Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
27 December 2016


We’d like to welcome you back after the 25th. This morning we have — we have a guest who will be speaking specifically addressing the preparations for the New Year, okay.

His name is Dr. Gerardo Bayugo. He’s a dedicated public servant committed to improving the health situation. He’s been with the service for 32 years, alright.

He’s an alumnus of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center where he attained his medical degree.

He went on to acquire Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of the Philippines College of Public Health.

As the Undersecretary of Health, he has devoted himself to the mission of attaining all health towards health for all — all for health towards health for all Filipinos.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, please welcome Secretary Gerardo Bayugo.

USEC. BAYUGO: Maraming salamat po, Secretary Ernesto Abella, and Merry Christmas po sa lahat, to the Malacañang Press Corps and sana po’y ligtas ‘yung ating Bagong Taon.

In behalf of Secretary Ubial, our Secretary of Health, allow me to please read the press release that we have prepared for our December activities.

Actually, December 1 is the World AIDS Day. So allow me to read to you the press statement that was prepared for the Secretary, which was also given to our DOH media friends last December 1.

The Department of Health commemorates the World AIDS Day with the theme of “Promoting Unity to Stop HIV in the Philippines.”

According to the Secretary, we can stop HIV transmission only through a collective societal effort, focusing on widespread HIV awareness among the youth and the vulnerable populations, relentlessly promoting consistent and correct condom use, establishing test and treat service delivery networks nationwide and ending stigmatization and discrimination in workplaces.

We need to foster real collaboration with other government agencies such as the Department of Education, as well as community-based organizations in order to reach the young key population with the correct information on HIV and its consequences and how to stop its transmission and spread.

From January 1984 to October 2016, a total of 38,114 cases of HIV were reported in the country. In 2016, roughly 26 new HIV infections every day are being reported or a total of 7,756 HIV cases alone for 2016.

Compare this to the year 2008 where we have only one case a day or one infection per day being reported. Most were reported from the, from January 2011 onward or about 32,000 cases were reported from January 2011 up to October 2016.

And, based on the current information, at least 1,912 Filipinos have died because of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.

And currently, there are 16,637 people who are living with HIV that are on anti-retroviral treatment. This is a life-long treatment and we give this, the government give this free to all those who have registered in our HIV treatment hubs, now conveniently located in — nationwide. We have 26 treatment hub nationwide.

More than half of all cases or 19,000 plus belong to the 25 to 34 years old age group, while 10,279 are among the youth, 15 to 24 years old.

The predominant mode of transmission from 1984 to 2007 was unprotected heterosexual, meaning boy and girl. After 2009, male to male unprotected sex became the predominant mode of transmission. 

And in 2010, HIV transmission through sharing of infected needles started to increase. Because of this, spreading of HIV now remains a potential threat to female partners of infected male injecting drug users and also the mother to child transmission.

On the distribution of condom, this is part of our press release last December 5. And, we have to deal with HIV-AIDS, not as business as usual, but business unusual, using this strategy of eliminating HIV in the country.

So the Department of Health, together with the Department of Education, the National Youth Commission, plays the youth as the key player in the campaign against the spread of HIV AIDS.

The Secretary is proposing the distribution of condoms to schools, based on the current statistics in which HIV is increasing among the 15 to 24 years old and it is shown that there is low condom use rate and a lot of valid reason or varying reason for not using condom.

It includes lack of knowledge about the disease, lack of access to condom, and some legal hurdles, since 15 to 17 year old people or children needs parental consent before they can seek services in our Social Hygiene Clinic or avail of reproductive health services.

But the Secretary’s convinced that this will help a lot in averting and even reversing the increasing trend of HIV in the country.

We hope to start distribution of condom next year, with the cooperation of the Department of Education, specifically in regions with the most number of HIV cases and these are in National Capital Region, Calabarzon, and Region III and in other vulnerable areas and high-risk population groups.

For a statement, the DOH would like to say that the promotion of condoms does not encourage risky behaviors, rather it promotes responsibility, respect, and good health habit.

Let us equip the youth with the correct and consistent information against HIV and AIDS.

So, that somewhat summarizes our statement on the HIV, including the much talk about condom distribution in school.

Allow me to just give an update on our Iwas Paputok campaign. We now have 70 firework-related injuries reported.

