Press Briefing

Mindanao Hour Briefing by PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar with Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima Spokesperson, Task Force Bangon Marawi, and AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr.

Event Mindanao Hour Briefing
Location International Media Center, Conrad Hotel Pasay City

OPENING STATEMENTS:

 SEC. ANDANAR:  Good morning. Magandang umaga. Maayong buntag ka ninyong tanan. As-Salaam-Alaikum.

Welcome to this forum called “Bangon Marawi.” And we can use the #BangonMarawi to inform our netizens not only in the Philippines but around the world that we have such a great forum.

Let us first understand what this forum means. We are gathered here to present the reality of a place where its people immediately and rapidly fled from their homes because of the actual, unexpected occurrence of a violent terrorist invasion.

The city is Marawi in the province of Lanao del Sur. Now ruined beyond recognition three months into a war between our military and police forces fighting to exterminate the enemies within.

Organized through the joint efforts of the Task Force Bangon Marawi and the Presidential Communications Operations Office through its news agencies, we intend through this forum to make the public more seriously aware of the government’s work on the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City.

The sadness on the faces of its people, the pictures of houses and buildings riddled with cannon holes, burned or bombed, the increasing numbers of the casualties and the wounded soldiers, civilians both in the sufferance of this indescribable madness of the Maute terrorists; and the hundreds of thousands of families waiting impatiently in temporary shelters and tents.

All these images belong to us not just as spectators but as participants in the government’s comprehensive work detailed in the Administrative Order No. 3 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Military and police operations are crucial for the stabilizing, clearing and securing the peace and the order of every street and household.

Supportive of the military presence are the 23 government agencies and offices under Task Force Bangon Marawi which are divided into five sub-committees responsible for reconstruction, housing, health and social welfare, business and livelihood, peace and order, and the support groups for finance and resource mobilization, strategic communications and information management.

Let us hear more about the government’s commitment to build Marawi starting with the Mindanao Hour.

And we have with us Assistant Secretary Kristoffer Purisima, Deputy Executive Secretary Menard Guevarra and we also have Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.

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SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Thank you, Sweeden. Good morning ladies and gentlemen. And I’d like to update you on what’s happening in Marawi City.

Before that, I just want to say that I have something important to announce regarding the SUC bill pending with the President as of last night.

Now, going to the update on the rebellion in Marawi:

As of 7 p.m. of August 3, that was last night, the number of rebels killed stands at 522, an increase of nine casualties on the part of the enemy.

Civilians killed, no change. Still at 45.

Firearms recovered, 600 or an addition of four firearms since our last reporting date last Monday.

Civilians rescued, 1,724. There has been no change since our last reporting date last Monday.

Buildings cleared, one. That was as of yesterday. The day before 12 buildings had been cleared.

As to the status of cash donations, as of 2:45 p.m. yesterday, the amount intended for casualties on the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines stood at P100,070,804.23.

Of this amount, P1,500,000 had been withdrawn to take care of those soldiers wounded in action.

The balance of P98,570,804.23 remains in the depository bank for this purpose.

The fund intended for IDPs or internally displaced persons shows a balance of P873,515.21 as of yesterday.

That’s all for the update on the Marawi incident.

Thank you very much. I now turn the floor to the AFP Spokesperson General Padilla.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Good morning everyone and thank you very much, sir.

As to the conditions on the ground in Joint Task Force Marawi, last Wednesday, the Chief of Staff came from Marawi to visit the troops. He personally was briefed on the conditions on the ground and the current operations.

And we’re happy to inform everyone that our troops are in high spirits following that visit and are all raring to execute the succeeding operations on the ground to complete the liberation of Marawi.

We have not set any timeline. We’re giving the troops and the ground commanders all the leeway that they need in order to execute their plans because we have two primordial considerations that have been given to us from the President or the Commander-in-Chief and from the Chief of Staff himself.

One is to always put as our primary consideration the safety of the remaining hostages and the possible rescue of all these individuals from the hands of the terrorists.

Second, to put into consideration the remaining residents who are still in the area and are afraid to come out for fear of their lives.

