Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio Balisacan
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañang
31 January 2017
OPENING STATEMENTS:

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning.

We are fortunate to have today as a resource person the first chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission, Dr. Arsenio Balisacan.

He is an economist with extensive high-level policy-making practice and a well-recognized expert in Asia on economic development, poverty and inequality, political economy of policy reforms.

Prior to his appointment as chairman of the PCC in January 2016, he served as the Economic Planning Secretary since 2010 and concurrently the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Chairman Balisacan is from the UP — is from — holds a PhD in Economics from University of Hawaii, a Masters in Agriculture Economics from UPLB.

It is going to be the first anniversary of PCC tomorrow and I believe the chairman is going to explain to us that PCC is not about sports.

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Thank you Secretary, Abella, for giving us this privilege to formally introduce to our friends from the media, as well as to the public, this relatively new government agency I now represent, the Philippine Competition Commission or PCC.

For those here who might be hearing about the Philippine Competition Commission for the first time, let me tell you first, what is not. I think Secretary Abella preempted that.

Some people think that we are a sports-governing body and in the beginning we are often asked what competitive events we regulate.

It shows that in the Philippines, the public and our businesses are not used to the idea that commerce could be regulated for the purpose of promoting market competition.

This is our task in the PCC: promoting fair competition in Philippine markets.

It is important to zero in on why our work matters in the grand scheme of the development agenda of the President.

When there are safeguards for market competition, economic growth is more rapid and sustainable, as the pressure of competition enhances efficiency and productivity growth in all businesses, industries or areas of the country.

Greater productivity of businesses means that Filipinos benefit through higher incomes from having more and better quality jobs.

When businesses compete, consumers benefit further through lower prices, better quality of goods and services, and more choices in markets.

Protecting market competition will grow the economy, and it will make this growth more poverty-reducing and inclusive. 

Competition law and policy applies to all industries and all businesses, big and small.

It is in place to provide a level-playing field, protecting consumers and businesses from anti-competitive conduct.

For example, when business associations that control a large share of a market agree to fix their prices at a high level, they are confident that no competitor will come along to offer lower prices.

Or when a dominant market players or dominant market players buy out smaller, innovative, and thriving companies, only to close down or close them down for the purpose of eliminating competition.

Or when competitors conspire to offer artificially high bids in a government contract, agreeing beforehand on who will win the bid.

All these behavior or behaviors lead to higher prices for consumers and the market conditions that are inhospitable to entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises and all these behaviors are now against the law.

Republic Act 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act regulates all these behaviors. It was enacted in July 2015, passed after 24-year battle in Congress.

The Philippines was one of the last countries in the ASEAN region to have an antitrust law.

The PCC is the agency mandated with promoting fair competition among companies across various industries to safeguard the welfare of Filipino consumers.

Anti-competitive agreements, such as: cartels, where companies that should be competing with each other instead collude to share the market or manipulate prices; price fixing, where competitors, even in the context of trade associations, agree to a common price at which to sell to their customers; and bid-rigging, where competing bidders conspire to offer only high prices and agreeing beforehand on who will win the bid.

Abuse of dominant market position, where companies which command a market abuse or market abuse their dominance to stamp out or exclude any competitors.

Anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions. Here, we look out for mergers and acquisitions that may substantially prevent, restrict, or lessen competition in the market.

Monopolies, duopolies, and similar market structures are also on our radar. Market dominance may not be prohibited per se but the law prohibits abusing one’s market power to restrict or lessen competition.

Our mandated functions include, among others: the review of large mergers and acquisitions; investigation and rendering of decisions on antitrust cases; conduct of market studies and competition-related research; issuance of expert opinion, recommendations, and advisories on matters related to competition.

As the country’s antitrust body, we endeavor to crack down on cartels, break up monopolies, penalize and fine companies that are found guilty of anti-competitive behaviors.

The PCC has been in existence for exactly one year tomorrow. You are all invited to our anniversary.

We are, in fact, celebrating our first anniversary in Feb 1, and these are our accomplishments so far:

For Mergers and Acquisitions, we have received and acted upon 80 notifications worth about 1.7 trillion pesos as of January 30, 2017 and we have maintained a zero backlog on merger reviews.

