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Panelo blames Duterte’s misspeak for Loot ambush remark

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang denied Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte admitted his involvement in the ambush of former Daanbantayan, Cebu mayor Vicente Loot, noting that the Chief Executive only “misspeaks” the Filipino language which is not his native tongue.

In a speech on Tuesday, Duterte said he ordered the ambush on Loot, a former police general whom he accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade.

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“General Loot. P***** in* mo. Nanalo pa ng mayor. In-ambush kita, animal ka. Buhay pa rin,” Duterte said before newly-appointed officials.

READ: Duterte says he ordered ambush of ex-mayor Loot

But Duterte’s spokesman and legal counsel Salvador Panelo insisted that the President’s remark was not an admission of involvement and was only a case of language “mix up.”

“Inambush kita, buhay ka pa” is uttered by a Bisaya President who is not proficient in Filipino, the vernacular language used in the capital city of Manila and in most areas in Luzon,” Panelo said in a statement.

“What the President intended to say was: ‘Inambush ka na, buhay ka pa.’ That has been his line as shown by the transcripts of some of his previous speeches every time he touches on the topic of General Loot’s ambush,” he added.

The Palace official said it is “absurd and silly” to conclude that Duterte is behind the ambush of Loot just because he “misspeaks the (F)ilipino language which is not his native tongue or first language.”

“The Filipino nation by this time is already familiar and used to the language of the President who invariably uses a mixture of English, Bisaya (Cebuano dialect) and Filipino in communicating with the nation,” he noted.

Loot and his family survived the ambush at a wharf in Daanbatayan in May 2018.

READ: Convoy of Cebu mayor on Duterte drug list ambushed

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This was not the first time Panelo had to clarify the statements of Duterte, who is known for his hyperbole and tough-talking persona.  /muf

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