Nicolas-Lewis, Robredo question validity of ‘Lenileaks’

(L-R) Vice-President Leni Robredo, Senator Franklin Drillon, Loida Nicolas-Lewis (photos: / / www.

By Macon Araneta

The Filipino-American philanthropist implicated in an alleged plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte denied that there is a conspiracy to unseat him.

Loida Nicolas-Lewis, a known supporter of Vice-president Leni Robredo and her running-mate Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, issued a statement last January 9 amid the so-called “Lenileaks.”

“Lenileaks” were supposedly leaked emails posted online which allegedly showed communication between Nicolas-Lewis and her sister, former Commission on Filipinos Overseas Chair Imelda “Mely” Nicolas.

The leaked emails supposedly came from the YahooGroups site, Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC).

In her statement, Nicolas-Lewis said: “First: No plot to oust Duterte. Resign Duterte Movement is based on President Duterte’s own words that he would resign if drugs are still rampant six month(s) after his inauguration.”

“Second, Global Filipino Diaspora Council is a Public Site. If there is a conspiracy, would it be discussed in a public page?” she asked.

Nicolas-Lewis then said, “Dissent is NOT equivalent to a plot or conspiracy.”

“Opinions of varying shades, either praise or criticism, are a staple ingredient of a vibrant democracy,” she said. “Since when has criticism become an element of sedition?” asked the billionaire-philantropist.

Communications Sec. Martin Andanar said the President is aware of moves to unseat him, and he would not happy if such plans were proven to be true.

He said Malacañang will investigate online reports of supposed plots to unseat the President. Andanar reached out to the sources of the information. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is looking into it.

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagnan said a plain reading of the suspected email conversations cited by Malacañang does not manifest a design to destabilize the government or oust the President.

He said the emails are an exercise of the freedom of expression and are protected by the Bill of Rights as an essential component of democratic space.  The Liberal Party congressman said they express honest opinions and do not advocate any radical action or upheaval to terminate Duterte’s presidency.

“If the President’s men believe that Duterte is rendering fealty to his mandate, then their phobia of his impending ouster is grossly misplaced and is conveniently used as a pretext to discourage and censure critical dissent,” he said.

Vice-president Leni Robredo considers Lenileaks  as one of the many vicious issues being perpetrated on social media. While strongly denying she is a part of any plot to unseat Duterte, Robredo stressed she is devoted and focused on her work despite the personal attacks.

Robredo questioned the validity of the alleged emails, saying if it were indeed a confidential correspondence, it wouldn’t be discussed in a public email group.

The viral posts showed leaked emails dated December 4, 2016 in which Nicolas-Lewis supposedly told GFDC members, including her supporter, that the only way to thwart an “evil plot” to unseat Robredo is to call for Duterte’s resignation.

Another post also showed an email from the Office of the Vice President’s social media team urging its trolls to launch a counter-offensive against Duterte; social media personalities who were Robredo’s rabid critics; and defeated vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos and son Sandro.

“I think my name has been mentioned, which is not surprising because I’m the Vice-president. We have many supporters who react to (those who) target us. We are at the receiving end of these fake news; many stories were replete with inaccuracies,” explained Robredo.

Robredo also answered Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre’s comment on the issue criticizing Nicolas-Lewis, who he said was just making noise about the alleged Duterte ouster plot.

Aguirre also said he believes that both Robredo and Sen. Leila De Lima, Duterte’s staunchest critic, stayed at Nicolas-Lewis’ home during their visit in the United States last year.

Robredo denied this, adding that Aguirre as Justice Secretary should not believe the lies being spread on social media.

Robredo also said  the last time she spoke with Nicolas-Lewis was several days before the campaign period for the May elections in 2015. But she confirmed that Nicolas-Lewis has been her supporter since her campaign because both are from Bicol.

“But after the elections, when I won, I can’t remember if we had a meeting. We had neither a personal meeting in America nor a telephone chat. So those reports are not true,” she said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon branded as “all crap” the LP plot to oust Duterte and Lenileaks.

Drilon, also LP national vice-president and partymate of Robredo, belied anew that their party was behind moves to overthrow the  Duterte government so that Robredo can assume the presidency.

While he has not yet talked to Robredo, Drilon assured this alleged plot is farthest from the  mind of the vice-president. “There is no such thing, I can assure you,” he said.

“My advice to the executive branch is (to) exercise extreme care in basing decisions on social media particularly on alleged plots appearing in social media. In the first place, if this is really a credible plot, you will never find it in social media,” Drilon said.

He referred to the plunder case filed at the Office of the Ombudsman against him, former President Benigno Aquino III and other former Cabinet members in connection with the alleged illegal shipment of gold bars from the Union Bank of Switzerland to the Bank of Thailand using Centennial Energy (Thailand) Company Limited last December 2014. The allegation was reportedly based on a fake story that has gone viral on social media.

He said it would be a waste of time for the government to investigate such reports.

“All reports, all rumors about destabilization or threats (against the) administration should be investigated and seriously treated but that’s their attitude so I will not blame them for that, I will not criticize them for that,” said Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.