In Competition Enforcement, we have eight referrals for possible anti-competitive conduct in various industries.

We have also issued four procedural guidelines in relation to enforcement and review of mergers and are currently in the process of writing many more guidelines as we prepare for the end of the law’s transitory period in August of this year.

As you may know, the ongoing case we have involving the telco duopoly—PLDT and Globe—struck a chord with consumers who, together with the current administration, is demanding better internet service for lower prices.

To give you an update as to where we are on the case. So far, two rulings from the Court of Appeals have been in our favor, and two other rulings were in the favor of the telcos.

We now await a decision from the Court of Appeals to determine if we can finally move forward with our legally mandated review of this telco deal.

Overall, we are optimistic that 2017 will be a banner year for the Commission as we strengthen linkages with other government agencies and key regulatory bodies.

For the first time in the country’s socio-economic planning history, a full chapter on National Competition Policy has been included in the recently drafted Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

This is a strong indication that fair market competition is considered a key pillar in the Duterte administration’s development strategy.

Background work for the chapter on competition was initiated by the PCC, in coordination with National Economic and Development Authority through a comprehensive study, which maps the whole competition landscape — the National Competition Policy Review.

We expect the study’s completion within the first quarter of the year. Under this review, PCC will identify priority sectors or industries that are afflicted by or vulnerable to anti-competitive behavior and recommend remedies to dismantle market structures that are harmful to consumers and the country’s economy.

One of these remedies is the lifting of restrictions on foreign participation in certain industries, like utilities and infrastructure.

We are also reviewing government policies, regulations and administrative issuances that may constrain competition.

There are many instances where we have found that the anti-competitive environment comes from existing government rules rather than the conduct of the firms.

In cases such as those, the PCC would work with regulatory agencies to change rules, making them pro rather than anti-competition.

We have seven months left before the transitory period of the Philippine Competition Act ends in August of this year. Our biggest challenge ahead is informing and educating the public about the provisions of the law so that businesses are informed about their compliance obligations and the public is aware of the practices that are illegal and should be brought to the attention of the PCC.

The Competition Act is a game-changer for the Philippine economy. With the PCC as its main enforcer, we intend to leverage the powers vested in us by this law to hasten economic growth and enable the spread of this growth to all Filipinos.

We look forward to the cooperation of our stakeholders, the business community, the consumers, our partner government agencies, of course you, our friends in media — in helping us reach our strategic vision of creating a culture that promotes market competition.

Thank you very much. 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Chona Yu (Radyo Inquirer): Sir, tanong ko lang, ano ‘yung thin line between Philippine — PCC saka DTI? Parang it seems that you have the same mandate doon sa fair consumer, mga ganon.

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: DTI, insofar as markets are concerned, leads in the development of competitiveness concerns or addressing competitiveness concerns and also in monitoring say, prices, consumer prices, in particular, basic goods and services.

The lens of the Competition Commission is focused on competition, meaning how markets perform in relation to the prices that consumers pay, the quality of the goods they offered to them and the variety of those goods.

So we are not concerned about specific firm per se but we are looking at the operations of market, that the structure, the market works in the interest of consumers, and for economic development.

So to summarize, we are not looking at — you do not go to the sari-sari store or to the wet market to look at prices there but we have a different instruments, tools, like conducting market studies to identify the structure of the market and for us to understand what or how markets behave and why they behave the way they do.

If they are behaving like a cartel, we would want to find out what’s making that possible and break that through the powers vested in us, those are contributing to the formation of the cartel.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Commissioner, good noon. Dexter po sa DZMM. Sir, ‘yung sa PCC, katulad din po ba siya ng DTI na tumatanggap kayo ng mga reklamo?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Oh yeah,

Mr. Ganibe: About doon sa competition?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: There are three ways by which a case or cases can be initiated at PCC: One is, any interested entity like you or any person can file a verified complaint to us on conduct of certain entities, businesses;

The second one is for another government agency or even a regulator, a regulatory body to refer cases to us, to investigate, to review and act accordingly;

And the third is that, based on the information that we are receiving and based on what the media has been discovering and our own investigation or market studies, we can motu proprio undertake the review.