So in the local government’s tally, we continue to get about approximate number of 300 individuals comprising all those who are still unaccounted for.

We don’t know how many are still alive and we don’t know how many are in the hands of the enemy exactly but based on the estimates, we see that about 80 to 100 persons may still be in the hands of the terrorists in various areas inside the areas that are still contested.

The two barangays that we have been talking about remains to be the problematic areas and the focus of our operation, and the general area is approximately less than one square kilometer.

So as we go through the military operations, it becomes a very close fight and the complexities on the ground are really becoming much more challenging.

And the constant request of the residents to come back to their homes in order to start rebuilding their lives is something that we are all raring to give but we cannot as of the moment because of these challenges.

And our local executives are very much aware of the conditions on the ground as well as the dangers posed by so many of the risks that they will face in case they are permitted to go without the necessary clearing operations that are conducted by the military.

[So may I have those pictures please if I may? No, ma’am, the one in the computer.]

So right on your very screen is what we are talking about. Scattered all over the city are IEDs that have been set up by the terrorists.

If I’ll get your attention, all those pictures that have wires on it, they are IEDs laid out as traps.

So kung ang atin pong mga kababayan ay pahihintulan nating bumalik nang hindi pa natin ganap na nakiki-clear lahat ng mga bahay, lahat ng mga kalye, lahat ng mga lagusan ng mga bagay na tulad ng nakikita niyo, napakalaking pinsala na ang mangyayari sa mga kapatid natin na magsisibalik.

Kaya kailangan po maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan na sa pagnanais nating maibigay at maibalik and siyudad ng Marawi sa kanila, hindi ganon kadali ito dahil po sa mga hinaharap na ‘yan.

Kaya nakita niyo naman po, ‘yung ipinakita ko lang po ay gasino lang po. Kakaunti lang po ‘yan pero ‘pag nagpunta po kayo sa loob ng siyudad, lahat po ng ganyang mga nakikitang mga bagay ay nakakalat.

‘Yan lang po ay nasa labas. Hindi pa po diyan kasali ‘yung mga iniwan sa mga loob ng bahay na patuloy na nagiging balakid sa ating mabilis na pag-clear ng mga gusali.

At ito rin ang nagiging source ng karamihan ng mga mapinpinsala o masasaktan ‘pag ang ating mga kababayan ay pinahintulutan nating bumalik.

Kaya kinakailangan lang pong konting pasensya na lang at ating sinisikap na gawin ang ating makakaya para matapos po ito para ‘pag nagsabi po tayo na pwede na po kayong bumalik at pwede na pong isaayos lahat, makakasigurado kami na ang pagbibigay ng abisong ‘yan ay batay po sa pagkakaroon ng pagka-kumpletong pag-clear sa buong kalooban ng Marawi sa mga bombang hindi pumutok, sa mga traps na maaaring iniwan nila at iba pang IEDs na nakakalat.

So these are part and parcel of the challenges.

[And may I have the next picture after that please?]

This is just a glimpse. It shows a… You’ve seen so many pictures of the devastation but this is just a glimpse of how we were when we caught sight of a bit of the frontline.

Because this part, a lot of the houses have been damaged and we really grieve and we really are sad about so many of the damages because many people — ang ating mga kababayan na nakatira sa Marawi, pinaghirapan nila karamihan ang kanilang mga tirahan, pinag-ipunan nila ito, ipinundar nila ito.

At sa mga damage na nakikita natin, nung bumisita tayo noong Wednesday, mismong si Chief of Staff ang nagsabi na kinakailangan tapusin na sana natin ito kung kakayanin sa madaling panahon.

At ‘yung nakikita nating damages ay isang bagay na pagtutulungan nating isaayos pagkatapos po ng kaguluhan na ito at diyan po tayo papasok.

Kaya nandiyan na po sa loob ngayon ang ating mga engineers, nagsasagawa na po ng mga initial na mga pagtingin sa mga kinakailangang gawin.

