Panelo defends Senate probe remarks
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday said he was not challenging the Senate’s investigation of the sale of confiscated illegal drugs by policemen and that he was not “lawyering” for former Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee and the justice and human rights panel that investigated the irregularity, on Wednesday chided Panelo for acting as “de facto counsel” and spokesperson for Albayalde, who stepped down on Monday after being accused by retired police officials during the inquiry of protecting the police officers who allegedly sold the drugs from prosecution and dismissal.
The officers were under Albayalde’s command when he was the provincial police chief of Pampanga in 2013.
‘Disrespect’ to the Senate
Gordon said Panelo’s claim that the testimony of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong was “hearsay” was “disrespect” to the Senate.
The senator pointed out that the testimony of Magalong, who had investigated the irregularity when he was chief of police for criminal investigation, was corroborated by other witnesses.
“He should not be spokesman of Albayalde. He should be spokesman of the President,” Gordon said. “He should respect the Senate investigation. That is being disrespectful because we are still in the process of investigation.”
“My statement … was an honest assessment of a public proceeding and was an exercise of the freedom of speech [to] which every Filipino citizen is entitled,” Panelo responded on Thursday.
“My remarks cannot, and should not, be viewed as a challenge or an affront to the Senate blue ribbon committee, its chairmanship or its present investigation,” he said in a statement.
Clear from the start
Panelo stressed that he had made it clear that he was not lawyering for Albayalde, but was only “expressing his personal views” in a subject he had been asked about.
“I stated at the outset that I was doing so with all due respect to the resource persons who were accusing General Albayalde of wrongdoings, as well as to my government colleagues in the Senate,” Panelo said.
He added that Gordon, who also went to the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, would not want to be in Albayalde’s shoes.
“I am certain that my law schoolmate in the Senate does not want to be in the place of a resource person accused by his fellow resource persons and be adjudged guilty even prior to the termination of the proceedings,” Panelo said.
Gordon had said that, at the very least, Albayalde was guilty of negligence in his men’s misappropriation of confiscated illegal drugs.
Noting that one “cannot be an investigator, prosecutor and judge at the same time,” Panelo said such actions were antithetical to elementary legal precepts.
“It is basic that a conclusion of guilt should be pronounced only after an investigation or hearing, or a Senate inquiry for that matter, has been terminated, with both sides being given the opportunity to be heard, and not while it is going on,” he said.
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