Mr. Ganibe: Sumagi na po ba sa PCC ‘yung competition sa mga oil companies, pagpe-presyo ng oil products na madalas binabanggit na nagkakaroon ng cartel na sila-sila lang ‘yung nag-uusap po?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Yeah, we have been — that thing — a case has not been filed or initiated but that’s in our radar. We are reading that, for example, cases in Mindanao where there are allegations that there may be some anti-competitive practices there in relation to the pricing of oil.

Mr. Ganibe: So may pwede bang magsagawa ng motu proprio investigation ang PCC diyan?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: We can do that, yeah. Our approach right now is, I said, is that we want to first scan the whole environment competition landscape and that we are doing through the national competition policy review that I mentioned.

And we prioritize our resources because our resources are very limited. And those areas where we see competition issue can impact so much on the welfare of our people.

Mr. Ganibe: Follow up lang po. Saang stage na po kayo doon sa ganoong isinasagawang investigation doon sa sinasabing pricing ng oil?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Oh marami. As I’ve said, we have many cases. For example, for the mergers and acquisitions. In the case of mergers and acquisitions kasi, what we do is we examine whether a merger or an acquisition by another party can potentially or substantially impact on competition or restrict competition.

Now, in other cases where there are already existing practices like cartel, or additional dominant positions, there we also helped a number of cases already in various stages of review and analysis.

Unfortunately, because of the quasi-judicial nature of the Commission, we could not speak specifically about these cases, particularly what industries, what firms because this could compromise our capacity or ability to undertake investigation.

For example, when we announced that a certain party is being investigated or examined by us, they might destroy the evidence before we get there ‘no. So that’s the constraint that we face.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, there’s a recent AIN study saying that under the current setup, there is little incentive for telecom firms to lower their prices and improve their service in the infrastructure. So, sir, what do you think could be done to address the situation? And what should be done to hasten the entry of more players in the industry?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Yeah, well, that’s precisely the very nature of the current case. As I said earlier, the Globe and PLDT acquired the San Miguel Corporation telco assets.

The Commission came forward to assert its mandate to review that merger but before we can completely review, we were stopped. The telco parties went to the court to stop us from finishing or completing the review. And that’s where we are.

Unfortunately, as I said, I can’t speak on the specifics of the case because that could…

But having said that, we at the Commission will not stop or will not even… In fact, we are encouraged by this development to work harder, to make sure that we improve the competition landscape in this country.

And as the numbers have shown, we have gone far beyond the telco case and many other cases now.

We are also strengthening the Competition Commission. We are hiring people, we have not — we still have a lot of people to hire, including some media communication experts. I’m not hiring from the OP but that’s where we are.

Ms. Salaverria: Isa na lang. You are going up against big businesses. Does the PCC need stronger powers or –?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: The law that created PCC has given that power that we can go after big firms that are behaving anti-competitively.

We have been given the power to look at remedies, so remedies to address the problem, including splitting big companies if there is a need for that.

But let me also explain or note that bigness per se is not necessarily prohibited ‘no in the law. That bigness in some cases may be necessary — a necessary thing for efficiency, for prices to go down and so, what we are watching at are practices, conduct of businesses, firms that work the other way.

It’s not for the improvement of efficiency but to make the economy less efficient by hindering competition thereby making prices higher and limiting the availability of goods to consumers.

Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. I’m sure you did not review the Miss Universe competition yesterday. Or did you?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: That’s not a market for us. [laughs]

Mr. Ramos: Sir, without mentioning any specific companies. Which industries are prone to the control of cartels?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: In the…

Mr. Ramos: Besides telcos and the oil?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: In the experiences of many countries, utilities are vulnerable. Some sectors and industry are also quite vulnerable.

Again, looking at the cases we find in Africa and Latin America, for example, we see there the cases filed by competition or handled by competition authorities and such industry as pharmaceutical, cement, and so on.