This is much, much lower than the figures that we had last year and even the last five years average.

In 2015, as of this date, the same period last year, we had 124 cases. But as of today, we have received report that we only have 70 fireworks injury — related reports, incidents.

One is considered fireworks ingestion, but this is not really a case of ingestion. A child was seen to have the luces in between the teeth, but when was brought to the hospital and was observed was sent right away, seeing no sign of poisoning or actual ingestion.

The rest of the 69 are all blast injuries and half of these are from National Capital Region and of these blast injuries, more than half are caused, or 64 percent — 64 cases are caused by illegal, illegal fireworks like the piccolo and the boga.

There’s no report of stray bullet injury and one report of amputation, this happened in Samar. And it involves the right — four digits of the right hand. There was amputation that was done.

But so far no deaths were reported and we hope to see less and less cases. We’re praying that we’ll see less cases and no more deaths, no more injuries, no more amputation, so that everybody will be having a really prosperous and happy New Year.

So with that. Thank you po.


TINA MENDEZ (The Philippine Star): Good morning, Usec. May we know how much is the budget allocated for the distribution of condoms in 2017?

USEC. BAYUGO: I cannot specifically give the — but the budget that we have for the whole HIV-AIDS program, which includes the condom, the testing, is one billion for 2017.

We have not procured the condom for distribution because we still have a lot condom in our stocks. But depending on the success of this campaign, since it will not be nationwide, initially, it will be prioritized to some high-risk region.

We have seen that the stocks of condom that we have will be sufficient for us to make this initial pilot. If there will be a need for us to buy more then we have the funds coming from that one billion money allotted for the program.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, you still have other budget regarding distribution of condom, regarding population control?  

USEC. BAYUGO: Yes, We still have that —-

Ms. Mendez: You have the —

USEC. BAYUGO: Available… For the condom, I think, 50 million or 50 to 100 million worth of condom is scheduled for procurement for next year.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, last question. At this point, how many condoms are in stock at the DOH and why was this apparently not distributed?

USEC. BAYUGO: We have actually this regularly on stock but we have also the supplies available in the different, at the regions we have, we have at the provincial office, we have at the different health outlets.

So, it’s there. The only thing that we have still on stock about 10 million — 10 million condoms at the central office. And these so we can use to test our scheme of distribution of condom amongst high school student will be acceptable and will be successful.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, last follow-up. Why were these not distributed — 10 million condoms would have an impact maybe sa population in 2016?

USEC. BAYUGO: We have to have — yeah…

Ms. Mendez: You have the budget in 2016 and you have another budget in 2017. Why were these not distributed when there were enough?  

USEC. BAYUGO: We have to have stocks, somewhere, in the central office. And if there’s a need to move these stocks in areas where there are reported — they are running out stocks, then we have a way of adjusting and supplying them. So some sort of an elbow room in terms of the distribution and allocation that we have prepared.

So, but we… What I’m telling is that we have stocks at the regions and we have stocks available also in the health centers, in our health facilities.

We don’t have to be zero at our warehouse in the central office, so that’s what I’m telling that we have available stocks also.

But it doesn’t mean that while they are not being used, they are ready to be mobilized in case there will be a rural health units or health centers that will be requesting additional supplies.

And we have this hotline, it’s being managed by the Population Commission wherein our health centers are reporting stocks of their family planning commodities. This includes pills, this includes IUD, this includes condom. And we are constantly, regularly receiving calls and following up status of these supplies in their facilities.

CHONA YU (Radyo Inquirer): Sir, ‘yung pamimigay, pagbukas po ng klase sa January at lahat po ng high school students sa NCR, Region 3 and Calabarzon?

USEC. BAYUGO: These details are being discussed with DepEd because we do not want na basta mamigay lang na left and right. It needs to be with appropriate advocacy and information.

Hindi ito ‘yung parang kukuha ka lang sa kiosk at bibili ka. And there should be parental involvement also.

So, these guidelines are being ironed out with the DepEd. So that, alam naman natin ang kultura natin na madaming against that.

But this is one strategy—condom distribution is one strategy that our Secretary and the DOH has considered because of the increasing cases among the youth.

