Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday presented to the media a matrix detailing the supposed plot, which he claimed was meant to attack the credibility of the government.
‘Plotters’ deny ouster move; Palace won’t sue yet
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang tagged three news organizations and a lawyers’ group in an alleged plot to oust President Duterte days after he was irked by a series of reports scrutinizing his wealth.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday presented to the media a matrix detailing the supposed plot, which he claimed was meant to attack the credibility of the government. 

The matrix linked news organizations Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and lawyers’ group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) to the spread of videos accusing Duterte’s family of involvement in the illegal drug trade. 

While the government views any ouster plot as serious, Panelo said there is no need yet to file charges against the media groups and lawyers included in the matrix. 

“We will just let them be for now. If the plot thickens and they perform acts which are already violation of the penal laws, that’s a different story,” Panelo said. 

Panelo said there is also no need to monitor the activities of the groups tagged in the alleged ouster plot.  

“You don’t have to monitor, they are all there doing their thing, trying to destroy this government by spreading false news and planting intrigues against the government,” he added. 

The Duterte administration has charged Rappler with tax evasion and violating the anti-dummy law. 

The PCIJ, meanwhile, ran a series of articles claiming that Duterte and his children have “consistently grown richer over the years” despite their modest salaries as government officials and the “negligible” retained earnings from the companies they own or co-own.

The matrix detailed the supposed links of a certain “Bikoy,” uploader of the anti-Duterte videos, with Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas, who was accused of sharing the videos with the NUPL, Rappler and PCIJ.

Bikoy was also linked to website Metro Balita, which reportedly disseminated his videos collectively called “Totoong Narco-List (the true narco list).”  

Among the personalities mentioned in the matrix were Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, columnist and former socioeconomic planning secretary Solita Monsod, journalists Luz Rimban, Booma Cruz, Jennifer Santiago and Chi Liquicia of Vera Files, PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas, PCIJ founding executive editor Sheila Coronel, PCIJ training director Floreen Simon, broadcasters Howie Severino and David Celdran, journalist Inday Espina-Varona, senatorial candidate and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Zarate and NUPL secretary-general Edre Olalia. 

An article about the matrix was published in The Manila Times last Monday. It was written by Dante Ang, chairman emeritus of The Manila Times and also Duterte’s special envoy for international public relations. 

Panelo said the matrix published in the newspaper was the same one given to Duterte by intelligence sources.

He denied that the Office of the President had  furnished The Manila Times a copy of the matrix. 

Panelo said Duterte has ordered him to release the matrix to the media. He, however, could not explain the links on how the network of groups and individuals mentioned in the matrix works.

“He (Duterte) told me, ‘if they have questions, tell them to ask me.’ That’s it. I am just relaying to you,” the spokesman said. 

Panelo could not say who was the source of the intelligence information about the alleged ouster plot. Duterte previously said a foreign government has been listening to the conversations of his critics but did not elaborate. 

Panelo claimed there is nothing unusual about “sharing of intelligence information,” saying it’s a “standard for all countries.” 

Asked who were behind the supposed ouster plot, Panelo replied: “They did not state. But I suppose they are the enemies of the state. Who wants to see the government fall but the enemies of the state?” 

“When you conspire with others, you don’t have to have the capacity because others would do it for you. In other words, what these people are doing is to give succor or assist the enemy, if they are not the enemy themselves,” he added. 

Rubbish

The NUPL called their inclusion in the alleged ouster plot matrix as “rubbish” and “libelous.”

In a press statement, the NUPL described as “absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous” the matrix which alleged that the group and members of critical media are part of a destabilization plot against the government.

“This allegation is not worth the paper it is written on. It is putrid rubbish. Garbage in – and so must – garbage out,” the group said.

The matrix first published in The Manila Times alleged without basis that they are linked to the uploader of the “Bikoy” video, which claimed that members of the first family are benefiting from the drug trade.

“The fantastic, nay libelous, tale accuses the NUPL, ‘a leftist group,’ of collaborating with all those media members named in the matrix of ‘collaborating with the Left in their effort to destabilize the government.’ This was echoed by a disputably ‘eminent’ columnist of the same paper,” the group said in the statement.

“This has certainly gone over the walls of credulity. It is absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous,” the NUPL added.

The NUPL also questioned the credibility of Ang as the writer of the article.

Ang is Duterte’s special envoy for international public relations, and was also former president now Speaker Gloria Mcapagal-Arroyo’s publicist.

Journalists and lawyers mentioned in the matrix assailed Malacañang for releasing the matrix that they said were filled with “false” and “hilarious” information. 

PCIJ claimed that The Times story “admits to a crime that may have been committed, and fundamental freedoms that may have been violated.” 

“It offers tacit admission that these ‘experts,’ apparently working with the Office of the President, had invaded the privacy of the emails and correspondence of journalists now being singled out,” PCIJ said in a statement. 

PCIJ also noted that it is funded by a combination of grants, revenues and contributions from individual supporters.

“Our funding structure allows us to be independent because we are beholden neither to media owners nor to advertisers, nor even to grant-giving organizations (the diversity of our funding base allows us to choose the projects we want to do with donors and to set our own terms with them). We are, however, accountable to our board and ultimately, to our readers,” the group said. 

Rappler said the “matrix” 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,” Rappler said. 

Tordesillas called the matrix “downright false” and “hilarious.”

“But 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 said. 

Varona said she has not received emails and messages from Tordesillas, Rappler, PCIJ or NUPL on the narco list videos or any coup plot. 

“It is hilarious but also dangerous because the regime has shown that lies are always a prelude to attacks. Rappler, (Leila) De Lima, activists are proof of that,” she said in a tweet, referring to a detained senator.

Members of the left-wing Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives denied yesterday allegations made by the publisher of The Manila Times that they have conspired with journalists to oust President Duterte. 

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and former congressman Colmenares, who is now Bayan Muna chairman and senatorial candidate, described as “ridiculous” a false allegation linking them to a purported conspiracy to topple the administration. 

“This supposed plot is so absurd and laughable were it not for the danger it poses to human rights lawyers and advocates. This is an outright lie – one that is absurd and ridiculous,” Colmenares said. 

Senators shrugged off the alleged ouster plot against Duterte.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said he has not heard of any ouster plot against the President.

“We should never entertain any such idea. I urge everybody to trust our democratic processes,” Pimentel said.

“In a democracy like ours, political leadership should be determined by the ballot,” he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III was unperturbed by the report released by Malacañang.

“The cat is out of the bag. It does not have wings therefore won’t fly,” Sotto said. – With Edu Punay, Emmanuel Tupas, Michael Punongbayan, Delon Porcalla, Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Paolo Romero

RODRIGO DUTERTE SALVADOR PANELO
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