A progressive lawyers’ group slammed a news report linking it to an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling the story “an imagination gone berserk.”
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said The Manila Times story “Oust-Duterte plot bared” published today and bylined by its chairman emeritus Dante Ang “fantastic” and “libelous.”
“This has certainly gone over the walls of credulity. It is absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous,” the NUPL said in a statement.
Ang’s story alleged the group, along with independent media groups and journalists including Vera Files, Rappler and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) are involved in a plot to oust Duterte.
“There is a plot to discredit the President and destabilize his government,” Ang’s story said, quoting a anonymous source in the Office of the President said.
“There’s an obvious pattern of close coordination among some media organizations for the timely publication of anti-Duterte stories,” the source supposedly told Ang.
The story added the plot is utilizing the media, planting fake news, distributing them to the friendly media outlets, whetting the people’s appetite, arousing their anger, manipulating public emotion, touching base with the Leftist organization, enlisting the support of the police and the military, then going for the “kill.”
It added that journalist Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files is serving as main distributor of the videos of a certain “Bikoy” accusing Duterte, son and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, senatorial aspirant Christopher “Bong” Go, among others as illegal drugs distributors.
“’Bikoy,’ obviously a pseudonym, was the source of the black propaganda, the matrix shows. From Bikoy, the stories go to Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files, who acts as the nexus and distributor of the materials to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler and the NUPL. These organizations, in turn, distribute the false narratives to their respective members,” Ang’s story said.
In a press briefing at the Malacañan Palace, presidential spokesperson and chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said revealed Ang’s source was President Duterte himself.
“I was supposed to release this today. Naunahan lang ako ng Manila Times,” he said. (Manila Times was just ahead of me.)
Panelo said the matrix was the result of intelligence information gathered by foreign countries and shared to Malacañan.
‘Laying the ground for more attacks’
The NUPL however said their inclusion in the matrix is a mere bait to engage them in absurd and endless tit for tat to distract them from their human rights lawyering.
“[The allegations] would have been amusing were it not perilous to the safety, security, and liberty, if not the lives, of each of the 500 or so lawyers, law students, law professors, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers, and paralegals who are members of the NUPL in more than 20 chapters nationwide,” the NUPL said.
The NUPL said Ang’s story lacked evidence and credibility given his close association with Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source. And more so if it is cloaked under a fictituous anonymity that does not give the object of such calumny a fair chance to contest,” NUPL said.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also scored Ang’s report, calling it “a marvel of unethical and amateurish writing.”
“Based on a single anonymous source and a matrix showing a web of threads so tenuous it would not hold up in the slightest breeze, Ang’s piece of claptrap wouldn’t even pass muster at any self-respecting high school publication,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“In fact, proof that the matrix, the source and the story are hogwash is the fact that former NUJP chair – AND former [Manila] Times editor – Inday Espina Varona is listed in the matrix as among NUPL members. She is neither a lawyer nor connected to the NUPL,” the group added.
The NUJP also said what Ang has done is similar to the narco-lists Duterte is fond of trotting which often amount to hit lists, death sentences without the benefit of trial.
“What we do fear is that this “revelation” could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the group said, adding that Ang should be held accountable should any harm come to those named in his article. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)