Press Briefing

Mindanao Hour Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr., Spokesperson, Armed Forces of the Philippines

Event Mindanao Hour
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace

OPENING STATEMENTS:

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We now pass over the mic to…

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you very much, sir. Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps. Good morning everyone.

For our update for today, the [11th] of September, we are on I think the 116th day if I’m not mistaken. No, 112th day of the fighting in Marawi.

And we have the following information for you as our updates:

Number of enemies killed – 655

Civilians rescued, remain the same, at 1,728

And so with the number of civilians that have been killed because of terrorist atrocities. They remain at 45.

Recovered firearms increased to 685

Buildings cleared recently – 18 — or 23, I should say. And then the other day, we cleared about 18.

For members of the Armed Forces or our forces who have been killed in action, they remain at 145.

For the donations that have come from the private sector, particularly for Marawi casualties, they remain at P38,124,573.23.

For the Marawi IDPs, they remain at less than a million at P989,515.21.

And this data was as of last Friday, during the close of — before the close of banking hours. We will get our next update at the end of the day today for the status of these funds.

For updates regarding the implementation of martial law, before I proceed to the operations in Marawi.

Current operations in the islands of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi are ongoing and they have not stopped. Particular focus that are the subject of our troops attention at the moment is the rescue — continuing rescue operations for the remaining victims held by the kidnap for ransom group Abu Sayyaf in the area, particularly in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

Also, recently a local, the son of a Zamboanga del Norte Mayor, if I’m not mistaken, was abducted and we believe they are within the same area of Western Mindanao Command. And an operation to effect the rescue of this individual has also been done.

For Marawi operations, we would like to express the appreciation of the Armed Forces to the members of the MILF who have continuously been very strong about their commitment to end the operations of Daesh-inspired groups within and around their areas of operation, particularly in the South Cotabato-Maguindanao area.

The BIFF, in particular, has been the forces here supportive of the Daesh and is the subject of these operations. Their commitment in the words of the Chairman, Mr. Iqbal, has been to work relentlessly to finish the ISIS or the Daesh-inspired group in their area that have been polluting the minds of their fellow Muslims, and bringing them out of the wrong path or showing them the wrong path of the Islamic faith.

So they remain committed to this and you are all aware that they have issued a fatwa and their forces are deployed to effect all of this commitment to the Armed Forces and to the Republic.

For Marawi operations, our operations remain relentless, they are continuing. And by the number of buildings that I have reported a while ago, we are expediting and speeding up our pace of clearing the buildings surrounding these areas where the enemy continues to remain holed up.

Forgive us because we’re not at the liberty yet to discuss particulars of the operation, but we can assure you that the commitment of our ground commanders and our troops is at an all-time high and they would like to finish this fight at the soonest possible.

The most significant, although for our reporting today or this morning, is that the bridge in the area of Banggolo has been completely secured and is now open for traffic for our troops to resupply and the entry and exit of all our forces who are connected or engaged in the main battle area.

There only remains one more particular area of concern or one bridge that will have to be operated on and this is the subject of our operations in the next few days.

So that is all for now and I would like to turn the floor to Secretary Abella for the other announcements for today.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: For Task Force Bangon Marawi updates: On the continued interventions in business and livelihood, IDPs were provided with short courses on baking, processed food production and dressmaking.

Around 775 slots were offered in various skills trainings completed last week.

IDPs who intended to continue with their businesses were given raw materials and were provided with the opportunity to showcase their products in the Kahimunan Trade Fair in Cagayan De Oro and GO Negosyo Center in Iligan through the Provincial Government of Lanao Del Norte.

Most of the products displayed were malongs produced from the P5,000 worth of starting kits provided by DTI for the IDPs.

The TFBM Sub-Committee on Business and Livelihood is working on the establishment of a “Little Padian sa Iligan”, a tiangge where the IDPs could sell their products. And negotiation is ongoing for the leasing of a lot where the tiangge will be located.

On 9/11 anniversary:

Today, September 11, marks the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

The fight against global terrorism continues where nations have chosen to stand united against a common enemy espousing bigotry, fanaticism and anarchy.

In the Philippines, the fight against a Daesh-inspired rebellion in the Islamic city of Marawi is in its last miles.

To stop the spread of terrorist ideology, we are working as one nation, pouring resources and infrastructure development in Mindanao while pursuing peace talks with the Moro rebels and pushing for legislation the creation of a Bangsamoro region within the sovereignty of the Republic.

Let us continue to remain united in our concerted effort to defeat terrorism.

Also, a bit more good news.

