MANILA – The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has raised the issue of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Oust-Duterte” matrix before the Supreme Court to justify its plea for protection from alleged harassment by government forces.
In an 8-page manifestation filed by mail late Wednesday, the group cited its inclusion in the “Association Matrix Between Bikoy and Ellen Tordesillas” which shows the names of organizations, journalists and lawyers allegedly involved in the “plot to blacken the image of the President” by distributing and publishing online videos of a whistleblower who shared the alleged involvement of members of the Duterte family in the illegal drug trade.
“The respondents now not only resort to red-tagging of the petitioners, but also cite the NUPL and its entire leadership together with other media groups in a report, as allegedly involved in a supposed plot to oust President Duterte,” NUPL said.
In a statement Monday, NUPL called the alleged plot “ridiculous” and their alleged involvement “absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous.”
The story was first published in The Manila Times on April 22, written by its Chairman emeritus Dr. Dante Ang, who was designated by the President in May 2017 as special envoy for international public relations.
Also named in the matrix are media organizations Vera Files, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Rappler, and several journalists, lawyers and other individuals.
In its submission to the high court, NUPL said the names linked to its name in the matrix were “obviously lifted” from its brochure.
The group also mentioned a “more vicious and malicious article” written by former Presidential Spokesperson and now The Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao which branded NUPL as a “communist-linked” organization.
“These malicious statements and dangerous claims, as well as the contrived “matrix” above, baseless and reckless as they are, compel the Petitioners to again seek at this time for the Honorable Court’s protection and reiterate their prayer for a temporary protection order,” the group said.
“Petitioners simply chose to practice the ideals of the legal profession by rendering services to the underprivileged as mandated by our oath and by legal, constitutional and international principles,” it added.
NUPL had earlier sought protection from the high court through the issuance of a writ of amparo and writ of habeas data.
A writ of amparo provides protection to a person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened to be violated by a public official or a private individual or entity. Among the immediate reliefs it can provide is a temporary protection order while the petition is being heard in court.
A writ of habeas data, on the other hand, compels public or private entities or individuals engaged in gathering and storing personal data to disclose all information they have gathered and, if warranted, destroy their databases.
The lawyers’ group claimed their lives and security are in danger because of statements linking them to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), and depicting them as terrorists.
In its manifestation, it referred to statements by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations shortly after filing their SC petition as further proof of red-tagging.
Panelo on April 15 said the AFP may have basis to accuse NUPL of links with the Leftist movement while Parlade on April 17 scored NUPL for defending the CPP-NPA and denied its member-lawyers were being harassed.
“The continuous attacks on the Petitioners show the respondents’ disregard of the court processes and their resolve to threaten, harass, intimidate and further endanger the life, liberty and security of the individual petitioners,” NUPL said.
Aside from Parlade, named as respondents in NUPL’s SC petition are President Rodrigo Duterte, national security adviser and National Security Council director Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, deputy commander for intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Intelligence Service chief Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, and Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto.