MANILA (UPDATE) - Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo will be the next spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Panelo confirmed to reporters that he will take on the job as the President’s mouthpiece, a post that was initially given to him when Duterte assumed office in 2016.
Panelo's designation as Duterte's spokesperson two years ago had been met with criticism because of his role as former legal counsel of the Ampatuans, the main suspects in the gruesome Maguindanao massacre.
Even as the President’s legal counsel, Panelo would issue statements from time to time, especially on legal matters involving the President and the administration.
“The only difference I think is I would be more visible this time. As chief presidential legal counsel, I was already speaking for the President on matters of national [significance and] sensitive issues that require my articulation of the thoughts and ideals of the President,” Panelo told reporters.
It is still uncertain what will happen to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who said he has not yet resigned but whose senatorial bid remains uncertain.
Informed about Panelo's designation as spokesperson, Roque told reporters: "Let's wait for next week."
Roque’s Senate bid was all but confirmed, until Duterte told him to stay in the administration and defer his plan to run. The President said Roque would not win in the polls.
Roque's future uncertain under Duterte administration
The outspoken Roque, who is a laggard in the recent senatorial surveys, was initially offered by the President to head the soon-to-be revived Office of the Press Secretary, but the chief executive changed his mind and said he would give the job to his chief legal counsel, Panelo.
Duterte said he decided to take back his job offer to Roque after the latter said he will just resign and lamented that he was left in the dark about the President’s trip to the hospital.
It remains to be seen whether Roque will file his certificate of candidacy for any elective post, as he is scheduled to fly to China on Thursday for a private engagement and will be back on Monday, Oct. 15.