Japan trip not post-elections 'reward' for Duterte Cabinet – Malacañang
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang denied that some Cabinet members were included in President Rodrigo Duterte's trip to Japan as a "pabuya" or reward for the 2019 election results favorable to the administration.
The description of the trip as a "pabuya" was made by Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V during an interview with reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday, May 28.
"The Palace does not share the position or remarks of Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C Laurel V concerning Cabinet members joining the President in this trip to Japan," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
Panelo emphasized that the presence of invited Cabinet members is "necessary" to the trip given the cooperation between the Philippines and Japan in various aspects of governance – from strengthened economic exchange to defense and security. (READ: DTI expects $5 billion in signed deals from Duterte's Japan trip)
"The President therefore needs most of his team players, not only as a sign of respect for giving importance to our long-time ally, but we likewise see the need for stronger cooperation between our governments," he said.
The Duterte spokesman said Laurel was either "innocently speculating for lack of information" or was "misinformed" on the nature of the trip of Cabinet members.
What did Laurel say? Laurel, in a lighthearted tone, told reporters that in his personal view, the presence of some 20 Cabinet members in the trip is a reward for the 2019 elections largely deemed to be a success for the administration.
"You know, you ask me, personally what is this purpose? Ito'y pabuya sa nakaraang eleksyon. Why do you bring 21 – ah 20 Cabinet members here pati ang local government (department) or land reform (department)? Wala naman land reform dito," he said.
(You know, you ask me, personally what is this purpose? This is a reward for the past elections. Why do you bring 21 – ah 20 Cabinet members here including the local government department or land reform department? There's no land reform here.)
"I think the President is so elated with the results of the midterm election, that this is an affirmation of his administration in the last 3 years.... Parang pabuya na, 'Salamat ha, (It's like a reward, 'Thanks) you've done your jobs,'" added Laurel.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones are not part of the Palace-released official delegation list. Malacañang said, however, that the list they had sent out was incomplete.
DILG communications head Tess Vergara later confirmed to Rappler that Año was not joining the Japan trip.
Based on the list, Cabinet members joining Duterte in Japan are as follows:
- Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Department of Foreign Affairs
- Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Department of Finance
- Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Department of Agriculture
- Secretary Mark Villar, Department of Public Works and Highways
- Secretary Karlo Nograles, Secretary to the Cabinet
- Secretary Ramon Lopez, Department of Trade and Industry
- Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Department of Tourism
- Secretary Arthur Tugade, Department of Transportation
- Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, Department of Science and Technology
- Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Department of Energy
- Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr, Department of Information and Communications Technology
- Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority
- Secretary Martin Andanar, Presidential Communications Operations Office
- Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr, National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Security Council
- Secretary Salvador Panelo, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Counsel
- Carlito Galvez Jr, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity
Laurel, however, said that the Philippine government did not have to pay for expenses of Duterte and high-ranking officials as these were shouldered by Nikkei, the organizer of the International Conference on the Future of Asia.
The forum is the main reason for Duterte's Tokyo trip.
"It was upon Nikkei's invitation. They will shoulder the expenses," Laurel said in Filipino.
He also said Duterte's delegation is comprised of around 200 persons – a number that includes officials and their assistants.
While Nikkei is paying for expenses of officials, the Philippine government is paying for expenses of the officials' personnel, said the envoy.
Duterte arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday night, in a private plane. He was accompanied by his longtime partner Honeylet Avanceña and their teenage daughter Veronica. – Rappler.com