Interview with Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo by Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines)

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ANDOLONG: Okay, we had a long press conference with President Duterte last night; a lot of issues—

SEC. PANELO: You’re so lucky, he was in good mood until in the middle where he made some beautiful language.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Unahin muna natin, sir, Nicanor Faeldon. Now it’s clear he did not plan to appoint him in any other government post. Sabi may tinanggap na raw po from a private company—

SEC. PANELO: Good for him. I think he is very much relieved that he is no longer working with the government.

ANDOLONG: Do we know what company that is?

SEC. PANELO: No, the President didn’t mention it.

ANDOLONG: Okay. I guess we can assume that the President already talked to him. Can you share with us kung ano ang naging conversation nila?

SEC. PANELO: Walang kinukuwento si Presidente.

ANDOLONG: But, sir as far as liability, on the part of Mr. Faeldon is concerned. Kumbaga moving on na (garbled) That’s not to say that the President is clearing him of any liability?

SEC. PANELO: As we said earlier, without prejudice to any liability administrative or criminal depending on the results of the investigation by the Ombudsman and the Senate.

ANDOLONG: Okay. The President was asked about this last night, although his answer wasn’t very clear. Will he order the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to stop its investigation on the BuCor or the GCTA Law because the Ombudsman has its own investigation at sinasabi niya baka daw magkaroon lang ng conflicting results. The President didn’t answer—

SEC. PANELO: I think the President need not order the PACC; it should desist from pursuing the investigation because the Ombudsman has taken over it.

ANDOLONG: The President—

SEC. PANELO: It should. But he doesn’t have to order. I think PACC knows it. When the Ombudsman takes over, all agencies will have to defer to the Ombudsman, because that is the Constitutional body and precisely tasked to investigate.

ANDOLONG: Okay. So if the PACC will insist on investigation—

SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t think it will.

ANDOLONG: Actually, sir, sinasabi nila dapat daw kasi parallel eh.

SEC. PANELO: For all we know, baka naman internal lang sa kanila. Baka internal.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Now we heard a soundbyte earlier saying na naging negosyo na, sir, ang loob ng Bilibid.

SEC. PANELO: I’m not surprised; because as I said in our press briefing, for as long as there is discretion talagang palaging may corruption. ‘Di ba that is why I was proposing, if I were invited in the Senate investigation, I would have suggested ‘just serve the sentence regardless of good or bad conduct para wala nang problema.’

ANDOLONG: Has the President been informed about iyong allegations of ‘hospital passes also for sale,’ because it was Senator Bong Go who revealed—

SEC. PANELO: Well, apparently he already knows that considering that it was Senator Bong who exposed it.

ANDOLONG: What did he say about it?

SEC. PANELO: But I think that was—I was watching Senator Bato. He effectively confirmed that, that during his stint there were such an anomaly, because he noticed that all those convicts with serious crimes are always going back to the hospital (garbled).

ANDOLONG: Okay. Now, President Duterte is pleased, you know, when he was asked about the Ombudsman suspending at least 30 BuCor officials because of the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law. But is he perhaps considering a revamp talaga of BuCor?

SEC. PANELO: I think so, given the (garbled) which we are seeing now in the Senate investigation, mukhang masyadong talamak. Palagay ko gagawan ng paraan ni Presidente iyon.

ANDOLONG: Revamp talaga, sir. Can you tell us paano magiging revamp, top to bottom ba iyan?

SEC. PANELO: We will have to wait for the President’s call.

ANDOLONG: Last night, sir, he joked and called you ‘Mr. Referral.’ You know, this issue is still being talked about, some senators still calling you out for it. Ano ba—Senator Drilon for example, it’s not endorsement on the surface but those factors prudence should have dictated that he should have refrained from making that letter because it might be misinterpreted, of course still referring to the referral letter in relation to the request for pardon ni rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez.

SEC. PANELO: Ni-refer nga, is precisely ‘di inhibition eh. When you throw out a case or a request in your office to another office, you are in fact throwing it out away from your office. You are precisely inhibiting it. Eh ganoon lang talaga iyon. Eh ganoon talaga ang buhay.

ANDOLONG: But the President has to talked to you about it and ano ang sabi niya?

SEC. PANELO: Di ba he already said so, there is no other way for me to do except to refer.

ANDOLONG: So amid all the criticisms you received about that, you don’t have any plans to maybe stop accepting and then referring request—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi pupuwede. Ang trabaho namin is to—sabi nga ni Presidente, “I’m opening Malacañang to all, all those who need help, assistance, request, complaint, sagutin ninyo lahat.” We will do that kahit na sino.

