In this Jan. 15, 2019 photo, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press briefing at Malacañang.
The STAR/Joven Cagande, File
Panelo slams Lacson’s China's ‘defense lawyer’ tag as ‘illogical’
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - June 21, 2019 - 12:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo branded as illogical the observation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that he is lawyering for China on an allision involving Chinese and Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

Panelo on Tuesday raised doubts on the account of Filipino crew of fishing boat Gem-Ver 2, saying there are facts and circumstances that are still unknown. The account of the Filipino fishermen matched that of the Vietnamese crewmen who rescued them.

This prompted Lacson to say the following day that the mindset of President Rodrigo Duterte’s mouthpiece “is like a defense counsel, entering an appearance for China.”

The senator also said that the Palace statement was “too defensive” of the Chinese sailors who caused the incident and not of the Filipino fishermen whose lives were endangered when their boat sank.

But Panelo, who also serves as the chief presidential legal counsel, hit Lacson’s remarks.

“The perception that my pointing out of certain circumstances surrounding the Reed Bank incident previously unknown to us, creates the impression that I’m acting as China’s counsel, is sheer non sequitur as well as a shallow analysis of my examination of the incident,” Panelo said.

He went on to say that the Philippine boat sinking incident is “being dressed with misplaced emotionalism and pretended nationalism” by those who are politicizing an “otherwise ordinary navigation incident into an international fracas.”

“They hope to succeed in getting the approbation of the nation on a misguided theory that the administration is pursuing a foreign policy of subservience to China, a belief that is both wrong and unacceptable,” Panelo said.

He added: “Both countries must ascertain the truth of the Reed Bank incident and proceed to put to rest the conflict, consistent with the principles of justice and the law of the seas.”

Mutual Defense pact

The presidential spokesperson also said that Lacson appeared to be “smarting” from his response to the lawmaker’s earlier suggestion that the Mutual Defense Treat—a 1952 security treaty between the Philippines and the United States—could be explored.

Lacson made the remark after Duterte broke his silence on the boat sinking incident, in which the chief executive downplayed it as a “little maritime incident.”

Panelo on Wednesday said the Duterte administration’s actions “cannot be based on conjecture, speculation or even emotion.”

But Lacson on Friday tweeted that the “treaty is invocable even if not yet applicable.”

“I don’t get it why some people can’t get it,” he said.

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