Two out of three infections that’s happening now is among the age of 15 to 24 years old. So sa kanila ‘yung infection na dumadami and that is where we need to do some action.

Ms. Yu: Sir, both public and private schools?

USEC. BAYUGO: We hope we can do that na ma-involve pati ‘yung private. But first, we would like to focus in areas that are — we have seen so many cases, and also those vulnerable individuals.

Iyong mga MSM kasi ‘yun ‘yung number one natin ngayon. From 44 percent before 2010, now it’s 81 percent as the cause of HIV transmission, it’s 81 percent, are due to male — having sex with male.

JP BENCITO (The Manila Standard): Hi sir, good morning. Sir, doon sa fireworks related injuries, malapit na ‘yung January 1 so do we expect the number to grow or ano po ‘yung preparations natin to lessen the number of those injured from fireworks related?

USEC. BAYUGO: The first thing that we did, we launched it last December 19. And we made use of the school children, elementary and high school, talking to them, telling them about what they should be doing, will increase mass and avoid fireworks, firecrackers.

We did the launching with the PNP, nandoon pa ‘yung mascot ni ano, ni General Bato. Actually they have two mascots –– si PO1 Magalang and General Bato and a mascot from the Bureau of Fire Protection, si B1 and B2 and our own mascot, [meron ba kaming mascot? si Dr. Tayag]… Joke lang, yosi kadiri naman ‘yun eh.

But the strategy is to have these children tell their parents not to use because I reported in that launching that one parent died because of firecrackers last year.

Iyong Goodbye Philippines, lasing siya, inakap niya and because of that, some children lost their fathers, lost their father at that time.

So, I hope that somewhat also help send them the message that children should tell their parents not to engage in this dangerous celebration of New Year.

And also the initial proposal of having this ban on firecrackers, just like what is being done in Davao, so we have prepared that Executive Order but it seems there are some adjustments that we need to do.

Medyo late na daw ‘yung implementation kung isasagawa because there are already industries that have prepared and…Iyon malulugi din naman sila completely kung…

So, parang nag-lobby na baka pwedeng i-delay muna. So, but still we are advocating to the local governments na if they can set up community fireworks display and request or appeal to the community na huwag munang magpaputok individually.

So, that’s our proposal to ban individual firecracker use but encourage or allow the community fireworks display to be implemented by all the local government units.

So ‘yun po patuloy ang ating panawagan and also we are making rounds of the hospitals to show the people how prepared they are. Iyong lagare, ‘yung mga pangputol ng kamay, paa at daliri. A way of parang scare tactics na rin so that magisip-isip ‘yung ating kababayan  bago sila gumamit ng mga bawal at mga malalakas na paputok.

MARLON RAMOS (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): Usec, how are you addressing the strong opposition of the Catholic Church regarding your plan to distribute condoms in schools? I mean, are you planning to sit down with them and discuss your plan?

USEC. BAYUGO: Yes, that will be a good strategy but our message nga is we are not doing this just like that. It has to be coupled with proper information.

The message is we need to inform the youth about HIV because the knowledge, the awareness of the youth is very low. It’s less than 20% actually based on the several surveys that we have done—17% to be exact ang awareness ng general young population on the HIV/AIDS. So it’s very low.

This way we can get the attention and hopefully more and more of our young population will have this comprehensive — more complete knowledge of HIV and how it’s transmitted.

So also it’s a way of raising that — putting it in the air, the issue of teenage pregnancy. So, because teenage pregnancy is rising. It has doubled in the last 10 years. 2006 I think it was about 6. something percent now it’s 13% during the 2013 data.

So, teenage pregnancy is there. It’s becoming a big problem and pre-marital sex is happening. So and because of this also a lot of young teenagers are getting HIV/AIDS.

So, I hope the Church will understand that this — we are not doing this to control the population. And we are very much willing to seek their assistance and help in promoting awareness about the morality of our children—the proper way that children needs to behave sexually and the condom is just there as a stopgap.

Doesn’t mean that if you, the teacher or the school gave you a condom, you have to use it. It’s a sign of you getting the information, you getting more responsible and respect for your peers.

Iyong mga kababaihan lalo na — dapat inirerespeto at hindi natin basta-basta sinisira din ‘yung kinabukasan. Because if you get pregnant, then that’s one thing already if you’re a girl, especially, ano?

