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IBP declines ‘Bikoy’ request for legal help

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Peter Joemel Advincula

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has rejected the request for legal aid of Peter Joemel Advincula who claims to be ‘Bikoy’ in the controversial “Ang Totoong Narco List” video series.

Advincula on Monday surfaced at the IBP headquarters in Pasig City to seek legal assistance, claiming there were threats to his life.

READ: Man claiming to be Bikoy asks help from IBP

In a statement released on Wednesday, the IBP through its National Center for Legal Aid (NCLA) said it decided to decline Advincula’s request for free legal assistance after duly processing and conducting “a thorough evaluation of his application.”

“The NCLA has determined that Mr. Advincula may not be provided free legal assistance based on the standards provided for in the NCLA Manual of Operations in approving such requests,” the IBP said.

The IBP stated that Advincula came to their office to seek free legal assistance and representation in the filing of charges against certain individuals, including candidates for elective positions for their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.

“In the pursuit of its mandate to provide access to justice to the poor and the marginalized, the IBP cannot be seen to be siding with or going against any candidate or political party,” it said.

The IBP added that communications and documents submitted by Advincula shall remain privileged and confidential.

The organization earlier denied speculations that ‘Bikoy’ is under its custody. The group also maintained that it was unaware of his press briefing at their facility, and had nothing to do with the statement he read before the media.

READ: IBP: ‘Bikoy’ not under our custody

READ: Senate to probe ‘Bikoy’ claims this week

A Senate panel is set to conduct a hearing on Advincula’s claims on Friday.

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VP Robredo, opposition senators react to sedition case

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino reacted to the sedition case filed against them in relation to an alleged destabilization plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The complaint was filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday (July 18).

Advincula originally appeared in a series of videos dubbed as “Ang Totoong Narcolist” linking some personalities from the opposition as behind the alleged ‘Project Sodoma’ or the ouster plot against the President.

He retracted his claims and resurfaced as one of the respondents and a witness of the CIDG.   

“Ito na siguro iyong totoong hinihintay na pagkakataon. Ito na iyong laban. Dito na magkakaalaman kung sino iyong nagsasabi ng totoo, kung sino iyong nagsisinungaling, kung sino iyong manggagamit at kung sino iyong gumagamit ng mga tao para maghari iyong kagustuhan nila,” he said during the filing of complaint at the DOJ.

The CIDG filed charges of sedition, inciting to sedition, libel, cyber libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice against Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and Former Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino.

Also among the respondents are officials of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, several lawyers, and clergymen who were allegedly involved in the destabilization plot.

“Napakaganda noong kaso, napakadaming ebidensya ako mismo hindi ko inasahan na ganoon pala karami iyong matitibay na ebidensya laban dito sa nasasangkot dito sa kaso na ito,” noted Atty. Larry Gadon who took on the case as Advincula’s legal counsel.

Detained Senator Leila de lima called the complaint “hogwash” and just a “piece of trash”.

“Hogwash. Basura pa iyan siguro kaysa sa mga isinampang kaso laban sa akin (Hogwash. It is probably more absurd than the cases filed against me),” she said during the arraignment of her illegal drug case at the Muntinlupa Court on Friday.

“The credibility of Bikoy is already down the drain. Siya iyong criminal. Siya iyong umamin na kriminal eh tapos siya iyong ginagamit ngayon ng CIDG laban sa tingin nila ay kumakalaban sa administrasyon (He is the criminal. He’s the one who admitted being a criminal. Now the CIDG is using him against those who they accused of betraying the government),” De Lima’s legal counsel Atty. Boni Tacardon said.

On his official social media page, Trillanes said: “The filing of cases against key members of the opposition are clear acts of political persecution and harassment by the Duterte administration meant to stifle democratic dissent.”

But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified that the DOJ is not a weapon for oppression or persecution.

“We shall go only by the evidence presented before us and we don’t care who gets indicted and who goes scot-free,” he said.

He added however that once probable cause is determined and a criminal case is filed in court, the DOJ will exert the full force of the law to secure a conviction.

Opposition lawyer Atty. Chel Diokno, meanwhile, accused the administration of rushing a conviction even without strong evidence against the accused.

