Incoming Senator Leila de Lima has criticized Attorney Salvador Panelo for being the spokesperson of the presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, May 25.
De Lima explained that Panelo’s style and personality are not suitable for the spokesperson position. She also described Panelo as a controversial and flamboyant character.
“I don't know if that is a wise choice for a presidential spokesperson, too colorful. Makikipagkompitensya siya sa pagiging colorful ng kanyang principal. Pareho na silang controversial nun (He will compete with the colorful personality of his principal. They are both controversial),” de Lima told reporters.
Attorney Panelo has been involved in several high-profile and controversial legal battles. He infamously defended the members of the Ampatuan family who were the alleged masterminds of the Maguindanao massacre which involved the deaths of 58 people.
Panelo also defended controversial Senator Ramon Bong Revilla for his plunder charges and members of the Marcos family for their alleged stolen wealth. However, Panelo responded to his critics by saying that his possible appointment as Duterte’s spokesperson has no conflict of interest with being the lawyer of the Ampatuans.
Aside from Leila de Lima, the National Press Club of the Philippines also advised the incoming president to reconsider the role of Panelo in the new cabinet as the press secretary.
However, Duterte announced on Tuesday that Panelo will serve as his spokesperson on a temporary basis only. Duterte is currently trying to find a permanent spokesperson from the presumptive president’s group of friends. De Lima sees nothing wrong with Duterte appointing one of his friends to get an important government position.
“Karapatan naman talaga yan ng president or an incoming president kung sino yung sa tingin niya pagkakatiwalaan niya because this is first and foremost really a matter of trust and confidence,” De Lima said.
(A president or an incoming president has the right to choose whoever he thinks he can trust because this is first and foremost really a matter of trust and confidence.)