Interview with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo by Christian Esguerra – Early Edition/ANC

ESGUERRA: Today, on matters of fact. Police have filed inciting to sedition and other criminal charges against Vice President Robredo and other opposition figures, even priests. The basis was the testimony from a man who claimed he’s the one who appeared in a series of viral video linking President Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade. But how credible is Peter Advincula alias Bikoy?

Joining us today is Secretary Salvador Panelo, the Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel. Good morning, sir, and thank you for joining us again.

SEC. PANELO: Good morning, Christian; always a pleasure of being here.

ESGUERRA: Okay. Thank you, sir. Now, here, let’s start with the inciting to sedition charges filed against Leni Robredo and other opposition figures. Can you honestly expect a fair investigation into this, considering that the main target supposedly of those viral videos were the President and his family?

SEC. PANELO: I think it has nothing to do whoever is the subject of the investigation. What is important is this guy, Bikoy, is the complainant. So there is a process by which you will know whether he is telling the truth or not. So it’s for the prosecutor investigating the case, and then eventually the court if there is a probable cause.

ESGUERRA: But is the President already—was the President already made aware of this case filed against the Vice President?

SEC. PANELO: I told him last night, and he was surprised. “Who? Who filed?” I said, “Bikoy.”

ESGUERRA: And what did he say?

SEC. PANELO: Wala. Hindi naman niya pinapansin iyong mga ganoon eh.

ESGUERRA: Because the common perception is that would the prosecutor go against the President when in fact he is the main subject of the viral videos?

SEC. PANELO: Alam mo, Christian, hindi totoo iyong mga the prosecutor will toe the line kung ano. Hindi yon. Iyong mga lawyers kasi may mga sariling ano iyan eh, they have their own minds. Kasi kapag na-reverse sila, nakakahiya sa party nila eh. If they, for instance, filed a case na may probable cause tapos nag-petition for review, na-reverse, oh ‘di kahihiyan sa pangalan mo.

ESGUERRA: But as far as Malacañang is concerned, do you consider Peter Advincula as a credible whistleblower?

SEC. PANELO: As far as we are concerned, let the judicial process do its work. In other words, we have a system by which you can determine whether or not a complainant is telling the truth, or a defendant. So hayaan mo na iyon.

ESGUERRA: But how seriously is Malacañang taking the viral videos that came out?

SEC. PANELO: Alam mo, ang ano namin diyan, ang attitude… like me, my attitude there is, it’s about time to know the truth about these videos. Hayaan natin kung anong… kung anong kinalabasan.

ESGUERRA: But the whistleblower already flip-flopped and he admitted in the past that he was accepting money.

SEC. PANELO: Well, he explained how he did it, so let’s see.

ESGUERRA: But it would be easy for people to assail his credibility given his track record of flip-flopping.

SEC. PANELO: Actually, nasa prosecutor investigating the case; or if it’s filed in court, it’s for the judge to determine. There are many ways of determining whether one is telling the truth or not. Because the testimony, not only should be credible, the witness himself or herself must be credible too.

ESGUERRA: So do you think he is credible, given the background?

SEC. PANELO: Mahirap magsalita eh, unless na ako ang imbestigador doon—

ESGUERRA: Before kasi, Malacañang already addressed this question when he first came out. The first time that he came out, he said that he was the guy behind the video. And then not long after, he backtracked. He said that he was actually—

SEC. PANELO: But he explained kung bakit siya nagkaganoon ‘di ba. So it’s for the investigator to determine kung valid iyong kaniyang justification, bakit siya bumaliktad.

ESGUERRA: Because here, it’s not difficult to accuse Peter Advincula as a paid whistleblower, someone who is willing to say anything provided that he would be given the highest amount.

SEC. PANELO: You know, Christian, if that particular person can back up his claim by records, like he can always show his text messages directed to whoever, ‘di ba doon makikita mo. Or there is a witness that will testify as to the circumstances that he is relating in his sworn statement. Kapag na-support iyon, na-buttress, may problema iyong dinimenda mo. Pero kung wala, eh di madi-dismiss lang iyon.

