A MANILA court has found Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula guilty of perjury over his claim that human rights lawyers Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III and Theodore Te were part of Project Sodoma, an alleged opposition plot to oust then President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
In a 16-page ruling, the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 17 Presiding Judge Karla Funtila-Abugan also ordered Advincula’s imprisonment from three months up to one year as penalty for his crime.
Advincula’s claim that several prominent personalities critical to the Duterte administration were behind the circulation of his so-called “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video wherein he accused members of the Duterte family of involvement in illegal drug trade in the country.
In 2019, Advincula made a public appearance at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame where he recanted all of his allegations against the Dutertes.
This led to the filing of sedition complaint by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) against former Vice President Leni Robredo, 2019 “Otso-Diretso” opposition senatorial candidates and more than 30 other oppositionist and religious figures who were allegedly behind the release of Advincula’s video.
In 2020, the case against Robredo, Diokno, Tañada and Te and several others were dismissed by the Department of Justice but filed charges for conspiracy to commit sedition against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and nine others.
After they were cleared by the DOJ, the three human rights lawyers filed the perjury complaint against Advincula.
In convicting Advincula, the trial court held that the prosecution was able to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“In this case, the totality of the prosecution evidence, when put ‘under severe testing,’ amounts to proof beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of perjury,” the trial court declared.
Advincula claimed that the alleged plot to oust Duterte was hatched on March 4, 2019 at the Leung Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).
Diokno and Tañada denied Advincula’s accusations, saying that they were at ADMU on the said date to attend a media forum.
The two presented the video coverage of the event.
Te, on the other hand recounted that on May 2, 2019 he was asked by someone who knew him as the head of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) to extend assistance to a certain person, who turned out to be Advincula.
After their short meeting, Te said he made an assessment based on his three decades of experience as a FLAG lawyer that the accused was not credible, thus, he has reservations on taking him as a FLAG client.
After consulting with Diokno, a fellow FLAG officer, Te said they both agreed not to represent Advincula and instead referred him to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
Te insisted that he did not meet Advincula on May 2, 2019 to plot against Duterte.
“In sum, the essential element of deliberate falsehood was established in this case and accordingly satisfies the required quantum of evidence for a conviction for perjury,” the trial court said.