MANILA -- The matrix on a supposed ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte came from an unknown source contrary to Malacañang’s earlier claim that it originated from the chief executive, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo admitted Thursday.
Panelo, during an earlier Palace press briefing, had claimed that the diagram came from Duterte himself, hours after the matrix was published by The Manila Times.
“The source of that is from the Office of the President. It’s from the President himself,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing last Apr. 22.
But on Thursday, Panelo changed his tune, saying he got a copy of the matrix via a text message from “somebody.”
“Wala siyang (Duterte) binigay. Hindi naman siya ang nagbigay basta may nagpadala sa akin ng matrix, di ba sabi ko sa inyo may nagpadala sa akin ng text,” he told reporters.
(President Duterte didn’t give anything. Someone sent me a matrix. I told you that someone sent me a text.)
“He (Duterte) asked me to discuss it in the briefing- 'yung matrix- and then somebody sent me a matrix. Eh di ‘yun ang nire-refer niyang matrix wala namang ibang matrix (that’s the same matrix, there is no other matrix),” he added.
The report on the controversial matrix linking lawyers, and journalists critical of the Duterte administration to an alleged ouster plot against the President was written by The Manila Times chairman and Duterte appointee Dante Ang.
According to the report, 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’.”
Among those tagged in the matrix were the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and media organizations Vera Files, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Rappler.
On the same day that the matrix story was published, Panelo told Palace reporters that it was the same information that he was supposed to share as instructed by the President during the Holy Week.
Panelo, also the President's chief legal counsel, noted that the copy of the matrix he received on his phone was blurred, prompting him to ask his staff to get a clearer copy from The Manila Times by taking a screenshot of the diagram from the paper’s website and downloading it.
“'Yung pinadala sa akin eh ang labo that’s why I asked the staff kumuha nga kayo ng ano sa Manila Times medyo maliwanag para makita ko sino mga pangalan,” he said.
(The matrix sent to me was blurry that’s why I asked the staff to get a clearer copy from The Manila Times, one that is brighter so I can read the names.)
Asked how he was able to verify that the matrix he received on his phone and the one published by The Manila Times were the same, Panelo said he “reasonably assumed” since Duterte did not dispute the information he shared during the Apr. 22 Palace press briefing.
“I reasonably assumed that that was the matrix mentioned by the President and when I mentioned that in the news briefing, since he did not dispute that or corrected me, so it means it’s the same matrix that he referred to me to touch upon in the news briefing,” Panelo said.
“I don’t have to verify what the President told me. The President doesn’t lie about these things,” he added.
Panelo said he never discussed the matrix again with Duterte after their Holy Week phone conversation.
Following the release of the matrix, the NUPL filed a manifestation at the Supreme Court on the matrix to justify its plea for protection from alleged harassment from government forces.
The Philippine National Police earlier said it was investigating some media practitioners who are supposedly members of groups moving for Duterte's ouster.