While Spokesperson Salvador Panelo praised Rodrigo Duterte for his “accomplishments” as president and even proudly claimed the Philippines is “blessed” to have a president like Duterte, Panelo himself is a disgrace to the Philippines.
Panelo might be a blessing to Duterte, but he is a shame to Filipinos. He is good on defending and explaining the lies that Duterte has propagated. Panelo is an abominable liar. He is condemned for untruthfulness and talking with deception.
Panelo, as he commended Rodrigo Duterte a day before the 74th birthday of Duterte, said: “We are certainly blessed and privileged to have someone as dedicated as President Duterte as the captain of our ship steering our flag carrier safely to a land he vowed to be free from drugs and crimes where each Filipino will enjoy a comfortable life.”
Panelo is talking about the detested war on drugs of the Duterte regime. He also mentioned the following so-called Duterte’s accomplishments, like: “free college education; free universal healthcare and medicine; free irrigation to farmers; free feeding program for undernourished school children; salary increases for military personnel, police officers, firefighters and other government workers; a higher Social Security System pension for senior citizens; and a higher old-age pension for veterans.”
The Filipino people deserve to know the real scores of the Philippine situation under Rodrigo Duterte. Panelo does not tell the truths about the sufferings of the Filipino people. His eyes and ears are closed to the cries of the victims of Martial Law in Mindanao and human rights violations perpetrated by state forces. He is telling lies about the displaced Moro people, the Lumad, peasants, workers and other marginalized sectors of the Philippine society.
Though Panelo is echoing the stand of President Duterte, the people supposedly expect Panelo to be true to his explanation, at least, to present the situation of the country, but Panelo is proving himself a better liar than Duterte. Here are important issues that Panelo defended:
- On TRAIN Law. Supposedly the excise tax on oil products would be suspended in 2019. Panelo said: “The global oil costs however started to drop, prompting the economic managers to recommend to President Duterte to push through with the higher fuel excise taxes instead.” What he does not update us with and recognize is how the TRAIN Law caused the rise of prices of the basic commodities.
- On Martial law in Mindanao. He said Martial law “would be helpful in maintaining peace and order…it has dissuaded the terrorists from inflicting the usual violence against the population.” In another interview, he said: “If no arrest has been made on the rebels then with more reason martial law in Mindanao should continue because the rebellion continues. That should be common sense.” What he denies in this statement is that many people especially Lumad, Moro, peasants and workers suffered because of Martial Law. The entire island is a now declared an election “hotspot.”
- On Marawi Siege. He said: “What is happening in Marawi City is a clear rebellion as all the elements of it are present.” What he does not gloss over is that affected Meranaw people still cannot return to Marawi to rehabilitate their homes and rebuild their lives.
- On Lumad “hamletting.” It is necessary, Panelo said. “To protect them, to shield them from harassment, from undue influence, from indoctrination coming from the Left – he (Duterte) will do it for their own good and safety.” What he fails to underscore is that Lumad evacuees cannot return to their place of abode because of heavy military operations, including aerial bombings, and how this policy of hamletting contravenes many laws, resolutions and conventions on human rights and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and ancestral domain.
- On labor situation. “Investors were leaving the country because workers were staging strikes,” Panelo echoed Duterte’s claim. While he is a lawyer, he fails to mention that the right of the workers to strike is protected under Philippines laws and should be respected.
- On land use conversion. Panelo said: “The President blamed the New People’s Army (NPA) for slowing down the land use conversion program by threatening government inspectors from surveying land” and “So how will you give the permit if you cannot examine the land? That’s why there are so many pending applications,” he said. Land use conversion is the “land reform” version of the Duterte government. This does not give land to the farmers—and that is exactly the root of the armed struggle in the countryside and why the New People’s Army is composed mostly of peasants.
- On extrajudicial killings. “We understand this concern of our people given the grossly inflated number of drug-related killings falsely peddled and grotesquely sensationalized by the incorrigible critics of the government’s campaign against prohibited drugs,” Panelo said. Victims of the government’s war on drugs has risen to 29,000, a number constantly deflated by separating the confirmed kills on war on drugs and those “deaths under investigation”. This number also excludes the number of peasants, indigenous peoples and social activists who are killed or summary executed.
