Interview with Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo by Ruth Cabal – Breaking News/CNN Philippines

CABAL: Good afternoon, Secretary.

SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, Ruth.

CABAL: Sir, can you tell us more about the designation of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Interagency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs?

SEC. PANELO: Well, it means that she will be the drug czar. It means she can do everything within the law to enforce the war on drugs initiated by the President. We want her to accept the appointment. We want her to succeed, because her success will be the success of the Filipino people.

CABAL: Sir, what else is on the memo? May particular—I saw a copy, there were also some directives to different government agencies. Sir, can you tell us about that?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah, all the agencies under the drug war are directed to give their full support and cooperation with the Vice President.

CABAL: Okay. Sir, have you officially transmitted the memo to the Vice President?

SEC. PANELO: I think the Executive Secretary has done that.

CABAL: Okay. Would you know … may information ho kayo kung kailan? Kasi ‘di ba iyong issue before parang you were just trying to call her up and there was no formal communication or designation. So ngayon, ito na ba iyon, sir?

SEC. PANELO: I think so, yes. It was signed by the President, I think, yesterday – either yesterday when he arrived or before he arrived or early this morning.

CABAL: Okay. Sir, we know na how the issue started because Vice President Robredo was apparently criticizing or she was pointing out some of the … what she didn’t want with the drug war, ano po. So ano po ito, response ito officially ng Malacañang doon sa ginawa niyang pag-criticize? And are you giving her all the freedom to do whatever she wants or how to manage the drug war? Paano po ang mangyayari?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, because the President was thinking – when she was criticizing – she must have some ideas in her mind that would effectively implement the drug war; because she was saying that it’s ineffective. You know, when you say it’s ineffective, then you must have some ideas or things in mind to make it one, to make it effective. So that is precisely why the President offered her initially and now is appointing her as drug czar.

CABAL: Tapos, sir, we’re also looking at the memo and it says here, “Until June 30, 2022” which is also the end of the term of President Duterte. Tama po ba?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, because that was the suggestion of Senator Pangilinan and others who were complaining about the short period of six months. So the President extended it to the last day of his term. Kumbaga, ibinigay na sa inyo lahat, ano pang reklamo?

CABAL: Okay. What do you think should the Vice President focus on in terms of doing the drug war? Tingin ninyo ba iyong sinimulan before like the Oplan Tokhang, should she continue with that? Any directives or any particular directives from the President maybe?

SEC. PANELO: It’s the Vice President, the moment she accepts it, that will be giving the directives to the agencies under her; not the President directing her. The President has appointed her, and it’s now her call whatever she wants to do with it.

CABAL: Okay. Pero kahapon po mayroon din kaming interview kay PDEA Chair Aaron Aquino, and he was saying baka mahirapan daw si Vice President Leni Robredo because like si Aquino was in the police force and he was in the PDEA for several months. Pero do you think she will be capable of leading the drug war, sir, the Vice President?

SEC. PANELO: I think so. I think Director Aquino was just expressing his mind and basing on his own experience. But the Vice President is bright enough, I think; she’s a lawyer. And she can hack it. She can do it… if she so desires.

CABAL: Sir, question lang: In case she declines the post, just in case, ano pong mangyayari?

SEC. PANELO: Well, then it means that all her criticism are for naught and have no basis at all. Because if you are saying the administration’s drug war is ineffective, then you must have something in your mind to make it effective. If you are given the opportunity to show your mettle and you don’t grab it, what does it mean?

CABAL: Okay. Would you want her to continue ‘yung program po ng administration, ng PNP na Oplan Tokhang? Would you advise her to do that or—

SEC. PANELO: Again, I will repeat I’ve said earlier: When she assumes office, it will be… the one that occupying the post which means her or she or the VP that will be giving directives. She can either continue with what the present agencies are doing or she can change it. It’s her court, it’s her block.

CABAL: Sir, I was just reading your statement and sinasabi n’yo po paano—how did the President come to this decision? Did you talk to him before he released and signed the memo? Ano pong nangyari? Ano pong pag-uusap n’yo tungkol sa—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Matagal na ‘yan… matagal na. Hindi ba nung sinabi ‘yan ni Presidente, sinabi niya ‘yan na he will direct or he will direct the Executive Secretary to a write letter addressed to her and offering her the post. Pagkatapos they were complaining bakit naman, kesyo… kung ano-ano. O, sige na nga! In-appoint ka na! Ayan… ano pa? Ano pa bang gusto?

CABAL: And I was reading your statement, you were saying that you want to show that the President is sincere in designating her?

SEC. PANELO: Definitely! The President from the very start was sincere and is sincere and is always sincere.

CABAL: So, with this sir you also said that it’s a Cabinet rank. So, that means she’s—

SEC. PANELO: It is! It is a Cabinet rank. In other words, she will be joining us at the Cabinet and she’s welcome.

CABAL: Ayan. ‘Yun nga po itatanong ko. Welcome na rin po siya ulit na mag-attend sa mga Cabinet meetings and other events?

SEC. PANELO: Well, it goes without saying.

CABAL: Okay, sir. So, coming from you na lang, sir, what’s your maybe message to the Vice President after this designation? Do you want her to accept it or any other directive, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Well, my message will be congratulations! This is your time. This is your moment and the moment.

CABAL: Okay. Again, sir, the memo was signed October 31 ano po? The memo was signed by the President—


CABAL: —October 31 and then you’re saying that most likely this has already been transmitted by Secretary Medialdea?

SEC. PANELO: I think so.

CABAL: Okay. So, ang hinihintay na lang po natin is the formal acceptance? Wala pa ho kayong balita diyan, the formal acceptance of the Vice President?

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa, wala pa. We’ll wait for that. Hopefully, she will.

CABAL: And would you know, sir, kung if there’s like a Cabinet meeting scheduled na or wala pa naman? Every week there is, di ba?

SEC. PANELO: The moment she accepts it, she can join us in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

CABAL: On Thursday. Okay. Thank you very much for taking our call, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.


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