[Analytics] Will ‘matrix’ saga affect Philippine election?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has his own way of reviving his dying leadership. He knows that the midterm election on May 13 will seal his fate. He knows that his jokes, curses, and gutter words are no longer bought by his audience. Yes, they still laugh, but it is no longer enthusiastic. It has become mirthless; out of habit, or embarrassment. He has to do something. Eunice Barbara C. Novio specially for the Asia Times.

After a controversial series of clips that came to be known as “the Bikoy videos” circulated on Facebook, the Duterte administration scrambled to find “Bikoy,” instead of investigating to find the truth behind the “narco-lists” that prominently implicated Paulo Duterte, the presidential son, Manz Carpio, the husband of daughter Sara Duterte, Honeylet Avancena, the presidential mistress, and of course Bong Go, the president’s aide and most loyal servant. They easily found Bikoy; then along came revelations by presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo about a so-called “oust Duterte matrix.”

The Bikoy videos

The first installment of the Bikoy videos or the “Real Narco-List” surfaced on the Internet on April 4. It was widely shared on YouTube, but at present, the videos are no longer available.

In the first video, a hooded man with a manipulated voice claimed that Paolo Duterte and Manz Carpio were members of a Chinese triad, while a certain “Waldo” is Paolo’s bagman.

The series of five videos enumerated the members of the Davao Group and the Quadrangle Bicol Group. Bikoy implicated various political names and businesses in the Bicol Region.

This Monday, the man claiming to be Bikoy surfaced. He sought refuge to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Pasig City. He identified himself as Peter Joemel Advincula, a former member of a drug syndicate operating in Hong Kong and the Philippines who was in charge of recording the profits from drugs.

Advincula’s appearance at the IBP office was played down by the Duterte administration. A Senate hearing to hear Advincula’s side was set for this week, but later Senator Panfilo Lacson, who had called for it, dismissed the hearing. Lacson chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

Apparently, Advincula also alleged that several members of former president Benigno Aquino’s cabinet were also involved in the drug trade in 2016.

The ‘matrix’

On April 22, The Manila Times reported an “Oust Duterte Plot.” The supposed “exposé” was written by Dante Ang, who besides being the owner and publisher of The Manila Times is also the government’s special envoy for international relations.

The “matrix” of plotters, according to the article, consisted mainly of media personalities and organizations, progressive groups, lawyers, leftist groups, and the opposition bloc. The article included a diagram of the “matrix,” of which one element was the Bikoy videos.

Why is the matrix not credible?

When I first saw the matrix, my attention was caught by the name of Inday Espina-Varona, who was labeled as a lawyer. But Espina-Varona, in fact, is an award-winning journalist and was never a lawyer.

As the story unfolds, some personalities in the matrix are no longer connected to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, one was a utility worker, and some are a figment of the imagination. Of course, Panelo, the president’s mouthpiece, defended the reliability of the matrix diagram. He claimed that it came from the Office of the President, and thus everything that comes from Duterte should not be questioned. He even claimed that the matrix diagram was sent to him via text messages by an unnamed “foreign” source. In a press briefing on April 23, Panelo claimed that source was someone from the Office of the President – in fact from the president himself. Later, however, Duterte claimed that the source was a “foreign ally.”

The matrix again

The arrest of Rodel Jayme, the uploader of the Bikoy videos, on May 2 prompted the Duterte spinners to create another matrix. All this time, Duterte was busy watching Netflix in his home town in Davao. Panelo was quoted as saying, ‘The president works from home.” This was also to stop the speculation that he is very sick. Jose Maria Sison of the National Democratic Front claims that President Duterte has been suffering from a nervous breakdown and other illnesses that require him to take Fentanyl.

“In any case, the devil is still alive and kicking, although with a deteriorating physical and mental condition,” Sison said in a message sent to me.

True enough, Duterte was busy working at home.

On Wednesday, another “matrix” was presented by Panelo to the media. Aside from the previous “plotters,” it now included the eight opposition senatorial candidates (ocho direcho), Bong Banal, a famous meme maker on Facebook, the Magdalo Group of Senator Antonio Trillanes, Bikoy uploader Rodel Jayme, and Bikoy.

The matrix is growing.

Surprisingly, it now includes Hidilyn Diaz, an Olympian weightlifter, and Gretchen Ho, a journalist who was previously invited to a dinner with the president a night before she was included in the matrix.

“His matrices are worthless drawings and are pure bullshit. They do not amount to evidence against anyone except as evidence of Duterte’s mental derangement. I do not think that any foreign intelligence agency had to provide the drawings to him. Anyone with the mental capacity or deficiency of Duterte can make such drawings,” Sison said.

How about the involvement of the people in the matrices? Can they sue the government? Is the government liable for putting the lives of these people at risk?

“Of course. That’s an important point, a matter of life and death,” Sison said in a message.

The Duterte administration is trying a last-ditch effort to divert the attention of Filipinos to make-believe “matrices.”

“Eyes on the ball. The architect of lies will have their day of reckoning,” Inday Espina-Varona said.

On May 13, the Filipino people cast their votes. Only then will we know if the matrices have affected our intelligence that has long been ridiculed by the Duterte administration.

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