Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Solicitor General Jose Calida and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr
|Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Solicitor General Jose Calida and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr|
|Royal Mandaya Hotel, Davao City|
|26 May 2017|
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Welcome to the presidential press briefing in Davao. This also serves as the soft launch of a program produced under the auspices of the Presidential Spokesperson called the Mindanao hour, a regular if not daily program that will give updates on the situation in Mindanao.
Facts and figures will be provided by AFP spokespersons and insights will be provided by the appropriate state or non-state actors.
Before we call on our resource persons this morning. I just like to share a bit:
As of 9:55 p.m. last night, 25th of May 2017, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed and submitted the report relative to Proclamation No. 216, dated 23 May 2017 entitled ‘Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the whole of Mindanao’ submitted it to Congress providing the basis for declaring martial law and suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in Mindanao during the special Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan in Davao City.
Also, the Press Secretary of the US has expressed solidarity with the Philippines and condemns the recent violence perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group in Marawi in Southern Philippines and he stated that the US will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counter-terrorism groups.
Also, the new Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano thanked Moscow for its commitment to strengthen cooperation with Manila, particularly in security and intelligence cooperation and in stepping up measures to combat terrorism, especially amid violence in Southern Philippines. In his words:
Current developments in Mindanao where ISIS involvement is suspected, support our common desire to strengthen security and intelligence cooperation and make this a safer world for all of us, for all of our people, Cayetano said.
So let me again express our gratitude for Russia’s offer to share expertise, experience in vast knowledge in the field of security and fighting terrorism.
This morning, we are joined by Solicitor General Jose Calida and AFP spokesperson Resty Padilla.
We defer now to Sol Gen Calida.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Thank you Secretary Ernie Abella, my fellow kababayan, we are both from Davao City, actually.
First of all, I’d like to read a statement. The proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in Mindanao should not be a cause for alarm for our law-abiding citizens.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has ample factual basis for such proclamation.
The festering rebellion of the Maute terrorist group which has pledged allegiance to the virulent ISIS, otherwise known as Daesh in Arabic, is a compelling reason why martial law was declared.
Our security and intelligence units have monitored ISIS and Maute literature and publications containing orders to their adherence to attack the Philippine government and established a “wilayat” or ISIS province in Mindanao.
The order to attack is not only focused on the government. People they consider as infidels, whether Christians or Muslims, are also targets of opportunity, whether they are found in Marawi, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga, Cebu, Manila, and other cities.
What is worrisome is that the ISIS has radicalized a number of Filipino Muslim youth. This is evidenced in the Davao City bombing last September where young Moros were involved.
The Hilongos, Leyte bombing was the handiwork of a young balik-Islam recruits.
Several bombings in Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, and Basilan were all perpetrated by either the Maute terrorist group or the Abu Sayyaf.
And between the two, the Maute group is the most dangerous as it represents the ISIS Islamic extremists here in our country.
In fact, the Maute group has been involved in video-recorded beheadings of hapless victims.
What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria.
The dream of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to the ISIS and to its flag, is to transform Mindanao into an Islamic state or in their language Daulah Islamiyah.
The infamous Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon has been declared by the ISIS as its emir or leader in the Philippines.
Given the above clear and present dangers and atrocities happening in Mindanao, especially in Marawi City, it is the President’s constitutional duty to unsheathe the Republic’s sword of martial law to crush the rebellion that threatens to divide our country.
The least we can do as law-abiding citizens is to repose our trust in the wisdom and determination of President Duterte to excise this evil in our land.
You may now ask questions because after this I’ll be checking out.
Okay. Is there anybody?
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Q: Concerning what you just said that it has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters? Can you elaborate on that on account of reports that there are, there were Malaysians and Indonesians fighting in Marawi with Hapilon?
SOL GEN CALIDA: Correct… Malaysians, Indonesians from Singapore and other foreign jihadists.
Q: So you are confirming that there are foreign fighters in Marawi right now?