“Luto ang kasong ito. Sabik na sabik ata ang administrasyon na ikulong kami, kahit walang basehan o ebidensiya. Bilang abogado para sa mahihirap, sanay na ako sa ganitong pangaapi. Tuloy ang laban natin para sa hustisya,” he said in a statement.

(This case is rigged. This administration can’t wait to put us behind bars despite the lack of basis or evidence. As a lawyer for the poor, I am used to these types of oppression. Our fight for justice continues.)

Hontiveros, meanwhile, said the complaint was nothing but “a badly-written telenovela.”

“Bad acting. Awful script. Terrible plot twist,” she said.

Robredo’s camp said they are yet to receive a copy of the complaint but knowing the background of the complainant, they were sure that it was “completely baseless and nothing more than plain and simple harassment.”

“Kwentong kutsero na pinilit gawing batayan sa kaso (they are forcing a tall tale to be the basis for a case),” Robredo’s legal counsel Atty. Barry Gutierrez concluded. – with reports from Mai Bermudez

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Duterte wants OFW department up by December

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

One-stop service for Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs in side the POEA biulding in Ortigas.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the establishment of a separate Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) by December this year to address the persistent woes with illegal recruiters and other concerns.

Duterte said the proposed department’s power will include strict regulation of Philippine-based recruitment agencies.

“Kaya apurahin ko ‘yang Department of OFW. Bawal na ang recruitment sa abroad — sa labas. Kung gusto nila, diyan sila maglagay ng mesa. So, under the supervision of government at walang horrendous charges. Hindi ako papayag ng ganun ‘pag natayo ‘yan,” the president said in a speech during the Araw ng Pasasalamat for OFWs ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo last Friday (July 12).

Duterte said he wants the framework for this proposal be completed by the second week of August.

He also warned illegal and abusive recruiters to shape up as they will no longer operate without direct government supervision once the proposed department is created.

“Kaya kayong mga recruitment, bilang talaga ang araw ninyo… ‘Pag hindi ko kayo nadala sa usapan na maganda, brasohan tayo. ‘Pag nag-brasohan tayo, kayo ang matatalo. Sigurado ‘yan,” he said.

In line with this, former special assistant to the president and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed the Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.

Go’s proposal seeks the creation of the said department to serve as the umbrella agency to address all concerns of Filipinos working overseas.

The measure will also create an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund to provide financial aid to Filipino migrants in distress and provide livelihood loans for OFWs returning to the Philippines for good.

Once approved into law, the department will absorb the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, the International Labor Affairs Bureau and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Currently, Filipinos wanting to work abroad need to go to different departments to secure necessary documents and present other concerns such as employment and technical education.

The neophyte lawmaker believes the president will certify the measure as urgent to swiftly hurdle the Congress before the year ends.

“I think it’s possible and doable naman po by December. Maybe the president will certify it as urgent. At ang gusto na mangyari ng presidente [ay] maiwasan ang illegal recruitment or maging biktima ng illegal recruitment,” he said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Senators expect intense debate on death penalty bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Death chamber

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go has filed the proposed death penalty as his first order of business in the Senate.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said, there is a chance for the bill to prosper in the Senate if the provisions cover only high level drug trafficking.

“If confined to high level drug trafficking, it stands a better chance,” Sotto said.

However, Sotto is uncertain if he will be able to convince his colleagues if the proposed penalty would cover the crime of plunder as Go proposed.

There should be a compelling reason to reinstate the death penalty without violating the Constitution.

“Okay sa akin pero I doubt kung ma-convince namin (ang) iba (It’s okay with me but I doubt if I could convince my colleagues) to support more heinous crimes,” he said.

“Remember, the only way is to present a compelling reason in order to reimpose the death penalty. Otherwise it will violate the Constitution,” he added.

Plunder can only be filed against a government official who has amassed public funds worth P50 million and more.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri believes the bill will face intense debate among the senators.

“We have members of the minority for example the Senate minority leader, Senator Franklin Drilon they committed going against this,” he said.

“It will be a good and healthy discussion and we will make sure that it is calendared for plenary debates and eventually we have to put it on a vote,” he added.

Though a member of the minority bloc, Zubiri stands against the death penalty bill. – with reports from Nel Maribojoc

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