By Azer Parrocha, PNA
MANILA — It is “totally unnecessary” to prove the legitimacy of the “oust-Duterte” matrix, which links journalists and lawyers to a plot to discredit President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
On April 22, a matrix was released by the Palace, which accused Rappler, Vera Files, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and the National Union of Peoples’ lawyers (NUPL) as plotting against the President. The same matrix was first released by the Manila Times.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there was no need to prove the matrix because for now, since it remains a “just a conspiracy”, which has not yet been carried out and is not actionable in court.
“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,” Panelo said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Citing Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, Panelo said: “Conspiracy and proposal to commit felony are punishable only in the cases in which the law specially provides a penalty therefor.”
Panelo said only once the plot has been committed will the Palace file cases in courts and eventually show proof of the plotters’ participation in the ouster plot.
“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.
Meanwhile, Panelo defended anew the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to release the matrix, which he claimed came from a foreign source, noting that it was obtained through means that did not violate the Constitution.
“The President said the information on the ouster plot was received by him from a foreign source. It does not conclusively mean, however, that the information was originally obtained by the foreign country by an unlawful method that violates the privacy of an individual,” Panelo said.
Panelo floated the possibility that, through intelligence information sharing between countries, the information may have been acquired by a Filipino citizen who shared the same to the foreign country, which then transmitted it to the President.
He also dismissed as “erroneous” speculations that the information was obtained through illegal means such as wiretapping since there were ways to acquire them legally.
“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,” Panelo said
“It could also have been heard by one of their colleagues who does not agree on the ouster plan, who then shared the information to another, who in turn also relayed the information from whom PRRD received it. The possibilities are endless,” he added.
Right to information
Panelo said the release of the matrix is also pursuant to Article 3, Section 7 of the Constitution which provides that, “the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.”
“The people deserve to know that there are ouster plans against the leadership of their government,” Panelo 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.
Panelo said the matrix was bared to show plotters that the Duterte administration is aware of their conspiracy.
“The matrix was disclosed to the public for the ring leaders and their co-plotters to know that we know, to put them on notice that pursuing their plan by committing overt acts punishable by law will open themselves to criminal prosecution,” Panelo said.
No stifling of dissent
The Spokesperson also rejected claims that the ouster plot was meant to stifle political dissent and opposition, noting that they can still openly criticize the President and his administration.
“The fact alone that critics and those in the matrix as well as the personalities or groups identified in the matrix are still vigorously voicing their adverse opinions against the administration and even have increased their attacks a notch higher in this election season is eloquent proof that there is no stifling of dissent nor are their freedom to express their thoughts threatened,” Panelo said
Panelo said compared to previous administrations, dissent during the Duterte administration is “freest.”
“No person has been hailed to court on account of the individual’s exercise of the freedom of speech or by reason of one’s disagreement against the Administration or its policies,” Panelo said.
He said certain individuals who are now facing charges, including detained Senator Leila de Lima, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, are probably guilty of the crimes they are charged with.
De Lima has been detained for two years due to drug charges. Trillanes has been indicted for inciting to sedition while Ressa was arrested twice over cyber libel and tax evasion charges.
However, Panelo insisted that these charges were unrelated to their being critical of the administration. (PNA)