AN OPINION article in SunStar Davao on #LeniLeaks was shared more than 6,000 times, an unusual activity, especially because it's a weekend and there's a noticeable slump in Internet activities outside social media on weekends.
The article of Thinking Pinoy (TP) outlining the conversations on how to drum up support for the Duterte Resign call of Global Filpino Diaspora Council that exposed conversations among supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo and against President Rodrigo Duterte was shared more than 52,000 times on Facebook. Considering that one share can generate several readers and audience, the issue of #LeniLeaks took the Internet by storm over the weekend. It even topped the trending topics in the Philippines last Friday, January 6.
The general sentiment on these articles, anger and alarm against the so-called plotters, and concern for President Rodrigo Duterte. TP listed the active participants in the conversations as: Billionaire Fil-Am lobbyist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Nicolas-Lewis' sister Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) chair Imelda "Mely" Nicolas, CFO Commissioner Jose Molano Jr., Inquirer US Bureau columnist Ted Laguatan, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau correspondent Atty. Gene Alcantara, and Northern Europe civil society leader Filomenita Mongaya Hogsholm. Incidentally, it was Nicolas-Lewis who called on President Duterte to resign last month.
TP, a man who works online and who worked briefly with SunStar Davao when he was still starting out as a writer, said they got the lead from a follower of Sass Saroganot Sasot, another popular pro-Duterte blogger. "We didn't take it seriously at first kasi," he said in a Facebook conversation. This is because "Jurassic platform ang Yahoo groups." "A week or so later, na-curious kami, so we checked tapos o sh-t may laman," he said.
Prepared to be called out for making up stories, he already backed up the files through downloads and screenshots, and learned from the Internet about caches and archives before coming out with the article, that quickly became viral.
In a follow-up article about the expose on the conversation thread, TP wrote: "While set as 'Restricted,' the group administrator seemingly forgot to make conversations private, and that is how Sass stumbled upon the group's publicly viewable message board, where CFO chairman Imelda Nicolas happens to be the most active contributor." "I am pretty certain that no one in GFDC intended the messages to be publicly available, especially since several of these messages are damning not only for their group, but also to embattled Vice President Leni Robredo and the Liberal Party of the Philippines," he added.
The conversation thread that spread through several months involved protest placard designs, Duterte resign calls, and mentions of Bongbong Marcos, as well, whom figures much in the Yahoo conversation thread to save Vice President Robredo from being ousted. In a short telephone conversation with TP, he said, he is working on several other exposes that involve Robredo's US-based supporters led by Nicolas-Lewis. The topic #LeniLeaks in SunStar Davao's Facebook account has generated a very long conversation with its followers with many demanding explanation from the Vice President.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP), however, has been mum about the issue, although as early as December 2016, Robredo denied that she is part of a plot to oust Duterte, saying that she is but raising valid criticisms. Others have voiced out apprehensions, as well as fear for the President. Of note is the comment of one Gelo Francisco, who is introduced as "Music Director at St John Baptist De La Salle Church" on his Facebook page, where he wrote: "Two things:
1. This could just be part of the plot. And there is still the whole plan. I don't believe this is 'it'. The mistake ordinary citizens will make is to stop asking questions. Keep on digging. 2. This could be a diversionary tactic. Always remember that they have money and machinery. They are well connected and never underestimate their capabilities (though most of them are idiots with money)."
Francisco encouraged TP, Sasot, and all those blogging to defend the President to continue digging up exposes. One Hewbhurt D. Gabon, introduced as Senior .NET/Web Developer (oDesk) on his Facebook page, attested to the authenticity of the conversation as cached by Google and later archived by TP. "I'm a web developer and quite familiar with web technologies and architecture. There is authenticity in #LeniLeaks. Search: SEO and Google Web Cache," Gabon wrote.