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
NUPL mulls raps over 'ouster plot' matrix
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 23, 2019 - 1:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers is mulling filing complaints over a government "association matrix" linking them to an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

NUPL Chairperson Neri Colmenares, a candidate for senator, told ANC’s "Early Edition", Tuesday, the people behind the matrix that was released by broadsheet Manila Times and by the Palace on Monday may have violated the Anti-Wiretapping Law, the Electronics Engineering Law and the Data Privacy Act.

“We will file charges either collectively or as an organization,” Colmenares, also a senatorial bet, added.

READ: Palace's new 'ouster' matrix ludicrous, dangerous — groups

Broadsheet Manila Times on Monday carried a banner story, quoting an unnamed “highly placed” source from the Office of the President, claiming the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, VERA Files, Rappler and the NUPL are conspiring in a supposed ouster plot.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo later said the matrix really was from the Office of the President, saying that he received instructions from Duterte himself to “touch on” the ouster plot in a press briefing.

The supposed matrix names at least six people who are no longer affiliated with the groups allegedly conspiring against the president. Journalist Inday Espina-Varona was also tagged as a member of the NUPL despite not being a lawyer.

READ: Palace-vetted conspiracy matrix has errors

“The source...is from the Office of the President, from the president himself.  I don’t know how [Manila Times chairman emeritus Dante Ang] got one, but it’s coming from the president. I talked to him the other day,” he added.

Panelo also stressed that as the president, Duterte has “so many sources” where he could have gotten information from. He added that a foreign country may have given information. “Sharing of intelligence information, that’s standard for all countries,” he added.

In March, the Palace said that a foreign country may have helped, through wiretapping, monitoring politicians on the so-called "narco-list", a list of politicians allegedly linked to the illegal drug trade. 

RELATED: Guevarra: 'Wiretaps' by foreign governments not admissible in court

After receiving flak, Panelo later backtracked and said that the wiretapping of supposed narco-politicians was just “an educated guess.”

PCIJ, in a statemen Monday, pointed out that "the Manila Times story admits to a crime that may have been committed, and fundamental freedoms that may have been violated." It said that the story and the supposed matrix "[offer] 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."

In a text exchange on Monday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Philstar.com that "online posts are open to the public to read", adding there is "nothing illegal about simple monitoring."

'Matrix' could lead to attacks vs journalists, rights lawyers

Colmenares, in the same TV interview, also said that the release of the matrix may just be a way of "labeling the opposition."

"Anyone who dissents from the policies of president, or is an opposition, activists, they just label them communists, destabilizers or terrorists," he said.

This is a way to lessen the credibility of the opposition, Colmenares added.

The rights lawyer also said that it would open them to assaults such as harrassment or even killings.

The NUPL had recently sought relief from the Supreme Court to halt what they claimed to be state-sponsored harrassment and 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

NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES' LAWYERS NERI COLMENARES RODRIGO DUTERTE SALVADOR PANELO
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