Itong lugar na po na ito na, by the way, inabot po ng halos isang buwan bago po napuntahan ng ating mga sundalo. Ganon po katindi ‘yung mga naging labanan noong mga nakaraang araw.

Bukod po sa Marawi, may hinaharap pa rin po tayo na mga sitwasyon sa buong Mindanao. At sa susunod ko pong ipapakitang mga larawan — [Can we have the next picture please?] — na ibinigay po sa atin ng 4th Infantry Division.

Kamakailan, noong Wednesday ng umaga, nagkaroon po ng bakbakan dahil sa impormasyong naibigay po sa atin ng ating mga kapatid na sibilyan sa presensya ng mga tao na nagnanais na maglagay ng mga bomba.

Doon po sa Bukidnon, ito po ‘yung nakita at naibigay po sa atin at naibahagi ni General Benjamin Madrigal. Sa kamay po ng dalawang tao na nahuli, miyembro po ng NPA sa lugar na ‘yun, makikita niyo po ito po ‘yung mga bomba na nais nilang ilatag sa maraming lugar ng Mindanao lalo na po sa may Bukidnon.

Alam naman po ninyo na pinalakas ngayon at pinalawig ng NPA ang kanilang pagsasagawa ng pagbobomba at pag-atake hindi lang po sa sundalo’t pulis kundi pati sa mga business establishments na patuloy nilang kinikikilan. At maaaring ito ay mga bagay na magdulot ng pagkasira nang karamihan sa mga imprastruktura na nakalatag diyan na ginawa ng ating gobyerno pati na po ng ating mga agricultural companies.

So malaking bagay po ito at malaking accomplishment. Nasa kamay na po ng kapulisan ‘yung dalawang miyembro ng NPA na nagsisikalat nito at nagsisitago. At sisikapin po natin na  mahanap pa ang iba pang mga bagay na tulad nito para mabawasan ang anumang damage at panggugulo na gagawin ng grupong ‘yan.

Ang nakakabahala lang po doon eh ‘yung isa sa mga nahuli ay nagpapanggap na isang miyembro ng party-list. Eh sana naman po ‘yung party-list na ‘yun ay tingnan mabuti kung sino ‘yung kanilang kinukuha dahil iba po ang nagiging pakay at nagiging cover po ‘yung kanilang pagiging miyembro ng party-list na ‘yon.

So ‘yan lang po ang ating mga ginagawa ngayon sa kabuuan ng Mindanao, in line with the implementation of martial law.

And we can assure you and guarantee you that despite the challenges that we face on many fronts, your Armed Forces and your Police are very much proactively engaged to address all these security measures — to address all the security challenges that we face with the appropriate measures and programs so that we can better protect our cities, our citizens and all the industries that provides the economic lifeblood of the island.

Maraming salamat po.

ASEC. PURISIMA: Good morning, everyone. I would like to provide updates on the rehabilitation efforts of Task Force Bangon Marawi.

First, the post-conflict needs assessment commenced yesterday, August 3, with over 100 participants from member agencies, LGUs and other stakeholders.

Maranao-speaking members of the PCNA team have also been included. The members of the TFBM sub-committee on housing led by Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, together with the executive director of TFBM, Undersecretary Cesar Yano, together with the MSU president, the ARMM regional governor, the vice governor of Lanao del Sur, and the city mayor of Marawi, met to discuss and visit the Sagonsongan transitional housing site.

The Marawi LGU will lead the technical working group to identify those who would avail of either temporary shelters, permanent shelters and those who would want to immediately return to their homes once the all clear has been given by the AFP. The MSU, DSWD and NHA will assist in this effort.

The subdivision and site development plan of the NHA shall be finalized not later than 15 August. The site development efforts of the DPWH are dependent on this plan.

Model transitional shelter units are currently being built on the approved 11-hectare area. Power lines are being set by the LASURECO. Road networks are also being constructed.

The building of component infrastructure such as markets, schools and the like have also been scheduled.

The construction of the initial 1,100 temporary shelter units shall begin by the first week of September. The provincial government of Lanao del Sur has expressed strong support on the development of temporary shelters for the affected communities.

The Department of Education is gearing up with the establishment of temporary learning spaces adjacent to these temporary shelters.

The group of punong barangays from affected areas has chosen the design of a single-detached transitional shelter with individual toilets. In choosing the design, they cited the need for privacy, cultural and religious sensitivity and a place to stay which they could consider as their home.

Once the design is approved by the NHA, temporary shelters shall be developed using the steel wall sandwich panel technology.

Beneficiaries of the temporary shelters and/or permanent shelters, including those who will return to their homes shall be identified and classified after military clearance has been secured.

Barangay captains and officials of LGUs have been encouraged to assist in the identification and classification of beneficiaries.

The Task Force, through the sub-committee on housing, will focus not only on building temporary shelters but also ensuring that basic necessities such as electricity and water utilities and livelihood opportunities will be made available to everyone.

On other matters, mental health and psychosocial services are continuously being provided to our IDPs. Child-friendly spaces have been established in the evacuation centers, where children are likewise provided psychosocial support sessions.

Back to school kits have also been provided to school-age children. Educational games are facilitated by parent leaders and daycare workers from the community to help build hope and uplift the spirit of children. Some CSOs and NGOs also brought toys for the children. Stress debriefing sessions are conducted for adult IDPs to keep them motivated.

Livelihood starter kits given to existing business owners as well as those who want to engage in alternative livelihood activities. Starter kits contained raw materials or equipment needed by Maranaos in order to continue with their businesses. These include — as we understand — clothing production and food processing.

Skills training for IDPs have also been conducted and a total of P290 million worth of assistance from DSWD, OCD, LGUs, DOH and other government agencies has been provided to the affected families.

That’s the update I have for now. Thank you.

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: This is not in connection with the ongoing events in Marawi but since many people have been waiting for the President’s action on the very important enrolled bill, which was passed by Congress last May entitled, “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.”

I am pleased to announce that last night, August 3, 2017, the President signed into law the enrolled bill. [applause]

If you have questions about this, I’ll be willing to answer them later after any follow-up questions regarding the Marawi reports.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Q: Good morning everyone. I’m [inaudible] from National Radio of Indonesia. Thanks for having us in here, me and my media friends. So I got two questions: First to General Restituto. Sorry, when you were saying about the challenges in your language and we actually didn’t get it. So maybe you can translate it to English? And also, the second is, to any of you who can answer this that what is exactly the plan to work together with the Indonesian government, you know, to counter the terrorism. As we know that we are neighboring countries and the last time we heard the news about some Indonesians, you know, came to Marawi City. Thank you.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you and my apologies. I thought I was just purely addressing a Filipino crowd. So may I have those pictures again for the purposes of our members of FOCAP and the international media.

I was reporting on the challenges that we are facing on the ground and the reluctance of the military to declare the city of Marawi as open for the return of all our brothers and sisters who live in Marawi.

Primarily because the biggest challenge that are posed is the risk of increasing the number of casualties on the part of the civilians who may be affected by unexploded ordnance such as the bomb on the upper right of the photo and the thousands of annex — of possible IEDs that have been laid out as traps in many areas of the city that are still in the hands or have not yet been cleared.

The challenges here are similar to those that were faced by many of the citizens from Indochina — Laos, Cambodia after their wars. Because of mines, unexploded ordnance and other war materials that were used during the war that remained in the areas.

You’ve heard about fields being plowed by many farmers in Indochina and later on, they explode and they lose their arms, they lose their legs, these are the kind of challenges that we don’t like our people to face immediately after hostilities stopped.

That is why there is a very tedious effort — a very deliberate and tedious effort — done by our military and our police who are in the area to clear every street, every corner, every inch, every house of any of these possible devices that are still left in the area.

And that is why we request for patience on the part of our citizens whose especially are coming from the city of Marawi to just wait out and help us by their prayers that we’d be able to finish this as quickly as possible.

The area right now that we are facing that remains problematic are two villages or two barangays. And the area that we are addressing is approximately less than one square kilometer.

