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Planong pagpabagsak sa Gobyerno ni Duterte, pinag-meetingan sa Novotel Hotel Cubao

THE “Totoong Narcolist Videos” caused a wave of national discord and discourse. When Malacanang’s matrix hit the news, a fire of controversy especially in the media erupted. In the aftermath of the publication of such matrix by Dante Ang himself in the Manila Times, his editor resigned in protest, decrying such matrix as illegitimate news. It is only one among several high profile conflicts whipped up in the heat of the dispute.         

As a lawyer, I was almost burned by the fire of the cause celebre. On 29 April 2019, ex-senator Trillanes personally met me together with his lady staff at the Novotel Hotel in Cubao, Quezon City. As usual, my wife Jo ann A. Fortich was with me.

In the meeting at the hotel lobby, I told Sen. Trillanes to refrain and desist from Bikoy, because it is just a trap, apart from the dire lack of funds even for the ongoing ICC case. Jo ann also told him: “Sir, wag mong itutuloy yan, babagsak ka nyan at di ka na makakabangon.”

That meeting was unusually turbulent. In the few times before in the past more than two years, our meeting had been uneventful. This was markedly different, because Jo ann, for the first time at one point and to my consternation and disbelief, spoke out in a very loud voice against the senator, angrily pointing an accusing finger at him and shedding tears as she lambasted him. 

And yet, she was not personally angry with the senator. I had the feeling that she was conveying a dire ominous message like an oracle in antiquity portending of a terrible event to come.  Those tears, which were never shed before in the few times that we personally met the senator, underlined a potent portentous prophecy against Bikoy. 

That meeting culminates the senator’s actual effort to recruit me as a lawyer for Bikoy, which was first expressed to me on 23 April 2019 through a viber text by his close-in security/staff Jonnel Sangalang.

The text caught me by surprise, because I had absolutely no idea about the senator’s involvement with Bikoy.  Jonnel Sangalang represented to me that Bikoy had “handlers” to whom I would be recommended to be his lawyer, and that my task would be to submit a complaint with the Ombudsman following Bikoy’s public revelation that he would soon surface.

I was lucky when a twist of the hand of fate,which I consider as a blessing in disguise, intervened to spare me from the disaster that had befallen instead later on the Flag and IBP lawyers. Two days later or on 25 April 2019, Jonnel Sangalang contacted me again through viber, asking me: “Atty, updated ba ang license mo? After that MCLE?”  At that time, he said that he was in a meeting with the supposed “handlers.”

I diligently responded to him by text, stating that an MCLE deficiency, which is just a matter of compliance, does not affect my license as a lawyer, as lawyers are not required to renew their license which is lifetime.  Still, he would not believe me, saying “Seriously, really?” obviously in reference to that earlier egregious Warrant of Arrest against me which had been voided by the Court of Appeals on 29 March 2019.

After some thought, I was jolted by the absurdity: I was being recruited to be a lawyer and yet here I was being asked if my license as a lawyer is updated.  Beginning to feel an insult and affront on my profession, I began to react negatively, resulting into a nasty exchange of texts between Jonnel and me and causing a lot of emotional distress.

In an effort to placate me, Sen. Trillanes through his lady staff proposed an immediate meeting with me the following day or on 26 April 2019, but I declined, because I was still very much emotionally upset. The senator proposed a meeting instead on 29 April 2019 at Novotel which was the venue later chosen by him. But in the meantime, the damage had become hopelessly irreparable.

Although Bikoy was not accompanied by a lawyer, as he still had no lawyer then, the use of the IBP premises lent a weighty air of legitimacy and credence to his press conference. It must have created the popular belief that the national organization of lawyers was backing him. 

But matters came to a head when Sen. Sotto, in his press conference, in no time revealed that Bikoy had a similar statement way back in 2016 containing the same narrative against LP personalities including Ninoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and Leila de Lima. This revelation must have doused cold water on fire. As if the fire were extinguished, the IBP declined legal assistance to Bikoy, on the pretext that he failed to qualify. 

That was the beginning of the end for Bikoy and his “handlers.” The final nail on the coffin came when Sen. Lacson abruptly recalled his decision to undertake a Senate probe, which must have earlier given  Bikoy and his handlers a strong boost of morale.

Not long after the May elections, in a press conference at the PNP Headquarters, Bikoy made a surprise complete turnaround: he disavowed the “Totoong Narcolist Videos” calling them fabricated.

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