Interview

Interview with Presidential Chief Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Salvador Panelo by Christian Esguerra (ANC 21 – Headstart)

ESGUERRA:  Good morning sir and thank you for joining us.

SEC. PANELO:  Good morning, Christian.

ESGUERRA:  Okay, big issue. Last week because of the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, of course, a lot of people protested saying that this was an affront, an attack on press freedom. Now, you said that President Duterte had nothing to do with this and this was not a press freedom issue, why?

SEC. PANELO:  Certainly. First, it was filed by a private individual. To my mind, it is an assertion of his right for a perceived violation of his right; that is why he filed a case against Maria Ressa. So there is nothing—absolutely, there is no connection in the so called freedom of the press.

In fact, I would even say that she is a walking testament that a freedom of express… and as well as of expression are very alive in this country. Why am I saying that? Until now, she is still using that freedom to assault the government and this administration.

ESGUERRA:  But so far—but given the measures under the law, being employed by… supposedly by the government to go after institutions or groups just like is Rappler. So this freedom that you are talking about might be deemed as temporary.

SEC. PANELO:  I disagree. You know why, the case filed against her is an ordinary case. It’s a libel case. It’s even a badge of honor among us in the media. Now, she was given all the rights accorded her by the Constitution and by the law. A case was filed, a preliminary investigation was conducted, she was given the right to refute the allegations and then the prosecutor finds probable cause that is why the case was filed in court.

Now, under the Constitution, the judge cannot just issue a warrant of arrest unless he personally goes over the evidence presented before the court. Now, if he finds probable cause he issues a warrant of arrest.

ESGUERRA:  Which was done here?

SEC. PANELO:  It was done here. Now, Maria complains about being arrested at 5:00 p.m.  She says, ‘I should have been arrested the following morning.’ But you know, Christian, she wants to have a special treatment, you cannot do that. The law is not respecter of any social status. What does the rules of court say: The warrant of arrest upon issuance of the court must be served immediately. It does not prescribe any time. You have to be brought to the court.

ESGUERRA:  But you know for a fact that law enforcers also make use of this provision of the law, the rules of court, to send discomfort or to harass even people to be arrested. Meaning, they would be arrested shortly before office hours expire to further inconvenience them.

SEC. PANELO:  It does not apply any more. First, this people are subject to law. In other words, any abuse, they will be accountable for it. Number two, what is frowned upon is when you serve the arrest on late afternoon on Friday, because the following day would be Saturday—

ESGUERRA:  Ginagawa lagi iyon.

SEC. PANELO:  But that’s used to be, not anymore, because there is a court at night. So, you can still post bail. Now, Maria claims that the Metropolitan Trial Court denied her bail. But upon investigation, it appears now that the Metropolitan Trial Court wanted to get documents in order to apprise itself how to go about the petition for bail.

You must remember that the Metropolitan Trial Court is not the court where her cases is pending, it’s the Regional Trial Court. So how can you expect the Metropolitan Trial Court to know about your case unless your lawyers bring all the documents – the information sheet, whatever.

ESGUERRA:  So, it’s the job of the lawyer of the respondents?

SEC. PANELO:  Of course, in other words, she cannot be blaming the government for the inexperience of her lawyers.

ESGUERRA:  Now, how do you explain the fact that initially the NBI said that there was no case; eventually there was a case according to the DOJ?

SEC. PANELO:  Again, she misleads. You know, the NBI is not the final authority to determine whether a case to be filed or not, its duty is to investigate whether the evidence presented before it is enough or sufficient to file a case. Now, if the NBI feels it is not, it will not file; or the NBI tells you, ‘we need more documents, you have to give us more documents.’ And then, it decides to file.

In this particular case, I think, what happens is, initially, it did not file the case because from its point of view, kulang, eh nung nadagdagan, pinayl. You must remember, it’s the DOJ that will determine whether there is probable cause or none.

ESGUERRA:  But again, you said that this has nothing to do with the issue of press freedom, but it’s very hard to discuss this issue in a vacuum, given that the President keeps on attacking media in general and Rappler in particular.

SEC. PANELO:  You must remember that the President has been the subject of so many libel cases against him. In other words, when he was Mayor, he has been attacked—

ESGUERRA:  He was libeled?  What were you saying?

