MANILA, Philippines – There is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to prove his "ouster plot matrix" that alleges a conspiracy among journalists and a lawyers' group to unseat him, Malacañang said on Wednesday, May 1.
"Those named in the matrix demand proof of their participation in the ouster plot. Such is totally unnecessary," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
He said there was no need for the Palace to present proof since the alleged plot was, so far, not a crime and therefore would not lead to any legal action against any individual supposedly involved.
"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. Conspiracy is not a crime unless the law specifically classifies a particular conspiracy to undertake a project or actualize a plan as a crime," said Panelo.
"It is only when the cases are filed in court that proof will be submitted to substantiate the criminal charges," he added.
Yet the President's allegations have repercussions on the reputation of the journalists and lawyers named. The Philippine National Police had also announced it would investigate those individuals named in the "matrix."
Human rights group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a group included in the diagram, has asked the Supreme Court for a protection order from the government and the military, citing safety concerns over Duterte's ouster plot accusation.
Malacañang said it would not pursue any legal action against people in the diagram, unless they are found to have proposed rebellion, coup d'etat, or treason.
"Examples of proposals to commit a crime which need no overt acts but punishable under the Revised Penal Code are proposals to commit treason, coup d'etat and rebellion. Only when all the elements of any of these crimes have been committed will we file a case against the conspirators," said Panelo.
Public's 'right to know'
Though Panelo claimed Duterte was not obligated to prove his allegations, he said there was a need to release the unproven claims in order to "inform" the public.
"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," said Panelo.
He also denied Duterte's accusations were an attempt to discredit critical journalists and cow journalists into tempering their reports about his administration.
"There is no stifling of dissent nor are their freedom to express their thoughts threatened. Compared to all administrations, the dissent during this leadership is the freest," claimed Panelo.
Where did 'matrix' come from?
Malacañang still could not inform the public about the source of the matrix.
While Panelo acknowledged Duterte had claimed it came from a foreign entity, he said a Filipino could have given it to the foreign entity.
"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," said the spokesman.
Panelo said it was "erroneous" to "speculate" that the content of the diagram was obtained through wiretapping, which is illegal save for certain scenarios.
"It could have been personally heard or witnessed during a conversation between plotters" in a public space, said Panelo, adding that "the possibilities are endless."
Critics have slammed Duterte's "matrix" as false and "garbage." Vice President Leni Robredo said the Chief Executive should not have released unverified information that could have grave repercussions on those accused without basis.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra himself had said the diagram alone was insufficient basis for an investigation.
While Malacañang denied the need to prove Duterte's "matrix," Duterte himself had frequently demanded that critics and media prove their allegations about him. He has branded Rappler as a "fake news outlet" and accused the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as enablers of black propaganda. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.