By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
BALI, Indonesia – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo will take over the role of presidential spokesman beginning next week, Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go said Thursday.
In an interview here, Go said that Panelo will serve as presidential spokesman in concurrent with his current job as Duterte’s top aide beginning next week after Duterte’s trip to Bali.
The confirmation of Panelo’s new role came after Duterte announced that he is appointing Panelo to temporarily serve as new spokesman after Secretary Harry Roque said he is still thinking if he will stay with the administration or run for a Senate seat.
On Thursday, Roque said he has not yet resigned.
“I have not resigned,” Roque said in a text message to reporters, days after President Duterte revealed he threatened to resign after being kept in the dark about his recent hospital visit.
“Still not sure I will run for Senate,” said Roque, who was expected to travel to China Thursday for a personal trip until the weekend.
Roque likewise denied reports that he sent feelers to Kabayan party-list group to be its nominee in the upcoming midterm elections. “Absolutely false,” the former party-list lawmaker said.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had earlier confirmed that Roque was offered to lead the soon-to-be revived Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) which was dissolved by the Aquino administration.
But Roque appeared to be caught between a rock and a hard place after President Duterte discouraged his Senate bid and later offered the job of Press Secretary job to someone else.
Duterte made the offer to Panelo after believing Roque was decided on running for senator despite his advice.
Meanwhile, Andanar, in an interview, said his transition team in the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is now ready for the reversion back to the OPS.
Cayetano eyes House speakership
Meanwhile, outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said that he will be seeking for a leadership role in the House of Representatives if he wins in the 2019 elections.
Cayetano made the statement during the symbolic handover of the Philippines’s assistance to Central Sulawesi in Indonesia which was hit by a deadly quake last month and another on Thursday.
Cayetano said that President Duterte agreed that it would be better if he serves as House Speaker to help the administration achieve its goals.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk, and we both agreed that a role in Congress and a leadership position in Congress would be good in terms of pursuing that vision,”Cayetano told Malacañang reporters.
“With all humility, I will seek another term in my hometown, Taguig-Pateros, the district of Taguig and Pateros, and then let’s see where it goes from there,” he added.
Cayetano, who is in Bali as part of Duterte’s official delegation, however, said that the process of becoming a House Speaker is not easy. He said he first have to win the trust of the people in his district.
“It’s a complex matter. You have to win first sa district mo (in your district), and I want to focus on that first, and then you have to win the trust and confidence of the whole Congress, especially na may specific vision tayo (because we have a specific vision),” he said.
“This won’t be a simple… entering Congress and wanting to be Speaker or wanting a new leadership, it’s how you want to pursue this vision in the next three years,” he added.
Duterte’s trip to Bali is Cayetano’s last public appearance as Foreign Affairs Secretary. He said that he offered to finish first all events lined up in his office but Duterte preferred to have those who will run resign already.
“I did offer to complete muna (first) the events that were lined up – the EU-ASEAN (European Union-Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Leaders’ Summit in Brussels, the ASEAN, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), and preparations for the state visit of President Xi,” he said.
“But it’s the President’s call so my feeling as of now, is that he’d rather ‘yungtatakbo (those who will run to) go ahead and file and allow him to reorganize,” he added.
The ASEAN Summit in Singapore, APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines will be taking place next month.
Next in DFA
Cayetano, however, refused to disclose who will be taking his spot in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). He said Duterte was excited when they agreed on who will be taking over.
“As soon as we came up with a name, that we all agreed on and may excitement doonkayPresidentedoonsa person na ‘yun (the President was excited about him), then I have full confidence that my successor will be more than capable, he might even do a better job,” he said.
When asked if reports are true that the next Foreign Affairs Secretary would be Philippine representative to the United Nations (UN) TeodoroLocsin Jr., Cayetano said that he would rather leave the announcement to Duterte.
“I think the President will be the one to announce, but we’ve spoken to him and we’ll be briefing him next week,” he said. “I’ll allow the President to announce kungsino (who will be taking over).” (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)