MANILA Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday denied that his statements on foreign policy were inconsistent with those made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Some senators, during deliberations on the proposed 2020 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday night, questioned if Panelo acted as secondment to DFA and claimed that some of his remarks were contradictory to Locsin's position.
Panelo disagreed that there was any contradiction between their functions and statements because he always deferred to Locsin on matters of foreign policy.
Contrary to what some senators claimed, there has never been any inconsistency between the functions of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson (OPS) as regards matters on Philippine foreign policy, Panelo said in a statement.
We find it amusing that the DFA and our office are being pitted against each other when in truth and in fact our offices have always acted in a complementary way, he added.
While President Rodrigo Duterte remains chief architect of Philippine foreign policy, Panelo said both he and Locsin take cues from the orders, instructions and directives of the President.
More often than not, the OPS defers to the DFA Secretary when issues touching on foreign policy are raised by persistent reporters, especially when they cannot access the latter, Panelo said.
He said he merely echoes Locsin's pronouncements on foreign policy after consulting with him or upon instruction from the President.
The DFA is the lead agency that advises and assists the President in planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, and evaluating the total national effort in the field of foreign relations, he added.
Panelo said the DFA also handles the day-to-day operations of the country's affairs with the international community, as well as its members.
On the other hand, Panelo said the OPS is tasked to inform the public of the statements of the President to avoid any misinterpretation.
This is of particular import when a matter, which may cover any issue, relates to and concerns the President, Panelo said.
Media reporters, especially members of the MalacaAang Press Corps, recognize this as they regularly inquire with our office about the thoughts of the President on almost every critical issue, knowing that he acts not only as the Chief Executive but also as the Head of State who has control over all departments, bureaus and offices, he added.
During Senate deliberations on the DFA's budget, Senator Panfilo Lacson first pointed out that Panelo has been making statements about Philippine foreign policy.
Senator Richard Gordon, on the other hand, said Panelo was not taking over Locsin's position, but making statements "based on the last thing he heard" when media would seek his updates.
Gordon, however, agreed it was unacceptable to have two spokespersons on the country's foreign policy.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged Locsin to advise the President that matters concerning foreign relations be referred to the DFA chief.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, urged the public to rely on Locsin's tweets regarding issues on foreign policy. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency