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No Fil Am Plot to Oust President Duterte

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar answers questions during an impromptu press conference (file photo)

t all started with a radio interview on Manila radio station DZRH on September 19, 2016 when Pres. Duterte’s Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced the breaking news that Filipino Americans in New York were planning to stage a coup against Pres. Duterte in January of 2017.

This is how Andanar said he learned the news: “I was just talking to somebody in New York now who is also a member of the Cabinet – I won’t mention his name. But he also heard of the Fil-Ams in New York who are planning. They are hatching a plan to oust the President by January 2017. There is this kind of report. "

Andanar added that he even asked this unnamed official if he has evidence to prove it or if this is another hearsay. “It’s really about the evidence that you have, isn’t it? (If there is) you let me know (because) it is the concern for the government and it should be a concern for the nation because it’s a destabilization talk,” Andanar said he told the official.

Although Andanar never identified the source of his news, there were only two cabinet officials who were in New York in that time period - Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. and Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella.

Yasay Denial

Two days after Andanar's news, Secretary Yasay addressed the issue when he spoke at a Town Hall meeting with the Filipino-American community at the Philippine Consulate in New York. “I do not know whether those reports are true, I deny having said those things and I am sure Sec. Ernie Abella would not say those things,” he said.

So it appears the question is not whether Yasay or Abella can provide any evidence of the plot to Andanar but whether Andanar has any evidence that “a member of the cabinet” actually provided him with information about such a plot. Or did Andanar just make it up as a joke?

According to Wikipedia, Andanar is “a former Filipino television news anchor, radio commentator, podcaster, audio blogger, voice-over artist and comedian.”

Unless reading a teleprompter as a former television anchor qualifies one as a journalist, it does not appear that Andanar has the credentials to even understand what hearsay means.

But the absence of any evidence of this Fil-Am "plot” did not stop Andanar from further exploiting the issue in his subsequent press conferences.

Two days after the DZRH radio interview, Andanar announced from Malacanang Palace that the administration has already identified the people behind the supposed plot of Filipino Americans.

“We have names. We know who you are,” he said. “We are aware of this and we have names, I’ve received names but I’m not going to mention it because, you know, I was also a journalist and we might be charged with libel,” Andanar said in a press briefing.

The difference between Duterte’s Secretary of Communications Martin Andanar and Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels is that the latter never claimed to be a “former journalist.” Goebbels famously said “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

The Big Lie

It was Goebbels’ boss who famously said: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

Andanar was undeterred by Yasay’s denial and persisted in his quest. “We have to confirm, we have to vet, but whatever they’re planning, just think twice because it is not lawful when you bring down a government. And rest assured that we will protect our president,” he said.

Andanar has used unconfirmed hearsay reports about an imagined conspiracy to launch a witch hunt against Filipino Americans who are critical of the Duterte administration. He wants them to “think twice” about participating in any anti-Duterte demonstrations. It was intended to intimidate Duterte's critics in the U.S.

Perhaps Andanar did not imagine everything. I can confirm that there really were conversations by Filipino Americans in New York and in other parts of the U.S. about asking Pres. Duterte to resign. I know I am on Andanar's black list because I participated in that teleconference.

On September 8, 2016, Balitang America aired an interview with "Filipino American human rights lawyer" Ted Laguatan where he criticized Pres. Duterte for damaging the good relations of the Philippines with the US. “I’m sorry for him that he cannot control his mouth and his brain because it gives us a bad image as a nation. It is unfitting because he is seen speaking like that against the world, against the leader of the United States, against Filipino interest. There’s only one solution. He should resign,” he said.

The following week, on September 13, the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) led by Loida Nicolas-Lewis from New York held a national teleconference to discuss Laguatan’s call for Duterte to resign.

While there was support for the sentiment, there was also concern that it was not yet time for it and such a call would only be used by Duterte supporters to attack his critics.

There was also a suggestion for US Pinoys to write a letter to Pres. Duterte to ask him to tone down his language and his attacks on the US, an ally supporting the Philippines claim to the West Philippine Sea.

In the end, US Pinoys for Good Governance voted unanimously to support a resolution to buy a jet ski and donate it to Pres. Duterte to help him fulfil his campaign pledge to jet ski to the Scarborough Shoal to plant a Philippine flag on it in defiance of China’s efforts to transform it to an island fortress.

So it is quite possible that someone heard about this US Pinoys' teleconference and about discussions calling for Duterte to resign and word of it reached this unnamed cabinet official in New York who may have passed it on to Andanar. As anyone familiar with the perils of how a “broken telephone” works, the retelling of the conversion misstated the original call for Duterte to resign, to a call to impeach him, all the way down to a call to supporting a coup to oust him.

Who Said January 1, 2017?

The remaining mystery is the date. According to Andanar, the Fil Am conspirators are planning to stage their coup in January of 2017. As one who participated in that September 13 teleconference, I can confirm that no one suggested a specific date for Pres. Duterte to resign.

But I think I know the source of the date Andanar is referring to.

We should remember that in his campaign speeches, candidate Duterte repeatedly promised to resign if he is not able to solve the problems of crime and drugs in his first six months in office. Duterte said on January 20, 2016: “I will not ask for a (full) term…I ask for three to six months and I will finish them,” said Duterte, referring to criminals, drug lords, and corrupt public officials, during a symposium in Manila at the De La Salle University.

On the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on September 19, 2016 is a message from Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo about Duterte’s promise: “In the campaign, he categorically said that the drug problem would be solved in six months or he would step down. But of course he is not a man of one word. His words cannot be trusted and he gives a lot of excuses. He made the people believe.”

Duterte assumed the presidency on June 30, 2016. Duterte’s self-imposed six month term will expire on December 30, 2016. So on January 1, 2017, Duterte will resign. This is not according to the Fil-Am conspirators, as Andanar alleges. This is according to Pres. Duterte himself.

Mystery solved. Published 9/30/2016

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