ANDOLONG: Kahit na sino?

SEC. PANELO: But we will refer it to the appropriate authority.

ANDOLONG: But, how about your former clients; kasi doon kayo nakukuwestyon eh.

SEC. PANELO: Ganun pa rin, kung ang reklamo ng kliyente ko dati eh ganito—unang-una, nag-withdraw na akong matagal doon, kumbaga wala na akong pakialam sa kanila. But since they are citizens of the Republic and if they have certain concerns, may reklamo sila, oh di ire-refer ko doon sa dapat na mag-aksyon sa kanilang request o reklamo.

ANDOLONG: Sir, may update na po ba doon doon sa investigation that you asked for from the Presidential Security Group, because you are saying nagulat ka when members of the Sanchez family showed up literally doon na outside your office.

SEC. PANELO: I don’t know, I asked my staff to refer it to the PSG kung bakit merong ganoon. But as I said, alam mo kasi nag experience sa mga security guard all over – kung sino man ang nagbabantay – depende iyan sa security guard na nagbabantay on a particular day kung istrikto, kung napapaki-usapan, alam mo na.

ANDOLONG: We move on now to the SOGIE Bill, sir. President Duterte saying last night that he will certify as urgent; let’s play first or let’s listen to the soundbite of the President:

Q: Will you certify po the SOGIE Bill as urgent?

PRRD: Yes, whatever would make the mechanisms of … what would make them happy. Gusto ko, kagaya kay Senator Enrile, ‘Gusto ko, happy siya,’ babae, lalake, sa tomboy, sa bakla. Ano bang problema diyan?

Q: For CR, sir?

PRRD: Away iyan kung hindi. Mayroon akong anti-discrimination – bakla, iyang mga disabled.

ANDOLONG: Okay. He said, he will certify. Clear iyon, sir, na he will certify it as urgent. But we were talking about this before we went on you have a clarification regarding that.

SEC. PANELO: Yes. Actually, what he meant was an anti-discrimination law or bill, not the SOGIE Bill. Not that one.

ANDOLONG: So he will not certify the SOGIE Bill as urgent as he clearly said last night?

SEC. PANELO: I do not think so. He was referring, in fact he said, I have that, we have that in Davao. So he was really specifically referring to that anti-discrimination law in Davao.

ANDOLONG: Okay. You’re saying he is supporting a different anti-discrimination measure. What is that?

SEC. PANELO: General siguro, pareho nung sa kanila. Kasi iyong anti-discrimination law sa Davao, it refers to all. You cannot discriminate on handicapped, special children, iyong mayroong third gender – sa lahat.

ANDOLONG: Is he referring to a specific law? Kumbaga, kung hindi SOGIE Bill, another one. Because I do believe Senator Sonny Angara, for instance, he has a different anti-discrimination bill which he says, covers a broader audience.

SEC. PANELO: Siguro mas maganda iyon kung broader audience. Dapat talaga broader audience, otherwise baka may problema ka sa class legislation as correctly pointed out by Senator Sotto.

ANDOLONG: Can you expound on that, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Kasi kung … hindi ka pupuwedeng mag-legislate for a particular class lang, eh nagdi-discriminate ka.

ANDOLONG: You mean—are you referring to the LGBT community?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, dapat talagang general. Iyon ang ayaw ni Presidente kasi eh, kapag nagdi-discriminate ka against a particular class.

ANDOLONG: Okay. So what are his issues about the SOGIE Bill? I’m sure supporters of the LGBT community might be disappointed to learn na hindi pala niya—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman. Bakit naman madi-disappoint sila? Kapag anti-discrimination bill, which is in an enlarged version of whatever bill you have in mind, eh di sasama din sila doon.

ANDOLONG: Okay. But does the President have specific issues about the SOGIE Bill? Has he even read it?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so. Basta ayaw niya ng discrimination, iyon ang very clear sa kaniya. He is outraged by any form of discrimination against any particular class or person.

ANDOLONG: Okay. But can we say now that he’s supporting or would consider more, the anti-discrimination measure of Senator Angara?

SEC. PANELO: Not necessarily Senator Angara; kung mayroon pang ibang version. Basta anti-discrimination, general application sa lahat.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Sir, he did mention though again, siguro naman clear, he supports having separate restrooms for members of the LGBT community. Is this something that he will, perhaps, concretize through an executive issuance?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko pa alam. I’ll ask him. Pero alam mo, hindi ba you go to one particular coffee something—

ANDOLONG: Coffee shop.

