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Salvador “Sal” San Buenaventura Panelo (born 23 September 1946) is a Filipino lawyer and the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte. He was the Presidential Spokesperson of Duterte from 2018 to 2020 and was the legal adviser during Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign. He was also a former Director of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). As a private lawyer, Panelo has handled cases involving politicians and other controversial personalities.
He was one Duterte officials who filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on 8 October. He was running for senator under the PDP-Laban Cusi faction.
Early Life and Education
Panelo was born on 23 September 1946 in Naga, Camarines Sur. He studied at the Murphy Elementary School and at the Roosevelt Memorial High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Bachelor of Arts in Degree in English at the University of Nueva Caceres. He moved to Manila to study at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law where he became a member of the Sigma Rho Fraternity. He also participated in student activism during the pre-Martial Law period. He completed law school in 1974 and passed the Philippine Bar Examination the same year.
He first practiced law at the United Laboratories where he served as its legal counsel from 1977 to 1987. He became Director of the IBP in 1983 and President of IBP Rizal Chapter in 1985. He worked as a radio anchor at DZEC Radyo Agila for a year. In 1987, he started his private law practice.
In his more than 30 years of law practice, he served as defense lawyers of the following prominent politicians:
- Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre
- Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez for the 1993 Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez murder
- Family of former President Ferdinand Marcos in recovering their ill-gotten wealth
- Former COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos in the 2007 elections scandal
- Philip Medel in the murder of actress Nida Blanca
- Family of slain racing champion Enzo Pastor
- Deniece Cornejo in her 2014 rape case against Vhong Navarro
- Dennis Roldan in a 2005 kidnapping of a Filipino-Chinese boy
- Then Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte on Antonio Trillanes’ claims of the former’s hidden wealth in the 2016 presidential elections
- Senator Bong Revilla Jr. on punder charges in relation to the pork barrel scam
- Former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) civilian agent Martin Soriano on charges of robbery and kidnapping
He was an unsuccessful candidate of the Marcos political party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) in the 1992 Senate elections. He then served as Duterte’s transitional spokesperson before being designated as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
In May 2020, he hosted a talk show Counterpoint with Secretary Salvador Panelo on People’s Television Network, produced by the Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM). The said program aimed to discuss the issues affecting the country as well as to analyze and dissect issues raised by critics against certain policies of the government.
On 8 October 2021, he filed his COC to run for senator under the PDP-Laban Cusi faction. Duterte was also present as he endorsed other senatorial candidates from his Cabinet. They are deemed resigned from their posts by virtue of their candidacy filing.
Panelo has always defended Duterte’s advocacies and measures, including the latter’s war on drugs. He is often seen wearing shining suits with eccentric colors during press briefings.
He, who was called out on his insistence that there was no transportation crisis in the traffic-laden Metro Manila, accepted the challenge of commuters’ groups to commute from his home in Marikina to his office in Malacañang.
Membership and Affiliations
- Member, Rotary Club of Makati Southwest chapter
- Member of the Board of Trustees, San Beda Law Alumni Association
- Secretary General, Asean Law Association Golfers’ Club
He is married to Araceli Panelo. They have four children: Ramon Francesca, Salvador Jr., Salvador Carlo, and Salvador Angelo. He also adopted and took care of his sister’s three children: Marinette, Merle, and Michelle, who all graduated from UP Diliman.
- Ranada, Pia (October 11, 2018). "Sal Panelo is Duterte's new spokesman". Rappler. Manila, Philippines: Rappler Inc. Retrieved June 9, 2020. *"Presidential aide Bong Go said Panelo's appointment is effective 'today,' Thursday, October 11."
- Inquirer Research; Pacia, S.I. "The Duterte Administration". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- "The Duterte Cabinet". Interaksyon. June 1, 2016. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- Natividad, J. (May 26, 2016). "Naga City, Bicol mediamen vouch for Sal Panelo's designation as permanent Press Secretary, spokesman". Bicol Today. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- "Welcome to the ALB Philippine Law Awards 2018!". Asian Legal Business. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
- "Lawyers List". Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- Gavilan, J. (18 May 2016). "Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo and his high-profile cases". Rappler. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- Kabiling, Genalyn (May 1, 2020). "Panelo launches TV show to defend Duterte from critics". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
- RTVMalacanang (May 5, 2020). "Counterpoint with Secretary Salvador Panelo 5/1/2020". YouTube. YouTube, LLC. Retrieved June 9, 2020. "New Executive Building (NEB), Malacañang"
- "Panelo commutes for 3.5 hours, still insists there's no transport crisis". CNN Philippines. October 11, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
- "Panelo son passes away at 27". Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 6, 2017. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
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- “LIST: Duterte officials running for national posts in 2022 elections”. Rappler. (Accessed on 19 October 2021).
- “Duterte's chief counsel Panelo joins senatorial race”. ABSCBN News. (Accessed on 19 October 2021).