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Women leaders urge fair probe of Robredo et al.

MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) marshaled more evidence to support its charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and 37 others, a group of women leaders called for an independent probe of the “conflicting tales” of Peter Joemel Advincula, the self-styled whistleblower also known as “Bikoy.”

For the TOWNS Foundation, Advincula’s initial allegations in a series of videos linking President Rodrigo Duterte and his family members and close aides to the drug trade should be investigated just as thoroughly as his later claim that Robredo and some opposition and church leaders were behind the making of the videos as part of a plot to oust the President.

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Thorough investigation

“Only an objective and thorough investigation will determine which of Bikoy’s two conflicting tales holds water,” the foundation said in a statement addressed to the PNP-CIDG and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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It also reminded government workers and the general public not to be distracted from a truly independent investigation which “will not stifle dissent but instead lead us to the truth.”

Cause-oriented

TOWNS stands for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service. The foundation, which is also an award-giving body, is composed of over 160 “responsible, cause-oriented career women who have served the nation in private and public capacities over the past 50 years.”

The TOWNS Foundation officers include businesswoman Olivia Ferry, psychiatrist June Lopez, activist Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete, lawyer Lorna Kapunan, entrepreneurs Evelyn Singson and Corazon dela Paz-Bernardo, and advertising executive Yolanda Ong.

‘Open, straightforward’

Its board of trustees also includes former Pag-Ibig executive Zorayda Amelia Alonzo, publisher Maria Karina Bolasco, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, business executive Ma. Rosa Nieva Carrion, science and technology awardee Corazon Claudio, former Labor Secretary Maria Nieves Confesor, Ramon Magsaysay awardee Lilia  de Lima, broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro, Chinoy advocate Teresita Ang-See, education awardee Imelda Virginia Villar, educator Cristina Lim-Yuson and tourism awardee Elsa Payumo.

“In the interest therefore of truth, justice and transparency, TOWNS demands an honest, sincere and aboveboard investigation of Bikoy’s original serious allegations. Only a thorough, open and straightforward inquiry into these allegations will determine the truth and clear the innocent,” it said.

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Advincula first linked President Duterte and his immediate family to the illegal drug trade in the video series titled “The Real Narcolist” and posted on YouTube.

He claimed to be Bikoy, the hooded figure in the video who detailed the supposed drug links of key personalities in Duterte’s circle, including then presidential assistant and now Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

‘Scripted’

Advincula later retracted his allegations against the Duterte family and claimed the video series was “scripted” and masterminded by the opposition.

His turnaround led to the PNP-CIDG filing sedition charges on July 18 against Robredo and more than three dozen administration critics, including Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino, and several priests, bishops and lawyers.

The police also accused them of inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice.

The justice department on Friday ordered the PNP-CIDG to submit its evidence supporting the sedition and other charges it filed against opposition leaders.

The DOJ panel conducting the preliminary investigation gave the CIDG five days to reply to the motion filed by the opposition’s lawyers for the production of the evidence.

‘Tribune of the people’

Also on Friday, former Sen. Rene Saguisag serving as Hontiveros’ counsel,  questioned the participation of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in the criminal prosecution of the opposition figures.

“The OSG should be the tribune of the people. They should not be the ‘tuta’ [lapdog] of the administration. The [OSG] has sandbagged itself into becoming a defender of the attempt of the administration to eliminate all dissent and dissenters,” Saguisag said before the DOJ panel led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas.

Other legal opinions

Responding to Saguisag, Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda acknowledged that the OSG was indeed appearing as the “tribune of the people,” but cited other legal opinions about the OSG’s authority to assist government agencies in legal proceedings.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, who later said he could not stomach Saguisag’s language, issued a statement saying that the OSG is the “law office of the government,” with the Solicitor General being the “principal law officer and legal defender of government.”

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TAGS: Ang Totoong Narcolist, Bikoy, Leni Robredo, Peter Joemel Advincula, Rodrigo Duterte, Sedition, Towns Foundation
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