More Filipinos allocate OFW remittances for investment:

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, in its Consumer Expectations Survey Third Quarter 2017, reported that Overseas Filipino Workers, OFW households who are utilizing their remittances for investments increased to 8.5 percent for this third quarter, almost doubling last quarter’s 4.4 percent.

This means more OFWs are allotting their money for investments.

Also, on the planned abolition of the PCGG:
Legislative action is needed to proceed with the planned merger between the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Solicitor General.

On Hurricane Irma:

We are closely monitoring the condition of our kababayans that may be affected by Hurricane Irma.

The Philippine embassy in Washington, D.C. has already advised the close to 200,000 members of the Filipino Community in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to comply with the evacuation orders issued by authorities.

Filipinos in North Carolina and Virginia have also been advised to take the necessary precautionary measures after both states were placed under a state of emergency.

We assure our kababayans that our embassy and consular staff will be on standby in case of any need.

On the taxi driver involved in the Arnaiz case:

We look forward to Mr. Tomas Bagcal’s cooperation with authorities, as he willingly expressed during his press conference.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is now conducting a parallel probe in the Carl Angelo Arnaiz case and Mr. Bagcal is vital in its speedy resolution.

He is the one identified by the Caloocan police as the victim of the alleged robbery committed by the slain teenager.

We expect the truth of the matter to be clarified and those responsible made accountable before the law.

An announcement, on the DAR’s officer-in-charge, Department of Agrarian Reform:

The Palace announces the designation of Undersecretary Rosalina L. Bistoyong as Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Agrarian Reform per instruction of the [President].

The order took effect on September 8, the day the Executive Secretary signed the memorandum.

OIC Bistoyong’s designation will ensure the continuous delivery of public service.

We’re open to a few questions.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Joseph Morong (GMA): Sir, Spox and General. May minention po kayo na last miles — dun sa statement niyo sa 9/11, you mentioned in passing that our “fight is in the last miles” — what do we exactly mean by that?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Well, as has been previously announced, we’re entering the last and final stages of our fight in Marawi.

That is being mentioned because the remaining areas where the rebels are holed up are getting smaller and smaller by the day.

And as we clear more buildings, we deny them the opportunity to retake additional facilities or installations where they can hide. So they are actually concentrated on only a few.

Ang last report na nanggaling po sa ground commander natin ay humigit kumulang — hindi na aabot ng apat na raan ‘yung buildings na kailangang i-clear.

So ngayon, sa number of buildings na na-clear natin noong mga nakaraang araw, siguro mga — more or less mga 300 some — 300-plus na lang ito ano. Mga 320 kung susumahin natin lahat ng mga na-clear.

And we’re being very careful that pagka-clear ng isang building, hindi na ito mababalikan dahil tatauhan na at babantayan na ng ating mga hold-on forces.

So itong lugar na kanilang pinag-iikutan, humigit kumulang one-fourth of a kilometer grid square or less ang siyang lugar na lamang na kanilang pinagtataguan.

And unfortunately… Unfortunately for us, unfortunately for them, in that small area remains among the strongest buildings. ‘Yung mga malalaki’t makakapal na building. So ‘yun ang nagiging challenge natin ngayon.

So the fight has been in close quarter combat or close quarter battle, ‘yung malapitan na. Our clearing is going from room to room in every building.

The challenges we continue to face remain the same because of the continued existence of booby traps that are being laid around. And this is the challenge that we are facing and addressing.

Mr. Morong: Sir, are there any negotiations for the hostages ongoing now?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: No, there is no negotiation whatsoever. Whatever news came out regarding the confirmation of the President regarding Solitario’s participation were done previously. Itong mga nakaraang linggo.

But now, to date, we have closed this door because we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Mr. Morong: Kailan, sir, ‘yung pinakahuling attempt to negotiate?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: I am not exactly sure when that date is, but there was an attempt by Mr. Solitario to go — act as a go-between.

But the condition they were asking for is to let go of the rebels. So many lives have already been lost. They have been responsible for so much damage.

Eh pagbibigyan niyo pa bang makatakas ‘yan? ‘Di parang cancer ‘yan na pinabayaan lang natin na magpatuloy.

So hindi po natin pinayagan ‘yan. At nagkaroon ng usapan po na mariing ipinagbawal ng ating Pangulo na may makatakas pa na isa diyan sa ating mga kinakaharap.

Mr. Morong: Thank you, sir.

