IBP declines ‘Bikoy’ request for legal help

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2019   •   2230

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.

Go files bill seeking to amend Revised Penal Code, resolve GCTA law issues

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to amend the Philippine Revised Penal Code to resolve issues in the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule for inmates under the Republic Act 10592.

In filing the Senate Bill No. 1003, Go proposes to amend the Articles 29, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code, the same provisions which were amended and rendered unclear by the GCTA law.

Go said the proposed measure recognizes that the said articles gave the notion that prisoners, including recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes, are entitled to GCTA benefits.

The senator filed the bill more than a week after news broke out that convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez could be released earlier for good behavior.

Go said his proposal follows the points raised by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during a Senate inquiry on Monday (Sept. 2) on what seems to be lacking in the GCTA law and the safeguards that can be provided.

“I have filed Senate Bill No. 1003 to clearly state the intent and policy of the law not to extend the benefits of GCTA to prisoners who are convicted of heinous crimes,” he said.

Through SB 1003, Go added a provision that clearly states that convicts of heinous crimes “will not be eligible to be granted time allowances.”

He also added a list of heinous crimes to further avoid confusion and a provision that all prisoners for release on the basis of time allowances shall be subject for review.

The lawmaker also highlighted that Congress will be informed of the releases, “as the Bureau of Corrections will be required to furnish the Legislature with a report twice a year.”

“All of these will form part of our continuing fight against corruption and criminality, and illegal drugs,” Go said.

“The law may be ambiguous, but what is clear to me is that there is either negligence or corruption in the way our correctional system is being handled,” he added. “I say to the Filipino people – mananagot ang dapat managot.”

Senator Sonny Angara earlier filed a bill proposing to amend certain provisions of the GCTA law, including the clear definition of heinous crimes, the exclusion of recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons convicted of heinous crimes from availing of the GCTA and the deletion of the provision making GCTA irrevocable under the law.  

Proposals to repeal the GCTA law were also filed in the Senate following the controversy.

Robredo counters inciting to sedition complaint, denies meeting with ‘Bikoy’

Robie de Guzman   •   August 29, 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo filed her counter-affidavit for the sedition case filed against her on Thursday, August 29, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Manila. VP Leni signed her counter-affidavit and swore under oath before DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas. (Photo by Charlie Villegas / OVP)

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday (August 28) denied allegations she met Peter Joemel Advincula, who accused the former of being behind the online videos linking the Duterte family to narcotics trade.

In her counter-affidavit in relation to inciting to sedition complaint filed against her by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), Robredo maintained she did not take part in an alleged destabilization plot against the Duterte administration, through a meeting supposedly held at the Ateneo de Manila University on March 4, 2019.

Robredo filed her counter-affidavit at the Department of Justice, personally appearing to sign it under oath before Justice Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas. She was accompanied by her lawyer, Marlon Manuel.  

Along with her counter-affidavit, Robredo also provided photos, news reports and other documentation to prove that she was in Bulacan on March 4 for official engagements.

Advincula, who claimed to be the hooded figure ‘Bikoy’ in the online “Ang Totoong Narco List” video series, earlier said the videos were orchestrated by the opposition Liberal Party under the guidance of Senator Antonio Trillanes III.

He said he met with Robredo and other opposition members in March to discuss “Project Sodoma” – an alleged plot to oust Duterte.

He also accused Robredo and other opposition members of forcing him to speak lies about the Duterte family’s supposed links to the narcotics trade.

Robredo and other opposition figures have earlier denied Advincula’s claims.

Robredo said the evidence she submitted to the DOJ will prove that Advincula’s allegations were “impossible” and an “outright lie”.

She also slammed the statement made by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), acting as counsel to the PNP-CIDG in an Omnibus Comment it filed earlier, which erroneously insisted that she “repeatedly met” with Advincula.

This, Robredo noted, “directly contradicts” the allegation the witness-respondent made in his Sinumpaang Salaysay.

OSG’s claims, she said, clearly “underscores that the purported charges are aimed at hounding and oppressing me simply because I am perceived as critical of the current administration.”

“The false and perjurious Sinumpaang Salaysay and the Letter-Complaint should be viewed with the highest degree of caution and suspicion not only because of the unreliable nature of the allegations as discussed above, but because of the very nature of the charges itself,” Robredo’s counter-affidavit read.

