The signed affidavit of lawyer Jude Sabio withdrawing the crimes against humanity case against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave detailed accounts of how former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and his cohorts engineered the political maneuver.
Sabio’s statement complained of the failure of Trillanes to honor his financial commitment mainly his monthly retainer but it also revealed the direct hand of Trillanes in the filing of the complaint.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda earlier released a report saying there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that Mr. Duterte and his subordinates committed crimes against humanity in the war on drugs despite the Philippines withdrawing from the ICC that took effect 2019.
In the document, Sabio revealed, “although I actively collaborated with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and his Magdalo group, the communication that I submitted was a product of my legal work as an independent lawyer believing in the cause for justice.”
“After I went to the ICC at the Hague, Netherlands, or sometime in June 2017, Senator Trillanes engaged me to be the defense counsel for Arturo Lascanas in the murder case pending with the Regional Trial Court in Davao City in relation to the murder in Davao of the late journalist Jun Pala,” he noted.
In that case, the court record showed Sabio filed a motion for and on behalf of Lascanas.
Much later, in June 2017 “after I came from the ICC in the Hague, Trillanes engaged me to work on the foreign asylum of Lascanas and his family while Trillanes and former Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano were at the ICC in the Hague to file their communication supplementary to the one that I had earlier filed.”
Then, according to Sabio, the “Totoong Narcolist Videos” which was also the handiwork of Trillanes and his cohorts were released.
Where financing comes from
“On 23 April 2019, Trillanes began his effort to recruit me as a lawyer for Peter Joemel Advincula alias ‘Bikoy’ by way of a Viber text through his staff Jonnel Sangalang, which culminated in my personal meeting with Trillanes on 29 April 2019 at the Novotel Hotel at Cubao, Quezon City which ended in total failure to recruit me,” he said.
It was then that Sabio said he came to know of the involvement of Trillanes in the alias ‘Bikoy’ caper.
“In our meeting at the Milky Way Restaurant in Makati City sometime in February 2019, Senator Trillanes told me that his monthly allowance for me would stop at the end of his term in June 2019, saying that he could not anymore afford it.”
Considering Trillanes’ admission of his future financial incapacity, “I asked him about what would happen about the ICC case undergoing preliminary examination and what would happen with the two vital witnesses for whom I acted as counsel,” according to Sabio.
“To my mind, since the ICC case has an ongoing preliminary examination, my point in asking that question was to insinuate to Senator Trillanes that the expenses including my monthly allowance, should continue until the case could come to a final conclusion,” Sabio added.
He noted as a lawyer for the two vital witnesses, “I was concerned about the continued material support for both because lack of support could put them at serious risk and could drive them to turn around, seriously jeopardizing the ICC case.”
Sabio said he was disheartened by Trillanes’ reply as he was told: “Atty. you have done your duty.”
On the two witnesses, self-confessed assassins Edgar Matobato and Lascanas, Trillanes told Sabio that both were “turned over” to the Church since he could not anymore afford to support them.
Later on, Trillanes told Sabio that the two were transferred to the ICC.
Sabio then recalled a conversation between Matobato and Trillanes in 2016 when he told the supposed whistleblower that “as long as President Duterte is still there, he would continue to support Matobato.”
Stop being gullible
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC should have realized that “disgruntled and discredited” individuals are tainting the President’s reputation for their own benefit through the pending complaints.
Panelo said Sabio’s withdrawal of the communication bared the truth that the accusations against Duterte and his war on illegal drugs were part of the “vilification campaign” of the opposition Liberal Party and other critics like Trillanes.
“The ICC has to wake up from its stupor if not ignorance,” Panelo said.
“It should realize by now that it is being used by disgruntled and discredited persons to advance their goal of besmirching the reputation of PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) and achieving their impossible dream of bringing down the Duterte presidency,” he added.
“Sabio claims he has withdrawn his complaint because he didn’t want to be a part of the political propaganda of Trillanes and the Liberal Party,” Panelo averred.
“Put simply, the complaint against President Duterte, orchestrated by Trillanes, is part of the vilification campaign relentlessly pursued by the incorrigible detractors as well as the political opposition totally repudiated by the electorate,” he added.
June decision set
Bensouda’s report noted that ICC seeks the conclusion of its initial review of Duterte’s drug war by June 2021 to determine the possible conduct of a full-blown investigation into the Philippines’ campaign against the narcotics trade.
The Philippines was officially out of the ambit of the ICC on 17 March 2019 but the international body still proceeded with its preliminary examination.
Panelo said it appeared that Sabio was merely tapped by Trillanes to file the complaint against the President.
He added that lies can only be sustained for some time, but when “conscience haunts and torments the peddler, it melts by the heat of truth.”
“The professional tie between the two has since turned sour owing to Trillanes’ alleged failure to pay Sabio’s professional fees leading to the latter’s withdrawal of his complaint before the ICC,” he said.
“Trillanes must be squirming in his disgraced retirement by Sabio’s turnabout,” he added.
Beyond ICC jurisdiction
Panelo insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Duterte and the Philippines.
He said it is an “incontrovertible” fact that the ICC “never” acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines because the Rome Statute that created the international body is “never clothed with legal enforceability” in the country’s jurisdiction.
He reiterated that the Rome Statute lacks the legal requirement of publication, the operative act that should have given birth to its enforceability over the Philippines.
“It (ICC) continues to accept communications from entities and persons relative to complaints on human rights against Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. (It) only demonstrates its continuing ignorance of the very source of its being,” Panelo said.
“It should recognize the unalterable legal fact that it has no jurisdiction over the President, and for that matter, the Philippines,” he added.