 ESGUERRA: Now, is this part of a bigger strategy of the administration to crackdown on the opposition?

SEC. PANELO: Let me [be] very clear on that: We have nothing to do with this case. None at all. Absolutely nothing!

Eh otherwise, eh di kami na ang nagdemanda niyan noon pa. Eh di ba pinabayaan na lang namin. Eh sanay ni si Presidente diyan eh, iyong mga paninira sa kaniya kaya nga ayaw na niyang maging presidente iyong anak niya eh, ‘di ba.

ESGUERRA: But you also have personalities, or some people would like to describe him as a character. Larry Gadon, who is of course instrumental in the removal of the Chief Justice before and now he’s the lawyer. So sometimes it’s not difficult for people to make certain connections with the administration.

SEC. PANELO: Larry Gadon has nothing to do with us. Larry Gadon is a lawyer who takes client. If he supported the President when he ran for the presidency, you cannot take that away from him. Pero iko-connect mo iyong lawyering niya sa adminis—definitely it’s fallacious.

ESGUERRA: Okay. Because speaking of a so-called plot, of course you cannot prevent people from expressing certain concerns, if not fear, that this might lead to a bigger crackdown because arrests might happen later on, sooner or later, and you are talking big personalities from the opposition?

SEC. PANELO:  Again I will say, depende sa kaniyang testimonya. If he can support his claim, then wala tayong magagawa doon.

ESGUERRA: But politically, is there any… somehow, even a bit of concern on the part of Malacañang that this might bolster impressions even before the international community that you have a strongman president here in the Philippines who cannot tolerate dissent?

SEC. PANELO: The President and this administration are not concerned with impression, Christian. We are just concerned of what the law is and we will enforce the law regardless of whatever consequences, whatever impression that we create on people. Kung ano iyong tama, totoo, doon lang kami.

ESGUERRA: Okay. Now let’s go to the big event on Monday, the State of the Nation Address, the fourth one by the President. Curiously, the President said, he would make use of that SONA speech to educate the public about the West Philippine Sea. What exactly will he teach us, all of us?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t know. But he has been saying that—for one, sabi niya, ‘it’s not unconstitutional.’ And I think I’ve already explained that myself too.

ESGUERRA: The fact that he allowed the Chinese within our exclusive economic zone?

SEC. PANELO: He’s saying that we are the owners so we can give the right, ‘di ba. In other words, by giving right for another country to fish, you are exercising your ownership over the area kasi bakit ka magbibigay ng karapatan na mangisda doon kung wala ka namang … kung hindi ka ang may-ari.

ESGUERRA:  Okay. I’ll try to follow that logic. But essentially, who gets to benefit there if you allow the Chinese within our Exclusive Economic Zone?

SEC. PANELO:  O eh ‘di pareho kayong makikinabang. Alam mo—

ESGUERRA:  But we own it, the resources, the marine wealth.

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi. Alam mo ang problema diyan, ganito ‘yan eh. Paano ba nag-start iyong pag-file ng kaso? Remember iyong sa Scarborough Shoal—

ESGUERRA:  The standoff in 2012.

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi, bago pa iyon. Hindi, immediately after that nagkaroon ng standoff—

ESGUERRA:  The giant clams, the poachers were accosted by the Philippines…

SEC. PANELO:  In other words, ‘pag nagpi-fish iyong mga fishermen natin, they are being driven away, right? Kaya tayo nag-file eh. Kasi ang sabi natin, “Hindi, amin ‘yan eh. Karapatan namin ‘yan.

In fact, iyong Scarborough Shoal is within the 200 nautical miles. In other words, talagang atin iyon. Pero noong ma-file natin ‘yan, anong sabi ng arbitral court?

ESGUERRA:  Traditional fishing ground.

SEC. PANELO:  Correct! So in other words, mas nakasama pa nga eh. Kasi kung 200 nautical miles, exclusive dapat tayo doon, hindi papasok iyong traditional; pero by filing that, o eh lumabas tuloy. O, puwede.

