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Panelo contradicts Panelo: No Trump, Duterte phone call after all

FRIENDS? Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump share a light moment prior to their bilateral meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City in November 2017. Malacau00f1ang file photo

FRIENDS? Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump share a light moment prior to their bilateral meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City in November 2017.

Malacau00f1ang file photo

Nearing the end of a jampacked week in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo committed another gaffe when he contradicted an earlier statement he made about President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed scheduled phone call with US President Donald Trump.

At a press briefing on Thursday, February 13, Panelo said Duterte no longer wanted to speak to Trump.

Huh? But Panelo earlier announced there was one, so who backed out?

It turns out that there was no scheduled call between the two leaders to begin with.

Asked for an update on the supposed call after the Duterte government sent the Philippines' notice it was terminating its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Panelo said: "There was no schedule. There were – what do you call it, there were talks; there were initiatives that the two (presidents) should talk but na-overrun ng events (it was overrun by events)."

"I asked the President and he said no, I won't (talk to Trump) anymore," he added.

It was last Friday, February 7, when Panelo first mentioned that Duterte and Trump were supposed to have a phone call. That same night, he said Duterte "is instructing" Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to inform Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr to send notice to the US to terminate the VFA.

"PRRD is also scheduled to talk by phone with President Trump anytime," Panelo told reporters that Friday. At the time, he said the agenda for the two leaders' chat was "not clear."

Panelo on Thursday, February 13, clarified it was supposedly the US government which "initiated" the phone call, but on the same day, he said Duterte "won't entertain any initiatives coming from the US government" to salvage the VFA.

According to Panelo, Duterte was referring to "certain initiatives" by US government officials, that had the "approval" of higher officials.

Between February 7 and February 13, the Duterte government took one step after another to terminate the 21-year-old defense pact with the US, a drastic policy decision that sees the country isolating itself from its old ally.

Duterte even said that Trump and other top officials were trying to prevent the abrogation of the VFA, but that he was determined to end it. 

But on February 13, Trump said he was "fine" with the Philippine decision to abrogate the VFA. "I really don’t mind. If they would like to do that, that’s fine," Trump said. "I view it as, 'Thank you very much. We save a lot of money.'" – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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