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Of Revolutionary Governments and Constitutional Dictatorships:

A Talk By Hon. Sec. Salvador Panelo


on Current and Legal Provocative Issues of the Philippines
By EDCARL REALIZA CAGANDAHAN (LLB-II) & NEAPOLLE FLEUR BLANCO (LLB-III)

H
on. Sec. Salvador Panelo, Chief Legal Counsel to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, visited
Dumaguete City last April 30th, 2018 and gave a talk about “The Current and Legal
Provocative Issues” of the country. The said speaking engagement was held at the
College of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Allied Health Science Audio-Visual Room of Negros Oriental
State University, Dumaguete City. The said lecture was attended by students, faculty, and staff
from Silliman University, Foundation University, and Negros Oriental State University. There
were also members from the local media who covered the event.

The program was opened by Dr. Noel Marjon E. Yasi, the Vice-President for Administration,
Planning, and Development of Negros Oriental State University. Afterwards, Atty. M. Mikhail
Lee Maxino, director of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development, introduced
the guest speaker.

Hon. Sec. Salvador "Sal" San Buenaventura Panelo is a Filipino lawyer from Camarines Sur,
Philippines. Before he became the Chief Legal Counsel of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, he
served as the former Davao City Mayor's legal adviser during his 2016 presidential campaign. As
a private lawyer, he has handled cases involving politicians and other controversial personalities.
He is also a former Director of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.1

Sec. Panelo's talk mainly revolved around the topic "Revolutionary Government led by a
Constitutional Dictator," which was very fitting for the theme of the event. After 30 years of
friendship, Sec. Panelo is a staunch supporter of the ideals and actions taken by President Duterte,
even before PRRD was elected as the Chief Executive of the Republic of the Philippines, in
resolving the country’s major problems particularly criminalities and drug abuse. Sec. Panelo also
spoke of the President’s intent in resorting to measures that may be frowned upon by many if
unexplained thoroughly: the abolishment of Congress and the establishment of another
dictatorship.

Eyebrows began to raise at the mention of the word dictator. Contemporary Philippine history tells
us that the dictatorship during the Marcos administration was wrestled against by the People of the
Republic of the Philippines. However, Sec. Panelo clarified that the dictatorship contemplated
under the Duterte administration will materialize if the common problems of the Philippines will
not be rectified and eradicated before Pres. Duterte’s term, where, a few months thereof, the

1
Inquirer Research; Pacia, S.I. "The Duterte Administration". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
President will abolish Congress—a body he sees as one of the hindrances in the progress he
envisions for the country—and establish a “revolutionary government.” This is when a
“constitutional dictator” comes in; the “constitutional dictator” will have the absolute power to
“clean the country” within the metes and bounds of the laws of the land and the power allowed by
the people, thereby echoing the maxim “salus populi est suprema lex.” Sec. Panelo believes that
the said power need not shake the people because it is going to be held by someone who has no
other intention but to help in the growth and development of the country.

During the open forum, Nash Denver Baya, a junior law student of Foundation University and an
active volunteer of the Salonga Center, posed a question on the absolute power to be given to the
President, must the “revolutionary government” be resorted to. “Following the maxim ‘absolute
power corrupts absolutely,’ how can you guarantee to us that the President will not abuse the said
power given to him under such circumstances?” Sec. Panelo responded that “the Filipino people
are not a force to be reckoned with….if they dislike the entity that they placed in power, they will
always see to it that the said entity will be taken down by them. Take for example the Marcoses,
Ex-Pres. Erap, and other leaders that they have stripped off of powers. Let us not underestimate
the power of the voice of the Filipino people.”

Given that the said talk was held a day before Labor Day 2018, another student volunteer and
senior law student, Neapolle Fleur Blanco, asked “Regarding the situation in Kuwait, how will
[this] affect international relations between countries (Philippines and Kuwait in particular)
considering that it’s the first time that an Ambassador has been declared persona non grata?” Sec.
Panelo quickly responded that “President Duterte is sending special teams to Kuwait [to solve the
situation].”

To cap his speaking engagement, Sec. Panelo performed a song in which he wrote. He said that he
dedicated his song to his wife. The talk was ended by a roaring crowd and a sea of applause.
Thereafter, Dr. Merivic G. Catada, Vice-President for Research, Extension, and International
Linkages, closed the program with a few words of thanks for the Secretary’s visit.

The said forum was moderated by City Councilor Karissa Faye Tolentino-Maxino.