Interview with Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo by Pinky Webb (CNN Philippines – The Source)

Event Media Interview

WEBB:  Secretary, good to see you again; welcome to the show, it’s been a while, sir. You were at the Hugpong—

SEC. PANELO: Yes, last night.

WEBB:  Thanksgiving party last night. How was that?

SEC. PANELO:  Fun, it was fun. There were singing, dancing. The President was in his elements, he went around the table thanking all—and he sang three times.

WEBB:  He did, he sang—

SEC. PANELO:  Three times.

WEBB:  Mayor Sara Duterte sang, Secretary Salvador Panelo sang?

SEC. PANELO:  Who told you that?

WEBB:  I have video, sir. Are you gonna dispute that?


WEBB:  You were actually with a number of legislators as well when you were singing. What was the feel last night, sir? I think Mayor Sara was really saying just let your hair down and let’s all have fun, basically that she was saying.

SEC. PANELO:  Yeah, were singing too.

WEBB:  And?

SEC. PANELO:  And she was thanking everyone for helping her.

WEBB:  There were number of candidates, of course the senators also saying that it was time to saying that it was time to say thank you everyone to helped them, sir. Pati iyong sa Speaker… siyempre that’s a topic that everybody is asking: Who is the President going to choose as Speaker of the House?

SEC. PANELO:  As he says it ‘may the best man win.’

WEBB:  Hindi ba sinabi, sir, that—a very close source to the President is saying he is going to have a decision on June 28, that’s on Friday, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Baka haka-haka lang iyon.

WEBB:  No, I think it was given ano—Senator-elect Bong Go, sabi binigyan ng hanggang June 28. He may have a decision by then, sir.

SEC. PANELO:  He may or may not. But knowing the President, he doesn’t interfere in this kind of things.

WEBB:  You don’t think he is going to choose someone?

SEC. PANELO:  No. For one, all of them are allies; for another, I don’t think he want to hurt feelings of anyone of them.

WEBB:  Sir, totoo po ba iyong term-sharing that was broached… the term sharing of Speakership?

SEC. PANELO:  That was offered by Congressman-elect Alan Cayetano.

WEBB:  Was it… was it him, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  It was him who did.

WEBB:  And it was turned down?

SEC. PANELO:  It was turned down by Congressman Lord Velasco.

WEBB:  So no such thing is gonna happen you think, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  I don’t think so. But regardless of whoever win, eh siyempre since ally naman sila ni Presidente, I suppose they will be cooperating with the legislative agenda of the President.

WEBB:  I don’t think that’s a question, sir. You have Martin Romualdez; you have Lord Velasco; you have Dong Gonzales, siguro medyo baka hindi na po siya…; you also have Congressman-elect Alan Peter Cayetano. Lahat naman po obviously are allies of the President.

SEC. PANELO:  Yeah. Eh allies din sila last time, pero tingnan mo iyong nangyari sa budget.

WEBB:  Well, okay. So you have no inkling, sir, kung sino iyong—palagay ninyo sino ang pinakanapupusuan ng Pangulo sa kanila?

SEC. PANELO:  Wala, lahat iyan puwede eh.

WEBB:  Palagay n’yo—wala ho kayong feeling kung sinong mas gusto niya?


WEBB:  Let’s talk about the Recto probe, sir. The President last night also—yesterday rather, was saying that he already has a preliminary report coming from the Coast Guard, likewise the Navy. Sir, do you have any information on this, kung ano iyong kinalabasan ng—

SEC. PANELO:  I haven’t seen the report.

WEBB:  Will you get a copy of this, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Eventually, I’ll have one.

WEBB:  He is waiting apparently for an official report for publication. So while the President says that there is preliminary report from the Navy and the Coast Guard, he is waiting for the formal report for publication. Matutuloy pa ho ba iyong joint probe?

