Lewis vs Andanar: Is there a plot to oust Duterte?

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2017 06:13 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2017 06:14 PM

Filipino-American community leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, who recently was in the middle of the 'LeniLeaks' controversy, has denied that there is a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

"First: No plot to oust Duterte. The Duterte Resign Movement is based on President Duterte's own words that he would resign if drugs are still rampant six months after his inauguration," she said in a statement posted on her Facebook page.

She also underscored that the group of "Global Filipino Diaspora Council," whose alleged leaked conversation thread pointed to the supposed plan to unseat Duterte, "is a public space."

She asserted that their group has been championing the rights of overseas Filipinos and Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea since its inception. 

However, she clarified that Robredo is not part of the group as the latter is not a resident nor a worker abroad.

Lewis also emphasized that "dissent is NOT equivalent to a plot or conspiracy."

"In a democracy, opinions of varying shades, either praise or criticism, are a staple ingredient of a vibrant democracy. Since when has criticism become an element of sedition?"

She also hit certain members of the Duterte Cabinet for allegedly having "a low threshold of tolerance for dissent and criticism."

She asserted that it is not them, but defeated Vice Presidential candidate Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr., who is causing destabilization with his refusal to accept defeat to Robredo in the 2016 elections. 

Lewis also claimed that she did not know of Robredo's trip to the United States until the executive went back to the Philippines. "Fake news is rampant. I advise everyone to be vigilant for the price of freedom," she said.

Critics alleged that Lewis and Robredo met up during the latter's holidays abroad to tackle the plot against Duterte.

Robredo had also denied the claim, saying she last saw the Fil-Am leader before the May 2016 polls, but admitted that Lewis was supportive of her congressional run because they are both from Bicol.

ANDANAR ANSWERS

In an interview with ANC's Headstart, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar hit back at Lewis' statements point by point.

On the resignation calls for Duterte after his campaign promise of eradicating the country's drug problem was unmet, Andanar said: "Didn't Ms Lewis also hear or watch the news when the President asked for an extension? Is it very difficult to understand, Ms Lewis?"

Andanar also said it is "utter stupidity" for Lewis and the Global Filipino Diaspora Council to not close their group, but admitted that the possibility of Robredo not being part of the group is "very high."

As to Lewis' claim that dissent is not equivalent to a plot or conspiracy, Andanar asserted that being a lawyer, Lewis "can play with her words."

"I'm not saying I believe that [Lewis is behind a plot to oust Duterte]. We're investigating this, but definitely, Ms Lewis' name has been circulating. She's been very conspicuous in number one, supporting the opposition, and conspiciuous also in not supporting this administration," he said.

Andanar maintained that the Duterte Cabinet does not have a "low threshold of tolerance for dissent and criticism" as Lewis said, and pointed that their chief executive had in fact said he wishes these alleged plotters "all the success."

He also asserted that it is Marcos' right to file an electoral protest against Robredo no matter what the latter's supporters may say.

Andanar challenged these critics of the administration based outside the country to go back to the Philippines and raise their issues to the government upfront.

"Umuwi kayo ng Pilipinas and you do it here. Harapan, wag ninyong gawin nang talikuran and at the same time relaxing in the comforts of your home in the United States or maybe somewhere. You have to be here," he said.

"The fact is, Ms Lewis has some issues with this government. Why don't you just come here--go back to Manila, go home to the Philippines? Malacañang is open for you, to talk to you, and tell us your beef against this government," he said.

He asserted that Lewis, a staunch supporter of the Liberal Party bets during the May polls, should accept her candidate's loss to Duterte and respect that the people gave the mandate to Duterte.

"If you keep on saying negative things about the President, destroying the name of the President outside this country, then you are doing disservice to the nation," said Andanar.