Sal Panelo

Sal Panelo

236 0

Sal Panalo Panelo is a lawyer who most recently served as the chief legal counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte before resigning in October 2021 to run for senator in the 2022 elections. He was also the president’s spokesman from October 2018 until he was replaced by returning Palace mouthpiece Harry Roque who vacated his post to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.

As a lawyer specializing in constitutional, criminal and remedial law, Panelo defended prominent political personalities such as Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. over the infamous 2009 Maguindanao massacre. He also represented the family of the late ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in relation to recovering ill-gotten wealth amassed during Martial Law. Before he was appointed to the Duterte administration, Panelo represented then-presidential aspirant Duterte during the 2016 campaign, including against charges of hidden wealth by Senator Antonio Trillanes, who was then running for vice president.

The presidential spokesperson infamously wrote a referral letter recommending that the clemency appeal of jailed ex-mayor Antonio Sanchez be granted. Sanches was given a 360-year jail sentence for rape and murder but was set to leave prison after just 24 years.

Panelo previously ran for senator in 1992 under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the party founded by late ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and finished 125th.

As presidential spokesperson, Panelo routinely explained and played down controversial conduct and policy of the chief executive, including the president wolf-whistling at a female reporter and making light of rape. He has backed Duterte’s statements against the United Nations and his refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation of the administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs. He has also threatened to sue a number of news sites for their critical coverage of the Duterte administration.

Panelo is campaigning on a platform of “bringing the ‘tapang at malasakit’ brand of leadership to the Senate” by providing free education and accessible medical, legal, and social services for regular Filipinos. He is running under the administration-backed faction of PDP-Laban. His candidacy has been endorsed by President Duterte and his daughter, vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte, but he has not been included in the Senate slate of the younger Duterte’s tandem with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator.

“Whether or not I am elected in the Senate, I vow to push for legislation that would mandate the government to build facilities where children with special needs or disabilities can be taken care of if their parents or guardians pass away ahead of them, or are incapable of providing them with the great care and attention they need.”


Full Name: Salvador San Buenaventura Panelo
Nickname: “Sal”
Birthdate: September 23, 1946 (Age 76)
Birthplace: Naga City, Camarines Sur
Residence: Marikina, Metro Manila
Languages Spoken: Tagalog, English
– Pantaleon Panelo, father, geodetic engineer who had a law degree
– Soledad Panelo, mother, teacher and insurance agent
– 11 siblings
– Napoleon S. Panelo (deceased, 2020)
– Magdalena Panelo-Victorino (deceased)
Spouse: Araceli Abrogina-Panelo, doctor, diabetologist and professor
– Ramona Francesca Panelo-Ferreras, interior designer
– Salvador Paolo Panelo Jr., lawyer
– Salvador Carlo Panelo (deceased, 2017)
– Salvador Angelo Panelo IV
Profession/Occupation: Lawyer/Public Servant


  • Bachelor of Laws, University of the Philippines College of Law, 1974
  • Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science, University of Nueva Caceres


  • Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, 2016-October 2021
  • Presidential Spokesperson, October 2018-April 13, 2020
  • Law professor, since 2003:
    • Centro Escolar University, School of Law
    • University of the East, College of Law
    • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, College of Law
  • Lawyer, 1987-2016
  • In-house Legal Officer, United Laboratories, 1977-1987
  • Radio host
    • Magmahalan Tayo,” Eagle Broadcasting Corp. (1987 – 1999)
    • Broadcaster’s Bureau,” DWBR (2001 – 2002)
    • Pasada Sais Trenta,” (2005)
    • By Request” (2007-2008)
    • Counterpoint” (2009-2010; 2020)
  • Columnist
    • Counterpoint
    • RJ TV, OpinYon
    • Karapatang Batas ATBP, Pilipino Mirror


Public Office

As Palace spokesperson, Panelo drew flack a number of times for defending the Duterte administration’s controversial policies, including its flagship war on illegal drugs.

It was also Panelo who, on April 22, 2019, presented to the media a supposed matrix of administration dissenters that the Palace spokesperson claimed were part of an elaborate campaign plotting the downfall of the Duterte government. That matrix, initially published as an exclusive on Manila Times, included names like weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, among others, and also accused media outlets, Rappler, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Vera Files, of trying to destroy the administration. Panelo insisted that the Duterte administration did not need to prove the validity of the alleged ouster plot matrix, since there was no case filed in court needing submission of evidence.

