Gov’t peace panel: Treason, inciting to sedition raps ‘baseless’
The treason and sedition charges filed by two congressmen against peace negotiators in the Bangsamoro peace process had no factual or legal basis and reflected ignorance of the law, the government peace panel said on Friday.
In a counter-affidavit, human rights lawyer and former Sen. Rene Saguisag said the complaint filed by Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz against peace process officials was a “product of willful ignorance of the basic tenets of criminal law, democracy, and the legislative process, and must be dismissed for utter lack of merit.”
“As government officials, my clients hold themselves to the highest standards with regard to adhering to the laws of the Republic of the Philippines. Even if this case is appallingly bereft of factual and legal basis, they personally submitted their counter-affidavits in deference to the established legal processes of this country,” said Saguisag, accusing the complainants of attempting to advance political interests.
In May, Atienza and De la Cruz filed treason and sedition raps against the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels for signing the deal that eventually resulted in the crafting of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to create a new political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Echoing Saguisag, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles and other members of the government peace panel said the charges were a form of misunderstanding not only the criminal and constitutional law, “but the very idea of a nation, democracy, the Philippine people, and the history of the Republic of the Philippines.”
“The BBL is clearly a document inciting peace, justice, order, unity, and goodwill among all peoples. Quite contrary to the baseless asseverations of the complainants, the text of the BBL itself reveals that it espouses an enduring peace,” the affidavit read.
Government chief peace negotiator Miriam Ferrer said the panel was confident that the case against them would be dismissed.
“The case filed against us has no substantial merit and that’s why we believe the Manila prosecutor’s office will dismiss it in due time,” Ferrer said. “Out of respect for the administrative process and the offices which the complainants engaged prematurely and needlessly, we submitted and attested before the fiscal our counter-affidavits.”
Under the revised penal code, treason is committed by persons who “levies war against the government” and “adheres to the enemies, giving them aid or comfort.” Sedition, meanwhile, is committed by persons who rise publicly to prevent by force or intimidation, or extra-legal methods the execution of law and government functions.
The government peace panel said the complaint failed to prove the existence of the elements of treason, which included state of war.
In an ethics complaint he filed before House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. against the treason and sedition charges, Saguisag said the raps against the Bangsamoro peace panels were equivalent to “prosecutorial terrorism.” Responding to Saguisag, Atienza said he could not understand how “protecting sovereignty and territorial integrity” became unethical.
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