MANILA - Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo clarified Thursday he is not challenging the Senate investigation on embattled former police chief Oscar Albayalde's alleged ties to illegal drugs.
Panelo, also the chief legal counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte, explained that he was only giving an “honest assessment” when he dismissed as hearsay testimonies of former police officials linking Albayalde to the reselling of narcotics during an inquiry of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon.
"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.
"I categorically explained on national television that it is within the Senate's mandate, as well as its duty to conduct investigations to ferret out the truth of a controversy, in order to aid them in legislating and crafting instrumental laws of our land," he added.
Gordon on Wednesday said Panelo should stop speaking on behalf of Albayalde and called on the Duterte spokesman to respect the Senate’s inquiry. He noted the Palace spokesman appears to be challenging the legislative body’s probe.
"To me he is challenging the Blue Ribbon investigation, a very, very important case that the public has a tremendous stake in. He should respect the Senate investigation. He can make statements but that is being disrespectful because we are still in the process of investigation,” Gordon said.
Panelo meanwhile explained that he was only sharing his personal views as a lawyer when he made comments on the Senate investigation.
"Prior to making my comments that riled my friend Senator Dick, I precisely made clear that I was not lawyering for General Albayalde but was only expressing my personal views as a lawyer on a particular subject that I was queried about,” he said.
The Duterte spokesman added that due process must be observed in legislative inquiries.
“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 said.
Albayalde earlier this week stepped down as chief of the country’s police force as he fought allegations he protected his men accused of selling seized narcotics. He will retire on Nov. 8, when he turns 56.