Malacañang claims journalists, lawyers behind ‘Oust Duterte’ plot

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2019 02:18 PM | Updated as of Apr 22 2019 04:08 PM

MANILA - A matrix published on a newspaper linking journalists to a supposed ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte came from the chief executive himself, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the “Oust Duterte” matrix published on the Manila Times was the same information he was supposed to release on Monday.

“The source of that is from the Office of the President. It’s from the President himself,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.

“I was supposed to release it today,” Panelo added, clarifying that the Palace did not release the matrix to the newspaper ahead of the press conference.

The Manila Times report on the matrix links several news organizations and journalists that have been critical of the Duterte administration to an alleged plot to destabilize the government.

Written by Dante Ang, the report states that media practitioners allegedly plant fake news, “manipulate public emotion, touch base with the Leftist organization, enlist the support of the police and the military, then go for the ‘kill’.”

‘NOT COUP PLOTTERS’

Manila Times Managing Editor and University of Santo Tomas Journalism Coordinator Felipe Salvosa II meanwhile questioned the move of the publication he works for.

“A diagram is by no means an evidence of ‘destabilization’ or an ‘ouster plot’,” he said in a tweet, noting that it is a “very huge stretch” for anyone to accuse journalists of plotting to unseat the President.

“I know people in these news organizations and they are not coup plotters,” he added.

News website Rappler, which was among those tagged to the alleged destabilization plot, criticized the Manila Times report as an example of what journalists should avoid.

“This ‘matrix’ story is an example of how not to write an investigative report — not even everyday straight news,” Rappler said in a statement Monday.

It added that the paper under Ang “is the reason why journalism schools and newsrooms in the country should be actively educating the youth and communities on what truthful, responsible, and ethical journalism is.”

Journalists Inday Espina-Varona and Ellen Tordesillas, both named in the matrix, discredited the report.

“It's downright false. It's hilarious. But what I find disturbing is, if this is the kind of intelligence report that the President gets and bases his actions and policies on, the country is in big trouble,” Tordesillas, who heads media organization VERA Files, said in a statement.

Espina-Verona tagged the report as “hogwash.”

“There is no singular, proven fact in that hogwash. It just lumps names on organizational charts, or bylines that have appeared on products and outputs of media orgs,” she said.

“I’ve said this several times: disinformation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The lies are always accompanied by on-ground attacks or they precede these attacks,” she added.

This is not the first time that the Palace released information on a supposed ouster plot against President Duterte.

In September last year, the President urged the public to watch out for his critics' supposed move to oust him, which he said will "go into a high gear" in October. The supposed plan came to be known later as the "Red October" plot.

Asked on what the Palace plans to do with the supposed matrix, Panelo responded: “We just want them to know that we know.”

“Hayaan lang namin sila (journalists and media organizations) but if the plot thickens and they perform acts that are already violations of penal laws eh ibang uspaan na yun,” Panelo said.

(We’ll just let them be but if the plot thickens and they perform acts that are already violations of penal laws then that’s a different story.)