- On Duterte’s Death Squad. Panelo countered the concern of the Commission on Human Rights that “States can only have regular armed forces under strict military discipline” and “If you say death squad, the intention of it is just to kill, but not killing in self-defense, he is right. You are creating that precisely to prevent the killings of these people, the civilians. His view is too narrow.” Panelo defended, despite and in spite a most universal law or right—the respect to life, “We have a situation here where there is a group of men who will kill with impunity. What do you want the state to do, just sit idle and watch? We cannot do that,” he added. He fails to add also that in those killed are mostly ordinary citizens and the poor.
- On human rights. Despite Duterte’s cursing and attacks on human rights and human rights defenders, Panelo talked double: “The President respects human rights.” Panelo also said, “Of course. We’ve been saying so and we have shown it. We prosecute people who violate human rights,” he said. He further said: “Human rights, as depicted by the critics, as well as those critics from abroad, do not reflect what is happening on the ground.” There are too many actions of the Duterte administration that contravenes all statements of respect to human rights, the latest of which is the action to withdraw from the International Criminal Court where crimes of people in power against their people can be prosecuted.
- On localized peace talks. In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.” The EO allowed for the development of “local peace bodies” that will “engage and facilitate local peace engagements or negotiations and interventions.” “There will be a creation of local panels. Doesn’t that favor them?” Panelo said. Literature on the three-decade peace talks would only show how the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has never agreed to localized peace talks and has only been a way for the Government of the Philippines to pretend there are peace talks, when in fact they have abandoned the formal peace tables even brokered by third-party country negotiators.
- On the “Build, Build, Build” program. Panelo said: “There have been delays in the commencement of the projects owing to the bureaucratic rigmarole caused by the legal restraints and resort to judicial remedies by the losing bidders, to which the President has expressed his exasperation and frustration.” Panelo is pointing fingers to absolve Duterte of his promises to rid this same bureaucracy of this same red tape they complain, especially in the face of all campaign promises and proud statements defaulting: no more traffic in EDSA, end train problems, end corruption, end contractualization in 6 months, end drugs in 6 months, etc.
- On Manila Bay Reclamation. “They will be establishing companies there. Of course, there will be workers,” Panelo said. “When you clean up Manila Bay, certainly all of us benefit”, he added. The reclamation will displace 400,000 people.
- On loan deals with China. Amid growing alarm over the Duterte administration’s loan deal with China for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, Panelo said: “China, as lender, dictates the terms of such deals. The Philippines, meanwhile, has no choice but to abide by China’s terms” and “When we ask for a loan, do we have a say? When we loan from the bank, it’s always the terms from the bank. That’s natural because they will make sure that they won’t be at a disadvantage when they grant us the loan,” Panelo added. He is telling the people in other words that we are cooking you in your own grease.
- On Charter Change and federalism. Panelo said: “Duterte still believes that federalism will solve the many problems of the country, and that a push for economic amendments may just be an option in case Congress fails to make his legislative priority into reality.” He also said “The President is a very creative person. If he feels that one method is not practical or cannot be realized, he goes to another mode…“ and “The President is optimistic because he knows federalism will help the development of this country. It’s a matter of I think time on the part of Congress to do it,” Panelo added. He expectedly fails to tell us the government change to federalism is just a change in format, but does not tell the people the proposed Charter Change contains provisions that gives ‘unli-term’ and ‘unli-power’ without accountability most probably to those already in power.
As Panelo is praying for the President, the people should also pray for the Philippines.
Panelo said: “We pray the Almighty to continue giving him a sound mind and a healthy body, that he may finish the goals he had set for the betterment of the country and people that he loved so well towards a future of progress and prosperity.”
The Filipino people must pray that the lies and fake news propagated by the President and his spokesperson will be washed away. The Filipino people deserve to know the truth.
As John 8:32, says: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”