• Salvador Panelo is no longer presidential spokesperson
  • The lawyer will now serve as the presidential legal counsel
  • Ex-Pastor Ernie Abella is now the official presidential spokesman

Atty. Salvador Panelo, the flamboyant lawyer who acted as incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s mouthpiece, will no longer be the presidential spokesman. He will serve as the president-elect’s chief legal counsel.

Former pastor and educator Ernesto Abella will now take the role of the official presidential spokesperson. Panelo confirmed on Thursday, June 16, his new designation.

“I have just been named chief presidential legal counsel. Actually, that has been my position all along and my being presidential spokesman was temporary as he announced and explained to the Cabinet tonight,” Panelo said in a statement to the media.

He added that he would still be speaking for Duterte on “very important issues.”

It was Abella who announced to media Panelo’s new assignment after Duterte’s meeting with his Cabinet appointees at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila late Wednesday evening, June 15.

ABS-CBN’s Dharel Placido said in his article dated June 16, 2016 that according to incoming Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, it was actually the plan “since day one.” He said that in one of the press conferences held in Davao City, Duterte mentioned that Panelo’s appointment as spokesman was only temporary.

The lawyer’s appointment as presidential spokesman was frowned upon and criticized by media organizations because of his role as the former legal counsel of the Ampatuan family members who are the main suspects in the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, 34 of whom were journalists, were killed.