President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Media Interview during his thanksgiving lunch with MPC
Binondo, Manila
17 June, 2016
Aurea Calica (Philippine Star): Sir, we understand you have spoken with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. What did you discuss sir and what are the preparations for his inauguration?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: I don’t know if I’m… I can speak for the preparations. I think his spokespeople have been talking about their preparations. It was a very short conversation.‘Yung members of his staff ‘no went to the Executive Secretary yesterday. The Executive Secretary brought them to me.

We shared some of our experiences in the past six years to them. We went through Malacañang to show them the physical layout and then we proceeded to Malacañang Park, showed them Bahay Pangarap and various facilities within Malacañang Park and that’s where they got in touch with President-elect Duterte. We had a conversation, perhaps a short conversation, about a minute or so ‘no, wherein I congratulated him.

I think we asked each other how we were and I reiterated the offer to be of assistance, in any and every manner that they deem fit. And, more or less, that was ano, it was a pleasant conversation, that’s how it ended.

Nikko Dizon (The Philippine Daily Inquirer): You usually criticize the media — or maybe express your parang misgivings or mga ganyan, but now, you treated us all to lunch. So, in your six years, what are the parang things that you want to tell us now also? After covering you for six years, what are the ups and downs for you when it comes to the media?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Iyong…Hindi naman sipsip sa inyo ano pero I think we had a better deal with the Malacañang Press Corps rather than the outside media elements.

For the most part, I think you are reasonable. We understand where you are coming from. We understand the pressures from your various desks to produce the story that they want.

I think you have treated us reasonably well. You have your pressures, you understand our concerns and we have reached a very good level of working relationship.

In contrast to this, the other day we were in Jolo, it was a reporter — Jorge Cariño asked about the enhancements or refinements in our operations against the Abu Sayyaf. And I responded, in very general terms so as not to share the corrections that we are doing in our operations there would potentially the enemy forces. So, most of them who are covering understood that then there was somebody, I don’t remember his name — a male reporter — again, rephrased the question but tried to elicit from me the details.

So, di ba? Ipinaliwanag na sa inyo, siyempre wala pang magandang resulta, gusto nating maging maganda ang resulta, ayusin natin ang ginagawa pero hindi ko pwedeng sabihin sa inyo kung ano ‘yung mga strengths, weaknesses, ‘yung refinements dahil parang ibinigay na natin ‘yung blueprint sa kalaban kung paano nila iiwasan lahat ng ginagawa natin.

So, sa loob-loob ko lang parang pare-pareho ‘yung venue kung nasaan kami, narinig naman ninyo ‘yung sagot doon sa una, uulitin pa niya. I don’t know the interest there was ‘yung to get some sort of a scoop as opposed to one would hope that we are all Filipinos there, this is a situation that affects the whole country. Perhaps we can attend to the problem in a unified manner. Sana we had one viewpoint of the Abu Sayyaf do present an issue and a problem that impacts the country negatively and as ‘di ba fellow patriots, let us assist each other in resolving successfully the current situation.

Kanina nga may short-term need versus ‘yung long-term interest of the country. So I would like to reiterate, of course, we have to get to know each other and through the six years, we have gotten to know how to address each other’s needs that we have reached a happy state of affairs.

Baka naman sobra ‘yung happy but I think definitely not a combative state of affairs.

Ms. Calica: Sir, pwedeng follow up lang po doon sa kanina. Ano po ang sinabi sa inyo ni Duterte?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Well, hindi naman ako nag-notes nang husto. And I understand, ‘yung in his inauguration, we will have probably a short conversation prior to his taking the oath and I was reserving and I guess he was also reserving all of the points that we would like to raise with each other for that meeting, assuming it pushes through.

Lei Alviz (GMA-7): Sir ano po ‘yung sinabi niya noong inalok niyo po ‘yung assistance niyo kung kakailanganin niya?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Palagay ko parang… problema siyempre hindi ko naman ni-record ‘yung conversation. Pero parang ikinatuwa naman, hindi naman tinanggihan parang pinasalamatan ‘yung alok natin na sabi ko: “Kung ano maitutulong ho namin sa inyo ‘no, kung ngayon sa transition at tsaka pagkatapos, para hindi na kailangan ‘yung — parang reinvent the wheel kumbaga.

Ngayon ‘yung…I am sure naalala ko naman noong ako’y tumakbo in both times, inintindi at inasikaso at tinulungan tayo ni President-elect Duterte including the presidency. ‘Yung we had — one of the first major turnout of people happened in Davao. I am not sure if it was Davao first then Zamboanga, and I think that was the sequence.

Of course, ‘yung crowd in Dumaguete that filled up a very big part parang at least — more than half of this very big part was the first followed by Zamboanga and Davao. Ngayon, sorry, I don’t recall which came first but both of them really had massive turnouts of people.

When I get to see him…Actually I communicated this to Atty. (Salvador) Medialdea. It is our hope that — the elections are over. We share one country. We would like them to be able to build upon all of the things that we have started, we have implemented, we have completed, so we move parang ‘di ba further along the path of advancement for our country and our people. And to that, I think every patriot should be looking towards helping the incoming administration address the problems that are still here and the forthcoming problems that undoubtedly will happen in this period of parang global challenges.

Lilia Tolentino (Radyo ng Bayan): After your term, you can attend to your love life next. And then I also would like to ask what will be, what will happen to LP. Will you strengthen your party after this?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Traditionally ho after ano, after elections, the LP has a change of leadership ‘no. And normally it gravitates to the high, the most senior public official we have. So I would not want to admit it, pero I will be classified siguro as an elder of the party. I’d like to stress lang, I’m the youngest of the elders of the party. Pero ‘yun nga, we still believe that we have that conversion of Philippine politics from one of personality to platform-based will undoubtedly help the country and we’d like to contribute towards that.

Okay. So, I don’t know what my role will be in the party but I’m sure they will want to say I’m one of their elders. And, of course, we have various members of the party or are still active members of the party occupying different positions in government and we’d like to continue ‘no what has been done in this past six years and even parang the advocacies that we had before we entered as an administration.

Ms. Tolentino: As of now, Vice President-elect Leni Robredo is the highest elected official in your party, that belongs to your party. Now, what will be her role? Will she assume the chairmanship or what?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: That has not been discussed ‘no. But she is aware that she will take one of the most senior positions and the chairman is the highest position but ‘yung day-to-day activities are handled by the party president. So, that will be decided by the party as a whole. But, I’m sure she’s aware that she will be getting one of the two most senior positions. And, of course ‘yung we have to ask her preferences for this. ‘Yung we recognize the value of each individual within the party. We don’t force anybody to do it.

Ms. Tolentino: Your love life?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: It’s still the same ‘no. Well, may mga panahon parang binabawi pa nga ‘yung natitira sa life.

RG Cruz (ABS-CBN): Hi sir, pwedeng magtanong lang, sir. Kasi nabanggit niyo na po ‘yung LP. Iyong PDP-Laban is filing or it has revealed plans to file before the Supreme Court ‘yung parang questioning ‘yung decision ng COMELEC (Commission on Elections) to extend ‘yung sa SOCE (statement of contributions and expenditures) and it may affect daw all of the winners of the LP and prevent them from coming into office kasi nga nag-file ng SOCE past the deadline. So are you concerned by this as party leader?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: I think I’d like to refer you to our candidate, Mar Roxas, who would know more of the details there, number one. That’s why the courts are there to adjudge ‘yung any controversy. Ngayon ‘yung as to the charge — parang the way it sounds, parang the party adopted the position na we will not file SOCE when ‘di ba parang the day the supposed deadline si Leni Robredo actually had filed hers. So I think Representative…I assume and I believe most if not all filed at the right time.

Mr. Cruz: Hindi naman kaya magka-constitutional crisis because maiipit ‘yung maraming mga senador, congressmen aside from the Vice President?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: I would like to consult our lawyers. What I read in the media previously if you don’t file on time, the penalty is when you file your next certificate of candidacy. Medyo new sa akin ‘yung may penalty in this candidacy so I’ll have to check.

Ms. Dizon: Sir, kasi ngayon sa ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) there are some confusion na medyo nakakakaba din because of what — after the meeting ‘di ba. And security experts are in parang agreement na kayo naman talaga ‘yung nag-push niyan sa — with regard to the South China Sea. So as you step down, are you apprehensive sa nangyayari ngayon between ASEAN and China? And let me just thrown in this other question pa, I remember two years ago, you told LJM (Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc) that China was always on your mind, parang iyon ‘yung priority mo. Sa pagbaba mo ba sir ‘yan pa rin ‘yung naiisip mo in your last two weeks in office?

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Naiisip? Yes. Iyong parati tayong curious kung ano ang nangyayari sa China domestically which might impact international relations and everybody is presuming that there is a decision by the arbitral tribunal that will come out sometime soon.

We want to see the…Parang we want to try and have a picture of what the post-decision situation will be. You try to look at the differences or the nuisances of the messaging that comes out of China.

‘Yung at the end of the day, I would want to have the country prepared to address this challenge, which is not a challenge I brought upon in this country. From the ’70s this has already been a problem and I think we have done what we can to advance having a resolution that is fair to all parties concerned.

Ms. Dizon: (inaudible)

PRESIDENT AQUINO: Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Jose Rene) Almendras has not reported to me yet on what has occurred. I would like to get his take on it before making any comments on — Was there a previous statement? Did they take it back? Was it modified? How was it modified if so? What was the context? So I am just guessing. So I’d rather ask him first and I’ll wait his report. ‘Yungp art of the time kasi that I have been handling matters, things like yung ano mga enrolled bills that have finally finished all the processes before me. Na-highlight ‘yung dalawang vineto (veto) natin.

And then I understand, I was talking to these people yesterday and there were several others that I have to attend to before I step down. Aabot kasi ‘yung lapsed into law under my watch. So I’d like to make a firm decision whether to sign it into law, to let it lapse into law or to veto on a particular measure.

Joyce Pañares (Manila Standard Today): Sir, walang tanong, thank you lang po. For the past six years na kasama ninyo ‘yung MPC at tsaka naging accessible kayo sa amin for the past six years.

PRESIDENT AQUINO: O, ‘di ako’y magpapaalam na sa inyo. At magkita na lang tayo somewhere down the line. Kung ikakasal na kayo, sa stag party niyo ako imbitahin.

Alam niyo, kapag tinatanong niyo ‘yun, naalala ko kasi ‘yung kwento ng… At gusto ko nga makita kung totoo ‘yun e. Allegedly, I had a girlfriend before na gusto raw ng mommy, nagpabili ng tela. Siyempre puti para sa kasal. Nandoon sa kanyang couturier na hanggang ngayon nandoon pa rin sa couturier niya at ang kulay raw ay dilaw. So gusto ko lang makausap ‘yung couturier na buhay pa, maitanong ko lang kung dilaw pa siya o nagbago na naman ‘yung kulay niya.

At para ma-share ko naman sa inyo kung swertehin tayo doon, share ko sa inyo kung ano ang color natin, color motif.

Okay. Thank you. Can I just say na kung may times masungit si Sonny (Coloma) or si Rey (Marfil) or si Edwin (Lacierda) or si Abi (Valte), si Ricky (Carandang), si Manolo (Quezon), pati ako na rin. It was never personal ‘no. Talagang kung minsan, tao tayong lahat, nagpatong-patong ‘nung araw na ‘yun.

‘Yung humihingi ng linaw sa panahon na walang linaw, hinihingi ‘yung impormasyon na hindi pwede ilabas. ‘Yung can we just ano, can we just share one story ‘no. Topic pa rin ‘yung freedom of information.

‘Yung umiikot kami, ‘yung usual, bus terminal, airport, seaport ‘nung MERS Corona Virus ‘no. Natyambahan ko lang, hindi naman ini-report sa akin ni Secretary (Enrique) Ona. Dumaan ako sa bahay sa Times, nanunood sila ng news. Nakita ko na meron diumano pasahero raw galing sa Middle East dumating dito at hindi maliwanag na ‘yung storya after that.

So I talked to Secretary Ona at hindi maliwanag ‘yung usapan namin, dulo ‘non, I asked him to convene a meeting, to call in all of his personnel, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, bureau chief, ‘yung concerned people in the Bureau of Quarantine, concerned (BID?) officials, DFA officials, pati ‘yung PNP. So we had a meeting that lasted from 10:30 to 3:30 a.m. Tapos, dinescribe ano ba ‘yung problem? There was a person, he’s supposed to have been tested positive for MERS in the country where he originated from. He left before the results came out. And we were told, parang something like he was here in the country already for about 12 hours. So, briefing ng how is it? How do you contact it? How do you contract that disease?

So, Holy Week, ang daming taong wala na sa Metro Manila tapos ang suggestion ng WHO, World Health Organization, people who are — three people in front of you, hindi man row ano, parang one directly in front of you, one on the right, three on your left and on your right, three behind. Tapos kung na-expose…Iyong lahat ng iyon kakausapin niyo raw papakiusapan na huwag silang lalabas ng bahay nila at kung pwedeng huwag silang lalabas ng kwarto nila at kung saka-sakaling magkaroon ng sintomas ay ipaalam sa WHO.

Ngayon, sabi ko naman noong nag-uusap kami, “Realistic ba ‘yon? Somebody who works in the Middle East a year two years, darating sa Pilipinas, hindi maraming susundo? Walang anak, inaanak na yayakap, hinahanap ‘yung pasalubong?” Direct contact raw ang batayan o theory ng transmission. Kapag nauwi ‘yung kumpare mo na “pare, nandyan ka na pala hindi tayo mag-beer muna?” Matagal mawala ang alcohol. Now, pwede mong ma-isolate…Parang realistic ba to isolate yourself voluntarily? So I guess, one of the pressures in this job is when they actually reveal the information if there is a person who has tested positive for this disease, which at that point in time, had a mortality rate approaching 40 percent. And he is currently on his way back to Bicol and we don’t know where he is and he has parang four others in the party e, asawa, anak at kasambahay na presumably lahat na-expose, na kailangan mong i-incubate para makita kung lalabas o hindi.

So iyon na nga, iyong…I don’t know. Those are just some of the challenges. You don’t know, you don’t have all of the data, at lalo na…Iyong follow up kasi doon, the flight was supposed to contain 418 people. Sabi ko: “Paano natin mahahanap?” “Sir, meron tayong passenger manifest, merong passport.” The passport will contain all of the data. We are accessing all government databases: POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), et cetera, pati PhilHealth yata. Basta any and every database to determine their actual residences.

Tapos iyon may mga funny moments doon na may asawa na na-contact namin, ang alam niya hindi pa scheduled umuwi ‘yung asawa niya ng tatlong buwan, ‘yung mga ganun. Tapos ‘yung 418, naghiwalay kami ‘non 3:30 ng umaga, siyempre hindi mo naman pwedeng tawagin ng alas-otso lahat ‘nung inutusan kong kumilos na dahil kumikilos pa lang sila. Binigyan ko ng hanggang mga lunchtime e, mga 12:30 or so para mag-follow up. Ano na ang balita? Ang napagbuhusan ‘non si Rene Almendras na CabSec. Well, ang sabi niya: “Iyong 418 na hinahanap natin kagabi, 820 na ngayon.” “Sabi ko paano nanganak ‘yung isang eroplano na ‘yan?” Ang sagot niya: Iyong data raw natin, manifest nandun pero wala ‘yung passport ‘nong iba or marami, so kinuha sa database ng DFA at maraming Juan dela Cruz, maraming Juana dela Cruz nagka-pare-pareho.

Kasi iyon ang sabi nila, kapag may passport number, may birthday, iba-iba ‘yon, mahina ‘yung tyansa na may duplication. So I am just asking na kapag full transparency and we told you everything that was transpiring, I wonder if we had more panic. Bibili ng mga gamot na parang prophylactic na mali pala, na mawawala ‘yung efficacy kapag dumating ‘yung tamang sakit. And that’s just one of the instances na you need to get the information, we want to share as much as possible but we also want to ensure that there is no panic.

Kumpletuhin ko na rin ikwento ‘no. There was another flight, babae naman, who was already demonstrating symptoms. And it took a while to find her. Hindi ko maalala kung Iloilo siya umuuwi o Mindanao e. Tapos ite-test. When she tested negative hindi na namin hinanap ‘yung other passengers in that plane kasi parang ordinary flu lang ‘yung sa kanya.

When that was winding down, siguro Sunday ‘yung babae, Saturday o Sunday ‘yung babae; by mga Tuesday of the following week, may incident naman sa Mindanao, about 30 people either fell ill after handling a sick horse or eating the horse and about nine of them died. Medyo mataas na naman ‘yung nine out of 30. What was this disease? Tinapos natin lahat ng test available in the country. We asked Japan’s help, ang dulo Australia naka-identify. It’s a disease transmitted by bats and when they excrete, their excretions fall on the grass, the grass is eaten by the horse, the horse gets sick. And ang hassle doon sa next episode — again, two days after humupa, ‘yung apat doon sa 30 na nagkasakit, apat doon walang contact doon sa horse. They were all medical professionals. Two of whom died.

Sabi ko parang: “Marami na tayong animal to human pero after that animal-human tapos human parang bago ‘yon?” Pero iyon nga ang point, na-identify eventually. Mahusay ‘yung LGU, they isolated this barangay, hindi na nag-spread. Pero at the end of this whole thing, I talked to the DOH personally in particular sabi ko: “You know, you have responded to the challenge. You needed very little prompting from me where you find your systems. Pero kung pupwede huwag na muna tayong magkita ulit dahil medyo nakakapuno kayo ng anxiety.” And, of course, after that iyong Ebola scare. So ang dami ko ng pamilya na familiar sa bureaucracy ng ating DOH.

Pero I would like to assure everybody that DOH together with the rest of the government has really improved. Iyong again sa MERS, they were implementing what was the established practice as advocated by the World Health Organization.

I have been told how we handled our own potential outbreak of this disease is already being copied and being recommended. They actually — they have a policy na yata called parang the “no-regrets policy”. Imbes na kaunting — ‘di ba limited intrusion, person possibly infected and those in the immediate vicinity.

You know I had to ask kasi, a flight from the Middle East is about eight hours. The person never went to the bathroom, restroom. And one traversing never encountered turbulence but he managed to touch somebody near the aisles. Did not talk to somebody else in a different section of the plan, did not suffer turbulence there. Sabi ko parang hindi complete yata ‘yung safeguard, hanapin natin ‘yung isa o hanapin in that case lima, hanapin na natin the rest of the passengers.

Foreigners, for instance, when they list address, they list home addresses. Useless dahil nandito sa Pilipinas saan dito? So that has been refined. Iyong na-implement ‘yung Quarantine Act of 2004 meron na ngayong kumbaga stock knowledge ‘yung ating concerned agencies on fulfilling every requirement of that Republic Act, so that was also improved. Tapos siyempre ‘yung capabilities, equipment, training for all of this has really been wrapped up.