So this is where our focus of attention regarding military operations is currently ongoing.

We are also closely working with our local executives who are in the area, one of whom is here, our mayor from Marawi, who knows very much the conditions we face on the ground, to account for the remaining 300 citizens who are still in the area.

And we believe that a number of them are still in the hands of the terrorists as hostages. And we would like to ensure that if we can, we must be able to save them, especially after the President has given us instruction to ensure that in every move that we make, our primordial consideration would be the safety and the rescue of all the citizens who are still in the hands of the terrorists as well as citizens who may still be inside, trapped and afraid to come out. So those are the things that I briefed a while ago.

On the second question regarding the presence of foreign terrorists. Yes, we did admit even earlier that there are foreign terrorists in the area and many of them are Indonesians and Malaysians but also other citizens from other areas in the Middle East.

Why do we say that? Because we have been closely working with your government and our respective militaries are engaged, exchanging information and facilitating these flow of information to ensure that all those who are wanted in your country, who are supporting whatever terrorist activities there are and who have made their way in the Philippines, can be accounted for and can be arrested.

And as we do this, we have already launched very many initiatives, primarily trilateral engagements also with Malaysia in the patrol of our common borders.

We have just recently concluded a border patrol activity with the Indonesian Navy, which happened between the areas of Davao Gulf and Manado, if I am not mistaken.

So this is a very robust engagement that we wish to all the more increase not only with Indonesia but also with Malaysia and other members of the ASEAN because this challenge that we face in Marawi has its effects also in the whole region.

And if we can address this and confine it only to Mindanao, then we are also able to help our other ASEAN members to maintain the peace in their respective countries.

So one small problem in the part of ASEAN is also a problem that is seen by other ASEAN members to be of common concern. So we are helping each other.

And may I just pass on the continuous assistance of the Indonesians and our Malaysian counterparts who have readily and actively forwarded their intent to assist immediately after hostilities have end.

Thank you.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, sir. Good morning. This is on the law that was signed by the President. We also know that the economic advisers of the President had suggested that — had expressed opposition to the law because there wasn’t enough funds for it and that the majority of those who would benefit from the law would be non-poor students. So, my question is, what convinced the President to approve this — this bill?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: The enrolled bill came to the Office of the President nearly 30 days ago. And during that period, there had been a lot of discussions and study about the bill because of its very heavy budgetary implication, first and foremost, all right.

But free tertiary education in state universities and colleges is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy.

So he weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any possible short-term budgetary challenges.

So if there’s a will — as we say — if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, where — where then would we get the funds for — to fund this program?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Well, under that bill, which is now a Republic Act, the Congress is supposed to make the appropriate — will have to make the necessary appropriations to fund this particular — this new — well, long-term project of the government on free SUC education.

So that is something for the Congress to think about. That will entail possibly a reallocation of resources. Of course, the President has already submitted the national — the National Expenditure Program, which is the proposed budget.

But during the budget deliberations, many things can still happen. Certain adjustments can be made. So possibly a reallocation may be done. And under the law itself, there are other sources of funding for this SUC free tuition program.

And official development assistance is one possible source. And, we are also hoping that donations both from the local and the international sectors will come in to help us tide over, especially in the first few years of implementation of this program.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, last question on this point from me. There is also word that — yesterday, there was a meeting between lawmakers and economic advisers of the President. One, is this true? And second, was this meeting pivotal in convincing the President to approve the bill? What discussions took place that convinced him in the end to approve the bill?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: The discussion yesterday probably contributed. It was an exchange of ideas on the matter. But until last night, the President was still trying to figure out the best possible solution to…

Because there was a time that people felt that — some officials felt that this may be a 50-50 thing, all right?

So, but after everything has been weighed, including the discussions yesterday with some lawmakers, the President actually made that decision to sign the bill instead of vetoing it.

Ms. Ranada: May we know what time he signed the bill?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: I don’t have any idea. But it — this was last night probably around 10 o’clock.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, the economic managers, are they now on board with this bill? Have they been convinced also that it was okay to sign the bill?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Well, this bill was signed only last night. So, whether we need to convince the economic managers, I don’t think that will be necessary at all.

