Panelo comes up to Ban, Obama to defend Duterte
VIENTIANE, Laos – Salvador Panelo, chief legal counsel of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, has taken his job to another level.
To defend his boss, Panelo personally approached UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama at the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos.
Diplomatic sources said that what Panelo did was a breach of protocol.
They said that in events like this, lower-ranking officials cannot simply approach higher-ranking ones from other countries to bring up certain issues. They can only talk about these issues if the higher-ranking officials approach the lower-ranking ones, diplomatic sources said.
Still, Panelo came up to Ban and Obama to address their concerns about the Duterte administration.
Ban and Obama, for one, have both criticized recent killings in the Philippines under Duterte's watch.
Panelo recounted telling Ban in one of the ASEAN events, "I want to assure you that the Philippine government has not committed any violation of any international law or our laws."
"Mali 'ka ko ang dumarating sa inyong impormasyon…E 'ka ko, perception 'yan, pero hindi 'yan ang nangyayari," he said. (I told him he's receiving the wrong information…I told him, that's perception, but that's not what is happening.)
10-minute chat with Ban
Asked how Ban reacted, Panelo said, "Nakikinig siya, tapos sana daw makausap ko 'yung mga commission nila, eto, ganyan." (He was listening then he said he hopes I get to talk to their commissions, this and that.)
Panelo said his conversation with Ban lasted for around 10 minutes.
He said he also spoke with Obama in one of the events during the ASEAN Summit.
Panelo remembered telling Obama that Duterte "wants to be treated with respect."
He said Obama responded by saying, "I did not take it personally. I talked with the President already."
Panelo is the former lawyer of Andal Ampatuan Jr, primary suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case, which killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, in November 2009. He is known for other high-profile cases.
Panelo's recent actions come as Duterte reacts negatively to Ban and Obama's remarks about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
Duterte had even threatened to leave the UN because of his "frustrations" with the international body. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has, however, clarified that the Philippines remains "committed" to the UN.
Duterte had also criticized Obama for planning to discuss human rights with him. The two leaders were scheduled to meet, but Obama cancelled their meeting after Duterte hit the US president. – Rappler.com