Rebuke for 'reward' view

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said he does not see the need for the government to take disciplinary action against Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V.

Laurel said on Tuesday that accompanying President Rodrigo Duterte on his working visit to Japan may be a “reward” for Cabinet officials after the favorable results of the midterm elections for the administration, prompting denials from Malacañang and other Cabinet members who are part of the presidential delegation.

“A rebuke should be enough,” Guevarra, the designated caretaker of the national government during Duterte’s Japan trip, said in a message to reporters.

Asked if Laurel should be replaced as a consequence of his remarks, Guevarra said: “Let’s wait and see.”

Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it was illogical for the 16 Cabinet officials, including himself, to be rewarded when they were prohibited by the President to campaign for the administration candidates during the last elections.

Panelo added Laurel may have been either “innocently speculating for lack of information or may have been misinformed of the nature of the trip of the Cabinet members.”

The Palace spokesman said Duterte needed “most of his team players” as the visit entails “stronger cooperation” between the Philippines and Japan, citing the over 20 business agreements worth around P300 billion for signing and Tokyo’s assistance to infrastructure, peace, and development efforts in the country.

“Our countrymen in Japan, in the number of  thousands, are also entitled to meet the men and women in flesh, who lend their hand to the President, in chartering the course of governance that affect their lives, as well as their loved ones, and the rest of the Filipino nation,” Panelo said.

Duterte flew to Tokyo on Tuesday as he is set to speak at the 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.

Also yesterday the Palace declined to speculate on why some celebrities supportive of President Duterte flew to Japan where the chief executive is on a four-day working visit.

Photos circulating online showed actors Philip Salvador, Bayani Agbayani, Rodjun Cruz, and singer Michael Pangilinan in Tokyo. They also posed for a photo doing Duterte’s signature fist bump gesture.

“From what I know, they came to Japan of their own accord,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a message to reporters.

Panelo, a member of the presidential delegation, then advised the media to ask the celebrities themselves about the purpose of their trip.

“Ask them why they are here. They are the credible source of your information. Mine will be speculative,” he said.

Cruz, Agbayani, and Salvador were among the celebrities present in the dinner hosted by Duterte and his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña in Malacañang last May 7.

Apart from several Cabinet officials, Avanceña and her daughter Veronica also joined Duterte on his third visit to Japan since assuming office in 2016.