MANILA- It is unnecessary for President Rodrigo Duterte to prove a matrix linking journalists and lawyers to a supposed plot to oust him, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained that the controversial matrix only shows the existence of an alleged ouster plan, which cannot be considered a crime yet.
“Those named in the matrix demand proof of their participation in the ouster plot. Such is totally unnecessary. The matrix shows that there is an ouster plot. It is just a plot, a plan, an idea. The same is not actionable in court it being just a conspiracy,” he said in a statement.
“Conspiracy is not a crime unless the law specifically classifies a particular conspiracy to undertake a project or actualize a plan as a crime,” he added.
The matrix published first on The Manila Times, linked several journalists to a supposed ouster plot against Duterte.
Written by the paper’s chairman and Duterte appointee Dante Ang, the report states that media practitioners allegedly plant fake news, “manipulate public emotion, touch base with the Leftist organization, enlist the support of the police and the military, then go for the ‘kill’.”
On the same day that the matrix was released, Panelo said information on the matrix came from the President himself which the latter got from a “foreign source.”
Among those tagged in the matrix were the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and media organizations Vera Files, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Rappler, which have been critical of the administration.
The report pushed Felipe Salvosa II , managing editor of The Manila Times, to resign from his editorial post, saying it was the “final straw.”
The NUPL meanwhile filed a manifestation at the Supreme Court on the matrix to justify its plea for protection from alleged harassment from government forces.
Malacañang said it would not take legal action against people in the matrix unless they are found to have proposed rebellion, coup d'etat, or treason.
“Only when all the elements of any of these crimes have been committed will we file a case against the conspirators. Should their plans lead to overt acts punishable by law then criminal cases will also be filed against them. It is only when the cases are filed in court that proof will be submitted to substantiate the criminal charges,” Panelo said.
Panelo also defended the President’s supposed “foreign source,” saying just because the information was from abroad doesn’t automatically mean that it was acquired unlawfully.
“The information may have been acquired by a Filipino citizen who shared the same to the foreign country which then transmitted to PRRD pursuant to the global policy of intelligence information sharing between countries,” he said.
“It is also erroneous to speculate that the information was obtained through wiretapping or any similar device prohibited by laws as it could have been personally heard or witnessed during a conversation between plotters in a place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, which according to jurisprudence is not violative of our privacy laws,” he added.
Duterte's spokesman added that the matrix was released to the public so that the supposed coup plotters would “know that we know.”
“The revelation on the ouster plot is pursuant to the people's right to information. The people deserve to know that there are ouster plans against the leadership of their government,” he said.
“It is therefore the constitutional duty of the Administration to report to our countrymen the presence of groups which are motivated to unseat their President whom they have given the mandate to govern,” he added.
This is not the first time that the Palace released information on a supposed ouster plot against President Duterte.
In September last year, the President urged the public to watch out for his critics' supposed move to oust him, which he said will "go into a high gear" in October. The supposed plan came to be known later as “Red October.”