By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent

Malacanang confirmed the existence of a matrix on a plot to oust President Duterte that tagged as plotters media groups Vera Files, Rappler and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and some members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the public “has a right to know” about the “Oust-Duterte plot,” which they were supposed to release in the press briefing on April 22 but were beaten to it by Manila Times chairman emeritus Dante Ang, also the country’s special ambassador for international public relations.

The plot involving media groups was divulged at the same time that Duterte attacked journalists anew for being corrupt following a PCIJ article on the “sudden” increase of his family’s wealth during his term.

The article claimed that Duterte and his children, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, all became richer while in office and had acquired undisclosed business interests.

Speaking at a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Agusan del Norte, Duterte said journalists were paid to criticize him.

The matrix detailing the ouster plot against Duterte never disclosed the real identity of “Bikoy,” source of the anti-Duterte stories. These stories then go to Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas who acts as nexus and distributor of the materials to PCIJ, Rappler and the NUPL. The latter groups in turn distribute the false narratives to their respective members.

Panelo said except for NUPL, a leftist group, the rest of the people from Rappler, Vera Files and the PCIJ named in the matrix are members of the media, who would now appear to be also collaborating with the Left in their effort to destabilize the government.

Malacanang said the campaign to destabilize Duterte became particularly vicious when a hooded Bikoy in one video episode of the so-called “Ang Totoong Narcolist” series, accused the President’s 14-year old daughter, Veronica and his partner, Honeylet, of receiving “payoffs from the illegal drug trade and depositing such transactions in banks in Hong Kong.”

Another tale was the accusation that erstwhile presidential assistant Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go received kickbacks from the drug lords; that his takes were deposited in four local banks; and that his foreign bank transactions had reached PHP3.7 billion from 2010 to 2018.

As for Tordesillas, she was quoted as dismissing the allegation as hilarious.

“What I find disturbing is, if this is the kind of intelligence report that the president gets and bases his actions and policies on, the country is in big trouble,” Tordeillas said.

PCIJ for its part said it never received any stories from Bikoy or Tordeillas. “PCIJ has neither posted nor distributed any stories or commentaries on the ‘narcolist video’ of ‘Bikoy.’ The video was posted on YouTube from where the news media and citizens got to watch it. That is where the so-called ‘cybercrime experts’ of the unnamed ‘highly placed source in the Office of the President’ should look instead,” the group said.

As for NUPL, the pro bone lawyers’ group said the government may be vilifying them since they have opposed many of the government’s actions, such as the “war on drugs,” the hero’s burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., power rate hikes, etc.

Although Malacanang attests to the authenticity of the documents, the NUPL noted that the reports come from an anonymous, and thus unreliable, source. “Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source,” NUPL said in a statement NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares, president Edre Olalia, secretary general Ephraim Cortez and adviser Carlos Zarate.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) echoed the fear that the lawyers’ group raised. NUJP said the supposed matrix is no different from the “narco-list” that the administration has released and boasted of in the past.

“What we do fear is that this ‘revelation’ could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the NUJP said.

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