MANILA- Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Thursday former police chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa should not be belittled for his lack of legislative experience amid the latter's looming entry to the Senate.
Panelo made the statement after Dela Rosa, a leading contender in the midterm Senate race, admitted Tuesday that he still needs training on lawmaking.
He said Dela Rosa should be commended for admitting his deficiency and reminded critics of the former police chief that the latter is an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
"We should commend him for admitting his handicap pero huwag natin maliitin. Nakakalimutan ng mga may question sa kapasidad ni General Bato na PMA graduate ito," Panelo said.
(Let's not belittle him. Doubters of General Bato are forgetting that he is a PMA graduate.
"Diba PMA graduates are known for their intellect?" he said.
Dela Rosa, part of the PMA 1986 Sinagtala class, was President Rodrigo Duterte's top cop in Davao City during the latter's time as mayor.
During his time as top cop, Dela Rosa was Malacañang's chief enforcer of the anti-drug campaign and was appointed head of the Bureau of Corrections following his retirement from police work.
In a television interview Tuesday, Dela Rosa, known for his candidness and jolly demeanor, said: "Mayroon bang seminar diyan o ano bang training diyan para matutunan ko 'yung paano gawin 'yung batas. Ano ba ang mga trabaho namin diyan sa Senado? Kung merong ganun, I will take that opportunity para matuto ako," he said Tuesday night in a television interview.
(Is there a seminar or training so that I can learn how to craft laws? What is our work there in the Senate? If there are available trainings, I will take that opportunity so that I can learn.)
NOT ONLY 'BATO'
Panelo reminded Dela Rosa's critics that many others had become senators even without prior legislative experience.
He cited as examples Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, actor Lito Lapid, who is seeking a Senate comeback, and former Senate President Manny Villar.
Prior to his foray into politics, Lacson, like Dela Rosa, was a former police chief.
Pacquiao was and still is a world-renowned boxing champion, but he served as Sarangani Representative before seeking a Senate seat.
Action star Lapid, on the other hand, served local posts in his native Pampanga- first as vice-governor and then as governor- before he was elected to the chamber in 2004.
Businessman Villar, meanwhile, held a seat in the House of Representatives before becoming senator.
"Nalilimutan din naman ng nagqu-question kay General Bato na si Ping Lacson ay PMA graduate at PNP chief din. Wala rin alam sa legislation nung siya pumasok, oh diba naging magaling na legislator," Panelo said.
(Those questioning General Bato are also forgetting that Ping Lacson was a PMA graduate and PNP chief. He also did not know anything about legislation but he became a good legislator.)
Lacson had said Wednesday he would take Dela Rosa under his wing when he joins the Senate.
Panelo, also the President's chief legal counsel, likewise noted that legislative work is not only for lawyers.
"Pinapalabas nila na dapat abogado lang andiyan [sa Senado]. Maraming hindi abogado dun. Bakit naman si Manny Villar, si Manny Pacquiao na minamaliit din? Huwag natin maliitin," he said.
(They make it appear that only lawyers should be in the Senate. There are many people there who are not lawyers like Manny Villar and Manny Pacquiao who were also belittled. Let's not belittle them.)