Duterte ally Panelo says won't protect anyone from probes if he wins Senate seat

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 07 2022 11:03 AM | Updated as of Apr 07 2022 11:46 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte raises the hand of Halalan 2022 senatorial hopeful Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo at the Harbor Garden tent of Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City on Oct. 8, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
President Rodrigo Duterte raises the hand of Halalan 2022 senatorial hopeful Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo at the Harbor Garden tent of Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City on Oct. 8, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senate aspirant Salvador Panelo said Thursday he would "not be protecting anyone" from legislative inquiries if he secures a seat at the chamber in the May 9 elections. 

As President Rodrigo Duterte's former chief legal counsel and spokesman, Panelo had defended policies of the current administration, including its drug war that had been the subject of a Senate probe. 

"We will respect the [Senate] investigation, I will not be protecting anyone. As a senator, I will oppose any investigation if it is very clear that the evidence has basis to prosecute," he told ANC's Headstart.

"You don't waste money and public funds to conduct investigation where the evidence is very clear where all you have to do is prosecute the other party. Idemanda na lang natin (let's just sue them)." 

Panelo, who failed to secure a Senate seat in the 1992 elections, said his experience as a lawyer was "an edge" to becoming a lawmaker.

"You’re cut out as a member of Congress because lawmakers are supposed to be ideally lawyers," he said, when asked why he did not run for a local position.

Panelo said he defended controversial clients such as convicted rapist-killer Mayor Antonio Sanchez, the Ampatuan family infamous for the Maguindanao massacre, and former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

"Regardless of your thoughts of the guilt or innocence of that person, as a lawyer you have to introduce evidence that one, will either justify his crime; two, exempt him from criminal liability; and. three, to mitigate the penalty impose on him. That is the duty fo a lawyer, you have to protect the rights of the client," he said.

"You cannot choose which client to represent just because you thought that person is guilty."

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If elected to the Senate, Panelo said he would like to raise the income ceiling to qualify for free legal assistance.

"If your salary is P14,000 [in Metro Manila] and P12,000 in the provinces, then you cannot avail of the free legal service. That's why a lot of people are complaining. We need to increase the income bracket ceiling," he said.

Panelo added that he would push for free education and therapy for some 5.1 million children with special needs in the country.

"This is an occasion and an opportunity to show our humanity to them, those little children, angels who cannot take care of themselves," he said, adding that he also has a child with special needs.

"If parents of these special children die ahead of them, it will be a problem. So I’m thinking if the prime duty of government is to serve and protect then there is no special group in our country that needs it more."