ESGUERRA:  But here, that same arbitral award also clarified the maritime entitlements of the coastal states – in this case, the Philippines. So maliwanag doon, within our EEZ, the marine wealth should be for the Philippines only. And if you want to share that, there has to be determination of the actual… na volume of catch.

 SEC. PANELO:  Eh ang problema rin naman doon, iyong China is claiming na sa kaniya iyon. Iyon ang ano doon, iyon ang komplikasyon. Kung wala iyon, walang problema.

ESGUERRA:  So, the solution of the President is just to—

SEC. PANELO:  Negotiation.

ESGUERRA:  To allow the other claimant within our EEZ?

SEC. PANELO:  No. Hindi ba kasi nga ayaw tayong—we’re being driven away, so nag-usap sila. “Huwag ninyo nang pakialaman ‘yan.” O eh pumayag naman sila hindi ba, hindi na pinapakialaman iyong mga fisherman natin.

ESGUERRA:  So, this will be the explanation of the President on Monday?

SEC. PANELO:  Ah, hindi ko alam. Basta isa iyon sa mga naririnig kong explanation niya during his speeches.

ESGUERRA:  Have you seen the draft of the speech of the President?

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi pa. Mamaya mayroon kaming practice.

ESGUERRA:  Practice?

SEC. PANELO:  Siguro si Presidente titingnan niya iyong—

ESGUERRA:  So sir, what will be the theme of the President’s SONA on Monday?

SEC. PANELO:  Actually, hindi ko alam—

ESGUERRA:  Half way ‘to eh, halfway.

SEC. PANELO:  Kasi tinanong ko siya eh, sabi ko “Mr. President, ano bang sasabihin mo sa SONA?” “Wala, short lang.

ESGUERRA:  Like how short?

SEC. PANELO:  Eh, baka two hours [laughs]. Kasi ‘pag… alam mo naman si Presidente ‘pag ginanahan… makuwento.

ESGUERRA:  But what will be the ano—what do you think are the more important issues that he needs to tackle in a midterm speech, SONA?

SEC. PANELO:  Ay sigu—hindi, kasi alam mo ‘yung mga accomplishments ng administrasyon, nate-take up na doon sa mga pre-SONA eh. Tatlo na ang pre-SONA eh, diniscuss na doon extensively. Baka he won’t touch on that. Baka he will be touching na iyong mga importanteng issue, like iyong kung anong mga sinasabi niya ngayon.

ESGUERRA:  Like what?

SEC. PANELO:  Like iyong sa West Philippine Sea, like iyong sa ICC, iyong sa Iceland… like iyong sa drugs. Hindi ba, marami eh.

ESGUERRA:  So, will that be a defensive SONA?

SEC. PANELO:  No. Never naman defensive si Presidente, palagi ngang on the—

ESGUERRA:  Hindi, because the issues that you mentioned are basically issues thrown against the President. So he will spent his SONA, at least part of that to defend himself, his administration?

SEC. PANELO:  No. To educate the critics and detractors of the falsity and the wrongness of their stand.

ESGUERRA:  But even that term, that sounds very condescending.

SEC. PANELO:  Which one?

ESGUERRA:  Educate.

 SEC. PANELO:  Eh kasi nga abogado ito eh.


SEC. PANELO:  O eh kung abogado siya, he knows his law. “So kung hindi mo alam iyong batas mo, I will educate you.

ESGUERRA:  But even that, the fact that he’s a lawyer is being used against him because you’re a lawyer and you do not know that what you’re doing is against the Constitution.

SEC. PANELO:  Eh pero sabi ko nga Christian eh, there are as many opinions as there are lawyers. But ultimately, it’s the Supreme Court that will decide which one is correct.

ESGUERRA:  But I think there’s an issue whenever you guys say that the President is a lawyer, he knows what he’s doing. So, it has become a catch-all defense in the face of criticism against the President. Parang lawyer iyon eh, so…

SEC. PANELO:  Eh talagang—

ESGUERRA:  So tapos na usapan since lawyer siya?