SOL GEN CALIDA: Yes. And that’s the bothersome—Before it was just a local terrorist group. But now, there is now an ideology, they have subscribed to the ideology of the ISIS and they have pledged allegiance to the flag of ISIS. So they want to create Mindanao as part of the caliphate.
Okay. There being none—
Q: For Secretary Abella, aside from the signing of the declaration of martial law, what are the, can you cite some of the major points discussed during the Cabinet meeting?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Which? Last night you mean? Basically it was, the discussions circulated around the details regarding the implementation of martial law.
I cannot of course divulge details. But basically, it’s about security, implementation and mainly all around that. Thank you.
Q: Hi, sir. I’m Ina Andolong from CNN Philippines. This is for Sol Gen Calida. Sir, apart from the pestering rebellion that you talked about, is that the basis na pinoint (point) out po doon sa report that the President submitted to Congress and the Senate or can you tell us a bit more about the justification doon sa proclamation na ibinigay po doon sa Congress?
SOL GEN CALIDA: We have not yet seen the actual report although it was discussed. But we are laying down the basis why martial law was declared.
This is not knee-jerk response of the President. Because as you know very well this has been going on for quite some time.
It just so happened that there was this, how do you call it, explosive situation in Marawi City because there were already antecedents prior to that.
Q: Sorry, another one. You said that the US is, continues to, will continue to assist our troops in its fight against Maute and the ASG. Specifically in Marawi, what are the assistance that the US is extending to our troops in trying to deal with the terrorist there?
SOL GEN CALIDA: I think it was Secretary Abella who said that. So please direct the question to him.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: This was stated in general terms so I cannot divulge any specifics. Thank you.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Anyway, after this, spokesperson Resty Padilla will have adequate material to share with you.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Is there anybody else?
Q: Secretary Calida, pwede niyo pong mailarawan ‘yung Cabinet meeting kagabi? Ano po ‘yung mga napagusapan po doon? Bukod sa nabanggit ni Secretary Abella.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Okay. It was a special meeting to discuss the situation in Marawi City and also to… for the Executive department to submit the report to Congress.
The Speaker of the House was there, as well as the Senate President. And conformably with the requirements of the Constitution, the report was given within the timeframe.
And therefore the ball is now in Congress. If Congress will not say anything about it then there’s no problem. In other words, it will be consider as acquiescence.
Q: Sir, what are the salient points in report po sir?
SOL GEN CALIDA: As I mentioned, I was not able to read the entire report. It was only discussed in parts. But basically it lays down the basis why martial law was declared.
As well as the suspension of the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. So the report contains detailed facts, substantial facts to buttress the decision of the President to declare martial law.
Q: Secretary, ‘yung sa declaration po ng martial law, tingin niyo po may means ang Congress na harangin pa ito?
SOL GEN CALIDA: I don’t think so. The facts are very substantial. And if any citizen will challenge it in the Supreme Court, we are confident, and I am confident that we will be able to prove that there was substantial basis, factual basis.
Q: Sir, ang inaabangan po ‘yung guidelines sa martial law kasi ang City of Davao, nag-labas po sila ng 30 guidelines. Pero sinabi po ni Mayor Sara Duterte na masu-supersede ito kapag lumabas ‘yung galing sa OP and sa AFP na guidelines or IRR. Meron na po ba tayong ilalabas na ganon po?
SOL GEN CALIDA: There will be actually. It was also partly discussed last night.
Q: [off mic]
Well, there will be of course, the letter of instruction, who will administer the martial law, who will implement it, et cetera.
The details, of course, I cannot tell you right now because I have not seen the entirety of the report.
Q: Sir, with the confirmation that—
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Will you please identify yourself?
Q: Come again sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Identify yourself.
Q: I’m Ben Tesiorna from CNN Philippines po. With the confirmation that foreign terrorists are fighting alongside with the Maute, could we, may we know how were they able to penetrate the country? And how many are they? And could you also confirm if, among those killed are the foreign terrorists?
