SUCH BRILLIANCE: Colmenares, Hilbay, Tañada, Saguisag, Diokno and Olalia share a light moment at the DOJ — perhaps laughing at the idiocy of the sedition charges filed against opposition figures. / TonyoCruz - Manila Bulletin

Truth has become stranger than fiction, indeed, with the turn of events after the so-called “Bikoy videos” were released to the public four months ago. What started as accusations of drug and corruption charges against the president and his cabal, have now morphed into criminal charges against opposition leaders and human rights defenders for “endangering the state”.

Inciting to sedition and libel charges against thirty-six personalities, including the Vice-President of the Philippines, deserve scant consideration by the courts. The sheer oddities and irregularities in the statements of the witness expose pure conjectures behind the alleged destabilization plot. “Bikoy”, whom PNP Chief Albayalde earlier called a “peddler of information” is now the sole source of the allegations. As complainant, the PNP seems to have no clear grasp of the evidence and nary a clue about their own legal theory. Bereft of merit, all farce and mockery of the law, the charges perforce must be dropped. 

What is disturbing about these hodgepodge charges, however, is the notion of persecution of the opposition. Most if not all of the critics of President Rodrigo Duterte are now in jail, stand accused in court, or politically demonized. The respondents in these charges, some of whom were electoral challengers of the dominant Duterte block, were clearly targeted for their active political stances contrary to the administration’s.

Duterte is not the state, no matter the self-aggrandizement. Attacks on him, his conduct, his character, must not be confused with direct attacks on the state. Criticism of his policies and governance are all allowable under the mantle of democratic struggle. These trumped-up charges, taken together with clear threats, red-tagging, and killings, were verily crafted to stifle dissent and silence his critics. As in many other instances, the law is being weaponized by Duterte lackeys and an unapologetically partisan OSG to keep their control and power.

The Mananggol Laban sa Extra-judicial Killings (Manlaban sa EJK) stands behind its convenors and demands the dropping of sedition charges against Chel Diokno, Florin Hilbay, Erin Tañada, Egon Cayosa, Minerva “June” Ambrosio, alongside former IBP President Ade Fajardo and 30 other government critics. No officer of the court or worker for justice can bear to linger on the sidelines and watch as this administration hacks blindly at its perceived enemies. Stop the attacks now!

Manananggol Laban sa Extra-Judicial Killings (manlabansaejk@gmail.com)

Senator Rene A. V. Saguisag, Judge Cleto R. Villacorta III, Comm. Eugenio Roberto T. Cadiz, Dean Anna Maria “Ada” D. Abad, Dean Pacifico A. Agabin, Dean Jose Manuel “Chel” I. Diokno, Dean Antonio “Tony” G. M. La Viña, Dean Ernesto P. Maceda Jr., Dean Manuel P. Quibod, Atty. Minerva “June” M. B. Ambrocio, Atty. Victoria A. Avena, Atty. Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Atty. Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa, Atty. Neri J. Colmenares, Atty. Florin T. Hilbay, Atty. Rachel F. Pastores, Atty. Roberto Rafael J. Pulido, Atty. Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III, Atty Edre U. Olalia, Atty. Evalyn G. Ursua, Atty. Pura Ferrer-Calleja, Atty. Boni F. Tacardon, Atty. Imelda C. Manalaysay, Atty. Glenda T. Litong, Atty. Maria Kristina C. Conti, Atty. Katherine A. Panguban 

NUPL
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers was founded September 15, 2007 as a nationwide association of human rights lawyers as well as law students, paralegals and legal workers in the Philippines united by a commitment to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights especially of the poor and the oppressed. nupl2007@gmail.com | 02 9206660