Panelo playing politics amid Davao tragedy: Leni


    THE camp of Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday slammed Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo for playing politics amid the unfolding tragedy caused by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit Davao del Sur and neighboring provinces last Sunday.

    Former Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesman, said the fact that Panelo still insists in talking politics in the aftermath of the disaster in Davao del Sur and surrounding provinces “proves, once and for all, that he will always prioritize politicking over the welfare of our people.”

    “We reminded him yesterday that this was a time to unite and focus on helping those affected by the earthquake, but he is clearly intent on continuing to sow division even in the face of a national tragedy, as his tone-deaf statements demonstrate,” Gutierrez said.

    Gutierrez last Monday decried Panelo’s statements against the Vice President who decided to defer her report on the government’s war on illegal drugs in deference to the earthquake victims.

    He said this showed Panelo’s lack of empathy to the victims’ ordeal and his penchant for politicking amid Robredo’s call for unity.

    “He (Panelo) can continue to play politics if he wants while, true to her word, the VP will focus on relief efforts for our fellow Filipinos who need them most,” Gutierrez said.

    Robredo delayed her “Ulat sa Bayan,” set for Monday, and said it will be better for the government to focus on helping the victims, especially that it is the Christmas season, instead of getting everyone keyed up over the report.

    Robredo, however, said she may still deliver the report before Christmas “depending on how things will unfold in Davao.”

    Panelo yesterday said deferring the release of Robredo’s supposed findings about the administration’s war on drugs will not hamper or stop relief and rescue operations in the earthquake-affected areas.

    Panelo also chided the camp of Robredo for accusing him of having no empathy for the victims, which he said was pure “nonsense.”

    He said the release of Robredo’s report has nothing to do with efforts to help the earthquake victims and rehabilitation works on resulting damages.

    “It is not as if when the Vice President speaks, the world will stop and the government will halt its operations to provide assistance in Davao. As described by some notable columnists, she has become irrelevant at this time due to her not well thought of political statements. Her decision to call a press briefing to announce that there is no press briefing, while flashing her 40-page report, reveals that she only wants the spotlight,” Panelo said.
    Panelo reiterated that if Robredo found some irregularities in the government’s campaign, she should have made it public already.

    He said the Vice President had always deferred her report to find a “perfect timing” and eventually gain the people’s attention “as she struggles to be relevant, while the government is silently doing its job in addressing the issues our nation faces, such as providing assistance to those who were affected by the recent earthquake.”

    Panelo reiterated that the campaign against illicit drugs is of utmost importance to the government.

    “If VP Leni has anything to recommend to improve the current anti-illegal drug war, out with it. This is not the time to vacillate. If she has ‘discoveries’ that she threatened to expose, bring it on, as the President dares her to do,” he said.

    Robredo had promised to make a report in relation to her 18-day stint as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD), but has deferred making her recommendations public twice – the first, while the country hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games, and the second, in the aftermath of last Sunday’s Davao del Sur quake. –With Jocelyn Montemayor