SEC. PANELO:  What I am saying is, he has been subject of so many personal criticisms against her [his] person. But he never filed any libel case against any person including congressman, senators, journalist, until now; because he is a lawyer.

ESGUERRA:  As President.

SEC. PANELO:  Even as President, even as Mayor.

ESGUERRA:  But do you think the issue is that the President doesn’t have to actually file libel cases because others are doing it for him and by using the bully pulpit to go after media in general, that’s enough.

SEC. PANELO:  You cannot say doing it for him, because this particular case happened even before he was President. That’s several years earlier.

ESGUERRA:  That is the impression, especially now, given the climate that we have now under President Duterte. So, how can you easily extricate this particular case?

SEC. PANELO:  Wala namang dinemanda under the Duterte administration, itong kasong ito, pinayl hindi pa siya Presidente. How can you even connect it?

ESGUERRA:  Oo nga, but this was revived under his watch.

SEC. PANELO:  Kung iyon eh under the law, eh pumasok iyon. Why should you blame the President?

ESGUERRA:  You know, your argument perfectly fits the technicalities of the legal process. But again, this issue cannot be discussed in a vacuum, given that for example, whenever the President says something or criticizes another politician for example, something happens to that politician. Just like the case of the former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno; and then of course earlier Leila De Lima. So when the President attacks, something happens to that person.

SEC. PANELO:  Even if those persons were not subject of criticism of the President, if the evidence shows they committed a crime, they will be facing charges in court. Like Sereno, it was a case of tax evasion or rather non filing of the SALN; with respect to former Secretary of Justice, eh iba naman ang kaso niya, drugs involvement naman. Walang kinalaman doon si Presidente. You must remember that until now walang dinedemandang mga peryodista na bumabanat sa kanya.

ESGUERRA:  You mentioned De Lima, Sereno and now Ressa. What’s the common denominator, aside from them being women?

SEC. PANELO:  They perceived to have committed crimes, which under—as far as the Prosecutor is concerned, there is probable cause; and as far as the Court is concerned, there is probable cause.

ESGUERRA:  And they are also critical of President Duterte.

SEC. PANELO:  Oh, so what? There are so many people critical of the President hindi naman sila dinedemanda.

ESGUERRA:  Okay. Just to contextualize this or to put things in perspective, of course you have the legal process. But again, hindi puwedeng—

SEC. PANELO:  But that is very important, you have to—iyon nga ang nirereklamo niya, Rule of Law. Exactly, kaya nga may Rule of Law, kaya ka nakademanda, kaya ka nga naka-bail, dahil may Rule of Law.

She is complaining there is abuse of power eh she is the one abusing the power of being a journalist, using that, aba eh she is marshaling everybody to her unworthy cause. Ito namang mga kasama nating iba, without even investigating kung ano ang nangyari—kasi ang feeling basta inaresto mo, walang demanda, mali ang warrant of arrest, mali iyong mode. As I have pointed out, regular lahat eh. Tapos sasabihin niya ‘weaponizing the law’; you are the one weaponizing it or using it – your freedom of expression, binabanatan mo ang gobyerno.

ESGUERRA:  But again, taken—

SEC. PANELO:  Let me correct myself, hindi iyong just because binabanatan mo ang gobyerno. Binabanatan mo with wrong facts, like for instance, you know nag-usap kami ni Maria several months ago. Alam mo ang sabi ko sa kanya, “alam mo Maria kaya naiinis si Presidente, sa iyo nanggaling iyong extra judicial killing amounting to 10,000. Eh ang record ng police 4,000 lang. When you published that, everybody was quoting your paper.” Eh sabi niya sa akin, “I was just quoting naman another paper.” You see, you didn’t even verify.

ESGUERRA:  But there are mechanisms to address that. For example, if he deems certain reports as erroneous, you don’t need to actually pressure certain organizations using the power of libel—

SEC. PANELO:  But you are assuming that the President used that.

ESGUERRA: Hindi, pero you used the word earlier, sabi ninyo, “Kaya naiinis sa’yo iyong Presidente.”

SEC. PANELO: Na ang ibig sabihin, personal inis lang iyon. In other words, the President—palagi naman si President outraged with any violation or irregularity; it doesn’t matter kung saan nanggagaling. Kailangan palagi kang factual.

