Envoy draws Palace rebuke for calling trip ‘reward’ | Inquirer News
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‘HE’S MISINFORMED’

Envoy draws Palace rebuke for calling trip ‘reward’

/ 05:32 AM May 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has rebuked Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V for claiming Cabinet members are traveling with President Rodrigo Duterte to Tokyo as a reward for the administration candidates’ victory in midterm elections on May 13.

“He has already been rebuked,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters in a text message. “Let’s wait and see if there’ll be any further action by the President or by the [secretary of foreign affairs].”

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Guevarra is caretaker of the government while the President is out of the country.

The President is visiting Japan for the seventh time to attend the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia on the invitation of Nikkei Inc. He will deliver the keynote address to the gathering on Friday afternoon.

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Traveling with him is a 200-strong delegation, including 16 Cabinet officials.

In a talk with reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday, Laurel said the President’s visit to Japan should not be seen as a balancing act in the Philippines’ ties with Japan and China.

“It has nothing to do with China here in this visit. This is a reward for the past elections. Why do you bring 20 Cabinet members here, even local government? For land reform? There’s no land reform here, they’re done with that,” he said.

“But I think the President is so elated with the results of the midterm elections that this is an affirmation of what his administration has done in the last three years. It’s like a reward,” he added.

‘No’

“No, it’s not,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who is also traveling with the President, said on Tuesday when sought for comment.

“The officials traveling with the President were not involved in the campaign. They have their own trade missions. They are not decorations in the summit. It’s just work,” Medialdea said.

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Some of the Cabinet officials reached for comment on Tuesday denied that they were being rewarded for election work.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture was paying for his trip and he was accompanied by only one staff member.

‘Innocently speculating’

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said he had been working day and night to plan the President’s meetings with Japanese investors.

“We have never seen this as a reward,” Lopez said.

Sought for comment on Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, also a member of the delegation, said Malacañang did not share Laurel’s view of the trip to Japan.

Panelo said Laurel might have been “misinformed” or “innocently speculating for lack of information” about the trip of the Cabinet members.

The presence of the Cabinet officials at the President’s meetings is “necessary,” he said.

Asked if the President would reprimand Laurel, Panelo said he had yet to talk with the President about Laurel’s remarks, although the President was already aware of the envoy’s gaffe.

Panelo appeared to be unaware of Guevarra’s statement in Manila. Asked if Laurel would keep his post, he said, “I think so.”

No talk for now

Laurel ducked out of another talk with reporters on Wednesday, pleading an engagement at the Japanese foreign ministry.

“I have to leave because I have to be at the [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] at 3 p.m. It’s not that I am avoiding you, but I am needed there,” he said.

Told that Cabinet officials had denied they were in Tokyo as a reward, Laurel said: “Well, I have not heard what they said. They were teasing me, so I teased them back.”

He excused himself and was seen joining other Philippine officials for a picture-taking with the President after the his meeting with Japanese businessmen.

After the shoot, Laurel approached the President and shook hands with him. They exchanged a few words, but it was unclear whether all was well.

Laurel’s boss, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who was also traveling with the President, had yet to be heard from. —Reports from Darryl John Esguerra and Julie M. Aurelio

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TAGS: Duterte cabinet, Duterte's Japan visit, Jose Laurel V, Menardo Guevarra, Ramon Lopez, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Medialdea
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