Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and the Malacañang are being called to apologize to the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz as they congratulated her for her historic achievement at the Tokyo games.
The former Duterte spokesperson on Tuesday reportedly said that the 30-year-old weightlifter’s success in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 “serves as an inspiration to all Filipino athletes.”
Diaz on Monday won the country’s first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 55-kilogram category for weightlifting after lifting a combined weight of 224 kg, an Olympic record.
“Her feat makes us Filipinos proud. Her getting the gold is a testament to the Filipino race’s talent and indefatigable spirit,” Panelo said in a statement.
The Palace also praised her for the record. “Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas!” Secretary Harry Roque said.
The matrix issue
Following the congratulations from Panelo and the Palace, social media recalled how the former, then acting as spokesperson, bared a matrix of people as part of a supposed plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.
The diagram tagged groups and personalities critical of the chief executive. But it also included sports personalities Diaz and former volleyball player Gretchen Ho. Ho is also covering the Olympics in Tokyo and was among the first to speak with Diaz after her feat.
Both women had immediately denied being part of an alleged conspiracy to unseat the president. Diaz even said she has “many goals” in life and for the Philippines, and destabilization is not among them.
She was also too busy training for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics at that time to be involved in plots.
Instead of squarely acknowledging the mistake, Panelo then blamed the media for putting a “spin” on the matrix “by instantly assuming and zeroing in on the supposed inclusion and participation” of the sports personalities.
Diaz and Ho were never mentioned at the press briefing as part of the ouster plot, he said. Media outfits, however, noted that Ho’s and Diaz’s names did appear in the “ouster” diagram.
How did Panelo explain that? He claimed Diaz and Ho were merely used as placeholders to “visualize” social media connections and followings of controversial anti-Duterte video creator Rodel Jayme.
Panelo had also refused to apologize to the two for claiming their involvement in the ouster plot. The apology, he insisted, should be by “those who wrongly analyzed the matrix.”
When he offered his congratulations to Diaz in the Tokyo Olympics 2020, some are hoping the Palace admits its mistake two years ago.
“I hope Malacanang sincerely apologizes. We all make mistakes. May they have the humility and decency to do that,” broadcast journalist Karen Davila tweeted.
“Nag-sorry ka na ba?” another Twitter user wrote in response to Panelo’s congratulatory remarks.
“I hope that Malacañang will have the guts and apologize to Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and Ms. Gretchen Ho regarding Panelo’s stupid Oust-Duterte matrix,” commented a different online user.
Hidilyn didn’t forget about the matrix.
When Ho, now a sports newscaster, asked Diaz what she had to go through for the Tokyo Olympics, the Zamboangueño cited her inclusion in the 2019 matrix.
“Ang dami kong pinagdaanan… Nagkaroon ng matrix, ‘di ba? Parang…” Diaz responded with a brief laugh.
— Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) July 26, 2021
— Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) July 26, 2021
Diaz previously bared she feared for her life after she was included in the matrix that Panelo presented.
“Noong unang nakarating sa akin ang balita na nadawit ang pangalan ko, natawa lang ako. Akala ko biro. Pero nang nakapag-isip ako, may takot na rin ako. Hindi dahil sa totoo ang balita, kundi dahil sa seguridad ko at ng pamilya ko.”
“Sobrang focused ako sa goal ko for Tokyo 2020 and sana po ‘wag po kayong ganon na idadawit niyo ang pangalan ng isang tao na sobrang busy at sobrang sinasakripisyo ang lahat para sa Pilipinas, ginagawa ang lahat para irepresenta ang Pilipinas sa weightlifting, sa Philippine sports, and suddenly, ilalagay lang ang pangalan sa isang matrix na walang basehan.”
“Hindi paninira, hindi pagbibintang, hindi gawa-gawang kuwento, hindi kasinungalingan ang kailangan ko po mula sa ating kababayan. Ang kailangan ko po ay suporta, suporta hindi lang para sa akin, kundi sa iba pang mga Pilipinong atleta. Ang binubuhat ko ay hindi lang bakal, kundi ang dangal ng mga Pilipino.
Roque, when asked for a comment on Diaz’s inclusion in the 2019 matrix released by the Palace, said he does not have any knowledge of it.
“Hindi ko alam ano ang sinasabi niyong matrix kasi sa tanggapan ko po, at iisa lang spokesperson ng gobyerno, e wala kaming ganyan,” he said in his Tuesday press briefing.
“As spokesperson, wala po akong kahit anong binintang kay Hidilyn Diaz,” the Palace official added.