ESGUERRA: Do you think we have a situation here that assuming that the President doesn’t care, doesn’t know anything about those cases that some people – private or government – are just trying to impress him na, “O sabi ni Presidente galit siya rito eh, I might as well do something about it.”

SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t think so. Like for this particular private complainant, eh di ba siniraan siya, na ginamit iyong sasakyan niya na sa palagay niya ay hindi naman pala totoo, walang kinalaman si Presidente roon.

ESGUERRA: I think he was questioning the intelligence report which actually came from the NBI, I suppose.

SEC. PANELO: Pinablish [published] ng diyaryo eh, in other words, sinisiraan siya. Iyon ang feeling niya. Matagal nang nangyari iyon, Mayor pa si Presidente.

ESGUERRA: But when it comes to the impact of what’s happening now, in the media landscape in general, kasi nga—you may like her or hate her, but the point is, the prevailing scenario now that we have, the fears that this could lead to a—this had a chilling effect on press freedom in general.

SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t think so. We have the freest country with respect to expression of oneself and publication of newspapers. Tingnan mo, just look at the newspapers, may narinig ba kayong may dinemanda? Wala. Wala nga eh. Kaya—personally I’m even amused by the reaction. Wala eh. Ang galing-galing nga, ang daming banat dito, kaliwa’t kanan, wala naman, hindi naman pinapansin.

ESGUERRA: But you know the difference … what the difference is, you have a situation here where you have the President aggressively criticizing the media as an institution also as part of … with the rest of the other institutions.

SEC. PANELO: With respect to false news lang naman, otherwise hindi eh – pinapabayaan niya lang nga eh. False news lang. Siyempre, you cannot also deprive him to express his opinion, to express his reaction on falsity.

ESGUERRA: But the way he’s expressing it—I remember the first press conference of the President regarding this, when supposedly he was expected, using conventional wisdom, to apologize on a statement regarding … iyong the killing of journalists. Of course, that was to put in context. Actually, he attacked media viciously during that press conference in Davao City. You were there.

SEC. PANELO: How? How did he attack it? Galit lang siya doon sa ano yata, iyong peryodistang naninira sa kaniya. Pero hindi niya sinabing, ‘Lahat kayong mga peryodista ganito, ganyan,’ hindi naman siya ganoon.

ESGUERRA: Hindi, but sometimes a lot is lost when it comes to the context of the statement with the way it was delivered, especially coming from someone like the President.

SEC. PANELO: Alam mo, even in Davao, kilalang-kilala na si Presidente doon eh. In other words, they’re used to the President saying that in the manner that he does it. Pero they don’t mind him anymore. Natural na sa kaniya iyon kasi hindi naman siya nagtatanim ng galit. As he pointed out, eh itong si Nograles nga halos pinatay na ako sa paninira sa akin, ni hindi ko pinatulan eh.

ESGUERRA: Isn’t also that the President is used to having media under him, generally under his control?

SEC. PANELO: No, he never controls anyone.

ESGUERRA: Kaya hindi siya nasanay na when he became President, he could not control the rest of the media nationally or even internationally.

SEC. PANELO: No, that is one thing with the President, he doesn’t control. Iyong sinasabi mo na—he never controlled the Davao media. Basahin mo iyong mga previous ano… iyong mga banat sa kaniya sa Davao.

ESGUERRA: But there are more, I think—

SEC. PANELO: Mas marami kasi siyang ginagawang kabutihan eh kaya alam niya iyon.

ESGUERRA: You’re doing your job perfectly. [Laughs] Iyon nga, so again, if you talk about this issue of the President… the President’s relationship with the media, I think this is what other people call parang liberal democracy in the sense that the institutions or the laws are being used to go after certain critics to the point that somehow democracy in general is already getting weakened.

SEC. PANELO: Ako hindi eh kasi wala ngang kaso na pina-file kahit kanino eh. Kahit na sinong tao, walang pinayl si Presidente or anybody close to him. Wala eh, except of course iyong anak niya na sinisiraan din. Siyempre karapatan niya naman na magdemanda rin.

ESGUERRA: Now, there’s a proposal to decriminalize libel. What do you think?

SEC. PANELO: Eh pero ang problema doon—ako, personally, okay lang sa akin iyon. Ang problema lang doon kasi, baka abusuhin naman ng mga peryodista o ng mga kolumnista. Pero puwede rin sa—ako, puwede sa akin ang civil suit.

