MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted Friday that he “never changed” his story on the matrix on a supposed ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, explaining that the chief executive himself may have instructed the unknown source to send the diagram.
Panelo, also chief legal counsel of the President, made the clarification a day after admitting that he got his copy of the matrix from an unknown source via text message. He initially said during an Apr. 22 press conference that the matrix was from the President.
“I never changed my tune with respect to the source of the matrix. I said, and I'll repeat, it was the President who told me about the matrix,” he told reporters in an interview Friday.
“Now, when I said that the diagram was sent to me by a texter whose number does not appear in my directory, it only means that that texter could have been obviously instructed by the President to send me that matrix,” he explained.
Panelo in a statement Friday also noted that the unknown sender “must be” a staff of the Office of the President.
“Regardless from whatever number it was sent, I can assure that the matrix sent to me came from the President. The sender must be one of the staff in the Office of the President,” he said.
“Considering as well the fact that the President did not correct or rectify what was released only means that it was the matrix being referred to by the President,” he added.
The Duterte spokesperson on Thursday said he first got a whiff of the alleged ouster plot detailed in a matrix over a phone conversation with the President during the Holy Week.
“What's important is the matrix, the ouster plot came from the President himself. It becomes irrelevant, immaterial, who sent me the matrix. The source is the President himself,” Panelo said.
The report on the controversial matrix linking lawyers and journalists critical of the Duterte administration to an alleged ouster plot against the President was published by The Manila Times on the day that Panelo said he was supposed to share the information to reporters.
Written by The Manila Times chairman and Duterte appointee 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’.”
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.
Panelo also insisted in a separate statement that he did not backtrack on his earlier pronouncements, saying he never mentioned during the Apr. 22 press briefing that the matrix of the supposed ouster plot was “handed to me in person by the President.”
“The subject matrix, which revealed personalities and entities involved in an ouster plot against PRRD, was released during the press briefing last April 22. During this briefing, I categorically said: ‘The source of that is from the Office of the President, from the President himself.’ I stand by this,” he said.
He also chastised media practitioners for supposedly tweaking his Apr. 22 statement that President Duterte was the source of the ouster matrix “putting the impression that there was a backtracking of my original announcement.”
“I never mentioned that the matrix was handed to me in person by the President during the press briefing on April 22. And that is only what I affirmatively confirmed during the press briefing yesterday, May 2. I did not backtrack or flip-flop,” he said.
Panelo also clarified that his decision to get a clearer copy of the matrix from The Manila Times is only “trivial” since the diagram that he received on his phone and the one published by the broadsheet are “one and the same.”
“Our office has access to a clearer matrix that can also be obtained online apart from what was published in the Manila Times, and we decided to use that one instead of printing the one sent to my phone which was unclear. In any case, I have made clear during the press briefing yesterday, May 2, that there is only one matrix. And that is the one released to the Malacañang Press Corps last April 22,” he said.
While he is not privy to the verification process on the information in the matrix, Panelo maintained that the President would not “order the release of any information without proper vetting.”
Panelo earlier explained that the Palace released the matrix to inform those who are allegedly involved in the supposed ouster plot that “we know.”