But, our approach, as I have mentioned earlier to the enforcement of the competition law is to undertake a — to complete this national competition policy review, which will serve as our guidance in identifying those sectors that we want to prioritize on because those sectors might have the most impact and or might have so much influence in the performance of the economy and in the welfare of our people.

Mr. Ramos: How about the roads, toll operators? Do you also review?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: It’s also… So far, we don’t have that case but the law doesn’t exempt any particular sector or industry.

All commerce or businesses are covered. And so when a case is filed that there is an allegation of anti-competitive conduct in that particular sector, we are obliged to — we would act accordingly.

Mr. Ramos: Before the creation of the PCC, how does the government ensure that no cartels would be controlling the industry?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Well… There are so many agencies ‘no vested with certain powers that influence their respective sectors ‘no.

But these have been quite ineffective in the sense that he want to ensure that there is consistency and that the impact of a government action is fairly understood, you need to have a lens that look at those sectors quite independently.

I think what’s the problem with some of our regulators that they’re playing too many roles. They’re regulator and at the same time they’re producer of services. They compete with the private sector. They… So they’re the policeman, they are the judges, they are the trial lawyers at the same time and also–

So it’s very difficult to — to come up with a decision that really work for competition as such and for… I am looking at the efficiency angle.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir. Sir, the President has time and again warned that he will open up the ICT sector to boost competition and eventually boost or improve internet speed. Can you tell us of any moves that may have been taken already to really make this happen?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: We welcome that development and we are quite indeed happy that the administration is taking actions and what has been identified by many research ‘no, research results in over the years, and what has been constraining investment and rapid growth particularly inclusive growth in this country ‘no.

And one of this is the — is often cited as the very restrictive nature of our economic environment with respect to participation of foreign entities ‘no in the economy.

In the national competition policy review that I earlier indicated, we mentioned there that we’ll be looking at each of the sectors.

We’ll be identifying the specific circumstances that have prevented the sectors from becoming competitive, becoming efficient, becoming driver of growth, and act accordingly.

Because in some cases, it may not — the problem may not be just the absence of competition firm, a foreign entity, but there may be some other constraints.

Ms. Andolong: Leila asked this a while ago, she talked about the lack of incentives. Are you looking… What specific incentives are you looking at or studying to — for possible new entrance in the ICT sector or telco sector?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Well, the incentives per se or granting of incentives, that’s not our mandate.

But, in fact, our look is — our lens would be focused into how granting of such incentives could impact on competition. Because if that incentives come at the expense of a potential rival or competitor, that’s anti-competitive and will be, that would be under the lens of the PCC and we will accordingly take action.

Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, sir, very short lang. Madalas natin marinig sa Pangulo ‘yung pag-uplift ng buhay ‘nong ating mga kababayan nasa kanayunan at isa nga sa pinaka-apektado ay ‘yung ating mga magsasaka dahil sa napakataas na presyo ng mga fertilizer. Dumating na po ba sa radar ng PCC na maimbestigahan din itong nagtaasang presyo ng ating mga — ?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: When it comes to fertilizer, no, not yet.

Mr. Ganibe: Agricultural products?

CHAIRMAN BALISACAN: Agricultural products, there was a case filed to us but more in relation to importation of rice and…

But our… Earlier, I mentioned that our position at this point is to complete the review so that we can have a broader perspective and the state of competition in the various sectors of the economy.

Again, various researchers including myself, have identified anti-competitive practices, measures in agriculture.

And we need to look at those closely in our — in the chapter that I was referring to, agriculture is noted as one of the sectors that would have to be prioritized.

Thank you so much. Thank you, Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you for correcting my error. It’s Arsenio Balisacan, okay. All right.

We’d like to continue on more positive note — continually positive note.

The DSWD has conducted a pilot activity for the reintegration of drug surrenderees in the community.

Last January 27, Department of Social Welfare and Development coordinated with the local government unit, LGU of Talisay, Batangas which led the conduct of “Linis Bayan”.

The Linis Bayan or community clean-up drive is a pilot activity of the DSWD that aims to reintegrate drug surrenderees in the community by involving them in activities that will have a positive impact on their barangays. The Department aims to have the activity replicated in other cities and municipalities.

Other than drug surrenderees, the clean-up drive was also participated in by community volunteers, DSWD Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries, barangay officials and staff. DSWD field office has also provided ready-to-eat meals for the events’ participants.

Also in Tawi-Tawi, one-billion peso infra projects are seen to boost the Tawi-Tawi economy.

About a billion worth of infrastructure projects and infrastructure support programs has been implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Tawi-Tawi last year.

As an updated… As an update, many of the major infrastructure projects have been completed while several others are ongoing and nearing completion, according to DPWH-ARMM Secretary Don Mustapha Loong, who visited Tawi-Tawi on January 24.

Among the completed or nearly completed projects are the concreting of roads, rehabilitation of some roads, fish landing sites, and the construction of deep wells, and the construction of a 50-meter Ro-Ro berthing slot at the Bongao airport — Bongao port.

Also, we welcome the results of the Fourth Quarter 2016 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing the people’s sentiments — people’s sentiment that there was a decline in crime victimization. Specifically, the results indicated that families who said they were victimized and lost property to street robbery, burglary, or carnapping registered at 4.5 percent, previously surpass — surpassing the previous quarterly record of 5.5 percent in March and June 2015.

The same survey likewise discloses that 52 percent of respondents agreed that the presence of many drug addicts in their neighborhood has declined compared to 56 percent in the previous quarter.

We will take a few questions.

Ms. Salaverria: Good morning, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, on the plan to…Decision to stop — to suspend the anti-drug operations.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.

Ms. Salaverria: Has the government given the order to re-examine previous instances where a previous police operations where drug suspects were killed to check if the suspects are killed in a legitimate encounter? Because I understand you want to clean up the police force.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes. So the question is there investigation?

Ms. Salaverria: Does the order has been given to re-examine previous drug-related killings?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The IAS continues to do the internal work. So the process is on-going. Thank you.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, since the drug operations are suspended, what would happen now to the drug situation in the country? Because as the…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No. I think we need to make a correction. The impression is that it stopped, no. What happens is the local police, the PNP, has been asked to desist from engaging in anti-drug operations. But the operations will continue under the PDEA.

Ms. Salaverria: Under the PDEA. But there will… Since the police — the PDEA doesn’t have that many people, there will expectedly be scaling down of operations. Is there a concern that the drug trade will flourish?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Nothing is official yet but I believe the forces will be supplemented. There’s another a — to another process.

The President itself, himself, is… It’s not yet official. But the police forces will be supplemented by a — through another project coming up.

Ms. Salaverria: You know what this project is?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not yet official as far as I know, but the Philippine Constabulary may be — may be reactivated.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, on this news that the PC might be reactivated. So where are we in this process? You said it’s not yet official so what, what… Would you know when an announcement would be made and what process…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There’s no timeline regarding that. There’s no timeline regarding that except that we do know that, first and foremost, referring to the question about the police, it will be transferred to the PDEA.

And regarding the… Whether they have enough forces, then all I was giving just an insight, it’s not yet official.  That… It maybe at the PDEA may be supplemented by a…

Ms. Ranada: Sir, when you’re saying not yet official, this was discussed during the joint command conference but not yet officially announced?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, yes.

Ms. Ranada: It was floated as a possibility by the President, himself?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was referred to, yes.

Ms. Ranada: By the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.

Mr. Ramos: Sir, also on the suspension of “Oplan Tokhang”. Immediately after the President and PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa ordered as temporarily stopped the Oplan Tokhang, last night, there was no reported death during the operation or even vigilante killings. Is it a coincidence? Na last night walang napatay even by vigilante-style killings, summary execution?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Are you asking if it’s a…

Mr. Ramos: If it’s just a coincidence or does it…Kasi there had been impressions or insinuations that policemen are actually behind these killings, the vigilante-style killings. Noong inorder ng Presidente and the PNP Chief, immediately after wala talagang na ganung klase — under questionable circumstances. Is that coincidence, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that’s verging on just opinion making. I don’t have any statements regarding that.

Mr. Ramos: During the joint command conference, after that the President said that he is offering five million for the capture dead or alive of Superintendent Dumlao and immediately after sinabihan siya ni PNP Chief that Dumlao is actually on custody. He also mentioned about the US military bringing in arms and unloading it sa three points in Luzon. But the AFP yesterday denied that such information. Did the President and the military officials, the PNP officials discuss these things during the joint command conference kasi it seems the President was actually clueless about those two things?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the word is not “clueless”. I think he was…Basically, he was saying that…If you go back to the transcript I think, I think it does make clear that he was saying that he will not allow if there is any downloading of arms into the…And he would also not allow the building of depots, so — which would be tantamount to building a permanent structures which are not allowed under EDCA.

So basically, he was…If you check the context of his statements, it was that — that he was saying that he would not allow it if it were to happen.

Mr. Ramos: Pardon din, sir. But I think the President categorically said that the American soldiers are unloading — they are unloading arms and they are making these areas as their warehouse or depots.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I would say that…I would say that the context of his statement was based on the — in the early part of that presscon that he said that it would not — he would not allow it.

Mr. Ramos: But those two things were not discussed during the command conference, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was not discussed in detail as far as I know.

Mr. Morong: Sir, you mentioned that it will be the PDEA was going to be the lead agency ‘no to conduct the…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as yeah…As far as the presscon was…As far as the directives were given during the presscon.

Mr. Morong: All right, in an operational sense, can you describe to us what’s going to happen kasi papaano ‘yung magiging operations sa mga gabi or…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I am not privy to the operations, however, the line of authority is that — operations along these lines will be done through PDEA.

Mr. Morong: All right so, intel gathering also sa PDEA na ‘yon and all that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, it all depends on how they work it out but definitely the operations will not be under PNP, it will be under PDEA.

Mr. Morong: All right. Sir, sa PC, I think the President did say before that he is going — he’s amenable to parang reviving it.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, yes.

Mr. Morong: And I understand that during the joint press conference that was discussed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It was mentioned again, yes.

Mr. Morong: Can you tell us, sir, the thought process of the President as far as the…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, basically, from where he is coming from, it’s really…

His main concern is really anti-corruption and he says that those who are… The PC…The Philippine Constabulary would be composed of gentlemen from the Armed Forces and from the military, which would be different from the PNP.

So he’s basically saying that they would be in a sense a more trustworthy organization being seen that they have not been…They are not civilian run like the PNP but run by authority under the Armed Forces.

Mr. Morong: And the job will be?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The job will be?

Mr. Morong: Of the PC?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Will be to…As far as I know it will be…It assumes that the — if and when this comes into operation, the PNP would be localized and the PC would be like a more national in scope.

Mr. Morong: Can the PC also handle the anti-drugs operation in the future?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know how it will… I don’t know how it will converge. However, they could… I’m saying they could be part of supplemental — they could supplement the PDEA.

Mr. Morong: Sir, as an idea on how much in percentage is this nearing being formed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I do not have… I cannot quantify.

Mr. Morong: All right sir, thank you.

Deo de Guzman (RMN): Magandang umaga, sir. Just one simple question kasi sabi ninyo ang PDEA ang magiging lead agency to handle drug operations.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:  Yes.

Mr. De Guzman: Okay, sir. Paano po tayo nakakatiyak na malinis ang hanay ng PDEA? And paano naman po ang operations nito on a national sense dahil kung iisipin natin napakalaki po ng drug operations sa ating bansa and to think PDEA is just parang kokonti lang ‘yung tao nila? Paano po niya mai-le-lead ‘yung anti-drug war ng administration with its number at paano po tayo makatitiyak na walang katiwalian, o walang madumi sa hanay ng PDEA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think let… We just need to trust the process. We need to trust the process that the — the operations will be more regulated, continually be regulated but…We just have to trust the process.

Mr. De Guzman: Hindi po ba hihingi ng tulong ang PDEA sa AFP or kukuha ng kaunti man lang tao sa PNP just to augment its power or its manpower?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They may do any of the suggestions you have made. But that’s not part of the discussion that took place.

