A Filipino senator is facing sedition charges for a speech criticizing the country’s strongman, President Rodrigo Duterte.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV delivered a speech last October accusing Duterte of having 2 billion Phillipino Pesos ($38 million) of undeclared transactions in his bank account.
Duterte responded to the accusations by claiming that anyone who could find evidence of his having more than 40 million pesos ($770,000) would have license to shoot or overthrow him.
Trillanes later suggested that soldiers could use M60 machine guns to kill Duterte because his undeclared wealth far exceeded the 40 million pesos he claimed.
Federal prosecutors have now alleged that Trillanes’s remarks are a violation of Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code, which outlaws sedition, defining it as intention “to inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee.”
A resolution signed by Joahna Gabatino-Lim, senior assistant city prosecutor, said Trillanes’s words aimed “to sow the seeds of sedition in the mind of the people.”
“The fact remains that after respondent’s speech and disclosure of the alleged bank deposits of President Duterte, a nationwide petition-signing drive campaign was staged aimed at pressuring the President to open his financial records,” wrote Lim.
“Therefore, probable cause exists against respondent for violation of Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended,” he continued.
Trillanes, meanwhile, has dismissed the charges as a form of harassment and said that because he made the remarks during a speech in the Senate, he is immune to criminal charges.
“Unlike Duterte, who is too cowardly to face charges, I will face this one,” Trillanes said. “If the intent of this is to make me back down in criticizing Duterte, well, as I’ve said before, this just encourages me to all the more stand up against the wrong and evil.”
Lim, however, maintained that Trillanes would not be immune to such charges.
“In this case, the utterances made against the President and his family regarding bank transactions and bank deposits in huge amounts, thereby imputing commission of graft and corruption against them, is entirely not in aid of legislation.”
The trial raises further questions about Duterte’s authoritarianism, which has involved an extremely violent crackdown on the country’s drug trade, a seeming disregard for human rights, and attacks on media outlets critical of his leadership.
This week, Duterte announced he would pull the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for what he described as a series of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on [his] person” as the organization continues to investigate extrajudicial killings carried out by his security forces.