Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said revealing state secrets to foreigners and welcoming those who “have trampled the country’s sovereignty” would be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people. He said such act is a crime punishable by perpetual disqualification from office, among other penalties.
The STAR/File
‘Robredo may be treading on dangerous ground’
Evelyn Macairan, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s remark that he would fire Vice President Leni Robredo as drug czar if she shares state secrets with foreign entities is a reminder of the limits of her powers as co-chair of a body on illegal drugs, Malacañang said yesterday.

It claimed that she may be treading on “dangerous ground” if she invites foreigners who have been critical of the campaign.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said revealing state secrets to foreigners and welcoming those who “have trampled the country’s sovereignty” would be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people. He said such act is a crime punishable by perpetual disqualification from office, among other penalties.

“The President precisely made that statement predicated on Vice President Leni’s demanding access to all documents inclusive of classified data related to the government’s program on the illegal drug trade including its funding as well as inviting even UN (United Nations) personalities who have described the country as a murderous country and who have called for the arrest of (President Duterte),” Panelo said in a statement.

“Even the prosecutor of the rejected Rome Statute ICC (International Criminal Court) that has no jurisdiction over the country has been welcomed by the anti-illegal drug czar. She may not realize it but she could be treading on dangerous grounds. It could be an overreach of the granted authority hence the reminder,” he added.

Earlier this year, the Philippines walked out of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, in response to the tribunal’s decision to conduct a preliminary examination on Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs. Officials claim the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the Philippines but the tribunal insisted that the Philippines’ withdrawal would not affect its obligation to cooperate with the probe.

Panelo said Duterte has the duty to ensure that all his officials are performing their functions within the limits set by law.

“The Constitution vests to the President all the powers of the executive, and all executive officials act under his control. Not only is it within the President’s discretion, but it is his constitutional duty not only to enforce all the laws but to ensure that all his alter egos, including a co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs, are performing their respective functions within the scope and ambit of the law,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Any appointment made by the appointing authority must be exercised strictly in accord with law and never diametrically opposed to the interest and security of the State,” he added.
Panelo also disputed claims that Duterte’s statement validates the suspicion that Robredo’s appointment was a trap and clips the vice president’s authority.

“Such speculations are unfounded as they are unproductive as well. The President is merely reminding VP Leni of the imperatives as well as the limits of her appointment lest she transgresses it,” he added.

Panelo insisted that access to documents with classified information is not within the scope of Robredo’s authority.

“There are things that even us, members of the Cabinet, are not allowed to look into. These are classified information. Only the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) director, secretary of national defense can because they handle security,” he said in a radio interview

“If I say clean slate, it should be within the scope of the authority... Since she has started seeking access to all documents, including classified documents, and then she started inviting people rejected by the President, I’m not saying she is treading, she might be treading on dangerous grounds.”

Panelo said Robredo should be cautious about people giving her advice, saying some of the suggestions may be harmful to the country.

Malacañang also distanced itself from Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s tweet calling Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles a “moron” and “disgrace” to Catholicism.

Locsin chided Valles after the prelate called for prayers for Robredo as she performs her role as anti-drug czar.

“That’s between the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (and) those subject of his criticism. Hindi na natin papasukin yun,” Panelo said.

“Secretary Locsin is a man of substance. He is a professional and he knows what he is doing,” he added.

Panelo said Locsin would not issue such reaction if he has no basis for doing so.

“There must be something that triggered the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) secretary to say the things that he said,” the president’s spokesman said.Duterte, having the appointing power, could fire Vice President Robredo as co-chairperson of the ICAD if she discloses sensitive and classified information about the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign because that would be a betrayal of trust, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

“As the appointing authority, the President may remove any appointee at his pleasure, more especially if trust and confidence, which is the principal basis of any appointment, is lost,” said Guevarra.

“Needless to say, disclosing sensitive and classified information to unauthorized persons is betrayal of trust, and is therefore a proper and reasonable basis for revocation of one’s appointment,” he added.

LENI ROBREDO SALVADOR PANELO
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