Mr. Ramos: Are you hopeful that Church leaders would listen to your explanation?

USEC. BAYUGO:  We pray. We pray na they will.

Mr. Ramos: Usec, is the DOH concerned about the decision of the PNP to — not to pursue ‘yung taping ‘nung muzzle ng mga baril nila every New Year kasi iyon ‘yung directive ng PNP Chief? Are you concerned that this would lead to the increase in cases of stray bullets?

USEC. BAYUGO:  I cannot comment on that. It’s the strategy of the PNP. But what I can say is so far, as of this date, we have not received any report that there are injuries that are due to stray bullet.


Mr. Ramos: Sir, di ba’t si…The President initially…I’m sorry…The DOH, the Health Secretary, previously said that the President was set to sign an Executive Order banning the use of fireworks?

USEC. BAYUGO:  A draft of that was submitted to the Office of the President but the President said that this will have to be discussed during the Cabinet Meeting and I was not there during the meeting but I just learned there are just some groups that are saying that we also need to look at the industry side—the people that will be affected in terms of their livelihood.

In Davao, it was implemented for so many years because the industry can have other market to go to but when it’s a nationwide ban, it’s another thing, it’s a different thing.

And there would be industries, and laborers that may be affected by this move. So, I think that the President was wise enough to consider that even if he is a very strong advocate of a total ban.

Mr. Ramos: Is an Executive Order enough, there’s no need for a legislation for this?

USEC. BAYUGO: Legislation will be a better tool to really enforce things that we would like to happen.

But for the meantime, since legislation will take much time, much longer time, we believe that an Executive Order could have been a faster way of making our New Year’s safer for the Filipinos.

ALEXIS ROMERO (The Philippine Star): Okay, doctor. So ibig sabihin this New Year there will be no EO on firecrackers?

USEC. BAYUGO: We have not seen any signed EO yet so…That’s not for me to say, of course, mag-aabang na lang kami if there would be an EO that will be coming out.

Mr. Romero: Pero highly unlikely na, puwede ba ‘tong sabihin highly unlikely na considering na ilang araw na lang?

USEC. BAYUGO:  Hindi ko alam. Hindi ko masagot siguro. Hindi naman kasi ako ang pipirma so…

Mr. Romero: Pero what are the details contained in the EO? Ano ‘yung nakalagay doon sa EO na diniraft niyo? Can you give us more details about it?

USEC. BAYUGO:  Iyon nga ‘yung bina-ban actually ‘yung individual use of the firecrackers. Kasi based on our ano —what we have drafted, dalawanng klase yan: firecrackers, ito ‘yung mga paputok and the fireworks display, ito ‘yung pyrotechnics, ano, ito ‘yung pyrotechnics and the firecrackers.

Fireworks is ito ‘yung lahat-lahat, this includes the pyrotechnics and firecrackers. What we would like to limit or to ban is the individual use of the firecrackers dahil ito ‘yung nakakagawa talaga ng injuries sa ating mga kababayan.

But the fireworks display, ‘yung pyrotechnics okay it especially if we setup a community fireworks display. So, wala naman, bihira naman ‘yung nagkakaroon ng injuries because of that.

Usually we see this in mga fiesta, doon sa mga mall na malalaki and you don’t see any report of the people getting injured.

So, ang injuries natin talaga during that—the New Year is the use individually of the firecrackers especially the loud and the big ones and the illegal ones. Piccolo, number one, ito ‘yung pinakasanhi ngayon ng mga related injuries natin sa firecrackers.

Mr. Romero: May sanctions po bang nakalagay doon sa draft EO for violators?

USEC. BAYUGO: ‘Pag EO what I know is walang sanctions. Pag batas diyan puwede ka nang maglagay ng sanction. Pero ‘pag Executive Order, hindi ka…

Mr. Romero: Kahit warning or…

USEC. BAYUGO: Parang wala yata…

Mr. Romero: Wala, okay thank you po.

Sweeden Velado (PTV-4): Good afternoon, Usec. Sir, kanina po sa press conference ni PNP Chief Bato, nasabi niya that President Duterte told him that Philippines is not yet ready for a firecracker ban. Sir, do you agree with this mindset of the President? Hindi pa po ba talaga tayo ready because of lack of information dissemination?

