By The Manila Bulletin Reportorial Team
Social media was going overdrive over the weekend with the leakage of the alleged emails emanating from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) detailing its alleged international propaganda campaign to discredit both President Rodrigo Duterte and former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.
The so-called “LeniLeaks” spilled the supposed correspondence in a restricted Yahoo! group called Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) that seemed to show that the OVP is part of the group’s well-orchestrated strategy to discredit President Duterte in the international scene.
Thinking Pinoy (TP), a personal political blog of a Filipino citizen journalist, chanced upon the restricted Yahoo! group when it went public, based on a tip.
“One of Sass Rogando Sasot’s Facebook followers informed her about the yahoo group and Sass Sasot relayed that tip to me,” Thinking Pinoy said in an exclusive interview with the Manila Bulletin.
“It took me two days to browse through the contents of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council’s Yahoo! group. I released an article soon thereafter,” TP added.
A quick look at the article showed that it has been shared on Facebook over 49,700 times as of 12:19 a.m. of January 8. Likes are hard to count because the total number of shares comes from different Facebook accounts.
In one of the emails purportedly from a Pete Silva of the OVP Social Media (SocMed) dated January 3, 2017, it was alleged that supporters and influencers of President Duterte (PRRD in the leaks) and Bongbong Marcos (BBM) have launched simultaneous attacks against VP Leni Robredo starting at 12 midnight of the same day and called for immediate action “from our communities.”
It cited Robredo’s belated visit to the victims of Typhoon Nina and her statement that the “rehab is slow” and how she is being attacked for saying it when she was not even there.
The same email listed a series of responses (A to E): she (Robredo) has always been on top of things, she does not have the mandate and financial capacity to do this, she cannot shoulder everything, rehabilitation is different from relief operations, and to compare the visits of Duterte and Robredo, pointing out that Duterte “just gave a speech for the ceremonial giving of donations” and did not go to the far flung areas the way the VP did. “She is on ground zero.”
The second item contained in the email referred to the BBM camp’s release of several memes to have a “show of force”. The email said: Their messaging is to make their memes viral to make it appear like more people voted for BBM as the real VP.
“Our attack: flip the memes and show unflattering pictures with controversies of BBM—cocaine addict, fake diploma, did not graduate college (sic), Sandro is stupid—not even from Oxford as they are claiming,” the email indicated.
The second mode of attack, according to the leaked email, was to call out BBM and ask where he was during Typhoon Nina. The third was to use photos of BBM supporters during the Luneta rally with the message: “they’re numerous online, but they never deliver the real bodies needed when the battle is offline. They are a fake and paid army.”
National secruity adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the so-called leaks are serious.
“I have to get deeper into it. It need not be discussed in the Cabinet meeting though as there are more important matters to discuss,” he said.
“First is the authenticity of the leak. I want to give some benefit of the doubt, but there is very high likelihood that the conversations/exchange of notes really transpired,” Esperon added.
Supporters of President Duterte are questioning the rationale of the so-called international propaganda machine being run by those opposed to the current administration.
“PRRD they said failed in his campaign promise to eradicate illegal drugs in three months. I think the electorate voted for him not because of the three-month timeline. They simply wanted their president/leader to forcefully address the illegal drugs, realizing, and perhaps annoyed that the then incumbent president was not concerned about it,” they pointed out.
“The participants in the exchanges are citizens in the Americas. Didn’t they know of the lingering decades-old drug problems in their turf? Are they really after solving problems in a country that is no longer their country? Or they simply cannot come to terms with the reality that the candidate they supported lost resoundingly?” they added.
Esperon said there could be liabilities. “Citizens of other countries destabilizing the Philippines would be violating laws,” he pointed out.
TP, when tipped off about the existence of the Yahoo group, tried to verify the information contained therein. “I back-read posts and I saw messages from as far back as 2012. It’s hard—if not impossible—to make up that kind of material, as that would entail hacking through Yahoo’s servers, and Filipinos are not really famous for high-level hacking skills.”
Known be pro-Duterte, TP, when asked what his end goal is, said: “The truth. That’s it. If they can find even a sliver of falsehood in any of my articles, they are free to point it out and I will issue an erratum. That has been my style since I started ThinkingPinoy and I have issued three errata so far.”
In the web of propaganda being peddled here and abroad, TP said there are more “hair-raising revelations” that will be exposed soon.
“I cannot say for now because I do not want their side to learn what we’re doing until it’s already done. Sun Tzu once said, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Asked if he could categorically say that Robredo is part and fully aware of an ouster plot, TP answered: “I wouldn’t categorically say that, but the information from the group, plus Robredo’s ultra-secret US holiday trip, is enough to raise suspicion, and that is why I advise the government to look into it. But then, Leni and Loida are very close: the latter has funded even her 2013 congressional campaign, so it would be difficult for me believe that she has no idea about what’s going on.
TP said the major players in the so-called “#LeniLeaks” are Fil-Am billionaire lobbyist and Liberal Party supporter Loida Nicolas-Lewis, her sister Imelda Nicolas (head of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas), CFO commissioner Jose Molano Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer U.S. Bureau correspondent Ted Liguatan, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau correspondent Gene Alcantara and influential North E.U. civil society leader Filomenita Hogsholm.
Among them, the most active on the message boards is Imelda “Mely” Nicolas, while the most influential is her sister Loida.
There are 5,000 messages, the most damning would be:
- Imelda Nicolas’ email showing OVP has a hand in controlling the socmed convo. It was corroborated by a post from the “EDUCATORS FOR LENI ROBREDO” fb group
- Lewis’ instructions to a certain Ely N., telling the latter to call her in relation to Leni’s “Legal defense”
- GFDC’s active solicitation of support from Private universities, GFDC was proud to claim UP ADMU DLSU agreed to support them, i.e. a GFDC member said the universities can provide warm bodies for the Marcos protest
- Loida’s call for members to lobby sa UN mismo for the blocking of Teddy Boy Locsin’s appointment
The vice president has already dismissed the controversy as “purely ridiculous.”
Prior to the #LeniLeaks controversy, Robredo has been accused of supporting efforts to oust Duterte, which the vice president had repeatedly denied.
The Manila Bulletin, on its Facebook page, asked its followers’ opinion about #LeniLeaks. It has garnered more than 2,600 comments as of this posting.
Tags: #LeniLeaks, BongBong Marcos, GFDC, Global Filipino Diaspora Council, Leni Robredo, Manila Bulletin, Office of the Vice President, OVP caught at the center of an int’l propaganda machine, Rodrigo Duterte