Palace urged to stop 'intimidating independent media'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 29 2019 08:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2019 01:59 AM

MANILA - News organization Vera Files urged Malacañang to stop intimidating independent media, after it was tagged in a matrix linking journalists to a supposed ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

"VERA Files condemns the spread of falsehood by no less than the president through his spokesman, Salvador Panelo and special envoy for international public relations Dante A. Ang, Manila Times Chairman Emeritus, linking us to an alleged destabilization plot," the organization said in a statement.

According to Vera Files, the information spread in the matrix is false, with some details unverified.

Some of the people tagged in the matrix have already resigned from Vera Files, while female trustees were identified as male.

"The whole story is completely false. Even worse, Duterte, Panelo and Ang didn’t even bother to verify the information in the so-called matrix. Luz Rimban and Jennifer Santiago are no longer with VERA Files. Rimban resigned in 2018 and Santiago in January 2019. Female trustees were identified as male," it said.

"If there is any orchestration being done, it is by Malacañang and Manila Times to intimidate media who are holding Duterte accountable for his questionable decisions and actions," it added.

The organization also said the matrix would have been funny if it was not deliberately done to confuse the public and to put the lives of the persons named in the diagram at risk.

"The matrix story would have been laughable if it was not deliberately manufactured to muddle the mind of the public with lies and endanger the lives of the persons named in that diagram," Vera 
Files said.

It is also disturbing that the matrix came from Duterte himself, the group added. 

"That it came from the highest official of the land who took his oath to preserve and defend the Constitution and 'do justice to every man' is most disturbing and must not be tolerated," it said.

"The law provides relief for those whose rights have been violated and we are keeping our options open," it added.

Aside from Vera Files, also tagged in the matrix were members of National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Rappler, all of which have issued statements or published stories critical of the administration. 

The Vera Files Board of Trustees is composed of Joel Butuyan, Booma Cruz, Chi Liquicia, Rosal Revaldo and Ellen Tordesillas.

In a statement on Monday, Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang defended his decision to publish the story, saying the "oust Duterte plot is a legitimate story. A solitary matrix, especially if it came from the office of the President is a story in itself." 

Ang said he "did not accuse those named in the matrix as being involved in the plot against the President; I merely quoted the matrix." 

"The matrix came from a highly reliable source in the Palace and no less than the President, through the Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo, has confirmed it," he added. 

Ang also denied being in the payroll of Malacañang saying his appointment as a special envoy of the President is "purely honorific."