SOL GEN CALIDA: I will defer to our military spokesman. He knows better than me.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If there are no more questions regarding the legal side of the proclamation, then I suggest that we listen now to spokesperson Resty Padilla, who will be able to give you more adequate facts pertaining to your questions. Thank you.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Will you please identify yourself?
Q: Sir, Manuel Cayon of Business Mirror.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Alright.
Q: Sir, I don’t know if this entirely about the legal basis of the proclamation but during the last two days Davao City has rounded up about 250 persons of interest. and I don’t know—
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suggest we, I suggest we defer first to the spokesperson and then you can ask the questions later. Okay? Thank you.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Well, I have no personal knowledge of the arrest. But that is part of the, you know, they were not really arrested but they were invited to shed light while they are there.
And I believe they were released after their identities were established.
Q: That’s supposed to be my question. If people outside Mindanao were particularly concerned about the repeated assurances of government that civil rights will be protected, and observed, and I don’t know if in this arrests and in the raids in suspected places if the courts have jurisdiction in this, and if the legal rights have been observed?
SOL GEN CALIDA: Well, you must remember, together with the declaration of martial law, the President also proclaimed a suspension of the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Yes, the courts are still functioning and the law-abiding citizens should not be concerned. Those who should be concerned are those who are rebelling against the government.
Q: Sir Padilla, Diane from UNTV.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Speak clearly please. Will you please… questions for Mr. Padilla after he makes a report. Anything else? Anybody else?
Q: Good morning sir. [?] from Philippine News Agency Davao. To Secretary Calida sir, there is an ongoing peace process. How will this impact, considering that many of those who are working or the stakeholders are worried how this martial law will affect the peace process? Other groups, the MNLF, MILF, and the NDF.
SOL GEN CALIDA: This will not affect the ongoing peace process talks because they are not involved in this rebellion.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Anybody else, please? Thank you.
Q: Good morning sir. I am Marilou Tolentino DXRB Radyo ng Bayan.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Tumayo po kayo, pwede.
Q: I am Marilou Tolentino from DXRB Radyo ng Bayan. Sir, what can you say about the plans of Muslim lawyers to file a petition sa Supreme Court para mapawalang bisa po itong declaration ng martial law?
SOL GEN CALIDA: Well, the Constitution says any citizen can go to the Supreme Court. And they have the right to do so.
However, the Office of the Solicitor General will be defending the Republic of the Philippines and the President when this matter goes up to the Supreme Court.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Meron pa po?
Q: Sir, to Secretary Abella. I’m [?] po from Sonshine TV. Sir, I’m [?] po from Sonshine TV. Sir, there is a suggestion from FVR na i-reduce po ‘yung declaration ng martial law not just in some areas of Mindanao, sir, in Luzon and Visayas.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I defer that to Solicitor General.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Who said that?
Q: FVR po sir. Suggestion po ni FVR.
SOLGEN JOSE CALIDA: He suggested that what?
Q: To reduce the areas of martial law, specifically lang po doon sa may mga conflict.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Well, you know, there is a problem with that because for example in Mindanao, we don’t have secure borders wherein we can contain the rebellion in one area.
So because of the mobility of these terrorists, they can move from Marawi, to Iligan to and other places.
So I think the suggestion of the former President is not practicable at this time.
Q: Thank you sir.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Please stand up and identify yourself. Thank you.
Q: Good morning sir. This is Jerome Morales from Reuters. Sir, to the Solicitor General. Sir, may we ask if there are dead combatants, among those foreigners that you mentioned? Were there dead foreign rebels?
SOL GEN CALIDA: If there are combatants? Well, I will defer that to the military spokesman. But I believe there are. In fact, some were killed already.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Anybody else, please? Any more questions, pertinent questions referring to Sol Gen? Otherwise we’ll now defer to spokesperson Resty Padilla of the Armed Forces.
