MALACAÑANG on Wednesday, May 29, denied that the inclusion of Cabinet members in the official delegation to Japan is a reward from President Rodrigo Duterte, who was reportedly elated by the administration's victory in the recently concluded elections.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this claim is illogical because Cabinet members were prohibited from campaigning for or against any particular candidate.
"It is worth mentioning that Cabinet members were prohibited by the President to campaign for the administration candidates during the last elections. It is therefore sans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward," the Palace official said in a statement on Thursday, May 29.
"The good Ambassador 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 latter's presence is necessary," he added, referring to Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V.
At least 16 Cabinet members are part of the Philippine official delegation to Japan.
They are Secretaries Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Foreign Affairs), Carlos Dominguez III (Finance), Ernesto Pernia (Socioeconomic Planning), Emmanuel Piñol (Agriculture), Mark Villar (Public Works), Ramon Lopez (Trade), Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (Tourism), Arthur Tugade (Transportation), Fortunato dela Peña (Science), Alfonso Cusi (Energy), and Eliseo Rio Jr. (Information and Communications Technology).
Also joining Duterte's Japan trip are Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Communications Secretary Jose Ruperto Martin Andanar, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and Panelo.
In a separate statement, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the Japan trip could not be considered as a reward, since Cabinet members were not on the campaign trail.
Medialdea added that Cabinet officials are in Japan not as a "decoration" but as officials who need to fulfill their respective jobs.
"Puro halos wala sa kampanya ang mga kasamang opisyal. May mga kanya-kanyang trade missions ang mga kasamang Cabinet. Hindi po sila dekorasyon sa summit. Trabaho lang 'yan," the Executive Secretary said.
(Most of the Cabinet members were absent during the campaign. They have their own trade missions. They are not just decoration at the summit. It's just work.)
Piñol, for his part, made it clear that the Agriculture department is paying for his travel expenses.
"I am part of the delegation because there will be issues related to agriculture which [Duterte] would bring up during the visit, especially tariff on banana," he said.
"All that I know is this is a working trip and not a pabuya (reward) as the good Ambassador of Philippines to Japan Jose Laurel V, was quoted by the media," the Agriculture chief added.
Lopez emphasized that some of the Cabinet members are in Japan to "maximize" the President's presence.
"We conduct deal signing, business matching and networking, round table meetings with [Duterte] and investors and Secretaries do join as an opportunity to dialogue with the foreign business community. We have never seen this as ‘pabuya' (reward), when we are working day and night just to prepare for all these activities," he said. (SunStar Philippines)