The ‘fire extinguisher’ Salvador Panelo
ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato (The Philippine Star) - March 22, 2019 - 12:00am

The first time I met Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had me shivering in my bones. Having worked in government for ten years, I thought I had met every single genius there was to know – until I met the Chief. I was pretty much terrified as my answers to his questions seemed absolutely lacking all the time. My so called government experience literally took a different turn. I knew instantly I had to do some “shaping up” as obviously I was a bit rusty when it came to fully comprehending issues that involved the law.

I’m no lawyer, but nevertheless I thought I knew enough to get me by in my life as a journalist, until I met the Spox. There were moments where I wanted to shrivel up and cry (not die, cause I’m no quitter) every time the Secretary told me he’d flunk me had I been his student.

Luckily for me, I’m one for a challenge as I always try to remind myself that learning is lifelong. But obviously, I had a lot to learn.

In this particular journey I have come to realize that the one valuable virtue that Salvador Panelo has is his patience. His keen mind and ability to quickly grasp the feel of issues is a combination that not many people have. I dare say at times, it is lethal. But despite the many questions thrown at him day in and day out, it is his patience that enables him to successfully get the message across.

Backed up by his long-time experience as a broadcaster, Secretary Panelo flawlessly relates with the media quite naturally, and although I have initially seen him as a terror like the teacher you dread to see in the hallway, I have come to appreciate the many learnings I have gained from the person who speaks for the President.

In time, I had also learned that there was a different side to the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Spokesperson. He is a genuine family man who never forgets that love for family is absolutely important and that this is the basis of any man’s success. I have witnessed the Secretary’s performance at a concert once and I was taken aback by his performance not to mention his skill as a songwriter. Yes, the Secretary is not just a concert performer but also a talented songwriter and his songs are mostly dedicated to his wife and his departed special child Carlo. While many of us, myself included, see the Secretary in every event one can possibly be invited to, in reality he is a simple man. He is the only Cabinet member that does not travel with an assistant or staff in tow. He has no self entitlement issues and can easily blend with the crowd. Perhaps this is why he and the President have been friends for decades. As for the Chief’s fashion sense, I really haven’t seen any other Cabinet member pull off tattered jeans with designer coats. His fashion sense never escapes the eye of the President as well as reputable fashion designers in the country.

Learning is truly lifelong and like I always say, at a time when our country is facing many interesting changes, it is truly exciting to witness firsthand a person who can explain the issues and literally “nip in the bud” allegations in defense of a growing republic and an unorthodox and controversial Chief Executive. A fire extinguisher as we all know works by removing heat from the fire. It plays a crucial role in protecting the environment. And just like a fire extinguisher, Secretary Salvador Panelo has the proven ability to “fight fires” in defense of our motherland and an out of the box President.

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