SOL GEN CALIDA: Can I be excused now? No more? Okay. Thank you. So see you in Manila.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Thank you very much sir. Good morning, everybody. I am General Padilla, the spokesperson for the Armed Forces and the designated spokesperson for the implementation of martial law by the military within Mindanao.
Off the bat, I’d like to just emphasize that there is no reason for the public to be alarmed and fear the declaration of martial law as this is intended to address rebellion in Mindanao that is happening.
The legal basis for which the declaration has been made has been discussed by the Sol Gen and later on I will not answer anything pertaining to any legalities of the declaration.
Matters within the implementation, yes I will do that. Politically-motivated questions and legal issues I will leave that to the lawyers and the politicians.
Again, as a second point, we would like to emphasize that it is the greater interest of the public that is the heart of the implementation of martial law and that the Armed Forces will clearly go by all the guidelines that will be issued and the issued guidelines recently by the Department of National Defense where emphasis has been placed on upholding the rule of law and to abide and uphold established laws pertaining to human rights.
There are many quarters, on this account, there are many quarters who have been raising issues already. They are people living in the past.
I would like to state that under the new basis for which martial law is declared, those of the past are very different from the way it is going to be implemented today.
Our Armed Forces is a new Armed Forces that you should trust. We are the Armed Forces of the people which oath is to protect the state and every citizen of this country.
And we will do that even at the cost of our lives, as you have been seeing in the many months that we have been fighting this threat.
May I also emphasize that law-abiding citizens need not worry as this is aimed at lawless elements involved in rebellious activities.
But for citizens holding on to unregistered loose firearms, we highly encourage them to surrender them to authorities or to initiate appropriate measures to legalize their possession of firearms so that you will be not be subject to the inconvenience of future search and seizure procedures.
We also encourage the public to extend their full cooperation and support to facilitate the stabilization of Mindanao and hasten its road back to normalcy.
And hence, in this regard, we do request the public to be patient in the measures that will have to be undertaken to ensure that we are doing and going in that direction.
Part of which is the establishment of checkpoints in all areas and the possible declaration of curfew hours in certain parts of Mindanao.
These measures will be implemented because of the necessity for national security and the safety of the people.
Such measures will be announced ahead of time and that we encourage the public and ask them and request them to please extend your full cooperations to avoid any inconvenience.
The AFP has not recommended the suspension of the freedom of expression but will exercise the right to censure based on the following: 1. To ensure the safety of lives; 2. To ensure operational security and the safety of our men in uniform who are fighting; and for other national security considerations.
On account of the doubts that had been expressed by many quarters, we also appeal to the public that should you see abuses on the part of those implementing martial law, men in uniform who are tasked to do that, we encourage you to report them and on our hand, we will provide you a swift probe and a quick action to ensure the accountability of our men.
Finally, on this topic, while we maintain that martial law does not target peace-inclined groups, we will enforce the law uniformly such that all violators of the law, regardless of group affiliations, will be dealt with accordingly.
Again, the very basis for the declaration was to establish law and order and the rule of law in areas where this is apparently breaking down, we shall be very strict and we shall be very harsh for those who are committing acts of rebellion.
Again, we would like to assure the public and request you to trust and appeal to you to trust the Armed Forces, your Armed Forces, that we will do everything in our capacity, alongside the guidelines that have been set by the Constitution and the other guidelines that will be given to us.
Some of which have already been given by the commander-in-chief himself. And he said that we must guarantee, that for our citizens who are law-abiding, this will not impede any of their activities, and that they must not fear any measures.
So we will only apply the harshest stand against those committing acts of rebellion.
In the implementation, may I also share with you that an organizational set-up has been formed, where we shall be under the administrator of martial law who is working directly with the commander in chief and the designated administrator of martial law is the Secretary of Defense along with key advisers for specific parts of Mindanao namely: Eastern Mindanao and Western Mindanao.
Under him will be a deputy martial law administrator who shall handle the operations, administrative, legal, public affairs, and logistic side of the administration of martial law.
And directly under that will be the chief of staff who will be the implementor of martial law and under him, working with him will be the Chief of the Philippine National Police.
