Palace distances from matrix linking Hidilyn Diaz in oust-Duterte plot

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday distanced himself from the matrix that had linked weightlifter and Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz to personalities and groups that are allegedly plotting to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

The matrix, which was released by Roque's predecessor Salvador Panelo in 2019, contained names of opposition figures, a lawyers group, and news organizations that are supposedly conspiring to discredit the administration.

Diaz's photo was included in a diagram showing individuals with alleged links to a certain Rodel Jayme, who supposedly had "constant online collaboration" with supporters of the opposition Liberal Party. Diaz had denied involvement in the supposed anti-government plot and had admitted to fearing for her life over her inclusion in the matrix.

Panelo later on clarified that Diaz was not involved in the ouster plot and that the diagram merely visualized Jayme's character, persuasion and political interests. Panelo, who still serves as Duterte's chief legal counsel, claimed that the media made a "wrong analysis" of the diagram.

Asked at a press briefing if there is a need for Malacañang to apologize for Diaz's inclusion in the matrix, Roque replied: "None. As a spokesperson, I did not accuse Hidilyn Diaz of anything."

Roque said his office has nothing to do with the matrix, which also linked the National Union of People's Lawyers and news organizations Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler and Vera Files to the alleged anti-Duterte plot.  

"Hindi ko po alam kung ano iyong sinasabi ninyong matrix kasi sa tanggapan ko po at iisa lang po ang opisyal na spokesperson ng gobyerno – ako lang po iyon – eh wala po kaming ganyan ‘no (I am not aware of the matrix you are referring to because in my office, there is only official spokesperson of the government and that's me. We do not have that)," Roque said.

Various groups have condemned the release of the matrix, noting that criticizing the government is not tantamount to seeking its ouster. Days after the release of the matrix, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there was no credible ouster plot against the president.

Game changer

Diaz's inclusion in the matrix resurfaced after she bagged the Philippines' first ever Olympic gold medal last Monday. She won the women's 55-kilogram weightlifting competition in Tokyo, ending the country's 97-year wait for the Olympic gold.

Panelo, who discussed the contents of the matrix during a media briefing two years ago, said Diaz's feat makes all Filipinos proud.

"Her getting the gold is a testament to the Filipino race’s talent and indefatigable spirit. It serves as an inspiration to all Filipino athletes that getting gold in the Olympics is no longer a dream but a reality. Congratulations Hidilyn Diaz," he said.

Panelo said he had made it clear that Diaz was not part of an ouster plot against Duterte.

"It is disturbing to witness certain quarters attempt to cause division among us, Filipinos, at a time when we should be collectively rejoicing for the Philippines — through the hardwork and determination of Ms. Hidilyn Diaz — historically secured its first Olympic gold medal last night," the president's chief legal counsel said.

"It is truly disheartening that there are people who seek to take the limelight out of Ms. Diaz's recent triumph and convert it into a political skirmish of who should and should not celebrate our country's win," he added.

Roque said Diaz's achievement is a victory for the entire Filipino nation and a "game changer" for Philippine sports.

"It can give our policymakers a reason to determine whether there is a need to provide more support to our athletes because their win is also a win for the entire Philippines," Roque said in Filipino.

Roque admitted that the financial support given to Filipino athletes is lacking, even likening their allowances to minimum wage.

"We will see how we can change this. We have seen that while the support we are giving to athletes is lacking, they still won gold. Perhaps more of them will win gold if we increase the support given to our athletes," the Palace spokesman said.  

Roque said the Duterte administration has undertaken measures to support athletes including the building of sports facilities in New Clark City. He added that the President and the private sector have promised "millions" to athletes who will bring home gold medals.

"I do not want to reveal the exact figure yet because I want it to be higher... Hidilyn truly deserves it. Whatever deficiency in training, I am sure it can be compensated for by the generosity not only of the government but also of the private sector because she truly made us proud," Roque said.

The government, however, is required under the law to provide incentives to athletes who won medals during Olympic games. Under Republic Act No. 10699 signed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2015, gold medalists will receive P10 million and an Olympic gold medal of valor to be issued by the Philippine Sports Commission.

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