MALACAÑANG on Monday confirmed a “matrix” of media organizations said to be behind a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte, and vowed to prosecute those who would commit “overt acts to bring down the government.”
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the public had the “right to know” about the “Oust-Duterte plot,” first reported in The Manila Times by its Chairman Emeritus, Dr. Dante Ang, on Mon day.
“The source of that is from the Office of the President, from the President, himself. I don’t know how he got one, but it’s coming from the President. I talked to him the other day,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.
“If there is an ouster plan, the people need to know it. It is our constitutional duty,” he added.
Panelo said that while he did not know where Duterte got his copy of the matrix, or how it worked, people could be assured that it was properly vetted.
“Siguro naman (We assume that it is reliable), considering he is the President, he has so many sources, e validated `yan (We assume it is validated),” Panelo said.
“Galing kay Presidente, e. Paniwalaan niyo (It is from the President, you better believe it),” the Palace official added.
The media groups tagged as plotters were journalist Ellen Tordesillas and the Vera Files group that she heads, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Rappler, as seen in the matrix. The National Union of People’s Lawyers was also included in the diagram.
Tordesillas was particularly accused of distributing the online video of self-proclaimed whistleblower “Bikoy” on the Duterte family’s alleged links to the drug trade.
All four groups denied the allegations and dismissed Ang’s April 22 story as false (see story on A1).
No overt acts, yet
The matrix, provided to The Times over the weekend by a Palace source, linked media organizations and journalists to “coordinated” efforts to discredit Duterte and his administration.
The banner story written by Ang, a presidential special envoy for international public relations, claimed that the conspirators’ “play book” was to plant “fake news,” as well as “manipulate public emotion, touch base with the Leftist organization, enlist the support of the police and the military, then go for the ‘kill.’”
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the government would press charges against the plotters if they committed “overt acts.”
“Basta lumabag na sila, `pag meron na silang (If they violate the laws, committed) overt acts to bring down this government, that’s a different story,” Panelo told reporters.
For now, the Palace official said it was enough to “just let them (media organizations) know that we know,” and emphasized that the Duterte government never gagged the media or anyone.
“If the journalist mentioned here would say that the Palace is trying to stifle the rights, I will repeat, we have never stifled dissent in this country. It’s the President who encourages dissent — that is what democracy is all about. For the last three years, no journalist has been charged with any case in relation to his or her exercise of the freedom of speech or the press,” Panelo said.
“Hayaan lang namin sila (We’ll just let them be), but if the plot thickens and they perform acts that are already violations of penal laws, e ibang usapan na `yun (then that’s a different story),” he added.
Panelo said reporters were not under surveillance after it emerged that the information was fed to Duterte from overseas.
“`Yan ang tinatawag na (That is what we call) sharing of intelligence information. That’s standard for all countries if it affects the security,” Panelo said.
Panelo shrugged off the possibility that those tagged in the ouster plot might file libel charges against the government.
“O, ‘di sige (Fine). That’s their right,” the Palace official said.
This was not the first time the Palace released information on a supposed ouster plot against Duterte.
In September, the President urged the public to watch out against moves to oust him, which he said would “go into a high gear” in October. The supposed plan came to be known as the “Red October” plot.
Asked how Duterte would counter such destabilization efforts against the government, Panelo said, “The counter-propaganda is the achievements done by this administration.”
“The result, as you have seen, is the very high satisfactory and trust rating of the President, survey after survey,” he added.
Plot vs Duterte won’t succeed – military
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the supposed plot against the President would not succeed.
“There is no specific threat that we are seeing here right now. There are plenty of those who came up with information, but no specific threat,” said Col. Noel Detoyato, military public affairs chief.
He cited the strong support of the Armed Forces, the Philippine National Police and the public for the Duterte administration.
“So, there may be some individuals who are thinking of ousting the President, but it will never, ever materialize,” Detoyato stressed.
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the Armed Forces spokesman, said there were groups orchestrating a plot against Duterte, but did not go into details.
“There remains individuals and groups that are determined and are engaged in orchestrated efforts to oust the present administration,” Arevalo said.
He said the communists were among those behind plans to “discredit” the Duterte administration.
Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison said there was a “growing mass movement” against Duterte.
“The desire of the people to oust Duterte has become a mass movement and not the mere conspiracy of a few because of the intolerable crimes of Duterte and his evil regime against the people,” Sison said.
WITH DEMPSEY REYES