And if you will allow me, I’ll just share with you that organizational set-up for a clearer understanding.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We will be setting up, by the way, a separate page for–
BRIG GEN PADILLA:
We will provide you this, but for now, this is what I’ve been discussing.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You can take shots of it later. Thank you.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: So underneath the commander-in-chief is the martial law administrator, who is the Secretary of National Defense; and working with him are several advisers for the areas of Mindanao.
His deputy will be doing the administrative, logistics, et cetera. And the Chief of Staff will be the chief implementor for martial law and under him will be the major area commands, primarily Western Mindanao and Eastern Mindanao Command.
And directly supporting will be the commander of Central Command based in the Visayas, if ever there are requirements that may not be provided or cannot be provided by Eastern Mindanao Command and the Western Mindanao Command.
Now on updates in the operational area, if you will allow me, the focus of operations right now is to clear the city of every terrorist that is still currently in the area.
These clearing operations are now being carried out since the other day. And as of 12 midnight last night, I am glad to report to you that we have been able to reach parts of the city which have been held by some of these terrorist elements the past few days.
We entered the Banggulo area and in the process, neutralized 18 and recovered five high powered firearms, bringing the total number of terrorists killed to 31. And lately the recovery of additional firearms, bringing the total firearms recovered to 11.
On the government’s part, we were able to also secure the safety of trapped residents of Marawi in Baranggay Kilala yesterday.
There were 16 civilians who were caught in the middle of this continuous fighting and were safely rescued and provided safe passage to the areas of their destination and to evacuation centers if they did not have any place to go.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Our men and women in the Armed Forces is committed to their mission and because of this commitment, it is not… it is sad that we have to offer lives in order to accomplish that.
And yesterday, we lost six more and seven wounded, bringing the total number as of 12 midnight last night to 11 members of the Armed Forces killed, and two members of the Philippine National Police.
One of whom was an officer who was assigned in the area and who was brutally killed by way of beheading.
There are also 39 wounded as of 12 midnight last night based on the report of JTF ZamPeLan.
Up to this moment, operations are ongoing and there are still firefights between our forces and those of the terrorists in certain parts of the city. But the objective of our Armed Forces is to clear the city at the soonest time possible.
I am now open for any of your questions.
Q: [?] Can I just run with you the matter about the presence of foreign terrorists in Marawi? Sol Gen Calida also already mentioned that, yes there are Malaysians, Indonesians, and even Singaporeans fighting there now?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Yes, there are also certain elements here who have been in the country for a long time, aiding these terrorists in skills related to terrorism primarily bomb making.
You know of Sanusi who was the religious leader of the Maute group, who was neutralized some time in 2012, if I’m not mistaken, 2002 if I’m not mistaken or 2012, thereabouts.
There are also Malaysians, Singaporeans, and in the fight that has been ongoing in Marawi, we are continuously verifying that there have been a number of them who have been killed.
There is a certain information that we received which confirmed the killing of 12 members of this group and about half of that number are foreign terrorists. Malaysians, Indonesians, and one other which I could not remember.
So that confirms the presence of these foreign terrorists.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Next question please. Will you please stand up?
Q: I’m from UNTV.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA:
Q: Diane from UNTV. General Padilla, we’d like to ask, is it true that one of the reasons why our forces are having hard time entering Marawi City is because there are Maute snipers on the elevated areas of Marawi?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: The tactics employed by the enemy necessitates their occupying areas to impede the movement of troops.
That’s the way they will move in areas like this, and that’s clearly understandable.
We know the threat and we are addressing this. That is why… Thank you for your question, Diane.
That is why at this point– I also like to air and communicate to the residents of Marawi, our citizens who have been continuously saying to take every precaution not to bomb the place because they will lose their possessions. We assure our kababayans in Marawi, our Muslim brothers that we are not bombing your city.
We are merely performing surgical airstrikes with pinpoint accuracy to neutralize these threats that have been impeding the entry and movement of our troops.
