‘Department of Clarification’ at work

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    MALACANANG yesterday said President Duterte did not and would not order the ambush of former Daanbantayan, Cebu mayor Vicente Loot, despite a statement by the Chief Executive that he did.

    The President, during the oath taking of government officials in Malacañang on Tuesday, said he had Loot ambushed and marveled that he survived and was even elected as mayor.

    “General Loot. P***** in* mo. Nanalo pa ng mayor. Inambush kita, animal ka. Buhay pa rin (General Loot. You son of a b****. You still won as mayor. I ambushed you, you animal. You’re still alive),” Duterte said.

    He previously accused the former police general of involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

    In May last year, Loot and his family survived an ambush attempt in Daanbantayan.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday said the President, being a Visayan, had misspoken the Filipino language, resulting in confusion and wrong interpretation of his statement.

    “What the President intended to say was: ‘Inambush ka na, buhay ka pa.’ That has been his line as shown by the transcripts of some of his previous speeches every time he touches on the topic of General Loot’s ambush (What the President intended to say was: ‘You were ambushed, yet you’re still alive.’),” Panelo said.

    He said it is “absurd and silly” to conclude that Duterte, a former prosecutor, would order an ambush because he knows it is illegal.

    He added the President, despite having enemies in politics, had not ordered ambuscades against his enemies.

    Panelo added this was not the first time the President talked of Loot and his ambush and he had been consistent in saying that Loot had been ambushed and survived.

    “Let us be clear and categorical: The President did not order the ambush of General Loot. It is silly and absurd to conclude that PRRD is behind the ambush just because he misspeaks the Filipino language which is not his native tongue or first language. The Filipino nation by this time is already familiar and used to the language of the President who invariably uses a mixture of English, Bisaya (Cebuano dialect) and Filipino in communicating with the nation,” he said.

    This was not the first time Panelo had to clarify a statement made by the President.

    He has explained that some of the President’s statements were just a joke or hyperbole.

    Just last week, he had to explain the President never meant the Philippines would disregard an arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute but was only trying to say the country would talk and deal with China on cooperation and other fields like trade, culture and people exchanges while discussions about the territorial dispute continue at the sidelines.

    Asked what the President meant when he often say that he would “kill” those who would harm the youth or victimize the young through illegal drugs, Panelo said the President meant they would be prosecuted and that government would pursue them to the ends of the earth and prosecute them.

    He added the President merely used the phrase “I will kill you” because it would land in the headlines or provide a sound bite that media would pick up and highlight.