Salvador Panelo expressed a number of controversial statements as a chief legal counsel of the President Rodrigo Duterte before he was appointed his new spokesperson to replace Harry Roque,
Panelo briefly served as spokesperson when Duterte won the elections with a landslide victory in 2016.
Days after, Duterte transferred him to be the presidential legal counsel. The spokesperson post was then given to businessman Ernesto Abella.
It was in November last year when the position was given to Roque. Abella, meanwhile, was reassigned to work as the foreign affairs undersecretary.
For Panelo, being both the chief legal counsel and the spokesperson of Malacañang bears no real difference in terms of the nature of work, except being more visible to the public this time.
“The only difference, I think, (is) I would be more visible this time. Because as chief presidential legal counsel, I was really speaking for the President on matters of sensitive national issues that require my articulation of thoughts and ideas of the President,” Panelo said.
Questionable statements as Palace lawyer
Swiss radio interview
Panelo expressed distasteful sexual remarks during a radio interview with correspondents Karin Wenger and Ana Santos on the Swiss National Public Radio and Television-Southeast Asia.
When Wenger asked whether he plays the piano or not, Panelo said that he plays the piano, sings and dances, and then went on to remark that he’s “better in bed.”
When prodded on how Panelo was aware of this, he answered: “Well, when I was still a bachelor, they said, I fuck like an 18-year-old. I fuck my clothes like an 18-year-old. Because I travel a lot.”
Panelo later downplayed it as supposed humor, however, Wenger deemed it “inappropriate” and “uncalled for.”
Panelo resorted to accuse Wenger and Santos of misspelling the word “pack,” which he claimed was the word he said, on the transcript of their interview on purpose.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines also denounced the innuendo and Panelo’s attempt to justify it.
Withdrawal from the Rome Statute
Last March, Panelo announced the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, an international treaty that established the International Criminal Court.
He perceived that the ICC was no longer needed because the country was able to charge former presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada of crimes without its help. Estrada is the current mayor of Manila, while Duterte allowed Marcos’ body to be buried in a heroes’ cemetery.
The decision to withdraw came a month after the Hague-based court initiated a preliminary inquiry into the allegations of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war.
Dangling martial law
In August 2016, Panelo argued it was the “right and duty” of Duterte to declare nationwide martial law if the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country worsens.
This came after the chief executive lashed out against former Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in a speech and then later made a threat to declare nationwide martial law.
“The drug problem has risen to a crisis of gigantic proportion that endangers the public safety hence constitutionally a declaration of martial law is valid since there is imminent danger to the public safety,” Panelo said.
He brought up the possibility of declaring martial law again during the deliberations on extending the martial law in Mindanao.
The military rule in Mindanao was extended twice upon request of the president. It is expected to be lifted on Dec. 31, 2018.
Duterte can make such proclamations to the nation as many times he pleases, Panelo says, being that there’s no limit stated in the Constitution.
Like kissing a grandchild
Duterte gathered fresh outrage when he kissed a married Filipina migrant worker on the lips while on stage at a gathering with the Filipino community in South Korea.
In an attempt to justify the inappropriate act, Panelo likened it to a grandfather kissing his grandchild and added that women kissed Duterte on the lips during the campaign period.
He also disagreed that there was power play involved in the incident despite him being the highest official of the land.
Davao rape joke
Early this September, Duterte made light the alarming rise of rape cases in his hometown of Davao City, which he had governed as mayor for 23 years.
As the remark gathered widespread criticism, Panelo dismissed it as a move of detractors who were “nitpicking” and “distorting” the message being conveyed by the president.
RE: PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE'S STATEMENT ABOUT THE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN OF DAVAO"…The President reveres his late mother…
Panelo defended Duterte again when he made an off the cuff remark that perpetuating extrajudicial killings is his “only sin,” a statement which many perceived as an admission of heinous crimes he is accused of before the International Criminal Court.
This was not an act of admission for Panelo, rather, he directed the blame on illegal drug rings.
“The fact that policemen are killed in anti-drug operations shows that the drug lords and pushers use violence in resisting arrest,” he said.
What happens to Roque?
Roque has yet to officially resign from being the presidential spokesperson despite Duterte’s announcement that Panelo would take his place.
Roque is currently on leave following gaffes on the whereabouts of the president, and the chief executive’s discouraging view on his possible senatorial bid.
As of writing, Roque deferred to comment on these developments until Monday when he returns to work.