Again, the assurance that we give you is that we are taking every precaution to avoid collateral damage, damage to private property which you have heavily invested on your whole lives, as well as the loss of innocent lives.
May I also request members of the media to please convey that to our kababayans in the area who have been continuously communicating to us about this concern.
Q: Sir, I’m Ina from CNN Philippines. With you confirming sir that foreign terrorists are involved, what coordination if any are you making with the concerned governments?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Based on what we have so far and based on the accomplishments that we have been able to do the last few months, yes there were foreign terrorists who are among those killed in many of our operations.
And yes we have been communicating with their governments to cooperate on whatever assistance, information wise, can be provided to us, as well as what we can provide to assist them on our end.
Q: Sir, you talked about the guidelines kanina. But I understand that even with the general do’s and don’ts issued to soldiers, even I believe the PNP, there will be a more specific set of guidelines that will be approved by the President, I think that was discussed last night. Ano na po ‘yung status ng mga ‘yun?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: The reason I showed you the martial law implementation structure is that, it is… the duty of coming up with the guidelines will now be on the part of the administrator.
And they are currently working on this even as we speak. So, the administrator will have those set of guidelines and will issue them out to the implementor, who is the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines.
But having said that, there have been initial guidelines that had been issued already and one was brought out by Undersecretary Del Rosario of the Department of National Defense the other day.
I am sure you were able to take cognizance of that. And that initial guidance specifically mentioned that we should abide by the rule of law and established norms regarding human rights. Essentially, the way we will work out in the field does not change.
Our rules of engagement will remain the same, except for those that are specific to martial law such as the suspension of the privilege of Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Q: Sir you talked about, sorry ha, you talked about exercising your right to censure.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Only for the reasons that I have cited.
Q: Yes, but will there be specific guidelines also to be issued for that?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Yes.
Q: Because I mean, medyo vague po ‘yung nabanggit. Anyone can cite national security at this time, easily cite that at this time.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Those will be part of the guidelines that are now being crafted.
Q: And after what we saw in Marawi sir, ‘yung social media, there were a lot of misinformation, will these guidelines also cover social media posts?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Yes, it will cover social media. The reason these guidelines have to be set, to be given and censure part is because of the things that we have been seeing in the operational environment.
You yourselves have seen that tremendous disinformation clouds or creates a thick fog of war that does not allow a better operational picture or provide a better operational picture of the battlefield.
And this is one that creates a lot of collateral damage which we want to avoid.
Q: Sir, Ben Tesiorna, CNN Philippines. Paano po nakapasok ‘yung ano, terorista dito? And what are the measures taken now to prevent such scenario from happening again? Thank you.
BRIG GEN PADILLA: The reason the way by which many of these foreign terrorists have made their way is through our porous borders.
You yourselves are aware that the way we have been monitoring and reinforcing our borders is still wanting.
That is why we are taking measures to strengthen the borders. There is a need to work with other agencies on this regard and we have made appropriate recommendations.
Hopefully, those recommendations can be acted on swiftly during the period of martial law so that we can plug all these gaps that had been the reason for their coming into the country.
Many also are coming in legitimately by way of their covers and this is why we are a member of the network of nations working against terrorism.
Case in point is the two foreign nationals that were, one of whom was already deported recently.
The BID took measures and this information did not come directly from us but from the network of nations who were working together against terrorism. You’re aware of that.
Q: [off mic] sabi ng President na minsan humahalo sa mga Tablighs?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Many ways not only that. There are legitimate covers of people supposedly offering assistance, creating projects here and there and the like.
I cannot go to the specifics so that we do not communicate our punches.
Q: Good morning sir. I’m Maya Padilla from BusinessWorld. Sir, you’ve mentioned kanina na, na ‘yung… what are the cities covered with your clearing operations? And how many cities have been cleared so far? And can you also describe how these clearing operation being carried out?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: I’m sorry these are matters operational. I cannot discuss them. They will endanger lives.
Q: My name is [?] from China Central Television. I would like to know how many troops now will send to Marawi? And how many troops we will send to Marawi to end this crisis as soon as possible? I mean what’s our plan to end this as soon as possible?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Again, I apologize. I cannot answer and give you specifics of the number of troops as well as the number of troops that are inbound to assist.
Be that as it may, what I can tell you is that the objective of our Armed Forces is to expedite the clearing of the City of Marawi of any terrorist elements who are still holed up in the area.
Having accomplished this, we will announce whether residents are already free to come in and resume their normal lives.
Q: May I have another question to Secretary Abella. After the yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, I would like to know, did our President have some plan to visit to the site there? Or for the Philippine government, for the Philippine government what kind of measurement we need to do in the future to make this end as soon as possible?
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The movements of the President right now are calibrated, are confidential so we cannot divulge directly what his moves are. Thank you.
Q: Sir, Manuel Cayon of Business Mirror. In the past the MILF and the MNLF were asked to help government engage or in one instance, it was asked to sidestep, in this case what’s the role of the two revolutionary fronts?
BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you very much for that question. I actually covered that but it may not have been clearly understood.
The last item I mentioned a while ago was that while we maintain that martial law does not target peace-inclined groups, we will enforce the law uniformly.
Such that all violators of law, regardless of group affiliations, will be dealt with accordingly.
We are happy to note that the MNLF and the MILF have been extending their full cooperation.
There is no conflict here. We are in peace talks with the MILF and all the mechanisms are still in place.
Q: When you mean full cooperation, you mean their armed units are also helping in the operations?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: You must understand that keeping them where they are right now is enough for us.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Anything else?
Q: Good morning sir. General Padilla sir. I’m Ruth Palo Dumandan of GMA Super Radyo. Sir, can you give us figures of how many displaced families right now in Marawi? And can you give us also the numbers of how many Maute members right now that we are still hunting and searching?
BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: On the figures about displaced persons and families and individuals, I don’t have the numbers right now and I would like to refer you to the Office of Civil Defense who is keeping tab of all these.
We are actually focusing on operations on the clearing of the city and we would not like to be distracted by any others.
We leave to other agencies the monitoring of displaced persons, as well as the provision of assistance for each and everyone of these IDPs.
Q: The Maute?
BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: On the matter of Maute, the previous information we have before the launching of the law enforcement operation which was to target the arrest of Isnilon Hapilon, the beginning of this week.
There was reported 50 numbered Maute group that was securing him. This number has changed because of the dynamics in the battlefield.
I cannot give you the specifics because we are still validating all this information at the moment.
Q: Okay lastly sir, are we gonna implement the no ID, no entry policy?
BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Again, the identities of people particularly in areas of conflict are very important.
So if you don’t have any identification, as what happened in Davao, you will be inconvenienced.
So please carry with you your identification and the reason for your being in certain areas where you will be held up.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Last two questions please.
Q: Sir, she mentioned about the ID system which is being asked of every citizen in the City and maybe in other parts of Mindanao, will this declaration pave the way for the unified enforcement of the national ID system? Secretary Abella please.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again. About the ID system?
Q: Because in the light of this martial law, ID has been very crucial thing a one, a person must have in every–
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That will be a matter of the legislation.
Q: But there was this proposal before sir but it’s pending in Congress, I suppose, will it revive the proposal? General Padilla?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: Based on my understanding and the monitoring of Congress, I understand that is already about to be implemented. It has gone through Congress and I think it has been approved.
That there is a need to have a national ID system for the purpose of transacting business with government.
I will refer you to the Senate or the Congressional secretariat who may provide you the specifics of how that has happened.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay, one follow up. Thank you.
Q: To General Padilla. Sir, given the border problem in Mindanao, how can we be assured, how can the secured areas be assured that the Marawi incident will not spread in other areas which is not yet contained with the terror cells?
BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you very much. The declaration of martial law allows us a degree of latitude to exert and to enforce certain actions that will work on that aspect.