A few days after the matrix was published, the newspaper’s managing editor resigned and admitted that the report of an “active plot” against the president was “poorly sourced.”

Panelo also made headlines when he accepted a “commute challenge” from transport collectives and progressive groups. This came after he denied that there was a public transportation crisis in the country, contrary to the statements of other commuter advocacy groups. He ended the commute challenge — during which he was late to work by almost an hour — by telling commuters to just leave their homes early if they wanted to get to work.

As President Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Panelo also hosted a talk show on People’s Television Network entitled Counterpoint with Secretary Salvador Panelo, produced by the Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang – to “analyze, dissect issues raised by certain critics and others against certain policies of the government.” He routinely used this platform to accuse Duterte’s critics of being affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines, a harmful activity also known as red-tagging.

Even after he stepped down as presidential mouthpiece, Panelo continued to defend Duterte’s policies amid the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, he backed Duterte’s directive banning Cabinet secretaries from attending the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings on anomalies in the national government’s pandemic spending. Panelo at the time reasoned that the state has the duty to protect and promote the right to health of the people as commanded by the Constitution.

Private Sector

Panelo’s legal career started in 1977, as an in-house legal counsel. He began his lengthy private practice in 1987 and has represented several prominent individuals, including long-time friend and then-Mayor Duterte during his 2016 presidential campaign. He was also the counsel for Andal Ampatuan, Jr. in relation to the 2009 Maguindanao massacre and convicted rapist and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez; Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. when he faced plunder charges after the pork barrel controversy erupted in 2013; and the Lakas-Magdalo alliance that pitted Jolo Revilla against Liberal Party’s Jay Lacson for the 2013 vice gubernatorial race.

Panelo also represented former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, who was accused in a Senate hearing of offering Jose de Venecia, as a member of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cabinet, millions of dollars in bribes to help Chinese firm ZTE win a $329 million contract to build a nationwide broadband network for the Philippine government in 2007.

He claims to be a former member of the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism, Inc., a group of lawyers who offered their services free of charge to those who were accused during the Martial Law years.

However, in 1992, he ran for the Senate under KBL and represented members of the Marcos family in efforts to resist the Philippine government’s recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Both prior to and during his time at the Palace, he has repeatedly and incorrectly denied the existence of Marcos ill-gotten wealth.

Panelo’s position is in line with President Duterte’s incorrect claim that the Marcos ill-gotten wealth remains unproven even as he signed a joint resolution extending the availability of recovered ill-gotten wealth as compensation for human rights abuses during Martial Law.

Civil cases have been filed for the recovery of ill-gotten wealth accumulated by the Marcos family and its associates. The Presidential Commission on Good Government, the quasi-judicial agency tasked with such recovery, has so far reclaimed P174.2 billion as of March 2021. Another P125.9 billion has yet to be recovered and remains under litigation.

Panelo would later issue another clarification, stating that the president was not questioning cases decided by the Supreme Court, but only the other amounts that are not yet proven in court as ill-gotten wealth.

Panel worked as a law professor, columnist and radio show host prior to serving in the Duterte administration in 2016.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Related Post

Carlos G. Serapio

Carlos G. Serapio

Posted by - March 29, 2022 0
Carlos G. Serapio is a lawyer running for vice president under the Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi Party. He specializes in…
Reynaldo Valeros

Reynaldo Valeros

Posted by - May 7, 2022 0
Rey Valeros Jr. is a mariner and natural health advocate. He is the founder of the No to Mandatory Vaccination group…
Leody de Guzman

Leody de Guzman

Posted by - March 12, 2022 0
Leody de Guzman is an activist and labor leader who has pushed for policies to secure the rights and welfare of…
Gibo Teodoro

Gibo Teodoro

Posted by - May 8, 2022 0
Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro is a lawyer, corporate executive and politician, who has served as both a defense secretary and lawmaker.…
Leila De Lima

Leila De Lima

Posted by - May 7, 2022 0
Leila de Lima is a former election lawyer, former justice secretary, incumbent senator and outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte who…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.