MANILA, Philippines – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said there is no reason for President Rodrigo Duterte to apologize for his unflattering remarks about Senator Leila de Lima.
"Bakit naman mag-sorry? May ginawa ba siyang masama doon? (Why should he say sorry? Did he do anything wrong there?) She had it coming. She had it coming," Panelo told reporters on Thursday, August 18, at Malacañang Palace.
Panelo said Duterte's decision to publicly claim De Lima's driver was her lover and that he may have been linked to drugs was his reaction to De Lima's own "character assassination" of the president.
"For 6 years, Senator De Lima has disparaged the reputation of PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) as being behind the Davao Death Squads but during her stint as Chair[person] of the Human Rights Commission and Secretary of Justice she never filed any criminal complaint against PRRD," said Panelo in a statement.
The presidential legal adviser also said De Lima should be held accountable even for personal misdemeanors as having a lover linked to drugs.
"Remember, the information given by President Duterte is in relation to her being a public [official] and her demeanor as one...If you do an illegal act or an act which is contrary to the demeanor of a public official, then you open yourself to criticism or to a report to the nation, in relation to your acts," said Panelo.
Panelo also refuted claims that Duterte's scathing words constitute "character assassination" as claimed by De Lima.
De Lima, he said, has yet to deny Duterte's allegations.
"In her press conference she called, she did not deny nor refute the information. Character assassination predicates the adverse information on the conduct of a person as being false," said Panelo.
Panelo's defense of Duterte comes after the President blasted De Lima for "immorality" for supposedly having a lover with links to drug money in a speech aired on national television.
Duterte only cited a "CD" as proof of De Lima's supposed immoral behavior.
De Lima, fighting back tears, called Duterte's remarks "very foul" and claimed it was character assassination timed before the Senate probe into extrajudicial killings linked to the war on drugs. De Lima is leading the probe.
Panelo said that "as an official policy," Duterte "welcomes any investigation by any entity or any branch of the government on the extrajudicial killings." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.