This is now a law. And everyone has to look forward to implement this law, whether or not you were originally opposed to it, that is now beside the point.

All we need to do now is to unite and coordinate all our efforts in trying to find the most solution to the most important problem confronting this program and that is really the budgetary allocation, the funding for this program.

So, I guess everyone, including the economic managers, will have to focus their attention on this particular aspect — funding for this program — because this program will have to be implemented quite soon.

Ms. Ranada: Thank you, sir.

Q: Good morning, sir. [Inaudible] from Facebook. I’m going to ask, sir. Based on your assessment, how many percentage of Marawi is still left habitable? ‘Yung pwede pang — pagkatapos ng giyera, pwedeng makabalik na sila agad-agad.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you for the question. The assessment — the overall assessment of the area has not been done yet because many of the engineers and those who are experts have not gone into the interiors of the city to make that assessment.

We do have overhead shots of damages and areas that can be still utilized. But overall, I cannot give you a figure until such time that the overall assessment is made.

Perhaps, later in the next session, our local executives may be able to answer that.

But what we’re talking about here as primarily still problematic because of the absence of an assessment is the interior of the city primarily the business district.

However, the outlying areas of Marawi are very much intact. In fact, the government center is intact.  They never were able to lay their hands on that because of the stand of the mayor and the provincial officers.

The areas right outside of the commercial business district across the river are also very much intact. The reason why we allowed the return of residents around Lake Marawi is also reason because those areas have not been touched. They have not — they have been left undamaged.

So by and large, the damage assessment will have to be done inside the city of Marawi where the fighting has happened and where the problematic areas still exist.

Q: Good morning, sir. My name is Akiko Suzuki of the Asahi Shimbun. If I may ask one question again to Mr. Padilla. As you mentioned earlier, we all understand, it’s been third month of the — this battle. How have you concluded the reason why the Philippine government couldn’t catch the information of this — there would be a riot in Marawi in May 23rd? Because — I’m asking you this because some say it’s a failure of intelligence. Some say it’s a miscommunication inside the military. But what do you think, if I may ask your opinion on this? Thank you.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you very much for the question. We are actually on day 74 of the rebellion in Marawi, which started 23rd of May.

Now, the nagging question remains. Was there really a failure of intelligence? Was there really something related to that? Well, officially, the Armed Forces said that we did have all the information we need.

But the appreciation for that volume of information and the way it was analyzed may have not gone as well as we wanted.

So we may have all this information, but if we have failed to piece the pieces of the puzzle properly and come up with a picture that is easily discernible, that might have been the case in the initial weeks or the initial days prior to the eruption of the violent activities in Marawi.

But you must also recognize that we were able to preempt the overall activities of the local terrorist group or the Maute group. Because if not for the action of the military and the police, who were out to arrest Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts on the afternoon of the 23rd of May, then this thing could have erupted into a bigger problem.

So I would not say there was really a failure of intelligence but perhaps just an appreciation of the volume of information that was at hand.

Joseph Morong (GMA): Secretary — ES Guevarra, for the — on the tuition. All right. So the President is adopting the bill — I mean, signed it in toto ‘no? So all of the provisions in the bicam report — bicam bill will be implemented, yes? And any — any budget that you’re looking at para lilipatan for the implementation of the law? You said that there will be reallocation of funds? Any agencies that you are looking into now na pwedeng pagkunan — pagkuhanan ng pera?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: I guess, that is really the principal responsibility of the Congress when they deliberate on the budget.

Mr. Morong: Okay. So will that —

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Right now… Right now, I have nothing very specific to say about which projects or which programs or which agency proposed budget might be affected. But I guess — because budgeting is basically resource allocation, all right?

We have a total amount in mind and it’s really a matter of allocating these scarce resources. So in my opinion, if the Congress is really serious about finding the appropriate funding for this free tuition program, they will have to find the necessary sources for this particular program.

