CONSTANTINO: … (recording cut). No statement yet coming from the President regarding this cancellation even if it was confirmed already with Mr. Jalandoni?
SEC. PANELO: I think the reason given by Father Jalandoni is that there is a threat of his arrest; but that will apply only if the talks will not be done. In other words, we will have to thresh out first exactly what the agenda will be and then we will agree on how he would come here and how he would be met and the venue as well as the terms and conditions of the talks.
CONSTANTINO: But that meeting is supposed to happen next week—
SEC. PANELO: I think he was afraid of that statement coming from Secretary Año at the time. But Secretary Año was saying on the basis of the suspension of the talks. Then there would be a basis for the arrest because he’s being charged with a crime. But he would be stating a fact; but he would not be arrested if he would be coming here for talks.
CONSTANTINO: You were one of two people tasked by the President to speak with Jalandoni, his wife Connie Ledesma and Fidel Agcaoili, the other one as you mentioned being Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza. What were you prepared to tell them? What were the instructions given to you by the President?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the instruction is to meet with them and see if there is any compelling reason for the President to continue with the peace talks. That was the marching order. We’ll have to sit down and discuss, if we can agree on terms and conditions prior to the talks.
CONSTANTINO: Or prior to the meeting that they were gonna have with the President?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
CONSTANTINO: Alright. Now, the meeting is supposed to happen next week. So you’re saying if everything had gone as planned he would have arrived here, Jalandoni and company and you will have talked to them first before giving them the time to talk to the President. Is that how it was supposed to go down?
SEC. PANELO: Yes, the plan is for us to talk to them informally and then we can suggest to the President how we’re going to go about the resumption of the peace talks if we so desire, if we agree on terms and conditions of the peace talks.
CONSTANTINO: Alright. And you feel no need to talk to them or do you feel that there’s a need because of this cancellation now that has happened to talk to them first before they depart The Hague and make their way here to the Philippines?
SEC. PANELO: We need to talk—if you recall, there has been violations of the terms of the peace talks that is precisely why that was cancelled. We want to be certain that they will not be violating any conditions.
CONSTANTINO: And that cannot be done without him being present here in the Philippines. in other words, can you corresponds through phone before they make their way here or is it a prerequisite that he has to be here to be able to talk about it?
SEC. PANELO: I think its better that we talk personally rather than on the phone given the technology.
CONSTANTINO: Secretary Panelo that last time I spoke with Secretary Dureza he said that he checked and there were no pending arrest warrant for Jalandoni and company. Why is Secretary Año now threatening arrest? What is the basis for this?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the basis is they’ve been charged with a crime and there is supposed to be pending warrant of arrest. That one—
CONSTANTINO: What is the crime?
SEC. PANELO: Rebellion, the crime is rebellion and because of the peace talks the court granted them temporary freedom. If that is the basis of the grant of temporary liberty then the moment you cancel the talks then there is no more basis for any grant of (unclear) coming from the court.
CONSTANTINO: Mr. Secretary, was it highly possible or is it highly possible that had the meeting pushed through, if let’s say you had already talked to them and said okay, there’s enough basis here to move forward to talk with the President and meet with the President. But if on the level of the President, nothing was agreed upon. Then that would make it possible for the arrest warrants to be affected. Is that what you’re saying?
SEC. PANELO: Well, what I’m saying is, first, we talk informally. If we agree on the resumption of peace talks then we will agree on the date and time of the peace talks. And hence, there can be no warrant of arrest being effected during the talks.
CONSTANTINO: Alright, so—but—okay, here’s a situation that we have now. You have the military already buying in, saying that while they are ready for war, they’re also ready for peace and then you have the Secretary Año’s threats of arrests but saying also that won’t affect the arrest if the President asks for it. Will the President side with peace and ask Año to abandon the idea of arresting Jalandoni and company?
SEC. PANELO: It goes without saying that if there is a resumption of any informal talks or formal peace talks, Secretary Año would not be effecting any arrest.
CONSTANTINO: Alright. So is it your hope Secretary Panelo that the visit pushed through?
SEC. PANELO: Well, hopefully, as I said, we have to agree on the terms and condition. We have to make sure that they will not be violating any condition as they did before – the very reason why the talk has been cancelled.
CONSTANTINO: Having said that, are you going to initiate any backchannel talk to make sure that this visit primarily pushes through first?
SEC. PANELO: That is precisely, the informal talk is the backchannel talk.
CONSTANTINO: Yeah, but then you have the visit being cancelled already. So prior to the visit, are you going to initiate and—
SEC. PANELO: There is no cancellation of any informal talk, what we have is one of them saying that he is afraid of being arrested. And we’re saying that you cannot be arrested if you would want to have a talk.
CONSTANTINO: So even if Secretary Año says or threatens arrest, you are saying now that you are giving them the assurance or are you saying that you’re giving them the assurance that they will not be arrested once they set foot here in the Philippines?
SEC. PANELO: Certainly, because how can we be talking if they will be coming in just to be arrested. As I said, Secretary Año was only saying that on the basis of the cancellation the peace talks. So if there is any informal talks then that would not apply.
CONSTANTINO: Alright. So glad that you cleared that up with us this noon, we’re gonna have to leave it at that. Thank you so much, Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo who’s also the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. Thanks for joining us this noon.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)