Respect Duterte cabinet picks, spokesman tells critics


Mark Villar, Rodrigo Duterte and Salvador Panelo. ABS-CBN News/Composite

Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman urged his critics on Saturday to respect his choice of cabinet secretaries, saying he would not allow conflict of interest.

Incoming public works secretary Mark Villar, whose family owns a real estate empire, will not be allowed to build roads in their properties, said lawyer Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s choice for presidential spokesman.

Panelo, who had lawyered for the Ampatuan clan accused of murdering 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Novemebr 2009, said he would not influence the court to acquit the family.

“Bigyan po natin na respeto at pagtitiwala ang mga napili ni president-elect Duterte… ‘Wag po tayong mag-alala sapagkat yung mga pangamba ninyo, si mayor agad ang makakakita doon,” Panelo told DZMM.

Panelo brushed aside observations that the appointment of detained ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s former lieutenants to the Duterte cabinet would give her renewed political clout.

“Wag po tayo sana mag-indulge in unfair speculation dun sa mga appointee ni Mayor Duterte,” he said.

Arroyo, who is suffering from a degenerative bone disease, has been on hospital arrest since 2011 while on trial for plunder. Duterte said during the campaign that she could be released on “humanitarian” grounds, Panelo said.

Former Arroyo officials named to the Duterte cabinet so far include: Jesus Dureza who is returning as peace adviser; former Manila International Airport Authority chairman Alfonso Cusi, who was tapped as energy secretary; former cabinet secretary Silvestre Bello III who will return as chief peace negotiator with leftist rebels; and former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., who was offered his old post. Former military chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is also being considered.

Duterte won the May 9 elections on the promise of a ruthless campaign against crime and corruption. He was in Davao City on Saturday resting, Panelo said.