USEC. BAYUGO: I agree. Of course, I have to ano. I have to agree with the President.

And… Personally, I agree because this administration came in midway ano. And the preparation for the year, ‘yung production nito lahat-lahat ng mga, even the investment, happened even earlier. And just disrupting an industry like that, it will not be a good sign also, in terms of your concern for your people.

There are areas, there are industries that would be affected and this has to be made.

And so far, so good. Sabi ko nga, we are seeing less, less injuries. Kung hindi naman aangal ‘yung mga industry ng mga fireworks na hindi naman bumaba ‘yung kanilang sale, siguro mas maging maingat na lang ‘yung mga tao.

And we hope to have, to see that continuing as we celebrate the New Year.

Ms. Velado:  Follow up, Usec. So, just to clarify. We are pushing for a firecracker ban, not firecracker or regulation. Ban po talaga by next year, if ever we implement it?

USEC. BAYUGO: Yes, oo.

Celerina Monte (Manila Shimbun): Good morning, sir. Sir, how big is this industry? ‘Di ba you’re saying na… You’re considering this industry kaya the government is not yet issuing this EO? So how big is this industry to be affected if ever?

USEC. BAYUGO: Hindi ko alam, actually. What I was telling earlier that it was discussed during the Cabinet and what I heard is that there are lobby from the industry side.

But I’m not privy to the discussion that happened. So I really don’t know how big is the industry of the firework industry in the country.

Ms. Monte: Since the government is avoiding this abrupt implementation if ever, that’s why there’s no EO yet, so are we expecting that as early as next year, there could be an EO banning these firecrackers?

USEC. BAYUGO: Two ways, it’s either we push through with that EO or we propose a law that will more or less achieve what we intend to achieve, meaning less injury, less damages.

Kasi hindi lang naman injury minsan. Minsan nagkakasunog pa. Hindi ba? Because of the kwitis na kung saan-saan napunta. So these are the things that we would like to be achieved by this regulation that we will be proposing.

Ms. Monte: So we’re expecting by next year, there will be an EO or a law prohibiting these firecrackers?

USEC. BAYUGO: Hopefully we can have that by next year.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We’d like to wrap up the year with a brief summary of the achievements for 2016 and prospects for 2017.

As a very brief summary, we’d like to cover five areas or six areas, that have shown significant, significant achievements under the Duterte administration.

Number one is economic growth; number two is employment, aspect of employment; number three is infrastructure; number four is international partnerships; the war in illegal drugs; and peace talks.

Regarding economic growth, the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia in 2016. With a seven percent GDP growth in the first three quarters, we are sure to achieve, if not surpass, our target of 6 to 7 percent growth for the whole of 2016.

Household consumption, as well as investments in construction, public infrastructure and durable equipment drove the economic growth.

This was supported by low inflation, low interest rates, better labor market conditions and the steady growth in the remittances of our overseas Filipino workers.

Government assistance such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps also provided additional boost to consumer demand.

The agriculture sector is also starting to recover and finally breaking five consecutive quarters of decline. Growth in industry, particularly manufacturing, construction and utilities, accelerated.

The services sector likewise improved overall, with stronger expansion in trade, finance, real estate, and public administration.

So what are the prospects for 2017? The NEDA is setting a GDP growth rate in 2017 of between 6.5 and 7.5 percent.

To accelerate poverty reduction, the fight for the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health or the RPRH Law. This is intended to make sure that women become more productive members of the labor force.

Employment. In 2016, the Philippine labor market is found to be in better shape, as employment rate as of October 2016 is at 95.3 percent. 

This means that there are approximately 41.7 million Filipinos employed, while unemployment rate also declined to a record low of 4.7 percent.  

So what are the prospects for 2017? Considering that one-third of our labor market remains vulnerable to external shocks, we must continue to work to improve local infrastructure and link the agriculture sector with industries to help raise the productivity of farmers and increase the value of their products. 

We also need to strengthen linkages with academe, technical education institutions, and industries to equip students with competencies essential to thrive in today’s competitive work environment.

In terms of infrastructure, in 2016 the NEDA Board, which has already met twice, has so far approved 17 projects of which we’ve touched on in several past briefings.

