Did Panelo breach protocol by coming up to Obama, Ban?


Posted at Sep 15 2016 02:48 PM

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo speaking with United States President Barack Obama at one of the events at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos. Photo from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo defended himself against bashers who say he breached protocol when he approached United States President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in one of the events at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos.

"When the president of this country is being attacked and this country is being attacked, defense of that president or the country defies protocol. Any opportunity you have, you grab it and defend your president," he told ANC's Headstart on Thursday.

Panelo said, he is currently being bashed after an article published online cited diplomatic sources as to saying what he did "was a breach of protocol."

In the interview with Karen Davila, Panelo pointed out that "that was a party. Dinner yun; hindi naman yun formal discussion." (It was a dinner; it was not a formal discussion.)

"Let’s just say that they were gracious enough to entertain me," he said.


Panelo revealed, he spoke with the UN Secretary General for ten minutes, where he explained that the international body must be receiving wrong information, leading them to wrong conclusions.

"Sabi ko, ‘You know sir. Sir, the problem is you believe in what you hear and what other people tell you. What is happening is this and that'—kinwento ko sa kaniya," he said.

[I told him, 'You know, sir, the problem is you believe in what you hear and what other people tell you. What is happening is this and that—I told him all.]

He said, he started with an account of how many people have surrendered to the authorities since the start of the administration's anti-drug drive and the killings that came thereafter.

Ban's argument, he claimed, is that since 10 people are telling him one thing, and only one would counter that, they would, of course, believe the statement of the 10.

"But that is perception," he recalled telling Ban.

"In other words, it seems those 10 persons tell you that this is what’s happening in our country are getting the wrong information, transmitting it to you—mali talaga ang [malalaman] mo."

They also spoke about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the much-criticized spate of killings under his watch.

"I’ve told him that our president, our country has been following the rule of law. Definitely, there is no violation, whether international law or local laws," he said.

Ban, for one, strongly condemned Duterte's apparent support of extrajudicial killings early on. The two were set to meet at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, but Duterte's office said he could not fit the meeting into his schedule.

Panelo recounted that his conversation with Ban ended with the latter saying he hopes the Presidential legal counsel would get to talk to the UN commission.

"Sabi niya, 'I cannot argue with you, I am not a lawyer. I hope you can talk with our commission.' Sabi ko naman, ‘Sir, there is no need for that. I’m telling you this to assure you that there has been no violation or whatsoever in our country'," he said.


Meanwhile, Panelo also spoke with Obama in one of the events during the ASEAN Summit and he defended to the President the context of Duterte's expletive-laden remarks.

"I told him that he was not insulted by our president. I gave him the context by which the remarks were made. I said, ‘The question was predicated on a situation where a superior head of state confronting an inferior head of state’," he recalled.

He insisted, Duterte's cursing when asked in a press conference about Obama's plan to discuss with him the human rights situation in the Philippines was a reaction saying "I should be treated with respect. I am the head of the state. You cannot do that to me."

Duterte's remarks prompted the White House to cancel what would have been the first meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

Duterte's spokesmen have since said that the president regrets the statements and that the two sides agreed to move the meeting to a later date.

Panelo claimed, when he spoke with Obama, the outgoing US President also told him that he "didn’t take that personally."

READ: Obama: I didn't take Duterte's cursing personally