ESGUERRA: Civil suit nga. Iyon nga, actually you can squeeze certain reporters dry when it comes to libelous report.

SEC. PANELO: At saka isa pa, another thing, alam mo kung bakit hindi natatakot ang mga peryodista, ang mga media? Wala namang naku-convict sa libel eh. Isa lang yata ang alam ko, si Beltran – the late Beltran.

ESGUERRA: Hindi, but in this case—I think this is pointed out by Vergel Santos, that libel in general is only being used by those in power to go after media.

SEC. PANELO: Sino nga, sinong in power? Alam ko ang problema kasi—

ESGUERRA: Wilfredo Keng is not an ordinary businessman as far as we know.

SEC. PANELO: Regardless, it doesn’t matter to me whether you are powerful or not. If you feel that your right has been violated, you should file a case. Hindi naman pupuwede iyong papabayaan mo lang just because high profile journalist ang kalaban mo eh ikaw naman hindi or ikaw ay powerful. To my mind, ang importante, iyon palagi ang sinasabi ni Presidente, “kung ano iyong batas, sundin na lang natin. Tapos huwag kayong magrereklamo kung pinapatupad natin ang batas.”

ESGUERRA: But of course, those who are observing—for example ha – hindi naman ito entirely related to this – pero if the President keeps on talking about following the rule of law, eh bakit maraming supposed human rights violations or due process violations when it comes to the conduct of the drug war. Ibig sabihin, if you are the President talking about it, you also need to walk the talk.

SEC. PANELO: Alam mo iyong sinasabi mong violation, iyong mga nagba-violate, dinidemenda iyan eh. Kita mo may na-convict na nga eh na pulis. With respect naman—I’ve been explaining iyong maraming namamatay kasi lumalaban nga sa pulis eh.

Alam mo, Christian, I receive briefer every morning, nakikita ko roon na ang daming buy-bust operation, maraming naaresto, may nababaril din kasi lumalaban sila eh.

ESGUERRA: We’ll go to that later, because I’m going to ask you about the SWS Survey.

SEC. PANELO: The survey.

ESGUERRA: Oo. Pero first, let’s wrap this up, iyong issue ng President and the relationship with the media. Now, legally, you’re the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel here, I think one contention is that whether the prescription should be one year or 12 years.

SEC. PANELO: Sa perception ng DOJ pasok kasi nagkaroon ng publication, re-publication iyong article, oh di papasok nga sa cyber law.

ESGUERRA: Hindi, but assuming that we’re talking here of the initial article that was published in 2012, that came four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 took effect.

SEC. PANELO: But there was a re-publication nga eh.

ESGUERRA: Hindi, aside from that issue of re-publication, ano ba dapat iyong prescription: one year or 12 years fall in the special law? Ano ba dapat?

SEC. PANELO: Kung pumasok siya sa special, eh papasok talaga siya. But regardless of my perception or whoever’s perception, eh ang hukuman ang … will decide on that. That’s why ang sabi ko nga sa kanila, “That’s a legal issue. Let the court decide. Just focus on your defense.”

Stop dragging the government or this administration or the President relative to your case. Walang kinalaman ang Presidente diyan. And the reality is that we have the freest country with respect to expressing one’s opinion on any matter.

ESGUERRA: Thank you for that. Well, anyway, we’ll continue our conversation with Secretary Salvador Panelo after a short break; Hot Copy will be right back.

ESGUERRA: Welcome back to Head Start. Philippine National Police touts the results of a news survey which shows more Filipinos believing that drug use has gone down across the country. This report:

[NEWS REPORT]

ESGUERRA: Still with us is Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo who also serves as the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.

Let’s talk about this latest Social Weather Stations survey. So basically almost 7 out of 10 Filipinos saying that there were drug users now in their communities. Now for the—you said that this shows that the campaign against illegal drugs was effective; but the critics are saying, for example earlier former Human Rights Chairwoman Etta Rosales says that this was driven entirely by fear. What do you think?

SEC. PANELO: By fear? Fear of what? Fear by the drug lords? [laughs]

ESGUERRA: And also because they were already killed kaya nabawasan.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Alam mo iyan, they know—the drug lords, those people involved in the illegal drug industry, they know that this President means business. Kaya matatakot talaga.

