CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Friday came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte who blamed "lobby money" for the rejection of Regina Paz "Gina" Lopez's appointment as Environment chief.
Panelo said Duterte, as the country's highest elected official, has trusted sources to come up with such pronouncement.
He said the President has the power to vet information that "lobby money" persuaded the Commission on Appointments (CA) to block Lopez in chairing the Department of Environment of Natural Resources.
"He's the President. He has resources. He must have received information," Panelo told reporters.
"It's a democratic country. Each branch, while respecting each other's turf, can also make constructive criticism on the factions that it does," he added.
Panelo made the statement after Duterte hinted that money may have worked against Lopez.
Duterte's remark had earned strong disapproval from some members of CA, including Senator Panfilo Lacson, who dismissed it as a "sweeping assault" against them who voted against Lopez.
In a statement, Lacson said Duterte's claim that money influenced the CA to decide on Lopez' fate was "inappropriate and uncalled for."
"It is a sweeping assault not only on the integrity of the members of the CA who voted for rejection but the CA itself, being an independent constitutional body," the senator said.
Panelo echoed Duterte’s statement that the executive branch respects its co-equal branch, the legislative branch, but stressed that the Chief Executive can criticize lawmakers, if he sees anything wrong on their actions.
"He's (Duterte) open to criticizing that branch if anything wrong [happens]," Panelo said. (SunStar Philippines)