WHEN criticism moves beyond words to action, it is no longer mere criticism. And when the action is aimed at undermining public confidence in the ruling administration or inciting mass actions against the sitting President, it is political subversion, plain and simple. No wonder there was a social media firestorm over “LeniLeaks.” Malacañang was right to look into what is widely perceived as destabilization moves against President Rodrigo Duterte just a little over six months into his term.
Exposed by pro-Duterte bloggers, the “leak” of emails showed supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo seemingly plotting to oust the President. The emails were from a restricted Yahoo group of Filipinos abroad calling themselves the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC). Apparently, despite being a “restricted” public group (meaning, only those accepted as members can join the group), GFDC’s administrator apparently forgot to tweak their message board settings to “private,” thus allowing non-members to access their posts and messages.
Among the prominent leaders of the group are Filipino-American multi-millionaire Loida Nicolas-Lewis, and her sister, Imelda “Mely” Nicolas, the chair of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
Many of those involved have since declared that there is no plot to oust the President. Nicolas-Lewis in her Facebook page issued a statement saying that there was “no plot to oust Duterte” and that “dissent is not equivalent to a plot or conspiracy.” The “leaked” emails, however, suggest otherwise.
For instance, one email called on some members to “look into organizing continuing steadily growing protests against Duterte’s extrajudicial killings and Marcos burial.” The author also suggested including prominent personalities to join the cause, remarking that “by doing this ASAP, taking advantage of the current mass protests against Marcos’ burial, we will be already building the framework for an effective organized effective mass opposition to Duterte.” Another email suggested that the alleged constitutional violations of Duterte be written in an article to be used as “the legal grounds to remove him from his position.”
For her part, Robredo echoed Nicolas-Lewis’ statement saying that “(f)or me, I criticize the President so he can hear us out on issues we feel strongly about, like extrajudicial killings. But my criticisms are not tantamount to calling for his ouster.”
Robredo has since denied being part of the Yahoo group. “Hindi ko alam kung ano ang participation ko, na-memention daw ang pangalan ko pero hindi ako kabahagi nung grupong iyon [I don’t know what my supposed participation is. My name is being mentioned but I am not part of that group],” she said.
But while Robredo denied complicity, her spokesperson, Georgina Hernandez, quickly took up the cudgels for the Yahoo group and those behind the leaked emails. She argued that the emails dubbed “LeniLeaks” on social media were not previously undisclosed or classified. “The so-called leaked information came from a public Yahoo group account which means that there is transparency in this information,” Hernandez said in a TV interview.
So why is Robredo’s spokesperson acting as mouthpiece and public defender of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) and its members? It seems Robredo’s spokesperson knows more than she’s letting on. Whatever it is, she’s not doing her boss any favors. Someone ought to remind her of the Filipino saying, “The fish is always caught by its mouth.”
More controversial is the post of CFO Chair Nicolas from a certain Pete Silva, forwarding a message from the Office of the Vice President’s social media team (OVP SOCMED) on how to turn the tables on Marcos and Duterte to counter criticism of Robredo vacationing in the US while her Bicol province mates were being pounded by Typhoon Nina.
While Robredo has admitted to knowing Lewis, adding that the latter was a supporter since her Congress days—and Lewis has, in turn, vehemently denied that Robredo is a member of GFDC—neither one of them has denied the authenticity of the emails sent or received by GFDC members or by Robredo’s OVP SOCMED.
Indeed, Lewis has impliedly confirmed the authenticity of the restricted Yahoo group but justifies the exposed emails as mere expressions of dissent and criticism. For her part, Robredo has chosen to downplay the uproar over “LeniLeaks’, by labeling the controversy as another “fake news.”
“We are at the receiving end of so many fake news, so many false stories,” Robredo said.
Defending her silence over the controversy, Robredo argued: “Papatulan ko ba iyon lahat? (Do I have to address that too?) when there is a goal I have to reach: a mandate I have to perform?”
True, Robredo may not have been part of this motley group. But she has not called on GFDC and her other supporters, online or otherwise, to stop any ouster or destabilization moves against Duterte. Neither has Robredo publicly denounced or condemned the actions of her supporters undermining the present administration.
As our erudite “Executive Session” radio program (DZRH, 666AM) co-host UN Ambassador Teddy Boy Locsin said, if Robredo does not agree to the use of her name or to the moves and actions of the GFDC, she would have called out this Yahoo group and told them to stop using her name and to stop all mass actions in her name or for her benefit. The fact that she would not—and has not—means she absolutely endorses and supports these kinds of actions.
Now, Robredo even has the temerity to say that the President and the Vice President should get along “for the good of the people.” Would you get along with someone who you know abets or tolerates schemes to take over your post? Of course not!
And she’s surprised that she was disinvited to Duterte’s first vin d’honneur in Malacañang?!