SEC. PANELO:  Eh he knows his law eh. Hindi, kahit naman he tells us his position, then you can counter-argue kung okay ‘yung argumento mo.

ESGUERRA:  Now, what will be the tone of the President’s SONA?

SEC. PANELO:  Actually hindi ko alam. He is a man of surprises eh. I asked him, iyon ang sagot sa akin eh, “It will be a short message.

ESGUERRA:  Because we’ve been hearing—for example, I think one of the Cabinet officials, if I’m not mistaken, Secretary Martin Andanar said it might be focused on legacy.

SEC. PANELO:  Eh puro speculation lang lahat iyon eh. You cannot read the President pagdating diyan sa mga speeches. Kasi there is a prepared speech, hindi niya pinapansin. Kung minsan naman binabasa niyang buo, tapos na siya. So hindi mo alam eh.

ESGUERRA:  But what do you think should be there, because we’re talking here of the next three years, crucial stages. Traditionally, Philippine presidents are seen as weakened during the last three years.

SEC. PANELO:  Ah, it does not apply to him considering the—tingnan mo sa Pulse survey, 85%, lalong tumaas. Ako ang tingin ko – if I will have an educated guess – siguro what he will deliver in his SONA is to tell the people kung anong gagawin niya for the last three years.

ESGUERRA:  And, what do you think are the more important unfinished business by the President? We’re talking here of charter change, right?


ESGUERRA:  How strongly will the President push for that still?

SEC. PANELO:  O, eh hindi ba sinabi niya na… I remember in one of his speeches he said na, “You better change the Constitution while I’m here. Now! Para masuportahan ko kayo.” Hindi ba sabi niya, so siguro iyon ang magiging linya niya. Baka iyong federalism is another one, pero ang concentration niya kasi ngayon, ang nakikita ko iyong ganoon pa rin – sa drugs, sa corruption, saka sa economy.

ESGUERRA:  I think last time he made a very bold statement regarding his drug war, unrelenting?

SEC. PANELO:  O unrelenting, until the end of his term.

ESGUERRA:  So, that will be the—

SEC. PANELO:  Until the last day.

ESGUERRA:  That will be the same theme in the coming SONA?

SEC. PANELO:  I think so, yes. Yes… naka-focus siya doon eh. Saka iyong terrorism din is another issue.

ESGUERRA:  Okay. When it comes to drugs, isn’t he bothered by issues thrown against him from different directions and now lately, you have the UN Human Rights Council resolution? Basically, he’s just being requested to open… to be more transparent when it comes to the human rights situation.

SEC. PANELO:  Eh ang problema transparent na nga eh. Araw-araw nga sa diyaryo nandoon iyong nangyayari dito sa ating bayan, and in his speeches sinasabi niya rin iyon. Iyong mga pulis natin, mga officials natin sinasabi rin kung anong nangyari, ang PDEA ganoon din, ang record nandiyan.

Iyon na nga ang sinasabi ko, ang problema sa mga kritiko/detractors, they keep on saying na, “Ito, twenty seven thousand.” Nasaan nga iyon? Bakit wala silang maipakitang facts and figures? Sabihin nila, “Hindi, galing sa inyo ‘yan.” “Ha? Saan? Ba’t hindi ninyo maipakita?” Sabi, “O ito ganito, five thousand. Ito…” ‘Yun pala, lumalabas ngayon kaya naging twenty seven thousand, lahat ng klaseng deaths, whether arising from accidents, whether patayan ng mga negosyante o kaya personal na—

ESGUERRA:  But even then Secretary, if you focus on the numbers coming from the Philippine National Police, initially it was at least 6,600; then I think yesterday it was revised, it least 5,500. Assuming that is the correct version now, can you imagine how many deaths when you talk about 5,500 people killed?

SEC. PANELO:  Aba, but have you consider how many thousands of arrests have been made? Ang dami rin.

ESGUERRA:  Oo, pero we’re still—

SEC. PANELO:  At marami ring namamatay sa mga pulis.