SEC. PANELO: Tapos isa lang ang toilet, siguro ganoon na lang. Kahit isang malaking toilet, halimbawa. Marami namang cubicles din doon eh, ‘di ba? So kapag nilagaya mo lang diyan ‘restroom’, walang nakalagay doon pambabae, panlalake, may lock naman lahat iyan so safe lahat – so walang problema.

ANDOLONG: So there will not be an executive order from the President directing, let’s say, establishments to provide—

SEC. PANELO: None that I know of as of this time. I have to ask him.

ANDOLONG: Okay. We’ll play first the soundbite of Brother Eddie Villanueva, he is among those who are against the SOGIE Bill:

VILLANUEVA: It appears this is just an imported template from western countries, that’s why it disregarded the culture of the Filipino people. But to corrupt a preferential law against the rights of all other sectors of the society just for one particular sector, to me this is unfair. This is a class legislation.

ANDOLONG: That’s similar, sir, to what you’re saying.


ANDOLONG: Paano ba iyong sa Davao, because the President or you just mentioned, you know, he would support something similar to what he has in Davao?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, iyong sa Davao, anti-discrimination, sa lahat eh. You cannot discriminate on anyone.

ANDOLONG: Can you tell us more? Sa lahat, ano ba ang—

SEC. PANELO: I do not know the specific law but generally, hindi pupuwedeng mag-discriminate. Like for instance, hindi ka pupuwedeng tatanggi kang tanggapin ng trabaho dahil ikaw ay may sakit or ikaw ay matanda na, or ikaw ay iba ang gender mo, iyong preference mo. Iyon, that’s anti-discrimination.

ANDOLONG: Okay, sir. Is there anything that could change the President’s mind about the SOGIE Bill because as you mentioned, parang hindi pa niya nababasa?

SEC. PANELO: What do you mean?

ANDOLONG: You said, you’re not sure if the President has read—

SEC. PANELO: No, what do you mean it will change his mind?

ANDOLONG: Perhaps if he finally reads the SOGIE Bill, if he talks to supporters—

SEC. PANELO: No, but he is referring nga doon sa anti-discrimination law sa Davao na applies to everyone. He is a lawyer so he will not certify a bill that will appear to be or is a class legislation.

ANDOLONG: Okay, but as you mentioned, the President has … you’re not even sure if the President has read it, the measure, the SOGIE Bill?

SEC. PANELO: Even then, kasi kapag iyong SOGIE Bill is directed to a particular class, eh di class legislation nga iyan.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Now, itong sinasabing anti-discrimination measure that the President would want, is this something that he wants passed during his term? How serious is he about coming up with such legislation?

SEC. PANELO: Well, if he has passed it … if he has a law in Davao when he was mayor, then certainly, the logical consequence is he would want it nationally. Just like the smoking ban, lahat ng mga ginawa niya sa Davao na he found it successful, then he want it replicated all over the country.

ANDOLONG: He is already midway through his term sir, and he’s not been as aggressive about that though?

SEC. PANELO: Not really not aggressive, kasi he has made policy statements on that. And members of Congress know exactly what these policies are. And if they are in support of this President, and they know that this will benefit the Filipino people then it behooves them, as a constitutional duty to serve and to protect the people, they will cooperate with the President.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Let’s put up a statement from Senate President Tito Sotto about …or this is his reaction to the President’s statement saying nga last night that he will certify the SOGIE Bill as urgent. Senator Sotto says, “I am told the President is not certifying the SOGIE Bill. He is willing to certify an anti-discrimination bill sans LGBT issues – a general anti-discrimination bill like the Davao ordinance.” He said nga ‘no, “Asked ES and Bong Go, Senator Bong Go.” So this mean, since last night—

SEC. PANELO: Corrected na.

ANDOLONG: Palace officials reached out to him for that clarification.

SEC. PANELO: Yes. Yes, I confirmed.

ANDOLONG: Can you tell us, anong nangyari? Late last night na iyon eh. Did Senator Sotto perhaps initiate—

SEC. PANELO: Siguro, baka nagtanong siya – baka nagtanong siya. Or nag-initiate na sila ES and Sen. Bong.

ANDOLONG: And did you also relate to the Senate President that the President would want another anti-discrimination bill that they should perhaps focus on?

SEC. PANELO: The Senate President mentioned that such bill could be class legislation, and he expressed concern.

