Media named in alleged plot to ‘overthrow’ Duterte administration

The Duterte Administration in the Philippines has named several journalists and media organisations as part of an alleged plot to overthrow his government at upcoming mid-term elections. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have condemned the announcement by the government, calling it an attempt to intimidate the media.

The diagrams from the Presidential Office. Credit: Rappler

On April 22, the Manilla Times published a report on its front page outlining an alleged plot to ‘overthrow the Duterte administration’ at upcoming mid-term elections. The report said that the plot involved journalists who attempted to ‘manipulate public emotion, touch base with leftist organisation, enlist support of the police and the military, then go for the ‘kill’’. The report was written by chairman emeritus of the Manilla Times; Dante Ang. Dante is also the current special envoy for international public relations for President Duterte. The report cited sources from the Presidential Office which were confirmed.

On May 8 the Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and the Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar presented several diagrams referred to as the ‘matrix’ which names several journalist and media organisations allegedly connected with the plot. Among the journalists named was the former chair of NUJP Inday Espina-Varona, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa as well as media outlets Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism.

The NUJP said the new diagram is another badly concocted fiction meant to scare the government’s perceived enemies but which only ends up making the accuser look ridiculous.

“And we stress again this government’s criminal endangerment of people it accuses of serious offenses without an iota of evidence. But we say let them try their worst. They cannot scare the community of independent Filipino journalists into silence,” NUJP added.

The IFJ said: “The press freedom in the Philippines is deteriorating due to different threats to the journalists and media. We urge the authorities to stop the intimidation of the media, including spreading unverified information in the diagrams. The naming of journalists and media organisations in this alleged plot is an attempt of intimidation and is completely unacceptable.”