But among them, may I just mention: Phase 1 of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project; the EDSA Bus Rapid Transit Project; the Plaridel Bypass Road Project; the New Cebu International Container Port Project; the South Line of the North-South Railway Project; and the New Nayong Pilipino at Entertainment City.

So what are the prospects for 2017? The government is ramping up public infrastructure spending next year, allotting at least 5 percent of the GDP to go to infrastructure projects until 2022.

International partnerships, what happened in 2016? The President embarked on foreign trips to ASEAN, China, Japan, and Peru.

It was a very fruitful series of trips as the Philippines has now opened more opportunities for trade and investment to a market of 1.8 billion people across the ASEAN region.

This is line with our desire for a closer integration in Asia through regional economic rebalancing and diversifying our foreign economic relations.

What are the prospects for 2017? Our chairmanship of the ASEAN Summit next year will be a perfect opportunity for the Philippine government to forge more partnerships with our neighboring countries.

The war on illegal drugs. The President launched a determined campaign versus illegal drugs which he characterized as having reached the level of narco-politics because people in positions from local to the national, as well as institutions like the police and military have been coopted by the drug cartel.

The campaign has resulted in the surrender of more than 900,000 people from the different barangays and the confiscation of billions of worth of illegal drugs.

What are the prospects for 2017? Exposing the drug menace has now led the government to look at it not only as a national security but also now as a public health issue, hence, the building of rehab programs all over the nation.

Peace talks. The second round of the official peace talks between the government and the communist-led NDF ended with both parties agreeing on the framework and outline of the proposed agreements on socioeconomic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The negotiations were conducted in Norway.

Prospects for 2017, President Duterte’s ultimate dream is for all armed conflict to stop and for the Filipino people to live in peace, safety, and security.

We now have room for a few questions.

Ms. Mendez: Hi, sir, happy New Year.


Ms. Mendez: May New Year’s resolution daw po ba ang Pangulo? Like hindi na magmuura ganyan.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think he wants peace on Earth, goodwill to all men.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, any reaction on this call of three United States Senators expressing concern on President Duterte’s war in describing at—as a campaign of—drug campaign disguise as a campaign of mass atrocities?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Is it an official statement? Is that from State Department?

Ms. Mendez: Three senators, three US Senators wrote their Congress regarding their concern?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It has not reached my desk. However, they are entitled to their own opinions.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, ‘yung first six months ng Duterte administration sa war on drugs, how would you asses it? Considering that the President promise to extend the drug menace within the first six months of his administration?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, it was part of the campaign promise, right?

Mr. Ramos: Yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: However as he has said repeatedly the, depth and breadth and the extent of the influence of illegal drugs is far more than he actually imagined.

However, considering the fact that he was able to—that his campaign was able to be yield, surrendering — at least, nearly a million surrenderees shows us how significant how — how significant the impact is upon the — upon those who were engaged in the drug, in drugs.

And I think it’s something to be lauded, something to be appreciated and something I believe that…A great number of people on the ground appreciate the fact that they can go home safe, the fact that there are no — people are no longer on the streets acting with impunity and we hear this on the ground, I’m sure you do.

The people do appreciate the fact that the — that his war on drugs has actually yielded very significant results both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, pardon me for saying this. But how can the government say that the streets are now safer when the PNP said the murder — the murder cases have increased by 51 percent?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think you have to put it in context ‘no. The… It says also that index crime rates have also lowered significantly telling us that the number of — majority of those crimes have been related to  drugs.

So, you know, so in a sense it is a question of being able to see it with right perspective. And also coming back from the reports, actually, if you hear anecdotal reports of people, they actually, they actually say that: how much they deeply appreciate the fact that they can go home safer. Thank you.

Mr. Ramos: So it’s better for Filipinos being killed than Filipinos falling prey to petty criminals? Is that the…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the way you phrase it seems to indicate — indicate a particular political position.

Is not that way. Who ever again, again and again the President says that nobody celebrates the fact that Filipinos die, no.

And nobody celebrates that. Nobody appreciates that.

However we do, we do appreciate the fact that the situation on the ground is so much more safer. That is what we celebrate.

