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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.

The program was opened by a few words of welcome from the Vice-President for
Administration, Planning, and Development of Negros Oriental State University: Dr. Noel
Marjon E. Yasi. Thereafter, 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. He is the Chief Legal Counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte who also 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,” to which was fitting for the theme of the said event. He believed that
the President was working hard in resolving the major problems in the Philippines (i.e.
criminalities, drug-abuse)—even before Pres. Duterte was elected as Chief Executive of the
country, having been friends for more than 30 years—and expressed 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. As some eyebrows began
to raise on the thought of having another dictatorship, Sec. Panelo explained that it will only be
materialized if the common problems of the Philippines will not be rectified and eradicated
before Pres. Duterte’s term, where, a few months thereof, the President will abolish Congress—a
body he sees as one of the hindrances in the progress he has for the country—and establish a
“revolutionary government”: one led by a “constitutional dictator” who would then 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

1
Inquirer Research; Pacia, S.I. "The Duterte Administration". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
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.

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