MANILA - Former Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo should admit his mistake in once tagging Hidilyn Diaz, the first Filipino to win an Olympic gold, in an alleged plot to remove President Rodrigo Duterte, a senator said Wednesday.
In 2019, Panelo presented a "matrix" that included Diaz, containing names of personalities who were allegedly involved in an "Oust Duterte" plot. The Olympian denied this, saying she was too busy preparing for the games.
Panelo "has the tendency to follow the party line or the President’s line" since he and other members of the Cabinet speak on Duterte's behalf all the time under the principle of law, said Sen. Richard Gordon.
"At the very least, they should say ‘We made a mistake, we are sorry. We are happy that she won.’ Tapos. ‘That is the information that we got and maybe we should not have done it that way, open our mouths and insert our feet into them.’ That’s why big mouth don’t make big men," Gordon told ANC's Headstart.
"There is no accounting for taste, there is no accounting for ethics. If you’re a man, you act like a man and you own up to it," he said.
Diaz, who took home the country's first gold medal in the Summer Games on Monday evening, had previously said she feared for her life after she was included in the matrix.
After her triumph in the Olympics, she even mentioned this when talking about the hardships she had to face.
After Diaz's win, Panelo released a statement congratulating her, but did not mention anything about Malacañang's previous allegations. He talked about it in a statement the following day.
"When reporters noted the name of Ms. Diaz in the matrix two years ago and hastily concluded that the government is declaring her to be part of an ouster plot against the President, I immediately issued a statement averring otherwise," he said.
"I explained that the name of Ms. Diaz was shown in the diagram as she was being followed in social media by a certain Rodel Jayme who was connected to the uploading of the video titled, 'Ang Totoong Narco List', with the sole purpose of revealing to the public the interests, personality and disposition of the latter online," he added.
Panelo also denied the contents of a social media card, maintaining that he never said Diaz was not entitled to drugs just because she was a sports medalist.
"It is truly disheartening that there are people who seek to take the limelight out of Ms. Diaz's recent triumph and convert it into a political skirmish of who should and should not celebrate our country's win," he said.
"As for me, I can only admire Ms. Diaz and sincerely congratulate her who, together with our other athletes in Tokyo, continues to make us proud," he added.
Incumbent Palace spokesman Harry Roque distanced himself and his office from the 2019 matrix, telling reporters: "Hindi ko po alam kung ano ‘yong sinasabi n’yong matrix, kasi sa tanggapan ko po, at iisa lang po ang opisyal na spokesperson ng gobyerno, ako lang po ‘yon. Wala po kaming ganyan."
(I do not know which matrix you are talking about because in my office, and there is only one spokesperson for government, that's me. There is nothing like that.)
Asked whether or not Malacañang needed to say sorry to Diaz, Roque replied, "Wala po. As spokesperson, wala po akong kahit anong binintang kay Hidilyn Diaz."
(None. As spokesperson, I did not make any allegation against Hidilyn Diaz.)