Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines wins the gold medal in the women’s 55kg weightlifting during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on July 26, 2021.
Vincenzo Pinto | AFP | Getty Images
Two years before Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first Olympic gold medal, she was embroiled in an alleged “conspiracy” against President Rodrigo Duterte.
Diaz, who won the historic gold medal at the Tokyo Games on Monday, found her name among many others in a chart published in May 2019 by Duterte’s then-spokesman. The spokesman, Salvador Panelo, accused those listed of being involved in a “conspiracy” to discredit Duterte and to strengthen opposition politicians in an upcoming election.
Three days later, the spokesman said Diaz, who was preparing for the Tokyo Olympics at the time, was not part of the alleged conspiracy against Duterte.
CNBC reached out to the presidential office, Panelo and Diaz but received no response.
Just forget about them, you already have the gold. Gold is gold. And it would be good for you to just let the past be past and just dwell on your victory …
The 2019 incident resurfaced this week after Diaz won Olympic gold.
Duterte told her on Wednesday in an appeal to “let the past be past”. The official Philippine news agency reported that the President asked Diaz to forget the “unpleasant things” between her and the government.
“Just forget them, you already have the gold. Gold is gold. And it would be good for you to just let the past pass and just dwell on your victory, together with your family and of course with the nation,” said Duterte allegedly .
Diaz reportedly said she feared for her and her family’s safety after being linked to the alleged conspiracy as some of the people featured in the chart were targeted by the government and some were even killed, according to the Filipino Rappler online news site.
The Olympic champion said in an interview with the Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN News this week that she would forgive those who threatened their lives at the time.
She added that she no longer needed an apology from Duterte’s former spokesman Salvador Panelo, who posted the chart with her name on it, the broadcaster reported.
‘Ouster Plot Matrix’
In addition to Diaz, the names of dozens of journalists, human rights lawyers and opposition politicians appeared in the graphic published by Panelo in 2019. “
Panelo said at the time that Duterte received “intelligence” about the alleged conspiracy and “validated” the diagram, according to the Philippine news agency.
Some of the people and organizations named in the charts – many of them critics of the Duterte administration – denied the allegations and criticized the presidential office for defamation. Duterte has often portrayed his critics as enemies since he came to power in 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gives a speech at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on June 1, 2017.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images
Since Diaz’s victory at the Tokyo Olympics, officials in the Duterte government have distanced themselves from the 2019 episode.
When asked whether the presidential office should apologize to Diaz, the current presidential spokesman Harry Roque reportedly said this week that he had made no allegations against her.
Panelo – now Duterte’s chief counsel to the president – claimed that he did not link Diaz to the alleged conspiracy.
“It is really disheartening that there are people trying to put Ms. Diaz’s recent triumph in the spotlight and turn it into a political battle over who should and shouldn’t celebrate our country’s victory,” he said in a statement dated Tuesday.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics owns the U.S. broadcast rights to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.