FLAG lawyer included in the more than 30 personalities accused of sedition is Fhillip Sawali, the chief of staff of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
Advincula, in his affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 18 claimed he met with Diokno and Tañada on March 4 at the Ateneo de Manila University with other Otso Senatorial candidates and other personalities to discuss how to prop up the chances of winning of the opposition senatorial slate.
He also claimed he met with Te and another lawyer on May 2, days after the “Ang Totoong Narco-list” videos were uploaded, to supposedly discuss the “finalization” of his “exposure,” referring to the press conference at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) office in Ortigas on “May 7.”
The IBP press conference actually took place on May 6.
WILLFUL AND DELIBERATE LIES
The 3 FLAG lawyers called the allegations against them “absolutely willful and deliberate assertion(s) of falsehood in violation of law.”
Diokno and Tañada both said they never met and do not personally know Advincula. While they confirmed they were at Ateneo on March 4, they said no meeting with Advincula and some other personalities like Vice President Leni Robredo and former Solicitor General and fellow-Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Florin “Pilo” Hilbay ever took place as it was a senatorial forum organized by news website Rappler.
Robredo, in her counter-affidavit to the sedition complaint filed with the DOJ on August 29, said she was in Bulacan on that day, while Hilbay, in his counter-affidavit submitted Friday, also categorically denied being at the Ateneo on March 4. Both deny having met Advincula.
Other Otso Diretso senatorial candidates who attended the Ateneo forum – Samira Gutoc and former Senator Bam Aquino – also denied having met Advincula.
“Without a doubt, Advincula’s allegation of meeting us on 04 March 2019 at 4 p.m. at Leung Hall of the Ateneo De Manila University campus to plan Project Sodoma is an outright lie and perjurious,” Diokno and Tañada said.
Te, for his part, admitted meeting Advincula but on May 4, not May 2 as the latter claimed in his affidavit.
He clarified, however, that he never knew Advincula was “Bikoy” and he only met him in accordance with his duties as a FLAG lawyer who was asked to meet a possible pro-bono client.
Te said the conversation with Advincula was not very long and he did not ask many questions as it became clear to him he was not credible. He said he told Diokno, the national chair of FLAG, about his assessment.
FLAG instead referred Advincula to the IBP.
“I object to the classification of the meeting on 04 May 2019 as part of any plot or conspiracy to oust the government or to perform any of the illegal acts 'described' in the referral by the PNP-CIDG. That is clear fabrication and an outright lie, for which I again waive none and reserve all of my legal remedies,” he said.
The 3 FLAG lawyers cited Articles 183 and 184 of the Revised Penal Code as bases for the complaint.
Art. 183 on perjury punishes the willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood upon a material matter in statements sworn to before an officer authorized to administer an oath in an affidavit required by law.
Art. 184, on the other hand, punishes offering of false testimony in an official proceeding.
Advincula subscribed to his affidavit before a DOJ prosecutor on July 18, while Ibay subscribed to his referral letter on August 15.
The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the CIDG, has so far solely relied on Advincula’s affidavit as its basis for the sedition complaint. It tried but failed to introduce new evidence during Friday’s probe.
AT LEAST P15 MILLION DAMAGES
Diokno, Tañada and Te asked to be compensated at least P5 million each for actual and moral damages they suffered as a result of being implicated in the ouster plot.
They said their good standing as exceptional members of the Philippine Bar has been impaired because of Advincula and Ibay’s “false and malicious accusation” that they committed sedition, inciting to sedition, libel, cyber libel, estafa and obstruction of justice.
“These ill-willed slew of malicious and baseless accusations against us has also forced us to take time off from our clients and impaired our ability to attend to their concerns, thus adversely affecting the income we earn from the honest practice of our profession,” they said in their complaint.
“This has caused us serious perturbation and anxiety that should be compensated,” they added.
As Diokno was not available Friday, only Tañada and Te have so far subscribed to their complaint-affidavit before Associate Prosecution Attorney II Jerome Coronel.
Tañada and Te also submitted their counter-affidavits to the sedition complaint on Friday.
Based on information provided by the office of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas, the head of the panel, 23 respondents named in the sedition complaint have so far submitted their counter-affidavits.
Among those who submitted their counter-affidavits on Friday were Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Hilbay, and priests Robert Reyes, Albert Alejo and Flavie Villanueva.
Robredo submitted her counter-affidavit on August 29, while former senator Antonio Trillanes, Aquino and Gutoc submitted theirs on September 5.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas (Lingayen) and Bishop Pablo Virgilio David (Caloocan), Honesto Ongtioco (Manila) and Teodoro Bacani (Novaliches, retired) have also submitted their counter-affidavits prior to Friday’s hearing.