Panelo says he's not insulting Senate conducting probe vs Albayalde
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday he was not challenging the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which has been conducting an inquiry about the so-called "ninja cops," and the alleged involvement of former Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde into the issue.
Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, made the statement after Blue Ribbon Committee chair Senator Richard Gordon criticized Panelo for acting like a "spokesperson" for Albayalde.
Albayalde quit as PNP chief after he was accused of protecting the ninja cops involved in the recycling of seized illegal drugs in Pampanga in 2013. Albayalde was the Pampanga provincial police chief then.
Panelo earlier called as "hearsay" testimonies of some resource persons during the Senate inquiry against Albayalde as he also questioned the actuation of some senators for implying the former PNP chief was guilty of the allegations against him even if the hearing was not yet completed.
"My remarks cannot - and should not - be viewed as a challenge or an affront to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, its chairmanship or its present investigation," Panelo said in a statement.
He said it was unfortunate that his "honest and objective observation" in the ongoing Senate investigation has been described by Gordon as "lawyering" for Albayalde.
He insisted that his statement in a recent press briefing was an "honest assessment" of the public proceeding and was an "exercise of the freedom of speech" for which every Filipino citizen is entitled.
Panelo also said during such press briefing, he made it clear he was not lawyering for Albayalde, but was only expressing his personal views as a lawyer.
"I am certain that my law schoolmate in the Senate does not want to be in the place of a resource person accused by his fellow resource persons and be adjudged guilty even prior to the termination of the proceedings. One cannot be an investigator, prosecutor and judge at the same time. Such actions are antithetical to elementary legal precepts, and this is true regardless if the same were undertaken in a procedure that does not demand the application of the most stringent rules found in our law codes," Panelo explained.
He said that conclusion of guilt should be pronounced only after an investigation or hearing or after the termination of a Senate probe.
"With due respect to everyone concerned, fairness should - and must always be the hallmark of a legislative inquiry. The constitutional rights of any resource person must be respected at all times - and on all accounts. That is what due process is all about," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS