Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg,  Malacañang,
29 July 2016

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’d like to begin by reading a press release from the government peace panel representative:

GPH Panel Chair Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed sadness over the ambush yesterday of government troops by members of the New People’s Army in Sitio Patil, Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte.

“It is disheartening that the NPA failed to respect the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Duterte last Monday during the SONA. Barely two days after this ceasefire declaration, the NPA ambushed yesterday government forces killing one CAFGU member and wounding four others in Davao del Norte.” Secretary Bello said that he confronted NDF Panel member Fidel Agcaoili on this tragic incident and he was informed that as far as he knows, the NPA is on active defense mode since July 26 as announced by Ka Oris. He, however, promised Secretary Bello to look into the matter.

The GPH Panel Chair said that government will await the results of NDF’s verification on the matter.

Agcaoli further said that, just like the PRRD, the NDFP is committed to resume the peace negotiations to address the roots of the armed conflict towards a just and lasting peace as reiterated in the 15 June 2016 Oslo Joint Statement that affirms all past agreements.

“I strongly reiterate the call of President Duterte to the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate government’s ceasefire declaration in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict, and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.”

End of press release.


Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, good morning.


Mr. Morong: Sir, has the President made a decision? Because last night, yesterday, he said he’s going to wait for until midnight for the reply of the NDF.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think this is a development, and you know, development regarding that matter so let us await for the final.

Mr. Morong: How long is the President going to wait for the NDF?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have a timeline for that. But he’s giving a window. This statement I believe is giving a small window of opportunity.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just last one question, topic. What do you think is the effect of this incident on the peace talks, the scheduled peace talks on August 20?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I expect that everything will still work out all right.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): So, sir will there be any development on when the CPP will reciprocate the ceasefire, if indeed the ceasefire has not yet been lifted? I mean, is there any development on when they will reciprocate.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They’re supposed to have reciprocate… to be reciprocating as soon as possible.

Ms. Ranada: There’s no like target date or—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, we’re not setting any dates on that.

Rose Novenario (Hataw): Sir, may plano po ba ‘yung government na mag-pull out po ng kanilang military troops sa mga NPA-infested areas as requested by CPP Founding Chairman Joma Sison ‘nong Tuesday yata or Wednesday?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If things work as planned, if things work out as according to plan, then if ano… then there will be a — how do you call it? — reciprocal response from the President, from the government.

Ms. Novenario: Sir, meron po bang assurance ‘yung grupo po sa Netherlands na kaya po nilang kontrolin ‘yung kanilang tropa dito sa Pilipinas?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s what we’re assuming and that’s what President Duterte is challenging.

Ms. Novenario: Thank you.

Reymund Tinaza (Bombo Radyo): Sir, pero ‘yung element of trust and confidence to the other party, the NDF, intact pa ba ‘yun after this parang betrayal, even an insult to the declaration itself of the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The onus remains on their side. So if whatever trust there is must be firmed up from their side.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, Sec.


Mr. Morong: Sir, I just want to assume how do, what the President was thinking yesterday. But can you just walk us through, ‘yung nangyari kahapon when he received the information that there were ambushes that may namatay na tatlong CAFGU. How was the President treating this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I think we saw it during his state, response and you saw… Well, he was… Of course it was a very upsetting news but he was very much in control.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung sinasabi nilang dalawang conditions, set free ‘yung mga consultants and we’re talking about 22 or all 500?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the consultants are only a small number. Right?
Mr. Morong: And then ‘yung pull out of troops. Baka kasi magkaiba lang sir ng pananaw ‘yung NDF and ng government, are these preconditions to the government’s mind before we proceed with the—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They’re not preconditions. Not in effect. They’re part of but not preconditions.

John Paolo Bencito (Manila Standard): Sir, until when ‘yung window of opportunity na ibibigay ni Presidente?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s a very… of course — Actually it should not be existing. Actually… don’t have to be there. But there is a very brief window of opportunity. Okay.

Mr. Bencito: Sir, last na lang. Will the government pursue with the release of political prisoners as being requested by the CPP?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s put it this way. As soon as the trust is restored, then things will proceed as agreed upon.

Mr. Bencito: Meron na po bang quantifier sir from the GPH panel or the OPAPP, may sinabi na po ba sila with regards to how can we resume the trust? Ano ‘yung—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ito nga inaantay natin ‘yung kanilang ano, their appropriate response as Secretary Bello said. Thank you.

Mr. Bencito: Thank you, Sec.

Ms. Pia Ranada (Rappler): So sir, since last night, has there been any talk between President Duterte and anyone from the left movement about the incident? And is this, ‘yung investigation of the Left with the NPA rebels, is this enough to qualify na they are doing something about ist it or President Duterte is he waiting for more of an explanation?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s just put it this way. I don’t have any updates on what happened since last night. But let’s go by this. Okay? Thank you.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Sir, sino po pala ‘yung Leftist congressman na sinasabi ni President Duterte that he called soon after he learned about the ambush?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not familiar with the ano, the actual ano, person.

Ms. Andolong: Okay, sir, and knowing the President do you think kasi last night he was firm that if you do not give me an explanation by tonight, he will possibly suspend the ceasefire, basically. Knowing the President, do you think he’s actually amenable to maybe extending that deadline or can we expect that his decision will be announced, at least within today?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s put it this way. The President is very rationale person and he will do what needs to be done. Thank you.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, with regard to Charter Change, the President expressed his reference for a Constituent Assembly. How does the Palace intend to convince lawmakers to support this mode of amendments since many of… well, several of them have also expressed misgivings about the Con-Ass. They’re saying it might become a self-serving exercise.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, first and foremost, whatever decision… first and foremost, whatever results will be from the Con-Con or Con-Ass, it will be to the benefit of the next generation of leaders, right? It will not be affecting them directly. So being self-serving does not really come into play here. Having said that… that’s about it. Yeah.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, the President said that he’s in favor of Con-Ass because it’s cheaper. What’s the estimate?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t know exactly the estimate but according to DBM. It’s an enormous amount of money. It’s an enormous amount of money and may affect for example, may affect the proposed increase, proposed increases and the other projects are that also all lined-up. So, basically that and also the, you know, basically that. It’s going to cost an enormous amount of money.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, but the justification of the Budget Secretary that it’s because it’s cheaper. Is that fair considering that sanctity of its provision of our Constitution?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right. You know, what we’re moving towards is federalism, right? Remember we all agreed, more or less, all agreed that this is going to be for the greater good. So the intention, in a sense, in a very real sense, justifies the form that it will take. Thank you.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, in the NSC meeting, was there any more specific instructions to former President Ramos on his mission in Beijing? Like, I think, in certain speeches, President Duterte indicated that he might not mention The Hague ruling first when jumpstarting the talks. Has there been any specific instructions?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well basically this. It’s— they’re not necessarily instructions but these are, I suppose, principles of wisdom about how to go about the conversation, that you know, they can start with things that you can agree on and not necessarily begin from an adversarial or insistent position. So basically, it’s a very diplomatic rule. Instead of confrontation, it’s basically— Yeah, go ahead.

Ms. Ranada: So safe to say sir, he will not mention the WPS ruling since that’s not something they agree on—?


Ms. Ranada: Sir, kasi you said they will begin on things they can agree on—?


Ms. Ranada: The Hague ruling is not something they agree on, so are you saying that they will not touch on the Hague ruling?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Diplomatically, I’m just telling you that what they mean “what they can begin with,” alright? So if things, circumstances allow, then they will talk about what they can talk about.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, what inputs did the former Presidents give regarding how they, in the current administration, should handle this ruling?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They did have… I don’t have the specific, I don’t have the specific items although I did try to retrieve it. But as soon as I can, I’ll get it to you guys.

Ms. Andolong: And sir, what specific role will Mr. Rafael Alunan play? Because his name was mentioned by the President last night.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes. Should FVR not be ready or not be available for the role, for the task.

Mr. Morong: Sir, kailan kaya mag-start yung mission ni President Ramos?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think they’re just simply—they’re taking the time to put together a — what do you call it? — the package. We’re not — you know, in a sense, there’s… we’re not really rushing into this.

Mr. Tinaza: Sir, can the Duterte administration check those reports that actually those soil or land being used to reclaim the Scarborough Shoal came from the Zambales area? Is this— Isn’t this a treason on whoever is the official involved there? Can we check the veracity of this ongoing reports ever since?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let’s put it this way: President Duterte, at this stage, is interested in moving forward. And on the other hand, he is not saying — like he said, “those who are not guilty will also have to face the music.” So… but he’s allowing the process to, you know, take its own rhythm. Okay?

Mr. Tinaza: So, safe to assume that the President is interested to investigate that this soil used in the Scarborough Shoal is actually from our own land?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It’s not his primary concern at this stage but it will come to play if necessary.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.


Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Secretary, maayong udto. Sir, ‘yung sa kay dating DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan—?


Mr. Ganibe: Magiging — tawag dito — kapalitan siya ni FVR kung saka-sakaling—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Kung saka-sakali. Kung saka-sakali. For example, you know, if — what’s his name — if President Ramos had said no, then I believe Mr. Alunan was also a viable.

Mr. Ganibe: Pero sir, ‘yung kanyang one-year ban ay matatapos pa sa Mayo next year. Papaano kaya mangyayari kung halimbawa within the year or any appointment —?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let’s assume the best for FVR. Okay?

Aileen Taliping (DWIZ): Sir, follow-up on West Philippine Sea. Do you have information on the reports that some Chinese military are now in Zambales?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right now, I do not have any, I don’t have any… I’m not privy to any report.

Ms. Taliping: Yeah. Wala pa pong report ang intel?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Right now, ako personally wala.

Ms. Taliping: Okay. Thank you, sir.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, yesterday President Duterte said that President Arroyo advised “caution” while President Estrada advised “restraint.” Could you just give a more elaborate or more elaboration on what they recommended exactly? What they meant by “restraint” and “caution”?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, those are synonyms right? They’re all coming from the same — They’re all coming from the same place of approaching diplomatically. You know. Not, in other words, we’re… This, this still goes, this does not run counter to what President Duterte said. We will — Although, we won the arbitration, we will not flaunt it, you know.

So, we will, we still… In other words, we are still, yes… Our position’s basically that we stand on the ruling. However, we will proceed diplomatically.

Ms. Andolong: President Duterte said he thanked former President Aquino for the Hague… for filing basically the case and winning it for us. Did the former President also maybe, give his suggestions on how they should move forward or go ahead?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He did give an indication of how to do that. Although, the details I do not have it right now.

Mr. Morong: Sir, sabi ni— ‘Yung sa salary increase lang, sir. May detalye ba kung magkano ‘yung first tranche for soldiers and—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t have the detail for the first tranche ‘no… for the first. Although he did, although, you know, he did give the assurance that it will be fulfilled. Eh kaya lang talaga, because this particular, this year is still the budget of last year. So, he cannot really impose upon it. But he did say that there will be an incremental increase and I believe he said that by next month there’ll be some.

Mr. Morong: August 15, sir.


Ms. Ranada: Sir, just on the Miss Universe. Just want to clarify because there had been conflicting reports nga saying that Duterte rejected it and then also that it’s going to push through. Can you just clarify what exactly he meant?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, basically when it was first broached to the President. I think… He said it’s going to be magastos ‘no. His impression it was going to be very expensive. Apparently to the tune of 11 million US dollars. That was his assumption but I think he has been assured this time that the Philippines will not, the Philippine government will not the be giving out a “single centavo.” Except of course in terms of services, in terms of protection, in terms of security. But not in actual cash out.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, because the last time we hosted a Miss Universe ‘di ba nag-default? The government ended up paying for parts of it. Is he not fearing the scenario?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if he’s assured that it’s going to be coming from another sector, mainly private. Then, there’s no need to fear.

Mr. Tinaza: Just to clarify, kasi I remember the former President Aquino signed an Executive Order implementing the supposed Salary Standardization Law for the year 2016. So nandito na sa 2016 budget ‘yung first tranche. So hindi ba ito, iba ba ‘yan, ‘yang ibibigay na increase doon sa mga soldiers?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the technicality of it but basically he’s the President, simply standing on his word that he will make sure that those who work their part will also be rewarded amply.

Mr. Tinaza: Thank you, sir.


Mr. Morong: Sir, may info tayo tungkol sa power situation sa Luzon kasi for the past couple of days, I think yellow and naging red na yata ngayon?


Mr. Morong: Hindi sir. Power po.


Mr. Morong: Electricity.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not privy to that. I’m not privy.

Chona Yu (DZIQ): Sir, saan kukunin ‘yung budget sa salary increase kasi sinasabi ng Pangulo na wala naman budget ‘yung inabutan daw niyang 2016 budget?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi sa walang budget. Pero, in other words, walang budget to sufficiently cover ‘yung naka-ano. But there will be, there are sources of income.

Ms. Yu: Like?


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank God it’s Friday. Alright. See you guys.