ESGUERRA:  Yeah, but—

SEC. PANELO:  Ganito, ito… How will you explain that there are so how many policemen being killed and so many, many policemen are being seriously injured. Ibig sabihin nagkakaroon talaga ng labanan.

ESGUERRA: That’s true. But I think the problem is that, you cannot use that argument to justify the rest of the killings.

SEC. PANELO: No, you’re not justifying if you’re stating a fact. The fact is: during police operations, people subject of the police operations are resisting arrest and using violence. Iyon ang facts eh. You’re not justifying anything here.

ESGUERRA: So all of those 5,500 or 6,600 deaths, they all resisted arrests?

SEC. PANELO: The record could show. Sinasabi nila, ‘eh bakit … bakit standard yata iyong mga report?’ Anong ibig mong sabihing standard? Eh siyempre sasabihin mo nag-resist, binaril kami, eh di binaril din namin. Ano naman ang gusto mong istorya? Umihi muna sa ganoon, hinabol muna? Eh siyempre kung ano iyong facts, iyon ang isusulat nila.

ESGUERRA: But can you imagine that, all 5,500 or 6,600, all of them resisted?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t think that’s incredible.

ESGUERRA: That’s why they were killed?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, you have to consider the effect of shabu in a person.

ESGUERRA: And what is the basis of your assertion now?

SEC. PANELO:  Which one?

ESGUERRA: Have you seen the specific reports pertaining to this—

SEC. PANELO:  Yeah, you know, I—

ESGUERRA: All 5,500?

SEC. PANELO: Iyon ang standard na nababasa ko, pare-pareho. Kasi sabi ko, talaga namang … ano bang iistorya nila? Siyempre kung ano iyong pinaka-gist ng nangyari, iyon ang sasabihin nila.

ESGUERRA: Of course, we acknowledge the presumption of regularity in the performance of police duties here. But if you talk about so many deaths happening, there has to be an earnest and credible investigation into each of those deaths?

SEC. PANELO:  Saka alam mo, assuming even may abuso, iyon na nga ang sinasabi, mag-file kayo para mapakulong natin, ma-punish natin iyong mga nagkamaling mga pulis.

ESGUERRA: Can you actually imagine a poor victim whose husband or child got killed in an operation, he or she would go to the police, and the police is the suspect?

SEC. PANELO: Oh bakit naman hindi? Christian, in a police operation, maraming involved – may PDEA doon, marami—hindi lahat ng mga pulis, even assuming na sinasabi, “Eh iyong mga pulis eh mga sira ulo iyan.” Ah hindi lahat. Mayroon isa, dalawa diyan na magsasabi ng totoo kung ano ang nangyari.

ESGUERRA: That’s true naman.

SEC. PANELO: Exactly! Kaya nga kapag nag-file ka, mayroon diyang magsusuporta sa iyo.

ESGUERRA: I think the problem is this—

SEC. PANELO: Pero ang tanong ko nga, eh bakit hindi kayo nagpa-file?

ESGUERRA: Iyon nga, because it’s very difficult file against the police. And number two, if people like them listen to interviews like yours, like the one we are having now, you already said that all those killings have been investigated and then basically, you’re siding with the police. Puwede namang totoo, puwede ring hindi. But I think, it seems that they’re not feeling that the government is siding with them at least, giving the benefit of the doubt.

SEC. PANELO:  Tingnan mo doon kay Kian, ‘di ba nung nag-file sila, iyon na-convict.

ESGUERRA: But that became a very celebrated case and there was a CCTV.

SEC. PANELO: Iyon nga ang kagandahan noon eh. Kung mayroon—you don’t need a CCTV kung mayroon kang mga testimonial na credible ay paniniwalaan ka ng hukuman.

ESGUERRA: So basically, when you talk about the SONA, the President will address drugs again—

SEC. PANELO:  Most likely, sa tingin ko.

