Panelo backtracks, says ‘I exaggerated’

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    DAYS after he sneered at Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and claimed that the Aquino administration ended with “zero accomplishment in infrastructure,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday backpedaled and admitted that he “exaggerated” his reaction.

    Panelo, in a television interview, said he used a “figure of speech” when he reacted to Drilon’s criticism that the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program was a “dismal failure.”

    “Figure of speech,” Panelo said in an interview by CNN Philippines, adding: “Kumbaga, nag-i-exaggerate sila, ini-exaggerate ko rin nang konti. I’m just throwing their own words to them (They exaggerated, I also exaggerated a little. I’m just throwing their own words at them).”

    Panelo had earlier scoffed at Drilon for his BBB comment, saying that he had the nerve to say such when he was “identified with the previous administration who has a zero accomplishment in infrastructure.”

    Lawyer Abigail Valte, spokeswoman of former president Benigno Aquino III, retorted and listed down in a Twitter post the infrastructure deals that were completed and turned over by the Aquino administration to the Duterte administration.

    The list, published on the Official Gazette, included several airport projects, local road development, and new expressways meant to ease EDSA traffic like the Metro Rail Transit Line 7, the new Bicol International Airport, and the NLEX Harbor Link Segment which also form part of the flagship projects of the Duterte government.

    Panelo acknowledged Valte’s reply, but belittled that these projects “pales in comparison” to the projects under the Duterte administration.

    Panelo said most projects that were turned over to Duterte government were unfinished business.

    He reiterated his earlier enumeration that the current administration has at least “35 constructions ongoing; there are 32 that will be started within six and eight months; and then there are 21 in the advance stages of approval by the government, 22 feasibility. Out of this, there will be 38 completed within the term of the President.”

    Panelo was referring to a presentation to media made by Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and chief executive officer Vince Dizon, concurrent presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects the other day about the 100 flagship projects under the BBB program that were identified by economic managers.

    Dizon said the 100 revised list of projects is up from the 75 original list submitted in 2016.

    He also said that of the 100 identified projects, the government expects 38 to be completed by the end of the President’s term, 22 will be partially operational or substantially completed, while 40 will be completed beyond 2022 or after Duterte’s term.

    ‘FAKE NEWS’

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano slammed Drilon for calling the government’s BBB program a failure, saying the opposition senator is spreading “fake news.”

    Cayetano said the Duterte administration has initiated more infrastructure projects than the previous administrations “so this (Drilon’s statemen) is meant to mislead (the public).”

    “It’s fake news to say that ‘Build, Build, Build’ is a failure,” he told reporters. “No matter how you look at it, all the photos, statistics, the Duterte administration has undertaken so many projects compared to the other administrations. You can see it in the (annual) budget.”

    Cayetano said the government had to work doubly hard because it has to start from scratch like in the Metro Manila subway project.

    “And the duty will not only be to criticize but also to propose how to expedite these projects and even for Congress to be able to propose as an institution other flagship programs,” he said.

    Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, had already filed a bill granting President Duterte special powers to expedite the implementation of the BBB program.

    House Bill No. 5456 seeks to grant the President emergency powers “in adopting a national policy in speeding up the implementation of the Build, Build, Build program on or before 2022 or within a period of two and a half years and subject to restrictions, to implement rules and regulations necessary and proper to carry out such powers.”

    Salceda said the measure will empower President Duterte to expedite the roll out of at least 54 flagship projects under the ambitious program. – With Wendell Vigilia