SEC. PANELO:  The suggestion of the President is that there will be—no, because the offer came from the Chinese government, right? And he welcomes that development and he said just in the event that there will be a conflict with the findings then a neutral body can do the solving of whatever conflict.

But you know, I don’t think it will even come to that.  

WEBB:  What won’t come to that, sir, the joint probe?

SEC. PANELO:  As Ambassador says – in his text message – there is nothing between friends that cannot be settled amicably.

WEBB:  Let me clarify, matutuloy ho ba iyong joint probe, what do you think, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  The President has accepted it; so it’s on the Chinese side, the ball is on them.

WEBB:  Why, sir, on their side of the court, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Because they offered.

WEBB:  Yeah, they offered.

SEC. PANELO:  And the President accepted. They may have a different concept of what joint investigation is, right? They might not want a third party. We don’t know that yet. So we are waiting for a formal response.

WEBB:  So, it’s still… would you say talks are still ongoing on the possible joint probe?

SEC. PANELO:  Actually, we are just waiting for a formal response because we already said our stand.

WEBB:  How did you intimate your ‘yes’, is this through just the President?

SEC. PANELO:  I issued a statement.

WEBB:  Iyon na po iyon.


WEBB:  And you are waiting for them to I guess make the next move. Sir, pero how important is a third party here, because Brunei also came out sir as a possible third party. Can you tell us more about this; gaano ka-importante ang third party?

SEC. PANELO:  Eh kung meron kasing conflict, we need the neutral body to resolve, di ba.  Kaya nga merong tinatawag na arbitration eh. Pag iyong both parties enter into an arbitration, then they are bound to the ruling of the body. But then again as I said, I will repeat what the ambassador says: There is nothing between friends that cannot be resolved. All we have to do really is to determine whether or not the allision was intentional or not, that’s one; then we have to determine accountability of the guilty party and then the compensation.

WEBB:  Iyong mga importante?

SEC. PANELO:  Iyon ang mga importante naman doon.

WEBB:  Pero—I wanna go to that, sir, pero there’s a lot of question on the joint probe eh. Who, when, what, where, iyon yung mga iyon, sir. Any answer to that?

SEC. PANELO:  Alam mo puwede rin naman na… di ba we have our own investigation; then according to them, they have their own. We can compare notes. If the findings are similar, then there is no point in proceeding to another stage.

WEBB:  Which is the joint probe?

SEC. PANELO:  Which is the joint probe; eh kung nagkakasundo na kayo, parehong findings ninyo, ano pa ang pag-uusapan ninyo.

WEBB:  Any information on their probe or their investigation, where they are in this, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  No, wala pang reply, I mean wala. Wala, I do not know of their final findings. Because there was an issue of initial finding, remember, they released it through a press statement by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs.

WEBB:  The spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, sir.

SEC. PANELO:  But then after that, the Ambassador told me that they are still doing a farther probe on the matter.

WEBB:  But if you were to go back, sir, doon sa initial finding nila through the Foreign Spokesperson, ang una pong sinabi it was an accident, a maritime incident or accident, sir. And then the first statement doon po nakita iyong they were besieged by 7 to 8 Filipino boats, hindi ho ba?


WEBB:  Is that something you tend to believe as Presidential Spokesperson?

SEC. PANELO:  Not really. You know, I’m a lawyer and I want to know exactly: why did you think that you were being besieged? For one, there is only one vessel. But I understand they were pala 19 boats, 19 fishermen’s boats. Merong mother vessel, pero merong 19 na nagkalat doon. So, ang tanong ko: iyon ba ang sinasabi ninyo?

Number two, kung iyon ang sinasabi ninyo, is that valid enough [to] justify to leave the fisherman in distress? Oh iyon ang susunod na tanong doon.

WEBB:  Do you condemn that, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  We did! Di ba sinabi ko sa statement, ‘regardless of whether intentional or not – siyempre kapag intentional hindi na babalikan – it’s condemnable. Because human decency should make you help someone in distress.’ Eh kung nakita mo nang nakabangga ka, tapos nandoon sa tubig, ba’t hindi mo naman tutulungan.