ANDOLONG: Sino iyong kausap ninyo, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Si Senate President Tito Sotto.

ANDOLONG: President Duterte himself?

SEC. PANELO: No, si Tito Sen – Senate President Tito Sotto.

ANDOLONG: Speaking to?

SEC. PANELO: Speaking to me, we’re texting.

ANDOLONG: Ah ikaw pala. Kasi sinabi ninyo doon sir, ES and—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, iba pa iyon, kausap niya rin iyong dalawa.

ANDOLONG: I see. Now, iyong LGBT convention; Earlier, Senator Bong Go said, the President will want to organize one. Ano na po ang update doon?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyon. Wala akong knowledge doon. But if he said that, then it will proceed.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Sir, iyong anti-discrimination bill that the President wants, is that something that he could certify as urgent instead?

SEC. PANELO: Could be. Kagaya nga ng sinabi ko, kung mayroon iyan sa Davao, siyempre gusto niya all over the Philippines.

ANDOLONG: Will Malacañang initiate the drafting of such a measure, of a new measure?

SEC. PANELO: There are senators who are already drafting it, ‘di ba?

ANDOLONG: Okay, so wala nang separate proposal from Malacañang kung sakali?

SEC. PANELO: I’m sure, there will be senators who will be introducing similar bills or introduce amendments to Senator Angara’s bill.


ANDOLONG: Before we leave the issue on the SOGIE Bill sir, perhaps a message from Malacañang to members of the LGBT community who had high hopes that the President would specifically endorse or back the SOGIE Bill?

SEC. PANELO: Well, the President will always support this particular class of citizens against any form of discrimination. That’s the Palace statement.

ANDOLONG: Hindi ba sila sir baka napasa, because the President has been you know coming out with all these pronouncements before very supportive of them?

SEC. PANELO: Again, as I said, that anti-discrimination bill – of whoever senator will be introducing it – they will be included on that. So I don’t think there is any worry for them.

ANDOLONG: But how soon, how soon does the President want this?

SEC. PANELO: No, the President siyempre will want sooner than any other people wanting it; but that depends on the Senate, sila ang nagka-craft ng laws, hindi naman ang Presidente.

ANDOLONG: Okay, let’s move on to a different topic – Emergency powers to address Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic or the traffic problem. President Duterte is saying ayaw na lang daw niya pala. Let’s play a sound bite of the President talking about that first.

Iyong EDSA na iyan, sabi nila ganoon-ganoon. Sabi ko nung narinig ko, sabi ko wag na. So ngayon gusto nilang i-revive. Ilang buwan na lang, two years and so many months, hindi ko na iyan matatapos; pagkatapos niyan, sabihin pa ng mga tao nag-iwan ng project ito si Duterte, hindi tapos, kinurakot siguro iyong pera.

ANDOLONG: So now, he doesn’t want it anymore. But sir there was a hearing, recent hearing sa Senate, and it would appear that Transportation Secretary Art Tugade was still asking for it?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, but the President says ‘kung ayaw niya di wag.’ Kasi nga he didn’t want the insinuation that there will be abuse, there will be corruption. Sensitive si Presidente roon. Kaya kung ayaw ninyo, di wag.

ANDOLONG: Pero ibigay ngayon—sabi niya kung ibibigay ngayon, sabi niya wag na eh, because baka sisihin siya if the projects don’t get completed by the end of his term, because it might prompt lawmakers questioning it from the beginning to say “oh tingnan mo, sabi ko sa iyo, corrupt iyan.”

SEC. PANELO: Iyon na nga ang sinasabi ni Presidente, ‘noon ko pa kasi hinihingi sa Inyo iyan, ayaw ninyong ibigay sa akin, kung anu-an0ng mga… pinagdududahan ninyo ako, di bahala na kayo.’

ANDOLONG: So, if given to him now, he will just declined it?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi natin alam kung ano ang gagawin niya. He can veto it.

ANDOLONG: Now, what’s the plan again for Metro Manila’s traffic without emergency powers everyday, you know, people stuck in traffic for hours?

SEC. PANELO: Well, as I said, there are many proposals, like in my office, many ordinary citizens submitted proposals and I sent them to the MMDA. I don’t know what they will with it, if they are doing something about it. But I understand the Highway Patrol Group took over—it appears to me that okay iyong traffic kanina in coming here.

ANDOLONG: Walang iba pang… apart from that effort, iyong paglagay po ng HPG to help enforce traffic—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam sa MMDA, eh kanila iyon eh.

