Interview with Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo by Karen Davila (ANC – Headstart)

Event Media Interview

DAVILA: Secretary Sal Panelo, this is Karen Davila; good morning from Manila.

SEC. PANELO: Good morning, Karen.

DAVILA: All right. Thank you so much for taking our call, Secretary. Many questioned the timing of President Duterte firing Vice President Leni Robredo, the timing in the middle of all the controversies with the Southeast Asian Games and him leaving for Korea. What led the President to fire the Vice President last night?

SEC. PANELO: Well, the Vice President had it coming. She has been making missteps. Apart from that, the president of the Liberal Party was daring the President to fire her, and VP Leni herself was taunting and daring the President to fire her; and she had this coming. It’s not surprising.  She was given the opportunity to assist in the program but she blew it.

DAVILA: But it’s only been 18 days since Vice President Leni Robredo took the post. And she’s already submitted three reports to the Office of the President regarding her role as ICAD co-chair.

SEC. PANELO: Karen, let me correct you there. The only time she sent communications with the President was, I think, last week, on a Tuesday, when the President has already made remarks about her job.

The first thing that she should have done in day one was to seek audience with the President. She was asking about the scope of her authority, but as the President correctly said, the scope of her authority is outlined in the Executive Order creating ICAD. Now, if she wanted more powers as she want to saying that in front of the cameras, then as I’ve been suggesting to her during my press briefing, seek audience with the President. You are already an appointee of the President. And it is not the President going to you; it is the appointee going to the appointing power. But she never did. She only did that after the President has already made some remarks.

DAVILA: So there was no effort from the Office of the Vice President whatsoever to set up a meeting or pay a courtesy call or see President Duterte—

SEC. PANELO: None whatsoever, Karen. Let me quote the President. The President said last night to me, “She was just grandstanding.”

She could have just come to Malacañang. You know, everybody goes to Malacañang, persons of no authority, ordinary people, we entertain them. She is the Vice President, she’s certainly is welcome.

DAVILA: Was that the exact word President Duterte used to describe Vice President Leni Robredo—

SEC. PANELO: Among others.

DAVILA: What else did he say?

SEC. PANELO: The President described VP Leni with so many adjectives; it’s only one of them.

DAVILA: So he said she was just grandstanding?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, because instead of, you know, she should have gone to the grassroots; she should have gone to the communities, talk with the people there, know there problems on drugs. Because, you know, Karen, when you criticize something on a particular job, you must have some ideas in your mind, otherwise you cannot be criticizing.

When you say that’s bad, if you say that’s bad, that means you have some good ideas to substitute for that. But she never presented any program at all. She didn’t. What she did was to call—what? How’s that?

DAVILA: Secretary, Vice President Leni Robredo, in the 18 day she’s been ICAD co-chair, reports have it she visited Market 3 in Navotas – a hotspot in the PNP’s drug operations. And she even met with reformed users in Dinalupihan, Bataan. So isn’t that an effort to already speak to and meet with people from the grassroots, those directly affected by the drug war?

SEC. PANELO: Karen, she did that only two weeks after she was on the job. The first day of the Vice President, as I said, what she should have done since she was asking questions relative to the scope of her authority, she should have set audience with the President.

Number two, she should have presented a program. Because according to her, the program against the illegal drugs was a failure. Initially, she said a failure and then she said it’s ineffective. So when you say that, that means you have many ideas in your mind. You should have laid that on the table with the President; she never did. She had to wait for the President giving some remarks against her missteps before she did that. She was busy talking with a lot of people – UN officials, US officials, opposition colleagues. She keeps on listening to the advice of these people who I think would want her to fail just like the one when we were persuading her not to accept the position.

DAVILA:  What would you say really triggered President Duterte to make good on firing Vice President Robredo. In your statement, you said it was because of Robredo’s taunts and dares. You also said it was about Senator Kiko Pangilinan saying just fire her. But can it be just that or was it in one of the actions that the Vice President did that President Duterte said—that really push him to fire her. Was it the US meeting, was it the UN meeting, what was it?

SEC. PANELO:  All of the above. But you know, more than the missteps, when the Liberal Party president is telling this President to fire his colleague and the appointee herself daring and taunting the President to fire her; if you were in the position of the President what would you do?

In fact I issued a statement, I said you cannot do that, that’s very rude of you and a disrespect to the President, the one appointing you, to dare him to fire you; if you were in the position of the President what would you do?

DAVILA:  Won’t this have a backlash against President Duterte at some point? You will have politicians also saying that she wasn’t given a real chance; Amnesty International just said that this government didn’t really give Robredo’s reform a real chance to be implemented. Won’t there be a backlash to the President?

SEC. PANELO:  You know, critics will always be giving criticisms; they will never see anything good with what this President is doing. But the Filipino people 85% of them have seen true the sincerity of this President, they have seen how he was able to curb the drug menace; they can walk on the streets, unlike before; criminality rate has gone down. They have seen this kind of President we have, which we have not seen for so many, many years.

DAVILA:  If you open social media, there are tweets from politicians to saying that President Duterte was threatened that if Leni Robredo succeed, she would be a presidentiable. How do you respond to that?

SEC. PANELO:  That’s non-sense. If the President had that in mind, then he would have appointed her in the first place. Remember, Karen, I was even saying, ‘effectively you are being a ladder to the presidency.’ That’s precisely I was asking her, ‘accept it! This is your chance to do it.’

DAVILA:  All right, moving forward. Will there be a formal manner to relieve Vice President Robredo or frankly speaking Secretary that was it?

SEC. PANELO:  It’s it. I was asking the President when I was talking to him last night, he said, ‘I’m firing her.’ I said, ‘when?’ ‘Now! as in ‘now.’ I said, ‘can I issue that statement, now?’ ‘Yes, tell them, it’s my departure message.’

DAVILA:  So that was it. In other words, there’s no formal statement so to speak coming from President Duterte; that would have been it.

SEC. PANELO:  He doesn’t have to do that. When the appointing power appoints, he can at the pleasure of this appointing power to dismiss.

DAVILA:  Is a dialogue between Vice President Leni Robredo and President Duterte still possible at this point in time?

SEC. PANELO:  You know Karen, everything is possible if you initiate that; she never did. She just keep issuing press statements and rudely at that.

DAVILA:  All right. Well before we go, can you give us an outlook essentially of what you are expecting today with President Duterte in South Korea?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, he is supposed to meet with the President of South Korea, then there will be bilateral meetings, and there will be signings on agreements on education, I think, and tourism and others.

DAVILA:  All right. Well on that note, Secretary Sal Panelo, thank you so much for taking up our call. Thank you, sir.

SEC. PANELO:  Thank you Karen for having me.


SOURCE: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau)