MANILA – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed an indictment of sedition against the administrator and registrant of a website that was found sharing controversial "Bikoy" videos, which involved members of the first family in the illegal drug trade. .
In a text message to reporters late Thursday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he "was told that the initial charge would be inciting sedition," but declined to comment.
Just an hour earlier, at a news conference, Guevarra and other officials from the Justice Department and the NBI had been told what charges would be made against Rodel Jayme, under whose name MetroBalita.net was registered.
Guevarra said it looks like the site was the one that started sharing the controversial videos titled "Ang Totoong Narco-list".
The video features a "Bikoy," a self-confessed former member of a drug syndicate who accused the son of Duterte, the former mayor of Davao, Paolo Duterte, his son-in-law Atty. Manases Carpio and former adviser Christopher Go to own bank accounts where alleged drug money went.
"Further investigation revealed that a particular domain-name site, metrobalita.net, was constantly posting links to Ang Totoong's Narco list, which allowed the public to have easier access to it," said Guevarra.
MetroBalita was also identified in the "Oust Duterte Matrix" published by Malacañang and published by The Manila Times.
Under the Revised Criminal Code, incitement to sedition may be committed through speeches or writings that, among others, "lead or tend to incite the people against the legal authorities" without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition.
Sedition, on the other hand, may be committed, inter alia, by inflicting "any act of hatred or revenge upon the person or property of any public official or employee."
Inciting to sedition is punishable with a maximum of 6 years imprisonment and a fine of P2,000.00.
The Department of Justice's cybercrime office previously said that the then-unidentified Jayme was arrested by cyber libel for "loading" Bikoy's videos on Youtube.
Both the cybercrime office and Guevarra have clarified in text messages to reporters that the detained person is not the same as "Bikoy" that appeared in the videos.
During the press conference, however, the head of the Cyber Crimes Division of the NBI, Victor Lorenzo, said that Jayme only shared the videos and they are still investigating whether he was who also uploaded the videos.
Guevarra also said that Jaime and Bikoy may not necessarily be one and the same, and that they are still "uncertain about Bikoy's identity."
Asked by the ABS-CBN News about a Supreme Court ruling that stated that mere video sharing is not responsible for cyber-libel under the CyberCrime Prevention Act, Charito Zamora of the DOJ Cybercrime Office suggested that there could be other liabilities besides the cyber libel.
Lorenzo, meanwhile, also said that there may be a case of violation of RA 7610, the law against child abuse, because Bikoy's videos also mentioned the alleged involvement of the president's daughter, Veronical "Kitty" Duterte.
NO POLITICAL COLOR
Guevarra insisted that Malacanang had no hand in the investigation of the NBI.
He said that the NBI requested a search warrant on April 29 and that it was issued the same day by the RTC of the Makati Court, Judge Andres Soriano, on April 29.
The search warrant was served at Jayme's house on April 30.
It was not immediately clear when Jayme was "arrested," although the DOJ alleged that the arrest was incidental to the search warrant against a suspected crime that has not yet been discovered by the authorities. They also declined to comment on whether the cyber libel could be considered a continuing crime to justify imprisonment without a warrant.
Guevarra said that Jayme "voluntarily" went to the NBI to answer some questions.
Under the law, the authorities have 18 hours to file a complaint punishable by correctional penalties, such as incitement to sedition.
As of 5:00 pm on May 2, no complaints were filed with the DOJ.