DOJ: No basis to probe lawyers, journalists in 'oust Duterte' matrix for now

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday, April 23, that there was not enough basis “for now” for the  Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a probe into lawyers and journalists tagged in the supposed "oust Duterte" matrix plot claimed by Malacañang.

“No, not at this time. We’ll let more facts unfold first,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters on Tuesday.

“We need more information than that depicted in a diagram,” he added.

Malacañang said on Monday, April 22, that President Rodrigo Duterte was the source of the matrix published on the front page of the Manila Times that linked media groups like Rappler, Vera Files, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to human rights group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in an alleged plot to oust Duterte.

Rappler, Vera Files, PCIJ, the NUPL, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have condemned the matrix as baseless.

Police chief General Oscar Albayalde said on Tuesday that the police will investigate the journalists and the lawyers in the matrix without waiting for an official order from Malacañang. (READ: 'False, garbage' – Maria Ressa, Ellen Tordesillas, PCIJ on Duterte 'ouster plot')

Albayalde said that the scope of the police probe would be intelligence validation, and if validation is completed, criminal investigation to determine if charges should be filed against those in the President's matrix.

Guevarra said on Tuesday that the DOJ it was focused on investigating the source of the so-called "Bikoy" videos, a series of videos that link presidential son Paolo Duterte and other members of the first family to the drug trade.

“The DOJ Office of Cybercrime and NBI Cybercrime units will focus on ‘Bikoy’ for now. They have touched base with youtube and google, who undertake to preserve the data,”  Guevarra said.

The "Oust Duterte" matrix plot suggested that the media groups and lawyers conspired with each other to propagate the Bikoy videos. The PCIJ said it has not published anything in the content of the Bikoy videos.

The Philippine National Police was also tracking the sources of the Bikoy videos. –Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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