Senators have asked Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo to stop talking about foreign affairs and let Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. do it.
“Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo should not meddle on issues involving foreign relations. He should not answer questions on the matter,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said before the Senate approved the P24.216-billion budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs for 2020.
“He should allow the DFA secretary or spokesperson to answer questions on foreign relations.
“The secretary of Foreign Affairs should assert that he is―other than the President―the single spokesperson in so far as foreign relations is concerned given the very sensitive nature of his work and our foreign relations.
“We would like to think that the secretary has a very competent pool of advisers who can advise him on the ramifications of any foreign policy pronouncement which unfortunately is not in the bureaucracy of the presidential spokesperson.
“So that if Panelo is being asked, he should pass it to the DFA.”
Drilon asked why there were two views on the Philippines’ foreign policy: One from Panelo and another from Locsin.
Senator Richard Gordon, who sponsored Foreign Affairs’ budget, said it was a question of elasticity.
“Apparently, Mr. Panelo has a wider view because he takes it when he reacts to the media,” said Gordon as he echoed Drilon’s stand that Foreign Affairs should be the one to answer questions on foreign policy.
Gordon said he finds having two spokesmen on the country’s foreign policy “really unacceptable.”
“I think it really should be the DFA who should be the principal spokesman,” Gordon said.
“Sometimes he gets called when the meeting is still going on and he just makes his statements based on the last thing he heard.
“So he’s not actually taken over the position of speaking for the government in terms of DFA matters, but at times the media cannot wait and he just makes the statements. Now as to whether we can take it [Panelo’s statements] at face value is another thing.”
Before Drilon and Gordon’s suggestions, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Panelo had been issuing statements about the country’s foreign policy.
I’d like to find out if he’s [Panelo] on secondment to the DFA,” Lacson said.
He also asked if there had been instances when Panelo officially issued a statement contradictory to the position of Foreign Affairs.
Gordon insisted Locsin had a “more cogent” and a “more studied” position because he based his statements on information from the military and other sources within Foreign Affairs.