And right now there has already been specific instructions from the commander-in-chief himself for the Navy to secure all the borders, with the cooperation of our other marine related agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard, Marina, and the like.
So we will do everything in our capacity, along with all these agencies to carry out the orders of the President to plug all the gaps that are in existence in our borders.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Last question please.
Q: Sir, good morning. Richy Nalagon from Mindanao Daily Mirror and RPN Davao. You’ve mention kanina that the MILF and the MNLF step aside, walang movement. But the New People’s Army has announced that there will be stepping up operations against government forces. In fact last night ata, a patrol of policemen in Arakan, North Cotabato was ambushed by the NPA and one police was wounded. What is the action right now of the AFP, with regards with the pronouncement of the NPA as well as the orders of the command, to the lower officers?
BRIG GEN PADILLA: That question I guess has been answered by OPAPP because of a statement that has been issued yesterday, early yesterday regarding the pronouncement of the left.
On the part of the Armed Forces, we are, we sadly received news of this. And we’d still highly encourage the other group to reconsider what there announcement was.
As I have said in the beginning of this Q and A, the desire of the Armed Forces and the declaration of martial law is aimed at restoring the rule of law and orders, specifically in those areas that have been affected by the presence of terrorist elements, both local and foreign.
And so as much as we would like to focus on this, if the NPA will insist to do what they want, as I mentioned in the final note of my earlier briefing, that we will enforce the law uniformly no matter who these groups are.
So if the NPA continuous to violate our laws and with impunity attack our forces then we will deal with that accordingly.
But again, I would surmise that it is good to express here that they should reconsider that announcement since we are in formal talks with them.
And we have set some preconditions that had been mentioned by the President, that they should cooperate with.
Such as attacks on agricultural areas, the burning of equipment which are also violations of the law.
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In response to that, just to add a little bit. I’d like to quote a few sections of Secretary Bello’s response to the matter.
He says: We therefore find the CPP directive to the NPA to intensify attacks as totally misplaced, born out of a grossly distorted appreciation of President’s intention.
At the very least, it was an insult to the candor and genuineness displayed by the President and the government of the Republic of the Philippines panel in talking peace. At worst, it betrays the absence of sincerity of the CCP in the negotiating table.
Against this backdrop, we reaffirmed our commitment and remain confident in winning our quest for lasting peace.
I just like to end this now by quoting something from Secretary Dominguez and he has a statement that says: Solid fundamentals are buoyed Philippine economy despite martial law in Mindanao.
The economy has ample buffers to withstand adverse effects of the current unrest in Mindanao as traders favor the Philippines, the Department of Finance said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said: The country’s solid macroeconomic fundamentals buoyed the local bourse, stock market and peso despite President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
On Thursday, the bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange Index added 33.83 points or 0.42 percent to close at 7,871.65; while the peso ended stronger against the greenback at 49.83 from 49.995 in the previous day.
National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon said: The Philippines’ ample buffers position the country to weather changes in global environment, noting the nation’s external debt to gross, in domestic product is 24.5 percent, is one of the lowest in the region.
We continue to increase our reliance into peso funding, taking advantage of ample liquidity.
In other words all this is to say, that while there are certain things that need to be address in the nation, the rest of the country is doing very well, considering the fact that the fundamental, basic, and the general direction [inaudible] is quite healthy and in fact solid.
The rest of the nations appreciate this. And I believe, as Filipinos, we need to continue to appreciate what’s happening in the nation and that, I think this also a challenge for us to really have a mind shift and a shift of heart, in order to become more patriotic Filipinos.
Regarding this matter of a daily update what we call— This is soft launch of what we call Mindanao hour. And starting Monday we will, we will, we’re intending to have a regular daily update, either from Manila or from Davao with designated spokespersons from the military and others parties.
And that hopefully for the next, it will be less than 60 days, but we will have regular updates including Saturday and Sunday, starting Monday.
Alright. That you very much. You have been a great audience. Thank you.
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