WEBB:  Sir, if the government—well, the government does condemn this. It’s been how long, sir, since the June 9 incident—

SEC. PANELO:  Na-condemn na natin ha. Nauna na iyong condemnation.

WEBB:  Are you okay that it’s taking this – I’m not going to say—this short a time or this long a time for them to even say anything about leaving the 22 fishermen at sea?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, we are waiting for their formal statement on that. I think they are… perhaps they are determining whether or not it’s justified for them to leave, given their version.

WEBB:  Would there be any justification, Secretary Sal, you think for anyone to leave anyone at sea whether it was intentional or not?

SEC. PANELO:  Under the UNCLOS, specifically Article 98, it says that when you see a vessel in distress or passengers needing help, and if does not endanger yourselves, you are required to help, iyon ang colatilla doon. Kaya nga sinasabi ko, ‘iyon bang sinasabi mo na iyong besieged, justified ba iyon? Given the… kung anong uri ang nandoon, di ba. Eh kung mga boats lang ang nandoon, wala namang tao doon, bakit ka matatakot?

WEBB:  Sir, sa inyo ho ba, sa galaw po ng Pilipinas at ng mga mangingisda natin, tipo ho ba ng Pilipino iyong magbe-besiege ng isang Chinese vessel?

SEC. PANELO:  Unang-una, how can that be… they will be besieged, eh nabangga nga eh, nabangga at kumalat na nga, iyong mga Filipino fishermen nakakapit na nga doon sa almost submerged boat. So parang malabo iyong—baka imagination—hindi. There may be fear, but is that fear imagined or real or enough to justify you from leaving someone in help or in distress.

WEBB:  Let me be very point blank, sir. Was that a lie when they said that they were besieged by 7 to 8 fishing boats, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  No. Iyon na nga ang sinasabi ko eh. Kasi kung maraming bangka doon, tapos nakita mong naka-aksidente ka, medyo matatakot ka. Kumbaga parang iyong sasakyan di ba, naghi-hit and run, tapos tumatakas iyong mga nakabangga. Iyon yun eh. But then kailangan you have to justify na talagang there was danger in your lives kung bakit ka umalis.

WEBB:  Isn’t there supposed to be a deadline by which China will tell us about their investigation, the outcome of their investigation?

SEC. PANELO:  Not really a deadline, but it should be reasonable. I think they should be coming out anytime now.

WEBB: Like, how short a time, sir? In a week, hopefully, before the end of—

SEC. PANELO: Hopefully. Kasi kung mayroon na sila, ‘di ba, kung mayroon na silang findings, kasi sabi nila they’re having a deeper probe; we have ours – tapos na iyong atin – oh sige mag-compare na tayo. Kapag pareho ang ating findings, so there’s no more need to do—

WEBB:  For the joint investigation.


WEBB: Just to clarify, sir, because you were talking about the Ambassador saying that things can be settled amicably. You’re talking about the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, the Chinese Ambassador.

WEBB:  So how did you speak to him? When?

SEC. PANELO: We texted to each other.

WEBB: Iyon po ang sinabi niya?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, kasi nasa China siya noong nagte-text kami.

WEBB: Did you text him, sir, and asked him when their investigation is going to come out, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, I didn’t ask.

WEBB: Why?

SEC. PANELO: Kailangan ilabas na lang nila, bakit ko pa tatanungin.

WEBB: Nakakahiya ho bang tanungin?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman. Baka makulitan pa sa akin iyan, ang ganda na nga ang sinasabi niya nag-iimbestiga sila. At saka, you know, from the very start ‘di ba sinabi niya, they will hold accountable, the guilty party, and they will not tolerate such “irresponsible behavior”. Ibig sabihin, iyon ang assurance nila.

