In this photo, presidential spokesperon Salvador Panelo holds up supposed proof of journalists and pro bono lawyers conspiring against President Rodrigo Duterte.
The STAR/Alexis Romero
Palace's new 'ouster' matrix ludicrous, dangerous — groups
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 22, 2019 - 4:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — The allegation that journalists and a lawyers' group are plotting to oust President Rodrigo Duterte is baseless but puts human rights lawyers and journalists in danger, groups said Monday.

The national executive board of the National Union of People's Lawyers, in a statement, said an article published as banner story on broadsheet Manila Times, is "false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous."

The article, which cites a flowchart that the newspaper supposedly received from a source at the Office of the President, quotes unnamed sources as saying NUPL, VERA Files, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Rappler are plotting against Duterte and claims the groups are linked to an anonymously posted video alleging the Dutertes are involved in illegal drugs.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, in a press briefing Monday, said the charts are authentic but were not released by the OP.

“It is not only a bait to engage in absurd and endless tit for tat to distract us. And it would have been amusing were it not perilous to the safety, security and liberty, if not the lives of NUPL lawyers and legal professionals across the country," NUPL said of the allegation.

The NUPL previously sought relief from the Supreme Court in the face of red-tagging. In a petition, the NUPL asked for a writ of amparo as they said that their rights to life, liberty and security have been violated by "persistent threats and harassment, and red-tagging" of state forces that prevent them from carrying out their profession as members of the bar.

READ: NUPL seeks court protection from 'threats' by state agents

'Matrix' of 'ouster plot'

The Manila Times report was based on a quote by an unnamed “highly placed source” in the Office of the President, but did not explain or susbtantiate the claim.

 It noted that “two other independent sources” confirmed the existence of an “active plot.”

The report named members of the NUPL, prosecutors and journalists as plotters in a supposed plot “to blacken the image of the president.”

Dante Ang, chairman emeritus of Manila Times and who was appointed special envoy for international public relations in 2017, wrote the article.

The story also carried a supposed “association matrix” that said VERA Files president Ellen Tordesillas passed the "Bikoy" video to PCIJ, Rappler and the NUPL, in an effort to “destabilize” the government.

Tordesillas is quoted by News5 as dismissing the allegation as hilarious.

"What I find disturbing is, if this is the kind of intelligence report that the president gets and bases his actions and policies on, the country is in big trouble," she also said.

PCIJ, in a statement, said it did not receive any email from Tordesillas about the "Bikoy" video.

It also pointed out:  "PCIJ has neither posted nor distributed any stories or commentaries on the 'narcolist video' of 'Bikoy.' The video was posted on YouTube from where the news media and citizens got to watch it. That is where the so-called 'cybercrime experts' of the unnamed 'highly placed source in the Office of the President' should look instead."

NUPL: Story has anonymous source

Panelo has said the documents, which he said he could not explain, are authentic but the NUPL pointed out that the report came from an anonymous source. “Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source.”

“And more so if it is cloaked under a fictitious anonymity that does not give the object of such calumny a fair chance to contest. And it added a dose of cyber razzle-dazzle for good measure in order to futilely give it a semblance of validity,” the statement further read.

The lawyers’ group said that the government may be vilifying them since they have opposed many of the government’s actions, such as the “war on drugs,” the hero’s burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., power rate hikes, TRAIN tax law, Boracay closure, privatization of government hospitals and others.

But they stressed: “Criticism is not ousting. Lawyering is not destabilizing.”

“We will not blink nor look the other way. We are unfazed even as we are disturbed. In the ultimate analysis, who really is running scared here? We will just do our job based on our mandate, priorities and capacity,” they added.

NUPL Chairperson Neri Colmenares, President Edre Olalia, Secretary General Ephraim Cortez and Adviser Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) signed the statement.

NUJP: 'Matrix' just like 'narco-list'

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines echoed the fear that the lawyers’ group raised.

The NUJP said that the supposed matrix is no different from the “narco-list” that the administration has released and boasted of in the past. They said that the lists, which were not backed by evidence, “often amount to hit lists, deaths sentences without the benefit of trial.”

“What we do fear is that this ‘revelation’ could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the NUJP said.

The journalists’ group said that should any harm come to those named in the matrix, Ang should be “held just as fully accountable.”

“Again, we reiterate, history has proven that attempts to silence the independent Philippine press may succeed for a while but, in the end, the truth will out and tyrants will always end up in the dustbin of history,” the group added

Duterte and media

Online news site Rappler meanwhile said that the published story “is an example of how not to write an investigative report—not even everyday straight news.”

"The Manila Times under Dante Ang, appointed special envoy for international public relations by President Rodrigo Duterte, is the reason why journalism schools and newsrooms in the country should be actively educating the youth and communities on what truthful, responsible and ethical journalism is,” it added.

Duterte, in a speech on Sunday night at a PDP-Laban even in Agusan del Norte, said  that he would be releasing something that would show corruption of the PCIH and some media practitioners.

The PCIJ has published a report that showed the incomes of Duterte and his children—Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and former vice mayor Paolo Duterte—rose significantly while they were in office. The report was based on the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth that the Duterte's filed as required by law of government officials and employees.

The president called journalists paid hacks and urged the public not to believe in the group’s report on his family’s earnings.

“Bayad ‘yan lahat. Kasi itong mga p***** i**** ‘to, kung ang negosyo lang nila magsulat-sulat lang, mga pulubi kayo sa totoo lang. Hindi kayo makabili ng mga kotse, mga ganun. P*** mapupunta pa kayo doon sa mga — kay Belo nagpaganda. Saan niyo kunan ng pera? Milyonaryo kayo?” Duterte said in a speech on April 17.

(They’re all paid. Because these sons of bitches, their only business is to write — all of you are beggars to be honest. All of you can’t even buy a car or go to Belo for cosmetics procedures. Where do you get your money? Are you all millionaires?)

READ: Duterte slams media over report on wealth: Bayad 'yan lahat, mga pulubi kayo

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES LAWYERS REDTAGGING RODRIGO DUTERTE
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