MANILA – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday said the coup plotters under the group called National Transformation Council (NTC) may face criminal charges for instigating military-backed people power uprising.
”The NTC has carefully formulated this strategy in the false hope of propagating it legally in the mass media and among supporters without however accruing any criminal liability under the penal laws on rebellion, sedition, and coup d’ etat,” De Lima said in a press statement.
De Lima said the coup threats that have been making the rounds recently “are not coup threats in the strict sense of the word.”
She said they are not any section from the government’s security forces but disgruntled allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former officials, politicians and members of the catholic clergy closely identified with the former leader.
”They are known as the National Transformation Council or the NTC, to instigate or foment a military-backed people power uprising,” De Lima said.
”This is a false hope, since certain actions already implemented by the group, from organizing foras and conferences of supporters and sympathizers, can already be contemplated as conspiracies relating to sedition, rebellion or coup d’ etat,” added.
De Lima identified Norberto Gonzales, defense secretary of former President Arroyo, as an active member of the NTC which have been conducting meetings since last year.
”According to Gonzales, there is nothing wrong with people power, or a change in regime through people power, which was the case with EDSA 1 and 2. This is Gonzales’ doublespeak,” De Lima said.
”Everything in this strategy is illegal and unconstitutional, except probably for the people power part if executed merely as a form of mass mobilization in the exercise of the people’s freedom of assembly,” she added.
The DOJ chief said installation of the NTC as the governing body of the Republic is nothing but “the installation of a civilian-military junta.”
”The call for the military’s support for its defense and installation is nothing less than a proposal or conspiracy to commit the crime of coup d’etat,” De Lima said.
She added: “The NTC’s pronouncements and publicly declared strategy for the capture of state power through active military support to the NTC are therefore acts which already constitute conspiracy or proposal to commit rebellion and coup d’ etat (Art. 136 in relation to Arts. 134 and 134-A, Revised Penal Code), conspiracy to commit sedition (Art. 141 in relation to Art. 139, RPC) or, at the very least, inciting to sedition (Art. 142, RPC), as well as illegal assemblies (Art. 146, RPC).
”A junta by any other sanitized name is still illegal and unconstitutional,” she said.
The DOJ chief warned that “the government will not relent in applying the full force of the law against them in order to protect the people and the State from an unconstitutional and illegal power grab.”
De Lima said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will stand behind President Benigno Aquino III “no matter how the Mamasapano incident is exploited by opportunists, such as NTC, to sow discord and division among their ranks.”
The Mamasapano encounter has resulted in the killing of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were just carrying a mission to capture two-high profile terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan and Basit Usman when they encountered the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
”It is the height of pathetic gutter politics, when the tragic loss of 44 police officers killed in the line of duty is used by disgraced pathological personalities to crawl their way back to national relevance, at the expense of the people’s effort to come to terms with the complex issue of peace in Mindanao in their search for justice for the SAF44,” De Lima said.
” The nation is still grieving, and without any sense of shame, these personalities would use the people’s grief to pervert a national catharsis, serving only their own thirst and craving for absolute power by imposing upon this nation a tyranny of religious and political has-beens,” she added.
The mission dubbed ‘Oplan Exodus’ has resulted in the killing of Marwan, a notorious bomb maker who was wanted by the United States and has USD5-million bounty on his head.