ESGUERRA:—educate us regarding the South China Sea? Is he actually bothered that these issues sticking, as far as he is concerned, the issue of his handling of China?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, siguro nayayamot lang siya na hindi naiintindihan ng mga critics and detractors iyong complexity. Parang sini-simplify ninyo lahat ito eh, hindi ninyo alam na China is in possession at sinabihan na nga ako nang harap-harapan, “Huwag kang pumasok diyan at may gulo diyan.” Sabi niya nga, kung ikaw presidente, nagsasalita iyong isang presidente ng isang powerful na bansa, anong gagawin mo? Ipagpipilitan mo? Oh ‘di ba that’s reckless. Kaya nga ang style niya intelligent approach – practical, cautious. Pero sabi nga ni—sino bang nagsabi na isang… si ano yata, si Secretary Esperon, hindi lang naman iyong insidente sa West Philippine Sea ang iku-consider mo; ang dami nating relasyon sa China.

ESGUERRA: That’s true.

SEC. PANELO: So gusto mong sabihin, iyon na lang ang imi-measure mo, iyong isang insidenteng iyon? Dapat iwe-weigh mo, marami, ibabalanse mo.

ESGUERRA: That’s true, no one is disputing that because I think no one is urging the President to wage war on China. And the fact that—

SEC. PANELO: Anong sabi mo? No one is disputing waging war?

ESGUERRA: Hindi, no one is disputing the fact that there are many different facets of Philippine-China relations, but no one is also urging or egging on the President to wage war on China?

SEC. PANELO:  Ano bang tawag mo doon? Kailangan pumunta kayo doon at bantayan ninyo at mag-react kayo sa ginagawa sa ating mga fishermen. Ano bang tawag mo doon? Di pupunta ka doon at mayroon kang armado.

ESGUERRA: Okay, let’s give that issue a rest for now, China. Doon sa Monday, are you still expecting any surprises? Because supposedly—

SEC. PANELO: Sa Speaker?

ESGUERRA: Yes. Any coup? Any changes? Or do you think the President’s decision would hold?

SEC. PANELO:  Unang-una, alam mo let me be clear on this: The President doesn’t want to interfere ever since. Ayaw niya talaga kasi iyon ang style niya. Ayaw kong  makialam diyan sa mga—

ESGUERRA: But he did just the same.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, because the candidates themselves went to him and sought his intervention, kaya nagbigay siya ng formula, ‘Oh ito ang formula ko, eh nasa inyo iyan kung susundin ninyo o hindi.’

ESGUERRA: So do you think that will be followed, that formula?

SEC. PANELO:  Sabi ko nga in the ultimate analysis it’s the members of Congress. Hindi naman sila mga bata na para turuan ng Presidente ano. Humingi sila ng tulong, “Ako may formula, ito, eh di bahala kayo.”

Alam mo, allies naman lahat ni Presidente iyan so regardless kahit sinong Speaker diyan ay kakampi pa rin. Kahit na nga hindi kakampi, kung ikaw ay totoong pinagtatanggol mo ang interes ng bayan, dapat ang agendang maganda ay sumunod ka.

ESGUERRA: But in the first place, why Alan Peter Cayetano for the first 15 months?

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi ba ini-explain na ni Presidente. Kasi tatlo ang humingi ng tulong sa kaniya. Nauna si Alan, pangalawa si Velasco, pangatlo si Romualdez, oh di iyon ang ginawa niya.

ESGUERRA: Iyong sequence nung paglapit sa kaniya?

SEC. PANELO: Oo. Alam mo si Presidente, disente eh. Kumbaga, bakit mo naman pipiliin din iyong isa kung ngayon lang humingi ng tulong. At saka all of them helped the President, kumbaga lahat nito ay mga kaibigan niya. Ayaw niyang saktan sana eh kaya nga ayaw niyang makialam. Pero mapilit kayo, ‘oh di sige, ito ang formula ko.’

ESGUERRA: Okay. So you’re making it appeared that the President was a reluctant endorser. Anyway—

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi lang talagang—he refused to intervene!

ESGUERRA: Okay. Anyway, we have to leave it at that. Thank you very much, Secretary Panelo, for joining us today.

SEC. PANELO: Thank you.



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