Mr. Morong: Secretary Diokno said that the government will need something like 100 billion to implement this. Is that a correct figure?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Well, the CHED, the Commission on Higher Education thinks otherwise. The P100-billion estimate of the DBM seems to be on the very high side because that is on the basis of the assumption that all aspects of the free tuition bill will be implemented all at the same time.

Mr. Morong: Okay.

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: All right. But actually the only mandatory provisions of the bill, if I remember, are those that pertain to the free tuition and other fees pertaining to, well of course, state universities and colleges, as well as local universities and colleges financed by the local government units.

So, as far as I know, those are the only mandatory provisions of the bill for now — the free tuition and other fees. Other fees would refer to something like library fees, ID fees, laboratory fees and stuff like that.

Mr. Morong: Sir, I have here the bicameral conference report. So I just want to run through the provisions that will be covered. We’re covering tuition and other fees ‘no? And then allowance for books, covered ‘yun, sir?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: You know, there is a provision in… You should be having the enrolled bill with you rather than the…

Mr. Morong: Bicam?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Yeah. Because there might have been changes already. But the thing about educ — the educational expenses, that will be under a certain subsidy to still — to be established. And that subsidy fund will have to be administered by the UniFAST Board — UniFAST — Unified Student Financial Assistance Program, or something like that, UniFAST.

So this pertains to scholarships, grants-in-aid, student loans, et cetera, et cetera. So this whole thing is being managed by a board called the UniFAST Board. So with respect to the subsidy for educational expenses like what you said…

Mr. Morong: Schools? For books?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Yes, stuff like that. These will be taken from that fund to be established. This subsidy fund which will be administered by the UniFAST Board as I’ve said earlier.

Mr. Morong: Including ‘yung mga subsidies for boarding and…

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: That’s right, yes, oo. But as far as I understand — rather, I understand that these are not the mandatory provisions.

In other words, I understand that when — let’s say, when you enroll — when a student enrolls in a state university or a state college, it doesn’t mean that he will have all of these at the same time, all right?

The mandatory only will be the free tuition and the free other fees. Now, as to the subsidy, that is something to be processed, all right? For educational expenses — related educational expenses — that has to be processed by the UniFAST Board which is supposed to have a system of priority. In other words, ‘yung mga talagang nangangailangan. The bottom 20 percent will be prioritized in terms of subsidy for educational — education-related expenses.

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. So for tuition and miscellaneous fees, those are the first few that we will cover, ‘no?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: That’s my understanding. Mandatory ‘yan under certain provisions of the enrolled bill.

Mr. Morong: Thank you for your time, sir.

Henry Uri (DZRH):  General Padilla, good morning. You have mentioned about party-lists. Ano po ito? Are they sympathizers or in connivance, in conspiracy with the NPAs? And may we know what particular party-list is that?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: The individual that was caught in Bukidnon bore a party-list ID from — if I’m not mistaken — Anakpawis.

So we need to ascertain from the group whether this individual is really part of their group. Now, the individual concerned — there were two broth —  these are brothers, magkapatid po itong nahuli. They have these — they showed it to the police and they showed it to the military.

So this is something that we have to reach out to the party-list concerned and make sure that they have not been using their resources to fund the activities of this group.

Mr. Uri: So your next step is to talk — to discuss it with them? Are you not gonna recommend to Congress, specifically the House Speaker for possibly ‘yung… I don’t know, kung tanggalin na ba itong party-list na ito or what?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: It’s not for us to decide on that. But we will provide the Speaker or the House the information that has come to our attention.

And all the other relevant information that may help in the investigation as well as the check and balance of whether that party-list is indeed putting resources to these individuals.

Mr. Uri: What… What is the strongest recommendation that you have in mind, if you have any?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: First is to conduct a thorough investigation on the personality of the individual whether he has really been a bona fide member of the party-list.

And as such, to ascertain why he is into these kinds of activities despite the fact that they are supposed to be above ground and supposed to be doing legal things.

So his linkages to the armed component of the group will have to be ascertained. So if indeed it is established, subject of investigation right now, then dun po papasok ‘yung kinakailangang hakbang na gagawin ng political side ng ating gobyerno.