WEBB: Sir, let me ask you this: How difficult would it be for any country, for that matter, to identify the boat and the fishermen? Why, sir? Let me finish this argument, because alam naman po natin na they have militarized portions of the South China Sea – their artificial islands in the South China Sea. Sir, every move of the Philippine boat, nakikita ng Coast Guard ng China. Mahirap ho bang i-identify sino itong nagkaroon ng allision doon sa Philippine boat, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Unang-una, we don’t even have to talk about difficulty in identifying because they already identified that vessel. Ang kailangang na lang malaman natin, kasi sinasabi ng iba baka militia, sinabi naman nila it’s a private vessel. So if it’s a private vessel, eh hindi dapat involved ang mga gobyerno natin. Mai-involve lang sila because they have to do something about their vessel, kung nag-violate ng kanilang batas, ‘di ba.

WEBB: And if it’s a Chinese militia?

SEC. PANELO: Di siyempre lalo na, di may problema sila doon. They will have to do something about that.

WEBB: The talk on the joint probe kasi, sir, there are some people who are against this. You have, obviously, the opposition senators are against this. We had former Secretary Albert Del Rosario also against this, and let’s listen to why he is not in favor of a joint probe.

[VIDEO CLIP] DEL ROSARIO: I do not agree, why? I think they should not be insulting the intelligence of the Filipino people. Why are doing this, because how can you expect the offender to investigate his offense. And secondly, if you put the Philippines and China together, one party is for seeking truth; the other party is for suppressing it. I don’t think China should have a role in terms of our investigation. It happened in our exclusive economic zone, it should be us who should be coming up with the full investigation on it.

WEBB: Quick reaction on that, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Well, alam mo, they are doing their investigation; we’re doing ours. Ano bang masama doon na mag-compare tayo ng notes. Then if we agreed, di tapos na kaagad ang usapan ‘di ba. Kung mayroon namang conflict, oh di pag-usapan natin bakit mayroong conflict.

Iyong mga opposition, parang… I really am amused by the fertility of their imagination. Masyadong fertile, ang dami nila kaagad…wala.

WEBB: Okay. I’m going to the sorry, the President saying sorry to the 22 fishermen, sir. Sabi niya—

SEC. PANELO: Teka muna, ‘di ba sinabi ni Presidente kagabi, if they want a separate investigation, which they are doing, okay lang sa akin iyon. Tayo naman… mag-compare tayo ‘di ba.

WEBB: Kung gusto pa nila ng investigation, sabi niya, payag naman ako. Gumanon naman siya.

SEC. PANELO: Oo, okay kay Presidente lahat iyon eh. Ang mahalaga sa Presidente ay iyong interest ng mga fishermen na napunta sa bingit ng panganib. Iyon ang importante sa kaniya.

WEBB: Pero hindi ho ba matagal, hindi ba matagal na? I guess that’s what I want to find out from you, hindi ba matagal na, sir? June 9 pa ito eh.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman, dahil tayo katatapos lang eh. Katatapos din iyong atin ‘di ba.

WEBB: Oho. Well, ours was finished about, I would say, Friday, sir, and it was submitted to the President.

SEC. PANELO: For all you know baka mayroon na rin sila, baka pina-finalize na rin.

WEBB: All right, the sorry of the President. Yesterday, he was at an event and sinabi nga niya, hindi naman daw sa minamaliit niya iyong nangyari. It was little in the sense na wala naman daw bloody violence and it did not result in any confrontation. Sir, does the President—iyong pag-sorry ho niya, bakit ho ngayon lang nangyari? Why?

SEC. PANELO: Unang-una, hindi naman niya alam na ganoon katindi pala iyong dating ng mga Filipino fishermen. Pangalawa, alam naman ng mga fishermen na si Presidente, ang interes ay sa kanila. Nakita mo naman kung ano ang reaksiyon kaagad natin, immediately after, we condemned it; number two, diplomatic protest kaagad tayo; number three, pinatakbo natin iyong mga Cabinet members doon; number four, tinulungan kaagad natin. Sangkatutak na nga ang tulong na binigay natin sa kanila.

