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Editorial

Panelo’s flimflammery

/ 05:09 AM May 14, 2019

It is downright comical to see presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo gnashing and whinging about the instant karma he got after peddling the amateurish Malacañang matrices of people supposedly out to “discredit” President Duterte.

After Panelo showed the diagrams indicating the names of a motley crew of politicians, lawyers, journalists, bloggers,
athletes and others supposedly in a conspiracy against the administration, the collective response of a public bewildered by Malacañang’s default onion-skinned response to criticism and dissent was a cathartic deluge of funny, savage, in-your-face memes on social media.

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One such meme in particular gave Panelo a dose of his own medicine — that of the satirical Facebook page “Malacañang Events and Catering” showing a photoshopped image of Panelo, from his May 8 press conference, gesturing before a whiteboard — but with the names of the opposition Otso Diretso senatorial candidates on the board, as if he was endorsing them.

Panelo went ballistic.

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“While we understand that the post is a political meme, which is the norm in this campaign season, the same however amounts to defamatory imputation,” Panelo wailed. “It is for this reason that I strongly denounce the malicious use of my image for black propaganda and political mudslinging…”

That’s rich. The post was precisely a meme mocking Panelo’s stand-up comedy act of presenting dubious information, and the page that shared it was obviously not claiming authenticity. So how can Panelo cry foul about it? If he can dish it out, surely he can take it?

What could be more malicious, reeking of black propaganda and political mudslinging, after all, than releasing a list tagging opposition candidates, and a host of collateral victims, as destabilizers on the eve of the midterm elections, and using for this squalid purpose the presidential pulpit and the full resources of Malacañang’s communications apparatus?

Two names in the diagram would prove to be the weakest links that would help quickly unravel the flimflammery — Olympic medalist Hidilyn Diaz and athlete-journalist Gretchen Ho.

Diaz could not help but cry in shock at finding herself in the list, saying all her efforts are focused on qualifying for the next Olympics “instead of being involved in that.”

Ho, an ABS-CBN host, was likewise baffled at her inclusion, noting that just a day before Panelo’s presentation, she was even among the celebrities invited to a special dinner with the President in Malacañang by his partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

Panelo would eventually backtrack and say Diaz and Ho were not part of the alleged plot. Then he blamed the media for supposedly making the wrong analysis that led to the tagging of the two.

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But in the May 8 presscon, Panelo not only vouched for the veracity of the information as having come from the President himself, he also made no distinction about the clumps of names and groups mentioned.

“The Office of the President, the President himself, has received information, intelligence information that has been validated and appears to show there is a deliberate attempt to discredit this administration, as well as to boost the candidacies of the opposition’s senatorial candidates and it appears that there are certain groups who are working together to achieve this goal,” he said.

The backpedaling he had to do was the second time in as many days that Panelo ended up contradicting himself over his misrepresentations.

On April 22, he presented a matrix containing the names of journalists and opposition leaders he claimed were conspiring to “oust” the President.

The document came from his boss no less, Panelo declared, but then later made a shocking admission: The matrix he made public came from an unknown number that merely texted the diagram on his phone. And since the image sent to him was blurry (“Yung pinadala sa akin eh ang labo”), he asked his staff to verify it by comparing it with the diagram that had been published in the Manila Times — which, not incidentally, also came from Malacañang.

And that’s what Panelo presented to the nation: a virtual political hit list against individuals that he got from an unknown number and couldn’t even read on his phone. Which he then, without any decent halfway verification expected of a seasoned lawyer like him, let alone of the chief presidential legal counsel, insisted that the country believe without question, because “galing ke Presidente, kaya paniwalaan ninyo (it’s from the President, so believe it).”

What a laugh. What’s all that hue and cry again about “black propaganda” and “defamatory imputation”?

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TAGS: Inquirer editorial, oust Duterte matrix, Salvador Panelo
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