ESGUERRA: But if you talk about a—

SEC. PANELO: Christian, what is important to me is its effective, it’s succeeding and the survey shows na from Mindanao to Luzon, ang laki ng binagsak 74, 86 percent, 54 sa buong Luzon, Manila 60 something percent.

ESGUERRA: But that is based on the perception, what the residents actually think, but that may not necessarily be translated to the actual numbers. What do you think?

SEC. PANELO: Oo pero the point is iyong dating nasa… iyong iba sinasabi nila nasa kalsada namin dati may mga ganiyan, wala na ngayon. Ibig sabihin talagang natakot lahat.

ESGUERRA: So they feel safer?

SEC. PANELO: Definitely, iyon ang one thing. There’s more important to my mind.

ESGUERRA: Now, when it comes to the sustainability of this particular effect triggered or driven by fear, kasi natakot sila ‘di ba? So how do you sustain this?

SEC. PANELO: What do you mean how do you sustain?

ESGUERRA: For example, after President Duterte’s term expires, you have another President, if you have a project or a program that was… that became effective supposedly out of fear. How do you sustain that?

SEC. PANELO: Well, I’m sure the succeeding President will do what the President has done with the respect to the illegal drug industry because all of us know by this time that the drug, the illegal drug industry is something that is destroying this country – the generations. Talagang matindi ang problema ng drugs kaya any President that will succeed him palagay ko iyon din ang gagawin.

ESGUERRA: I think there’s no debate in that when it comes to the gravity or the impact of the drug menace in the Philippines but a lot of the debate is focus on the approach ‘no. In this case aside from the…. the survey results show that there are fewer drug addicts in the communities. How do you also gauge the effectiveness of the drug war almost three years after?

SEC. PANELO: But ang problema kasi doon sa sinasabi nilang approach, ano bang gusto nilang approach, Christian?

ESGUERRA: Not purely law enforcement.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman purely law enforcement, ang dami nga nating rehabilitation centers all over the country na eh, ang daming nagtatayo so hindi totoo iyon.

ESGUERRA: Pero in this case, how is that particular holistic or comprehensive approach being run now? Because I think there was a big problem during the start because even President Duterte admitted that he had not anticipated the gravity of the problem. Now, that was shown for example with the number of people who surrendered. There was a problem when it came to accommodating them. Where do you actually put them after you—

SEC. PANELO: Pero hindi na problema ngayon iyan kasi ang dami na ngang rehabilitation centers, hindi ba iyong—I don’t know iyong Chinese businessman nagpagawa ng—

ESGUERRA: You have one in Nueva Ecija.

SEC. PANELO: Marami, marami na eh. Maraming nagtatayo even in Agusan nanggaling ako doon one time may inaugurate sila doon na rehabilitation center. Palagay ko mas maganda na ngayon ang takbo kasi nga as you said holistic approach na hindi lang iyong nagba-buy bust operation ka sinisira mo iyong apparatus ng illegal drug industry. May kasama ng rehabilitation.

ESGUERRA: ‘Di ba dapat from the start pa lang eh mayroon na?

SEC. PANELO: Aba hindi naman—unang-una, iyong mga nakaraang gobyerno [laughs]—excuse me, iyong mga nakaraang administrasyon hindi nga sila nag-concentrate kaya nga lumawak nang lumawak doon eh. Eh ito lang ang President ang nagbigay ng atensiyon eh.

ESGUERRA: Yeah, that’s true, but also you cannot deny the fact that based on the official figures by the government more than 5,000 people have been killed in this drug war. So how do you see that? Kasi you’re touting the effectiveness of the drug war almost three years after it was launched by President Duterte but you also see a lot of bodies filing up.

SEC. PANELO: Ito naman ang tanong ko sa iyo: If you were the policeman, mayroong buy-bust operation tapos binabaril ka. Ano namang gagawin mo? Siyempre babarilin mo din. Kaya you cannot also avoid na magkakaroon ng killing eh, marami rin, mas maraming aresto na, kasi I’m receiving briefers parang ang ratio eh 20:80 percent – 80 percent iyong arrest, 20 percent iyong may namamatay kasi lumalaban eh.

ESGUERRA: But in this case, I think the question is: Is there an honest to goodness investigation on the part of the government to actually look into these cases because you cannot just dismiss them as all related to, for example, policemen’ lives in danger that’s why they shot at the supposed drug suspects.