Patricia Mangune (TV-5): Patricia Mangune po from TV-5. General, sabi po ni Secretary Lorenzana, last two weeks sa Senate, by the end of September, matatapos na po ‘yung Marawi siege. Can you verify this also, sir?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Well, the continuing million-peso question about when this is going to end? We have deliberately not been saying exactly when because we ourselves cannot set it.

Dahil as the days continue, new challenges will come up. But we’re doing our best to expedite it. That’s why from 96,000 barangays — 96,000 barangays, if I’m not mistaken — or 96 barangays, previously, we’re now down — we were down to about five to six about more than a month ago. Tapos ngayon, we’re down to about one-and-a-half barangay na lang na natitira. So we are doing our best to confine them to a certain locality and certain area where we can make the final push.

Ms. Mangune: Thank you, sir.

Llanesca Panti (Manila Standard): Sir, about MILF and in relation to the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Have you found — for Spokesperson Abella — have you found an author for the proposed law in the House po? May author na?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As of this day, I’m not aware. As of — as of this hour. But I can find out by this afternoon.

Ms. Panti: Sir, is the Palace having a hard time looking for someone to sponsor the bill?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It should be with the legislative.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about — still about the Bangsamoro Law. Would you think it is practical to pursue this first before Charter change since the President has been pushing for Charter change to improve the lives of the people especially in Mindanao where he is from?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It is a priority. The BBL is a priority. Has a very, very high priority. It’s not a question of which is which, you know. But it definitely has a very high priority.

Ms. Panti: So which will come first? BBL or Charter change?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That I cannot ensure you. It all depends on the events as they unfold.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): To Spokesperson Abella.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, is there any update from the President on the supposed bank records that he plans to release relating to supposed accounts of Senator Trillanes?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding the bank records, as of now, no. We don’t have any updates.

Ms. Andolong: When Senator Trillanes came out with the alleged bank records of the President, the President criticized him for not — for failing to back up his claims. How does the President intend to be different in that way? Will he… Can we expect him to come out maybe with verified bank records?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I… From where… From how I understand and know the President, he would come out with something very substantial. Exactly what, I cannot say.

But I know he’ll come… He has… He speaks… He knows whereof he speaks.
Ms. Andolong: So he won’t pull a Senator Trillanes, for example, who up to this day have not been able to produce any verified bank records?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure he has a higher ground.

Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.

Ms. Panti: Sir, good morning again. About Carl — Tomas Bagcal, the taxi driver.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Panti: Sir, the President is saying that there are certain groups sabotage — trying to sabotage his drug war. Is the President clearing the police over the killings with that statement?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He’s not clearing the police by any means alone. He’s not in any way saying that directly. But he is certainly bringing in a new element regarding the drug war.

You know, like for example… Like, like… In his words, in his words “sabotahe,” you know. In other words, there is another element regarding the matter.

Ms. Panti: So, sir, he is still committed to prosecute erring policemen?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Of course. He has not… Like he said, this is not a license to — to crime — to commit crime. The campaign against the drug war is not a license to commit crime.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Good morning, sir. Sir, ano ang mensahe ng Palasyo on the 100th birthday of former President Marcos?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think he has already made an implicit statement by, you know, on — by allowing for the holiday in that place.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just as an addendum — just as additional. There are protest rallies against the celebration of the birthday. Any comment on it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I would say again that the President and the Palace exercises maximum tolerance for dissident opinions.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yun pong sa House Bill sa PCGG.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.

Mr. Morong: Ano ba ‘yun? House Bill 5233. It has the effect of abolishing the PCGG ‘no?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Conflating I think both into… Compressing it into the…

Mr. Morong: Absorbing the PCGG into OSG. Of course, the Palace wants this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Come again?

Mr. Morong: The Palace wants this? This is in line with what the President has been toying with as an idea to abolish the PCGG?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think it would be more in terms of rightsizing.

Mr. Morong: Ah, rightsizing. How do you think this will benefit the Marcoses if at all?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: At this stage I cannot say if it will benefit them or not. Okay?

Mr. Morong: Sir…

Lei Baguio (Brigada News): Sir, Lei Baguio from Brigada News.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes?

Mr. Baguio: Kunin ko lang po ‘yung Palace reaction sa issue po ni Mr. Bagcal at ‘yung parang tila agawan po ng simbahahan at ng DOJ kung sino po ‘yung dapat mag-kustodiya sa witness?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Wala po tayong komentaryo patungkol diyan. We don’t… At this stage, we don’t have any formal statement regarding that matter.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Usec, what did the President mean when he said that he’s going to destroy Senator Antonio Trillanes?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know the President is very — he’s a very… [What do you call it?] He’s a very firm forceful speaker. And he simply means to say that he wants to put a stop to these apparently wanton comments.

