Panelo now says ‘matrix’ not from Duterte
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo found himself in the hot seat after admitting on Thursday that the “Oust Duterte Matrix” he released last month did not come from the President.
Pressed by Malacañang reporters for his source of the “matrix” he showed on April 22, the same day that the Manila Times published it, Panelo said it came from an unknown person with an unregistered phone number, not from Duterte.
The diagram shows web-like linkages among members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the online news outfit Rappler and fact-checker Vera Files. The Manila Times report alleged that these people were linked to a plot to oust Duterte.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Panelo explained that those implicated had not yet committed any “overt crime” and that Malacañang just made a “preemptive move, so that whatever plans they have, they won’t push through with it.”
“We’re telling them that, ‘Hey, we know that you’re planning to unseat the President.’ That’s not a crime as of now,” he said.
Panelo, who is also chief presidential legal counsel, said Duterte had instructed him by phone during Holy Week to “touch” on the diagram of people allegedly involved in the ouster plot, but “(the President) didn’t give anything.”
‘I don’t know who’
“He wasn’t the one who gave it. Someone just sent me the matrix …. I don’t know who,” he said.
Reminded that he told reporters last week that the matrix implicating journalists and lawyers in the “Bikoy” videos was from the President, Panelo said: “No, no, no … (The President) asked me to discuss the matrix in the briefing. And then someone sent me a matrix, then that must be the matrix he must be referring to. There was no other matrix.”
The viral “Bikoy” videos accused members of Duterte’s family of involvement in the narcotics trade.
Panelo said it was the Manila Times matrix that Duterte ordered him to release to the media, and that the newspaper just beat him to it.
During the April 22 press briefing in Malacañang, Panelo said the President did not explain the drawing to him. “He just sent me this and then he said, ‘Touch on it,’” he said.
‘Reliable’ Times source
Dante Ang, the Manila Times’ chair emeritus who wrote the story, later said the diagram came from a “highly reliable source in the Palace.”
On Thursday, Panelo claimed that Ang’s source for the story was from the Office of the President.
He said he trusted the person who sent the diagram to him since Duterte said someone would be sending it to him.
“He (the President) said, ‘Apparently there is an ouster plot against me, and there is a matrix. I said, what is this matrix? ‘Maybe someone will send you whatever matrix they are saying,’” Panelo said.
He said he did not discuss the matrix anymore with Duterte.
“When I saw the Manila Times, it looked the same, nothing else. I just compared it, and I said it must be the same,” Panelo said.
“I reasonably assumed that it was the matrix mentioned by the President,” he added. “Since he did not dispute that or corrected me, so it means it’s the same matrix that he referred to touch upon in the news briefing.”
Panelo said the matrix he received on his phone was blurry, so he asked his staff to get the diagram published by the Manila Times in order to see the names mentioned there more clearly.
No need to verify
Asked why he did not check the veracity of the matrix he received from an unknown sender, he said there was no need.
“I believe the President when he says there is (an ouster plot). He is an authority. He is the Chief Executive of the land, he has unlimited sources of information,” Panelo said.
“The President does not lie about these things …. He is a very honest man,” he added.
Malacañang is leaving it to law enforcement agencies to file charges against those behind the “Bikoy” videos after the National Bureau of Investigation on Thursday took custody of a man allegedly linked to the videos.
Panelo said he would wait for an official report from the NBI on the arrest before commenting on what charges should be filed against those involved.
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