Malacañang's copy of 'ouster matrix' came from unknown number

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo admitted that his copy of the "ouster matrix" came from an unknown mobile number and that he made this "matrix" public without first verifying its source.

Panelo clarified that he received a copy of the alleged matrix through a message sent to his phone after President Rodrigo Duterte called him up to ask him to "touch on" a matrix during his next press briefing.

But that message came from a number not recorded on his phone.

"Hindi ko alam kasi walang number siya eh. Kasi noong makita ko 'yung Manila Times, mukhang pareho eh ito na 'yun, wala nang iba," said Panelo on Thursday, May 2, during a Palace news briefing.

(I don't know because there was no number. But when I saw what the Manila Times published, it looked the same so there must be no other matrix.)

Asked to clarify if the message came from an unknown source, Panelo said, "Basta hindi siya naka-record sa ano (phone) ko eh (It's not recorded in my phone)."

Despite this, Panelo did not think it necessary to verify if the matrix was indeed the same matrix Duterte spoke of. Anyway, he said, Duterte has not yet corrected him.

Panelo merely compared the matrix he received to the diagram published by the Manila Times and he "reasonably assumed" that, because they looked "the same," the matrix he received must be the one the President meant he should discuss to media. (READ: FALSE: 'Ouster plot' against President Duterte 'bared')

'Blurry names'

But that the two matrices are exactly the same is also questionable since Panelo also admitted that he could not clearly read the names in the matrix he received. Therefore, how could he know it was exactly the same matrix published by the Manila Times?

The spokesman even said he had to ask his staff to take a screenshot of Manila Times' matrix so he could understand the matrix he received. This means he already assumed the two were one and the same.

"Actually, hindi ko nga alam 'yung mga pangalan kasi 'yung pinadala sa akin eh ang labo that's why I asked the staff, kumuha nga kayo doon sa Manila Times, medyo maliwanag para makita sino 'yung mga pangalan," said Panelo.

(Actually, I don't even know the names because what was sent to me was blurry so I asked the staff, get the one from Manila Times, it's clearer, so we can see the names.)

Panelo quoted Duterte as describing the matrix this way during their Holy Week phone conversation: "He said, 'Apparently there is an ouster plot against me and there is a matrix.'"

In previous press conferences, Panelo said the Manila Times' matrix came "straight from the Office of the President." (READ: 'Totally unnecessary' for Duterte to prove 'ouster matrix' – Malacañang)

Whether or not the matrix from the unknown number and the matrix being referred to by the President are the same, the sequence of events described by Panelo illustrates the process by which Malacañang publicized a "diagram" making serious allegations about individuals.

The groups and journalists included in the so-called matrix have denied involvement in the supposed ouster plot and have also condemned the spread of disinformation. (READ: [EDITORIAL] Ang pantasya ng 'matrix' ni Duterte)

The release of an unverified matrix of unknown origin by the Palace is in sharp contrast to Duterte's own demands to media entities to "prove" their supposedly baseless claims about his hidden wealth, corruption of his aides, and his campaign against illegal drugs. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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