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Palace sees no conflict of interest in Dante Ang’s role in ‘ouster matrix’ story

Malacañang said on Monday it sees no conflict of interest on the part of Manila Times chairman emeritus Dante Ang, an appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte who wrote the article that alleged a plot among veteran journalists and other groups to oust the chief executive.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Ang, who is also Duterte's special envoy for international public relations, has no control over the paper's editorial judgments.

"Mukhang wala naman akong makita [na conflict of interest]. Publisher lang naman siya eh. Hindi naman siya nag-aano ng editorial. Ang publisher, hindi nakikialam sa editorial at saka sa mga reporters eh.  More on ano lang sila, profit, kumita," Panelo said at a news conference.

Citing a source from the Office of the President, the Manila Times published on April 22 an article detailing an alleged plot being concocted by news sites Rappler, VERA Files, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, as well as the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers to "discredit" Duterte and "destabilize" his administration.

The report also showed a supposed matrix that links veteran journalist and VERA Files president Ellen Tordesillas and other individuals to the person known as "Bikoy," who has alleged in a series of anonymous videos that members of the Duterte family are involved in the illegal drug trade.

Panelo would later say that he was supposed to release the matrix himself, but that the Manila Times beat him to it.

The PCIJ, VERA Files, Rappler and the NUPL all strongly denied the alleged conspiracy to oust Duterte.

Days later, Manila Times managing editor Felipe Salvosa II took to social media to question the article, prompting Ang to ask for his resignation. Salvosa, in an ANC interview last Friday, said the "poorly sourced" story presented conflicts of interest.

Ang said that his appointment as special envoy was "purely honorific."

"As special envoy, I do not have a line agency, no office, no salary, not even an allowance," he said in an opinion piece which was published by the Times on Monday.

Panelo said the Palace would not meddle in the Times' affairs.

"It’s an internal dispute between the publisher and the editor and we will not delve into that. Let them resolve their conflict," he said. — BM, GMA News