Mr de Guzman: Thank you, sir

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Good afternoon, sir. Nabanggit po ng Pangulo na 40 percent po ng mga tauhan ng pulisya ay tiwali at marami rin po sa kanyang narco-list ay mga tauhan ng pulisya. Ano po ang masasabi ng Malakanyang sa mga nagsasabi na maaari ding nagkaroon ng maling pagtaya ang administrasyon ng unahing ipatupad ang Oplan Tokhang kaysa linisin ang hanay ng pulisya?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s put it this way the… In the same way that the drug problem was a…

In the same way that the drug problem was a…The depth and breadth of the drug problem was undiscovered until he came into the process.

The President simply started the whole process of police operations assuming that — assuming that…Although, he did know, he did sense that there was corruption within the police organization, but he had to do something and he began that way.

So all these opinions are really… All these insights and opinions are really seem wiser in hindsight but the President had to act and did act and he enforces political will and now that…Now, we are seeing actually there really is corruption within the police organizations.

Mr. Ganibe: Sec, magandang hapon. Sir, tama ba ang pagkakaintindi ko ‘yung Oplan Tokhang ay PNP-led operation anti-drug?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, yes.

Mr. Ganibe: Hindi po ba nasa batas, nasa charter ng PDEA na lahat ng mga anti-drug operations are supervised o under ng PDEA? Iyong ‘pag-i-stop ngayon ng PNP hindi ba nakita na may pagkakamali o merong something na butas na maaaring ma- kuwestiyon nga na which is meron nang nagku-kuwestiyon ngayon sa Korte Suprema na ang batas na nagsasabi PDEA ang on top sa lahat ng mga anti-drug operations?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: When the President started…When the President started, he installed Philippine Director Dela Rosa and he was the one who was engaged in the Oplan Tokhang.

So now that it seems that those who are…In order to avoid any of the,[what do you call it?] — any of the apparent corrupt activities of certain personalities within the organization, he has now transferred it to PDEA.

Regarding the precedence whether it should have been PNP or PDEA, let’s leave it to them.

Ace Romero (Philippine Star): Usec, was the proposal to revive the PC discussed during the LEDAC meet?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi siya nabanggit.

Mr. Romero: Hindi siya nabanggit.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi siya nabanggit because the…But that comes under some of the items.

But the LEDAC simply covered the proposed agendas and the proposed legislative agendas and the proposed presidential agendas but since it will — there’s going to be more regular meetings, it will be covered one of these days.

Mr. Romero: So magiging part ng priority bills ng Duterte administration ‘yung revival noong PC?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s going to come under one of his items, yes.

Mr. Romero: Okay, ‘yung set-up po na kino-consider ngayon na — para lang maintindihan po namin — so magiging under ‘yung PC ng AFP uli gaya noong dati?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t know the exact structure yet. It’s simply been floated. The idea was floated that it will be revived.  But the exact structure is not yet complete.

Mr. Romero: Has the President discussed this with lawmakers? Eh kung, yes, sino na ‘yung magpu-push ‘nung bill na ito?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I supposed it’s going to be discussed under the LEDAC and probably under the Congress.

Mr. Morong: Sir, may petition po ‘no sa Supreme Court ‘yung—I think Quezon City Police District Station 6, questioning ‘yung writ of amparo sa Supreme Court. And should the Supreme Court issue ay writ later, hindi ba ‘yon, sir, prini-empt(preempt) ninyo na ‘yan by stopping the Oplan Tokhang? Was it in other words stop…Was the stopping of the Tokhang an effort to preempt the Supreme Court from ruling on any legality of the Tokhang in the future?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if that was the motivation, but certainly it was — if that is going to be the effect and…But that…I’m not privy if that was the actual intention.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, this is on the US depot. So, sir, where did the President get his information that the depot has actually exist because apart from the AFP denying it, the US embassy has also issued a statement saying that no such arms depot exist and there no plans to build any?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In which case, it’s something that the…If your question is where he got the information, I cannot tell you that. But he seems to be privy to some sort of information.