ANDOLONG: Sir, the President was saying yesterday that eventually – he was talking about Senator Grace Poe I believe – that if Grace Poe decides to seek higher office again, this issue of the traffic is something that he will use against her. Is it fair to blame the Senator for the worsening traffic in Metro Manila?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, kasi nga from the very start—obviously the grant of emergency powers would have helped a lot. Since kinontra niya iyon, it will haunt her when the time comes.

ANDOLONG: And the President, he was saying, it appears be active in pointing that out, if ever in the future, tama ba iyon?

SEC. PANELO: Siguro, siguro nga.

ANDOLONG: So, he is blaming Senator Grace Poe lang talaga solely for it?

SEC. PANELO: Eh siya lang naman ang kumontra doon di ba, publicly against it.

ANDOLONG: And he also mentioned last night, sir, may iba naman daw senador that have expressed that perhaps puwedeng mapag-usapan. Sino iyong mga senador na iyon?

SEC. PANELO: Nabasa ko sa diyaryo, I forgot the names of the senators. But there were senators na they might consider.

ANDOLONG: Eh kung ganoong, sir, why not then try to work it out? If you are saying that there’s only one senator against emergency powers.

SEC. PANELO: Di ba sabi na nga ni Presidente, ayaw niya na. Pero kung nandiyan na siguro iyong power, hindi natin alam if he will change his mind.

ANDOLONG: Next topic sir – the Bureau of Customs. President Duterte announcing he wants brokers, examiners out of the bureau. Ano ba ito effective immediately? What’s going to be—if I were let’s say a broker—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Ang sinasabi niya kagabi di ba, that’s a proposal, siyempre ang Congress ang gagawa ng batas.

ANDOLONG: So iyong sinasabi po niyang proposal, is his proposal to Congress?


ANDOLONG: But also, because last night, sabi niya i-ignore niya dapat—

SEC. PANELO: Kasi gusto niya nga gross income lang di ba.

ANDOLONG: But he was also saying last night, sir, na dapat daw ngayon iyong mga nagta-transact sa Bureau of Customs, i-ignore iyong mga private individuals who will go to them with a broker. Paano ba iyon, how do you reconcile that kung proposal pa lang siya?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi parang, kumbaga advanced na iyong kanyang sinasabi na pag nandiyan na iyan, ito na iyong gagawin ninyo.

ANDOLONG: Okay. So at this point, the President, hindi naman po fired or dismissed from office iyong brokers ngayon sa Customs and examiners also?

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa naman, dahil hindi pa naman… wala pa naman.

ANDOLONG: Okay. So if I were a private individual who does business with the Bureau of Customs who should I talk to, what should I do now following the President’s pronouncement?

SEC. PANELO: Eh kung ano iyong reglamento doon, you follow the rules and regulations of the Customs.

ANDOLONG: Sir, what prompted the President to consider that, iyong brokers and examiners, iyong proposal niya to do without them?

SEC. PANELO: Eh di—ang dami kasing nagrereklamo di ba, ang daming anomalies involving them. That’s the reason why.

ANDOLONG: And this proposal cannot be done through an executive issuance, in a way because the BOC is under the Department of Finance for instance?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, kasi naka-ano iyon eh… naka-attach iyon doon sa concept ng gross income, net income. Kailangan iyon na muna ang baguhin mo.

ANDOLONG: He can’t let say order them suspended or on floating status similar to what he did to the other Customs employees?

SEC. PANELO: The employees? I think he can do that, kung ano lang, floating; because he can reassign naman employees.

ANDOLONG: And if he wants them out, why can’t he just do that?

SEC. PANELO: You have to file charges.

ANDOLONG: Thank you—

SEC. PANELO: Teka muna. I’d like to point out iyong criticism against the President on the transfer of convicts. They’re saying na—

ANDOLONG: Okay, the high-profile inmates from Bilibid.

SEC. PANELO: They are saying you need a court order. You know I’ve looked over the law, there is nothing that says the President cannot. You must remember that the President’s constitutional duty is to enforce the law and there is no law except under the Rules of Court Section 114 saying that during trial you cannot transfer a convict o not a convict, a person under detention under a legal process. Kasi nga you have to secure that presence during the trial. Pero kung convict na, sa tingin ko—

ANDOLONG: There is no need for a court order.

SEC. PANELO: There is no need, kasi from one jail to another naman iyan eh, ang importante doon nandoon pa rin iyong facilities.

ANDOLONG: Okay. Thank you again for your time, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)