Groups denounce ‘political persecution of Robredo, critics’

MANILA — Several groups have condemned the filing of sedition, cyber libel and other criminal charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 other individuals by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).

Robredo, members of Otso Diretso, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and members of the Church and other individuals critical of Duterte were being sued for the release of “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos. The six-part video series, which was uploaded in social media platforms, links the family of President Rodrigo Duterte and his close allies to the illegal drugs trade.

In a statement, media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) branded the PNP’s action as “a cheap attempt to clamp down on dissent.”

Inday Espina-Varona, LODI convenor, said, “It seems this is less about the ‘Bikoy videos’, but more a continuation of the now-discredited ‘matrix’ and Red October yarns. They want a new ‘chismis’ to drive a wedge in the broad opposition ahead of the United People’s SONA.”

President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his State of the Nation Address this Monday. Various groups have announced their plan to stage the United People’s SONA in the streets of Manila and other urban centres.

“The objective here, as what has been done in other cases, is to confuse, corrupt and crush every one who dares to stand up against Duterte,” Espina-Varona said.

The veteran journalist also took a swipe at the police’s absence of credibility and of moral grounds.

“There is no reason to believe a flip-flopping witness and police officials whose main moves, whether in the matter of extrajudicial killings or other rights abuses, have been geared to protect an abusive government from accountability,” she said.

In a separate statement, Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate dubbed the charges as “harassment suit.”

Zarate also believes that the case was filed “to steal the thunder from the broadening movement against the excesses and tyrannical policies of the Duterte administration.”

Zarate, a lawyer, said that the case against Robredo and the others “is destitute of merit and would not stand credence in a fair court.”

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said the allegations are “most probably contrived.”

“At any rate, they smack of political persecution and shotgun repression on its face using again the legal system as a potent political weapon through the law of rulers,” Olalia said.

Colmenares noted that “the same template being utilized by the Duterte regime against progressives and activists is being used wholesale against opposition figures.”

“They file trumped up charges against critics of the regime to silence them from exposing the rottenness of the administration,” Colmenares said, citing the detention of peace consultants Vic Ladlad and Rey Casambre and Sen. Leila de Lima.

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