Sinasabi lang ni Presidente na huwag kayong masaktan doon kasi as far as he is concerned, it’s a navigation incident, maritime incident. So there is a protocol for that, international law, so magkaroon tayo ng inquiry.

WEBB: But, is the President planning to visit them, Secretary Sal?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyon. I will have to ask him that.

WEBB: Si VP nagpunta. Obviously, Secretary Manny Piñol dahil nga siya rin po ang in-appoint ni Presidente. I guess to some, the President goes to the camps, sa mga namatayan, sa mga na-injure, ito po muntik o puwedeng mamatay pero hindi pa ho napupuntahan ni Pangulo.

SEC. PANELO: Tingnan natin.

WEBB: Is there a possibility, you think?

SEC. PANELO: If you are talking of possibilities, that’s limitless.

WEBB:  I knew you were going to say that. Sir, Secretary Albert Del Rosario had given, donated a check of P500,000 for the fishermen. Ang sabi po ni DFA Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, kailangan niyang ibalik because they do not dispense donation. Tama ho ba iyon? I mean, this is help to the 22 fishermen.

SEC. PANELO: Iyan ang paniniwala ni Secretary Locsin, we have to respect him for that.

WEBB: And that’s okay? Kahit ibalik na lang po and find another way. He said you find another way to give it to the fishermen.

SEC. PANELO:  Eh kung ako naman si Secretary Del Rosario, eh di binigyan ko ng tig-iisa iyong anong iyon, i-spread mo iyong kung magkano iyong binibigay mo. Pumunta ako doon nang walang nakakaalam at binigyan ko sila, ‘di ba. You don’t have to announce it.

WEBB: Sir, diplomatic passport. Former Secretary Albert Del Rosario questioning the DFA’s move to cancel all courtesy diplomatic passport, saying this is unlawful under the Philippine Passport Act of 1996. Sir, your thoughts on this?

SEC. PANELO: Bakit unlawful? Kaya nga courtesy. When you say ‘courtesy’, that can be withdrawn any time. You know, under Republic Act 8239, as pointed out by—

WEBB: Is that the Philippine Passport Act?

SEC. PANELO: By Senate President Sotto, iyong mga former Cabinet secretaries are not entitled to diplomatic passports. Binibigay lang as a courtesy at saka kailangan may official mission ka, may official travel. Iyon naman kaniya ay private eh.

Unang-una, as I said in my first interview, alam niya na ngang may problema doon, bakit naman kasi siya nagpunta pa. Alam niya naman na ayaw ng Tsina doon sa nag-file ng kaso against them. Number two, pupuwede naman siyang—sabi niya, sumulat ako sa DFA. Sumulat ka nga sa DFA, hindi mo naman yata hinintay ang sagot ng DFA kung okay na o hindi. Pangatlo, you could have gone diretso sa ano, sa Hong Kong authorities, “Oh, I’m going there. Okay ba?” Hindi ba?

WEBB: He could have gone to Hong Kong authorities, sir, meaning?

SEC. PANELO: Prudence dictate that you should be prudent ‘di ba. O baka naman, I don’t want to say this, pero … to me, iniisip ko baka sinadya mo.

WEBB: Well, he did say that there was that fear—

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi, in fact sinabi niya, sinadya niya, “I tested it.”

WEBB: Hindi naman sinabing sinadya. Sabi niya, there was that possible fear. And yeah, ginagamit iyong salitang ‘test’.

SEC. PANELO: Oo, sinabi niya. Di ibig niya, sinadya niya talaga; ibig niyang subukan talaga. Nagkaroon siya ngayon ng forum, pagkatapos sinisisi niya ang gobyerno. You created your own problem, then you point the mess to the government. Ano ba iyan?