“It has been held that ‘[s]edition is the crime usually resorted to by tyrants as a pretext to silence or suppress those persons who have the firmness of character to oppose them and expose their abuses.’”

Atty. Manuel noted that there are no other allegations stated against the Vice President, and that the charges were based solely on Advincula’s Sinumpaang Salaysay.

“Isa lang iyong paragraph na nag-aakusa sa kaniya ng isang gawain na diumano ay isang krimen. May pitong krimen na isinama doon sa reklamo laban sa kaniya at iyon ang isinagot namin at pinatunayan namin na kasinungalingan—iyong nakalagay doon sa counter-affidavit na siya ay dumalo sa isang diumano ay pagpupulong sa Ateneo na ginawa noong March 4,” he told reporters after the filing.

“Wala nang ibang ebidensya. And as far as the Vice President is concerned, it’s just that one paragraph that accuses her of a direct action—and that is a complete falsehood,” he added.

Senators mourn the passing of ex-DENR Sec. Gina Lopez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Gina Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Monday mourned the passing of former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez.

In a statement, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he is deeply saddened by the passing of Lopez, whom he called a “fearless advocate and a tireless philanthropist,” who dedicated “most her life for the betterment of her fellow Filipinos.”

Go added that Lopez’s “exceptional” dedication to protecting the environment has “no equal today.”

“I had the honor of working with her when she was the environment secretary of the Duterte Administration. As a former colleague in the government, I know how passionate, dedicated and humble she was as a public servant and as an Earth warrior,” he said in a statement.

“Ma’am Gina, taos-pusong pasasalamat po sa inyong hindi napapantayang serbisyo sa kapwa Pilipino. Isa kang katangi-tanging modelo ng tunay na pagmamalasakit sa kapwa tao. May your legacy continue for generations to come,” he added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel also expressed condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of the late DENR chief. He described Lopez as “a famous philanthropist and staunch children’s rights advocate.”

“I am saddened by the demise of such a great public servant and environmentalist as Gina Lopez. She will truly be remembered for her advocacies and contributions in the service of Filipinos,” Pimentel said.

“As the Filipinos mourn the untimely death of former Secretary Lopez, we also pray that her legacy lives on in every person and community her good heart has touched,” Pimentel added.

READ: Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez dies at 65

Lopez passed away on Monday. She succumbed to multiple organ failure after battling brain cancer.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri recalled Lopez’s many efforts to preserve the environment and helping the aggrieved sectors of society especially poor children.

“Being the chief of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission is just one of the many tasks she carried out well as part of our government. She brought her environmental activism into every Filipino home in her travels around our beautiful archipelago,” he said in a statement.

Zubiri also expressed admiration for Lopez’s causes and for her grace and sublime courage with which she faced the pains of her sickness.

“She walked her talk, be it in defense of helpless children or displaced communities, or in nursing back to life polluted waters or ravaged forests,” he said.

“While in government, her habit of speaking the inconvenient truth to power was actually a strength, and not a character flaw in a bureaucracy straitjacketed by niceties. Though her stint was cut short, Gina was a great ‘secretary of defense of our natural resources’,” he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also said many will remember the late environmentalist as “a woman of courage” and a “firebrand,” who pushed for her environmental and child protection advocacies without fear and hesitation.

“She was all that. In or out of government, her life was about tireless creativity for all our collective future, through our children and our environment,” he added.

Senator Sonny Angara likewise paid tribute to Lopez, describing her as a “one-person green warrior” who took her “selfless” fight for environment protection to “where it matters.”

“She spent a lifetime pouring her considerable talents in bringing to the mainstream the powerless and the voiceless who exist forgotten in the margins of society. She fought for children who were incapable of seeking justice and care for themselves and eloquently spoke for the people in the communities whose voices have been crushed by exploitation,” Angara said.

“She was a one-person green warrior who took the fight to where it matters – in boardrooms, chatrooms, government offices, and in her favorite office – out in the open, under a forest canopy or underwater, where she was in her element with people she loved in a country she never gave up hope on,” he added.

Angara also stated that Lopez’s passing has “left us a bucket list to comply with and follow.”

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, thanked Lopez for her efforts to protect the environment.

“Sec. Gina Lopez came in our midst and taught us love for mankind and the environment, our common home. Thank you for touching our lives in your impassioned way,” Poe said in a statement.

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