MANILA: The government linked the political party of former president Benigno Aquino and a group of former dissident soldiers to a purported plot to discredit President Rodrigo Duterte and bolster opposition candidates running in next week’s midterm elections.
“It is obvious these groups have banded together to discredit the Duterte administration,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a news conference yesterday.
Panelo presented diagrams that outlined supposed links among the Liberal Party, Magdalo group and certain journalists in a “deliberate conspiracy” to spread videos that portrayed Duterte’s kin and closest aides as harbouring drug gangs.
The Liberal Party is Aquino’s political party, though he has not taken part in running it since he stepped down as president in 2016.
Magdalo group consists of former junior officers behind a failed mutiny in 2003 meant to unseat then President Gloria Arroyo. It is helmed by Senator Antonio Trillanes, Duterte’s most vocal critic in Congress.
Panelo said information provided by sources outside the government showed key officials and supporters of the Liberal Party and Magdalo group, as well as journalists previously accused of receiving funding from the US Central Intelligence Agency to oust Duterte, exchanging emails and online messages to spread “anti-Duterte statements and sentiments”.
A particular effort had been to spread three videos that accused Duterte’s son, daughter and personal secretary of receiving millions worth of drug money.
Government agents on May 2 arrested a blogger who created the website where the videos were first uploaded. He has been charged with inciting sedition.
On Monday, the hooded figure who appeared in the videos surfaced, seeking legal help and offering to testify before the Senate.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto yesterday said the man, a former marketing officer who had already served jail time for fraud, was an “information monger” who had already reached out to his office in 2016 offering to link Aquino to the drug trade.
Among those tagged by Panelo as having a hand in making and spreading the videos were Senator Trillanes, Aquino’s former spokesman Edwin Lacierda, communist leader Jose Maria Sison, and a host of bloggers, freelance journalists and security aides.
Panelo offered scant details about the purported conspiracy beyond the diagrams he presented, but said the justice ministry was determining what charges could be filed against the people behind it.
In a statement, Liberal Party president Francis Pangilinan dismissed the alleged plot as something Duterte’s aides conjured up. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network