Mr. Uri: All right, salamat, sir.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Sir Guevarra, good morning. Sir, the President met with members of the mining sector last night in Malacañang or last — yesterday afternoon in Malacañang. May we know what went down during that meeting, sir?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: Well, personally, I was not there. But the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson gave the information that during that meeting with the miners, the President essentially said that for as long as mining groups, whether big or small, follow the rules on mining and keep environmental laws in mind, then there will be no problem and they can continue with their operations.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, may we know if he announced any policy regarding mining during the meeting, sir?

SENIOR DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY GUEVARRA: I am not privy to any new policy pronouncement by the President. Except a reiteration of what has already been the policy of the government ever since.

Ms. Gutierrez: Kay General Padilla. Sir, the Commission on Elections is now looking at the possibility of suspending or maybe not holding the barangay elections in Mindanao for this year due to martial law. May we know, sir, the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding that matter, sir, considering the ongoing security situation in Mindanao?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Personally, I have not been privy to any recommendations from the Armed Forces regarding suspension of the barangay election or any of our recommendations related thereto.

Once I get that information, I’ll get back to you and discuss the matter.

Ms. Gutierrez: But, sir, considering the security situation in Mindanao, sir, personally, would you consider not holding the barangay elections muna? Do you think that the barangay elections will maybe exacerbate the situation in Mindanao, sir?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Siguro… Let’s treat the question from a twofold perspective. Number one, if indeed the barangay elections will be held or suspended. Because if it’s suspended, the question would be moot and academic. It won’t be conducted anymore.

Second, if it is indeed held, then the primary consideration that will be considered by Comelec is the ability of having to hold that in a free environment where security of all those who will conduct it will be guaranteed.

If we cannot guarantee that, then the basis for the suspension will be very well grounded.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, another question, sir, pinapatanong lang. Sir, considering ‘yung nahuli na NPA members, how big a threat is the NPA right now, sir, in Mindanao?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Right now, the increased offensive and activities on the ground of the armed component — or the NPA, has provided worrying notes from primarily business establishments who are the subject of extortion.

This is something that we are trying to address in order to ensure that the free flow of the economy and the businesses in that — in those areas are guaranteed or are rendered safe.

Now, the threat is actually… You’ve seen all the explosives that are — that were on the picture. That’s just a glimpse. That’s only one part. That’s only Bukidnon. There are other areas in Mindanao where you have similar successes in getting a cache of explosives and firearms and the like.

So if you quantify all of these explosives and if you look at the intent on which it is going to be used, the danger to our citizens is high because innocent lives can be affected and as well as affecting the flow of commerce in certain areas.

So this is something that we need to address. That is why we are very happy to note that the President has given us the go-signal to increase the number of personnel that we will bring into the Armed Forces.

This will make up for some vacuums in certain areas that the police cannot totally handle because there are so few of them.

You’ve seen what happened in Negros. The plans of the armed components of — or the NPA there were very treacherously planned.

They report a crime being committed somewhere, and then the police reacts with five or seven personnel, and then they’ll be ambushed by 30 or 40. They don’t stand a chance at all. So those are the kinds of situations we face.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, there’s a need to increase personnel specifically to address the NPA threat, tama po ba, sir?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Kindly repeat the question.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, you said there’s a need to increase personnel, sir, in those areas.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yes.

Ms. Gutierrez: Specifically, sir, to address the NPA threat

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yes. Assist the police in addressing the NPA threat as well as other law enforcement support operations that we need to undertake with them.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, last na lang. Has the military monitored increased activities or operations of the NPA following the statements or the pronouncements of President Duterte regarding the peace talks?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Actually, this is going to be addressed already. We are very proactively engaged with addressing all the security threats all over the Philippines.

Our focus right now is Mindanao because of the martial law that’s prevailing and the Marawi siege.

But we’re ready for anything and we’re all prepared for any kind of activities that may erupt anywhere else in the archipelago.

Ms. Gutierrez: Thank you, sir.

—END—

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