SEC. PANELO: Definitely there is a serious investigation on any matter/complaint about by any person, a victim of such. Pangalawa, ‘di ba mayroon na ngayong camera?

ESGUERRA: Body cams.

SEC. PANELO: Oo body cams ngayon iyong mga police eh. Kaya mahihirapan na magkaroon ka ng irregularity.

ESGUERRA: But in this case you’re talking of more than 5,000 deaths in connection with the drug war based on official figures by the administration itself. How many of these cases, for example, have been investigated and charges were filed in connection with those that might have been the result of, for example, abuses by police in operations?

SEC. PANELO: I’m sure there are many but that should be directed to the PNP Chief, sila ang nakakaalam noong figures.

ESGUERRA: And also there is this problem when it comes to the transparency or openness of the PNP when it comes to sharing data about the drug operations. Common complaint daw also not just by the Commission on Human Rights but also by other groups that they are not sharing data because the President himself said that they should seek his approval or imprimatur.

SEC. PANELO: ‘Di naman—sa akin kapag may nagtatanong binibigyan ko kaagad ng information eh, parang sino… like who? Parang sabi-sabi lang iyon eh. Sabi nga sa Bisaya istorya lang iyan.

ESGUERRA: No even for example the Commission on Human Rights, I think this is a common complaint that since the time of Bato Dela Rosa as PNP Chief, even until now there has not been any improvement when it comes to the sharing of information.

SEC. PANELO: Then—

ESGUERRA: Masyadong nakatago.

SEC. PANELO: Then they should do their duty. Ano bang duty nila kung hindi sila makakuha ng mga public records, aba eh ‘di mag-mandamus ka sa Court.

ESGUERRA: But again, why do you have to go to that particular tedious process when… if there’s nothing to hide perhaps—

SEC. PANELO: Baka may reason naman ang PNP – for security. Ano nga… eh ‘di let the Court decide kung tama sila o mali.

ESGUERRA: I think one of the issues that were raised before – I’m not sure whether you also heard this opinion before – that such data might also be used to politicize the issue. There was a concern to that effect.

SEC. PANELO: Whatever, ako sa… If you ask me if I feel na I need documents that supposed to be… I’m entitled to it as a citizen. Ah, ide-demanda kita kung hindi mo ibigay sa akin iyan.

ESGUERRA: Don’t you think the President should just issue a statement to the PNP, for example, share data that might be requested by the CHR and other related groups.

SEC. PANELO: Eh unang-una, ano bang gusto nilang data? Data ng number of killings, eh madali ibigay iyon. Ano bang exactly,,, anong data ang gusto nila?

ESGUERRA: The details, for example, when it come t0 drug operations, iyon. Not exactly iyong—of course there are sensitive data that cannot be shared to just anyone ‘di ba? As a matter of security—

SEC. PANELO: Like yung source, mga information ‘no—

ESGUERRA: Yes, oo. But when it comes to the details of actual operations?

SEC. PANELO: Eh puwede siguro iyon dahil, unang-una, iyong actual operation mayroong report doon, may field report eh, may field report kung anong nangyari doon.

ESGUERRA: I think that’s also one of the subjects of contention because there are cases allegedly where certain reports are doctored to suit the version of the police. Kasi nga there’s a demand for greater transparency so that these records can also be used in Court when it comes to going after abusive policemen. Of course, we’re not saying that many of them are abusive pero there’s some.

SEC. PANELO: Eh ang sa akin, again, I will repeat what I said, kung you feel na there is some irregularity, file a case in Court para malaman natin at maparusahan iyang mga dapat na maparusahan.

ESGUERRA: Now, what can we expect in the next three years, for example, when it comes to this conduct of the drug war?

SEC. PANELO: Well, the war against drugs will be relentless until all or most of them will be put behind bars and the drug apparatus in this country will be completely demolished to protect this country from such.

ESGUERRA: Isn’t there any concern at least now on the part of the President that by sustaining this – the way he has been running the drug war that, again, eventually more evidence would also pile up against him?

SEC. PANELO: As he said, ‘My gift to you is my freedom, if in this process I would be jailed so be it. I want my country safe from the drug menace.’ That’s the President.

ESGUERRA: Okay, Secretary Salvador Panelo, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Thank you for having me.

ESGUERRA: Thank you.

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SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)

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