14 February 2020
Responding to news that arrest warrants have been issued against former Senator and drug war critic Antonio Trillanes IV, activist priest Fr. Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva and 9 others over charges of conspiracy to commit sedition, Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines Section Director, said:
“The arrest orders are just the latest wave of State-backed attacks against critics of the Duterte administration and its deadly anti-drugs campaign.
This latest attack comes on the heels of government efforts to shut down ABS-CBN, one of the country’s largest TV networks. Clearly, this administration will go to any length to stifle peaceful and legitimate criticism, including misusing the criminal justice system.
The government must end this relentless assault on people’s rights and freedoms. President Duterte must be reminded that the world is watching and, as his government’s abusive practices continue to be exposed, the day of reckoning is drawing near.”
On 14 February, a Quezon City court issued arrest warrants against former Senator and prominent drug war critic Antonio Trillanes IV and 10 other people for conspiracy to commit sedition. Among those ordered arrested were Fr. Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva, who has been actively assisting families of victims of extrajudicial executions under the “war on drugs” to cope with their situation.
The charges stem from a series of so-called “Bikoy videos”, released online in April 2019, detailing the supposed involvement of President Duterte, his family and his allies in the illegal drug trade. Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy, who was the narrator of all five videos, was also ordered arrested.
On 10 February, the Department of Justice indicted Trillanes and the others for violating Article 141 of the Revised Penal Code, or conspiracy to commit sedition. Other charges, such as sedition, cyber libel, and obstruction of justice, were dropped. The original complaint named over 30 politicians, members of the clergy and other individuals, including Vice President Leni Robredo and detained Senator Leila de Lima, who Amnesty International deems a prisoner of conscience. They were not included in the charges.
This is not the first time that charges have been filed against government critics, especially those opposing the Duterte administration’s brutal ‘war on drugs.’ On 10 February, the government’s chief lawyer filed a quo warranto petition seeking the closure of TV network ABS-CBN, accusing it of violating the law such as by allowing foreign ownership. Sen. de Lima is enduring her third year in prison on politically-motivated charges. News website Rappler, its executive editor Maria Ressa, its directors, and a former researcher are all facing a string of court cases.
In July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council asked the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, to be presented during the Council’s June 2020 sessions.