Don’t look now, but Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo may very well be the next spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte to replace Harry Roque.
On Thursday, Panelo confirmed he would take on the job as the President’s mouthpiece — a post that was initially given to him when Duterte assumed office in 2016 but was met with criticism because of his role as former legal counsel for the Ampatuans, the main suspects in the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre.
He was then replaced by educator and former pastor Ernesto “Ernie” Abella who was initially designated as deputy presidential spokesman.
With Panelo’s confirmation, it was unclear which post Roque now holds.
Panelo’s reappointment as the presidential spokesman came days after Roque filed a leave of absence after being kept in the dark about Duterte’s whereabouts and hospitalization that sparked speculations he would be replaced to pursue his senatorial bid.
But Roque, in a separate statement, said he has not yet resigned but whose senatorial bid remains uncertain.
Informed about Panelo’s designation as spokesman, Roque told reporters: “Let’s wait for next week.”
Roque’s Senate bid was all but confirmed, until Duterte told him to stay in the administration and defer his plan to run. The President had said Roque will not win in the polls.
The outspoken Roque, who is a laggard in the recent senatorial surveys, was initially offered by the President to head the soon-to-be revived Office of the Press Secretary, but the Chief Executive changed his mind and said he would give the job to Panelo.
Duterte said he decided to take back his job offer to Roque after the latter said he would just resign and lamented that he was left in the dark about the President’s trip to the hospital.