Ms. Andolong: Could the President be referring to the facilities, that are set to be built by the US in a number of Philippine bases already? Because days ago, si Secretary Lorenzana naman confirmed that the “facilities”, ‘yon ‘yung term niya, will be built this year as part of EDCA. And coincidentally some of the bases include—‘yung Pampanga—bases in Pampanga —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He mentioned three yes, yes.

Ms. Andolong: Palawan and CDO, which were also identified by the President. Iyon na ba ‘yung sinasabi ‘yung facilities na ‘yon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot say for sure, but they seemed to be identical with what Sec. Del made mention to.

Ms. Andolong: Yeah, because Secretary Lorenzana said in that briefing that the President is aware of the plan to build facilities, and that he is okay with it. So that is somewhat contrary to what he said in the press conference naman days ago.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, he may have… He may have come upon other information, which may have affected his later comments.

Ms. Andolong: So right now, he does not want — even those ‘yung facilities na sinasabi ni Secretary Lorenzana?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He says he will not allow any downloading of — [what do you call that?] arms.

Ms. Andolong: Okay, because Secretary Lorenzana described these facilities as an area, storage din naman ng weapons nila.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Correct, correct.

Ms. Andolong: So hindi matutuloy ‘yung facilities na ‘yon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know…I don’t know about…I cannot say…That’s what what he mentioned kasi eh.

He said he would not allow. And beside he also did say that he would not allow the building of permanent structures because that’s not part of EDCA.

Ms. Andolong: Okay, thank you, sir.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, nabanggit ninyo rin po ‘yung LEDAC kanina. Ano po ba ‘yung mga priority bills na natalakay at nailatag kahapon doon sa LEDAC meeting na naganap po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, ‘yang ano…They were not discussed. They were just… It was like a review sort of — of the presidential legislative agenda and of the congressional legislative agenda.

The congressional legislative agenda is about 39 items and the president something like 28. 

And so, but one thing that’s definite is that, it has been agreed upon that the LEDAC will be meeting once every quarter and it was proposed that the committees, the various committees will be meeting once a month.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, pwede ninyo po ba kaming mabigyan ng lima, tatlo na mga priority bills po na sa tingin ninyong malalaki na pwede naming malaman — na dapat naming malaman? From the side of the Congress and from the President po sana.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, basically, it was a review of the past ano — review of the November meeting, I think.

But…Well, for one, the possible termination of barangay elections, salary increases of the military, incentives for retirement pay of the military and the — that will be for the terrorism and war on drugs, terrorism related issues.

While the issues for socio economic agenda talks about tax reforms and fiscal incentives and so forth and so on.

I think it’s best that we… Because this was simply a big picture meeting, so I cannot really go into detail.

Mr. De Guzman: How about death penalty, sir. Was it mentioned?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Death penalty is under — is under the… It’s part of that, but it wasn’t discussed.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, did they mention any target/deadline for when they will — when the President will certify as urgent the priority bills, as urgent any priority bills? Any deadline for when — to certify?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There was no mention of that. However, there was a mention of regularity of meetings.

Because, you know, as per — I think the past — in the past administration, it would meet something… I think it met only twice or something like that.

But this time it’s going to be more regularly. If all goes well, they will be meeting at least four times this year aside from all the committee meetings, yes.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, the Vice President was present at the meeting yesterday. Could we just ask if there was — what kind of rapport she had with the President? If there was any discussion of her further participation in the administration apart from attending LEDAC meetings?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There was no discussion about that. But it was a very civil meeting.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, meron po ba tayong idea on the number of Filipinos who are at risk of getting deported in the US? Because there are reports coming out na parang 300,000 daw po are at risk is that…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Those are speculative numbers, I don’t have the…But we can verify.

Q: [off mic]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s also going to be discussed.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, are there efforts to maybe communicate to the undocumented Filipinos there to — about what they should be doing?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, as far as the President is concerned, he will abide by the decision of the US government simply because the Filipinos there ought to have — ought to be… Well, they are all under [what do you call it?] US law, so they should abide by. That is his position.