Ang problema sa’yo, Ambassador o Secretary Del Rosario, noong nasa panahon mo, nawala nga sa atin ang Scarborough Shoal dahil sa’yong naiveté. Naniwala ka na magwi-withdraw ang mga Chinese vessels doon, hindi naman pala.

WEBB: They didn’t.

SEC. PANELO: Pagkatapos ngayon, ang dami mong sinasabi.

WEBB: You know, Secretary Sal, iyong sinabi ninyo pong nagpaalam siya sa DFA, hindi naman siya nag-follow up. I asked him that when he was here yesterday—

SEC. PANELO: Anong sabi niya?

WEBB: Let’s listen to what Secretary Albert Del Rosario said to that.

[VIDEO CLIP] DEL ROSARIO: It must be respected because it carries the seal of the Republic of the Philippines. So to discredit the bearer is to discredit the Republic.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Given na there was a previous situation na nag-create ng fracas, kailangan maging prudent ka na eh. Dapat naging maingat siya.

WEBB: Hindi ho ba… sabi ninyo nga, hindi sapat iyong ginawa niya na nagsabi na siya sa DFA—

SEC. PANELO: Dapat naghintay siya ng response ng DFA. Malay mo kung may—alam mo naman sa .. siyempre susulat siguro ang DFA sa Hong Kong authorities o sa Chinese government, may darating doon, si ganito, si ganiyan. Siyempre maghihintay ka ng sagot. Eh kung hindi pa sumasagot, papaano tapos tumuloy kay sa biyahe mo, natural talagang istapin [stop] ka doon.

WEBB: Will the government do something about this, sir? He was held for, I don’t know, six hours and then denied and deported to the Philippines, after all he was a former secretary of the DFA, a former ambassador, served the country for ten years. What can government do about this, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Pinky, ang bawat bansa ay may karapatan at kapangyarihan na hintuin, accept or not. ‘Di ba nangyari na sa senador natin, iyong kay Drilon. ‘Di ba parang naabala siya one time nagpunta siya sa America. Wala tayong magagawa doon. That’s the sole prerogative of the country accepting you.

WEBB: Yeah. But will government even try to find out why he was deported? Would you seek reason for what happened to the former Secretary, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Discretion nga nila iyon. We can only speculate na siguro it has connection with the … iyong filing. Or puwede rin naman na they have their own source. If they consider somebody a national threat, anong magagawa natin doon; hindi naman sa ating bansa iyon.

WEBB: So the question is: Will government try to find out, sir? Should, should government, the Philippine government—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi na, kasi respeto na sa kanila iyan. Bakit kapag tayo ba ay may hininto rito, papakialaman din tayo? Hindi naman tayo papayag; wala kayong pakialam sa amin.

WEBB: All right, okay. Sir, just a last topic I need to ask you: Is there a looming Cabinet revamp?

SEC. PANELO: Wala akong naririnig. But that’s the absolute privilege of a President.

WEBB: Absolutely, yes?

SEC. PANELO: Of course.

WEBB: Wala kayong naririnig?

SEC. PANELO: Sa ngayon wala.

WEBB: There are some… are saying that mayroon daw matatanggal na… the President is very unhappy with a secretary, sir? Hindi ikaw, somebody else, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. Wala naman siyang ano… wala naman siyang sinasabi o wala naman siyang parinig o whatever.

WEBB: There are reports, sir, kasi Secretary Piñol daw?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. Ang tagal ko nang narinig. Noon ko pa naririnig iyan ‘di ba.

WEBB: That’s nothing new?

SEC. PANELO: Narinig ko na iyan several months ago.

WEBB: So it’s nothing new.

SEC. PANELO: Whether it’s true or not, nasa kay Presidente naman iyon.

WEBB: Yeah. But you haven’t heard anything new?

SEC. PANELO: Nope. Coming from the President, nope.

WEBB: Okay. Maraming salamat kay Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo. Sir, thank you so much for your time.

SEC. PANELO: Thank you for having me.


Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)