MANILA -- Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo rebutted Senator Panfilo Ping Lacson's remark accusing him of speaking on behalf of the Chinese embassy, when he shared to reporters Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua's reaction to fears that Chinese employers could be spying on Philippine military bases.
Panelo said he saw nothing wrong with sharing Zhao's text message, which speaks about the position of the Chinese government, since it was done to respond to a reporter's question.
Panelo maintained that he is the spokesperson of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and of all Filipinos but noted that it was also his duty to be transparent to media.
As the Presidential Spokesperson, it is my duty to be transparent to the media and ultimately the public in sharing information which is germane to a national issue or concern, in consideration of the latter's constitutional right to information, Panelo said in a statement on Sunday.
Panelo explained that he shared the envoy's text message because overseas workers in China also deserve to be apprised of their host country's reaction to this issue as it concerns them.
It is the primordial duty of the President to serve and protect the interests of the Filipino people, whether they reside here or abroad, and as his spokesperson, I take it as my responsibility to inform the public because China's stance may need to be considered in any policy or government action with respect to Chinese nationals working here, Panelo said.
Panelo said that Lacson is not concerned with the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Office of the President is.
Anything that concerns them or any policy of a host country that may affect their stay we certainly are interested and concerned, Panelo said.
Senator Lacson need not be reminded that as a Senator of the Republic, he represents not only Filipinos who live here but also those who work abroad, unless his statement is driven by the fact the OFW votes in China will not move a needle for him if he plans to run in 2022, he added.
Lacson previously denied that he has intentions of running for President in 2022.
Meanwhile, Panelo recalled how he described as premature the senator's proposal to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States in relation to the differences between the Philippines and China on the West Philippine Sea.
He (Lacson) appears to have been deeply offended, and until now has not recovered from such misery caused by my statement that such proposal is premature, reckless and irresponsible without an act of armed aggression on the part of China, Panelo said.
Panelo pointed out that Lacson would always seem to take the liberty of criticizing but cannot take any criticism directed to him as a response to his initial criticism.
He said that while the Duterte administration was open to suggestions and criticisms, it expected the same to be ready to engage in an intellectual discourse without resorting to unsporting remarks.
Earlier, Lacson accused Panelo of lawyering for China when the spokesperson questioned the account of Filipino fishermen on the June 9 Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency