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Palace rebukes envoy over 'pabuya' remark.

TOKYO Malacaaang yesterday rebuked Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V for saying that a large number of Cabinet members are here as a reward or "pabuya" from President Duterte. But the Palace also said Duterte did not take offense and Laurel was in no danger of losing his post over the remark.

Laurel earlier said that about 20 Cabinet members were allowed to join the trip because Duterte was elated by the results of this year's midterm elections. As Laurel's statements spawned criticism of the large delegation accompanying Duterte in one of the world's most expensive cities, the Palace said the Cabinet members are needed here to boost cooperation between the Philippines and Japan.

The President's delegation is composed of about 200 people, including Cabinet members, local officials and their staff, Laurel said. Eight of 12 senatorial candidates backed by Duterte won in the elections, which was widely seen as a referendum on his administration.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Laurel's opinion that the trip is a "pabuya" or reward for Cabinet members was not logical because Duterte had barred them from campaigning for administration candidates. "The Palace does not share the position or remarks of Laurel concerning Cabinet members joining the President in this trip toJapan," Panelo said in a statement.

"It is worth mentioning the Cabinet members were prohibited by the President from campaigning for the administration candidates during the last elections. It is thereforesans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward," he added.

Panelo said Laurel may have been either innocently speculating for lack of information or misinformed of the nature of the trip of the Cabinet members. He insisted that the Cabinet members' presence is necessary because Japan is a key trade and development partner of the Philippines.

"The President needs most of his team players, not only as a sign of respect or giving importance to our long-time ally, but we likewise see the need for astronger cooperation between our governments," Panelo said. "This can beachieved by the constant dialogue by our Cabinet members with their counterparts in the Japanese government,who are involved in our country's significant transactions with Japan," he added.

Teased

Laurel said Cabinet members were teasing him about his remark on the Japan trip. "I have not heard what they said.

Binibiro nga ako. Eh di binibiro ko rin sila (They teased me.

I teased them back)," Laurel told reporters on the sidelines of a business forum here. Asked to react to Malacaaang's claim that the trip was not a reward, Laurel replied: "Eh kung ano ang gusto mong sabihin eh.

Ang akin, hindi naman talagang Sige. Lalakad na muna ako (Whatever you want to say.

For me, it's not really..

.I will go ahead).

" Laurel was not able to explain himself properly as media relations staff whisked him away because Duterte was on his way to the forum. The envoy said he was not avoiding the media but he had to leave to go to Japan's foreign ministry.

Laurel, however, stayed until the end of the forum and was even seen shaking hands with the President. Panelo said that despite his remark, Laurel would remain as the Philippines' ambassador to Japan.

He said the ambassador's comment was "innocently made." Asked if Duterte was angry with Laurel's statement, Panelo replied: "Nagagalit ba yun? Nagagalit lang yun sa enemies of the state (Does he get angry? He only gets angry with enemies of the state).

" Local officials were seen during the business forum attended by Duterte yesterday, including Manila mayor-elect Isko Moreno, former Batangas governor Hermilando Mandanas and Narvacan mayor-elect Chavit Singson. Moreno said he was the one who paid for his trip.

"This is an opportunity for Manila to engage with prospective investors and certain industries," he said. Explain

Rep.

Gary Alejano of Magdalo Partylist urged Malacaaang to explain the huge delegation in Japan. "Malacaaang should explain the reasons for bringing a 200-member delegation to Japan.

It's possible that taxpayers' money was used," Alejano said, "Reward system in government breeds corruption. It's unacceptable," he said, adding Laurel's revelation could be a "slip of the tongue.

" Some Cabinet members in the President's delegation denied their inclusion in the entourage was a "reward." They said they are in Tokyo because they have tasks to do.

Alejano said if delegation members campaigned for administration candidates as insinuated, then they violated the law. "It also appears that the 200-member delegation of the President to Japan is not entirely comprised of government officials who are needed in the official activities.

It has been circulating in social media that other friends and allies of the administration, who have no clear roles in official business, are also part of the delegation," he said. Engagements

Panelo enumerated the economic engagements between the two countries, including the more than 25 business deals to be signed here that are seen to bring in about P300 billion in investments and create at least 80,000 jobs.

He said Japan is the Philippines' second major trading partner and the fourth largest source market for Philippine tourism. The east Asian country, Panelo said, has provided technology and expertise to the Philippines' first subway project and contributed to peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Pia Lee-Brago
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:May 29, 2019
Words:1038
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