Panelo apologizes to Robredo over remarks based on false information
MANILA, Philippines — The chief legal counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to Vice President Leni Robredo for his remarks accusing the nation’s second-highest leader of freeloading on a government plane for a relief operation in Bicol.
Secretary Salvador Panelo also quickly made clear that his apology to Robredo was only for expressing his opinion on certain information that was later discovered as false and not for allegations he was peddling lies and fake news.
“The information did not come from me, I was only reacting [to] that information. That is why I apologized to her for reacting on a wrong info,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.
“I’m not apologizing for distributing or peddling a false info. Because I was only expressing a reaction on the basis of that info that I thought was correct,” he insisted.
Earlier, Panelo claimed Robredo made it appear that the government’s relief goods came from her when she traveled with the goods aboard a C-130 Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane — which the Vice President vehemently denied, asserting she never used a C-130 plane in all of the relief efforts initiated by the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, whom Panelo cited as the source of the wrong information he publicized, has already apologized to Robredo for the mix-up. He said it was not the Vice President who went aboard the C-130 plane but OVP’s donations to Catanduanes since there was no available land transportation at the time.
According to Panelo, Lorenzana handed him a copy of his conversation with former Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) chief Arnel Casanova, where the issue was mentioned.
As soon as Robredo issued a strong condemnation of the statements, Panelo said he contacted Lorenzana to clear the issue.
“I got that information from an exchange of text messages between former BCDA president Arnel Casanova and Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, that was forwarded to me. So when I was reading the exchange, and then it came to that portion where Secretary Lorenzana was telling Mr. Casanova that she went to Catanduanes riding an aircraft, C-130, that’s why I made an adverse comment on that,” Panelo explained.
“And after that, when the camp of VP Leni issued a statement regarding the falsity of that information, I immediately checked with Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and said ‘they are denying, so can you kindly check.’ And he did, and he texted back and said, ‘I think I got the wrong info,’ and I told him please check again with the PAF, and so he sent me a report of the PAF,” he added.
Robredo issued a strong statement on the circulation of deceptive information within the government, saying that Panelo and even Duterte — who said that Robredo was looking for him during Typhoon Ulysses’ onslaught — are basing things on wrong data.
But while Panelo apologized, he remained firm that Robredo and her camp cannot claim that the President has not been working if she had used government assets like PAF planes to transport her relief goods to Catanduanes, an area ravaged by Super Typhoon Rolly.
“But I said it is really true because of the log that the goods were carried to Legazpi care of VP Robredo, it means that it is not true that we do not welcome VP Leni,” he insisted.
“In other words, my critical narrative was on the basis of her camp has been criticizing the President for not doing his work, and then highlighting her distributing of relief goods, you cannot be saying that the President is not doing something and you’re doing something, you make it appear that the President and the administration are remiss on their duties,” he noted.