FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - May 9, 2019 - 12:00am

The plot is not only becoming thicker. It is becoming more and more surreal by the day.

Yesterday, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo presented several matrices to the media. The matrices allege links between the producers/distributors of the shrill “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video and personalities associated with the Liberal Party and the Magdalo Group.

Things seem to tumble out quickly one after the other since the arrest last week of IT specialist Rodel Jayme. He owns the website from which the controversial video originated. Cyber sleuths at the NBI quickly tracked down the source of the malicious video.

Jayme claims he merely sold access through his website and knows nothing about the video disseminated through it. Photos retrieved from his Facebook account, however, showed him in the company of a number of Liberal Party bigwigs, including Vice President Leonor Robredo. He did admit that the people who contacted him were, indeed associated with the Liberal Party.

Last Monday, an ex-convict named Peter Joemel Advincula surfaced at the headquarters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) ostensibly to seek legal assistance. He was accompanied by a group of nuns.

Before the IBP staff realized what was going on, Advincula used the association’s logo as backdrop while he read out a prepared statement. A group of journalists were apparently advised to be in the building in time for Advincula’s surprise appearance. The man who claimed to be the “Bikoy” in the malicious video quickly scampered out of the premises as soon as he finished reading his prepared statement.

Advincula, it turns out, had a personal record more colorful than the doubtful story he was trying to peddle. He was convicted and jailed for fraud in 2012 and released after four years for good behavior. He was, for a while, Naga City’s most wanted man. He has a string of cases against him.

The IBP leadership was taken to task by the Davao IBP chapter for allowing the association to host a questionable character with a bizarre story to tell. The leadership was warned against allowing itself to be used for partisan purposes.

Yesterday, the IBP issued a statement saying the group rejected Advincula’s appeal for legal assistance. The IBP likewise denied it has custody of the man. Advincula disappeared into the mist as quickly as he appeared.

I monitored the events last Monday at the IBP over my car radio. I immediately noticed that Advincula has a distinct Bicolano accent while the hooded character appearing in the video had a distinct Ilocano accent. The sound experts who did voice analysis as part of the input for the presentation Panelo made yesterday arrived at the same observation.

Shortly after the events at the IBP, Senator Panfilo Lacson rather hurriedly scheduled for next Friday a Senate hearing on the matter. By yesterday, as the Advincula show rapidly degenerated into a farce, Lacson cancelled the hearing and described the whole thing as “nonsense.”

Yesterday, too, Senate President Vicente Sotto revealed during a media forum that Advincula has written his office in 2016 offering the same storyline used in the video. That letter implicated then President Benigno Aquino III, former DILG secretary Mar Roxas, former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in basically the same drug syndicate story centered in the Bicol region.

All Advincula had done was change the cast of characters for the anti-Duterte video. He has, apparently succeeded in selling his outrageous storyline to a new group of gullible personalities desperate to set off a political bomb against President Duterte.

The plot has backfired. The outrageous storyline Advincula wants to believe was basically caught in its own incoherent web.

That storyline began to unravel as soon the video was disseminated. The video wanted us to believe 14-year old Kitty Duterte was involved in the drug cartel. He provided bank account numbers through which he supposedly funneled funds to the President and his children. Those numbers do not match the standard account numbers currently in use.

The man who called himself “Bikoy” in the video had this fantastic story about “scanning” the tattoos on the backs of Bong Go and Paulo Duterte to certify transfers from the syndicate’s paymasters in Macao. Poor Bong Go had to peel off his shirt a second time to disprove what was already an incredible allegation.

Meanwhile, poor Sal Panelo was constrained to present another suggestive set of matrices that did not have enough hard evidence to be actionable. He had to do that to quash a piece of black propaganda that, despite its incredible claims, could potentially affect the votes.

Weak as Panelo’s new set of matrices may be, they could not be weaker than the shrill claims made in the anti-Duterte video. Those claims do resemble the shrill accusations periodically emanating from Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

It is, after all, the last leg of a largely unremarkable campaign. Expect the most desperate political players to dig deep into their bags of dirty tricks in the hope of altering the established trends at the last minute. As always, the most desperate are the most suspect.

The accusations made in the controversial video completely overlooked the cardinal rule in doing propaganda: the claims must be credible. Otherwise, the propaganda effort falls flat on its face. It becomes a waste of time and resources.

If it is, indeed, the Liberal Party that is behind this bizarre black propaganda effort, then those partisans are merely living up to the group’s well-deserved reputation for incompetence.

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