Mr. Ramos:  Sir, what are the parameters when the government says that it is winning the war on drugs?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, first and foremost the fact that we were able to uncover the — uncover the depth, the length and depth of the actual situation. The fact that he is able to identify — identify at least four to five thousand people in government, and people in government who are actually involved in the drug trade.

In one way or another that is already significant. Identifying the enemy is about 50% of the battle, right? And also the fact that at least 900,000 people have already surrendered during his administration.

So it tells you that prior to him, prior to his situation, this was not something that was being done.

And so this is not a question of saying that this administration is better. It simply is the fact that it seems to be more effective along these lines than what has happened previously.

Mr. Bencito:  Hi, sir. Sir, may mga reports daw na at least 100 people or street dwellers are being cleansed up, rounded up in the streets of Manila in preparation for Miss U? How true is it, sir, and are we eyeing this policy to be implemented to clean up the streets just to present something good for the visitors that will be coming here next year?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In fact on the contrary, what I heard but this is only anecdotal not the policy, is the fact that the President apparently has said, ‘Oh, Leave them there.’ Leave them there so that the people see exactly where we are.

So I don’t know exactly which rules are these, I don’t know if it’s official. But as far as I know, anecdotally, the President has said that, ‘leave them there’, so that, you know…We are not hiding our true situation.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, on another point, the Vice President last week said na she has raised concerns on the statements of the President about Martial Law. She has apprehensions to what the President said na ‘changing the Constitution’. Can you please clarify this, sir? And ‘yung concerns bang ni-raise niya is this legitimate concerns or na misunderstood ba ni VP ‘yung statements ni Presidente?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, you know, the President… In context, the President was saying that… The President was saying that, there seems to be…If… If Martial Law were to be taken for what it’s supposed to be which is to preserve the — which is to protect and preserve the safety of the people, then it should be facilitated.

However, the President — Vice President Leni seems to have amplified, amplified her concerns. And it seems to make it appear as if the President was actually planning of doing it.

But if you read it in context, it was not exact. It was not that way.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, on another note na lang. On the Vice President pa rin. Sir, reportedly the VP’s in New York. Pero sinalanta daw yung Bicol, ah sinalanta yung Bicol. There were some criticisms on the Vice President. Is this, kind of wrong na the VP is taking a vacation then her people are suffering?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s not mine to judge, you know. It’s not our position to be able to judge her actions. It’s her responsibility.

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, sir.


Cedric Castillo (GMA 7): Sec, Happy New Year po, sir.


Mr. Castillo: Sir, Manila Times is reporting that US Ambassador, former US Ambassador to the Philippines Goldberg, sir, left behind a strategic blueprint daw supposedly on how to remove President Duterte from the office, sir.  Has the President…Does the President… Has the President seen?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if he has seen the — but you know it’s on the Internet. Everybody can access that.

However, we have not received any news from the State Department apparently. As far as I know, as far as I have been informed the State Department has denied anything of this sort. And has denied participation of anything of this sort.    

However, as we can see, you know, the President continues to enjoy the trust of the people on the ground, apparently, appreciate what he is doing.

So, again, let me just say that, according to the article, whoever attempts this will find it difficult.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, on the matter po. I think this is the only aircraft carrier ng China that conducting — that has conducted — what China calls ‘routine exercises’ sa South China Sea, any reaction from the Palace po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We do not have… I don’t have an official report. I don’t have any official reaction to that or response. 

Ms. Monte: Can you confirm reports regarding the upcoming visit next year of Japanese Prime Minister Abe? When will that be? Would it be a state visit or official visit?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There have been talks regarding that matter but there are no official word yet that has been given. So I cannot comment authoritatively. 

Ms. Monte: Sir, Secretary — another topic. Secretary Piñol raised concern regarding the 4Ps because according to him they received reports from the ground that there were less farm workers working now on the field because they were dependent on 4Ps. Parang they were just waiting for the fund and place it like isusugal daw nila. So is there any action from the government regarding this matter?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will have to clarify that with Secretary Piñol. First, we have to clarify the context of the statement and then we have to clarify the veracity of whether it really is true with people are recklessly spending whatever aid that they are receiving.

Ms. Monte: So if ever will there be a move to like reduce the number of beneficiaries?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I’m sure there will be resultant responses.