And in other words, he wants to make sure — he wants to make sure that things do not become reck — sheer reckless accusations. As simple as that.

Mr. Romero: So what is there to destroy if that’s the case?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The accusations.

Mr. Romero: The accusations?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yeah.

Mr. Romero: Not the person?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Of course not.

Mr. Romero: Because he issued a similar threat before against Senator De Lima and we know where Senator De Lima is right now?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: But the person is not destroyed, you know.

Mr. Romero: I don’t know. But — ah, okay. Does that mean that we are expecting the President to relay information that could lead to the filing of charges against —?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, simply that whatever it is that he will want a stop to this apparently wanton accusations that are being recklessly cast around.

Mr. Romero: But do we expect him to relay information that could lead to prosecution or filing of cases, just like what happened to Senator De Lima?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He may come — he may — he may come up with substantial evidence that will effectively put a stop to these things.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Usec.

Ms. Panti: Sir, last on my part po. Sir, good morning. About Speaker Alvarez proposing P1,000 budget for the Commission — Commission on Human Rights? Is the Palace supportive of this initiative by the Speaker considering the President’s earlier statements against the CHR po and even its abolition?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I will have to refer that to the Office of the ES — OES. And we can find what the President’s formal position is.

Mr. Morong: Sir, dun na lang kay ano. You said last week ‘no that malignant elements are out to sabotage the drug war of the President. Who will these malignant elements be?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: They’ll have to be investigated.

Mr. Morong: But, of course, you may have an idea, this not just a — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In other words, these are not benign forces, you know. [laughter]

Mr. Morong: I think I get what the malignant term is. But does this have any basis in fact or — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, the President himself has said that he is being sabotaged. It cannot just be a figment of his imagination.

I’m sure there are certain elements, there are certain personalities out there who are actively engaged in — who may — who apparently are actively engaged in discrediting the President’s campaign.

Mr. Morong: Yeah, in that same statement, sir, you said that the Palace said that any killings of a teen should be viewed with suspicion ‘no?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not this any — I say… I… For one, I said any death, a single death is regrettable already especially these deaths of teenagers should be seen with — should be seen with a second eye.

I mean, what’s happening there, what really is happening in there.

Mr. Morong: Given, sir, the testimony of Mr. Bagcal, saying that, number one, the affidavits are forged, the scenario that the police was trying to build up seemed stage. How do you think does that affect your statement that there are certain elements sabotaging the anti-war — the anti-drug war?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Look, this is better subjected — this is better subjected to the proper investigation.

But at this stage, we cannot speculate about whether there are saboteurs or non-saboteurs regarding the — regarding — especially affecting the deaths of young people.

But it should be subjected to proper investigation. However, the President himself has introduced that idea, that insight. It seems that at this stage there are probably those who are involved in making sure that the campaign — his campaign is actually discredited.

Mr. Morong: In this particular case with Carl, it doesn’t seem to be coming from the outside, it is from the government… I mean, if it’s the police forging testimonies of the driver — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In which case, like I said, it should be subjected to proper and rigorous investigation just to determine what really is the actual thing happened in there.

Mr. Morong: Should the NBI take hold of the witnesses?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think there’s a parallel investigation.

Mr. Morong: Should the NBI, sir, take hold of the witnesses because there have been attempts by the VACC and the NBI?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot speculate on that. I cannot give you an answer on that.

Ms. Panti: Sir, ‘yung sa CHR po kasi the executive proposed 651-million for 20 — for next year for 2018. So magbabago ‘yung proposal ng executive considering Speaker Alvarez wants it reduced to P1,000?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll just have to leave it to the Speaker to — to make a decision on that.

Ms. Panti: Sir, you can’t be categorical if you’re supportive of the P1,000 for the CHR.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, that’s his — that’s his position. He’s… That’s what he wants, so?

Ms. Panti: Stop — no stopping him?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Not that I know of. Okay. Thank you.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: I’ll just add.

An additional request from Joint Task Force Bangon Marawi.

We’re happy to inform you that the arrival of heavy equipment to be used by Task Force Bagon Marawi for its initial groundwork for the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi from the Armed Forces sides, engineering units are already there.

And we will be hauling a little bit more equipment to help and work with the local Public Works Department to effect all of this needed movement on the ground or improvement of the ground.

We already started doing the relocation area. Halos tapos na po ‘yan, ‘yung pagtatayo na lang ng bahay. Pero ‘yung sa pag-clear, ‘pag natapos na po ang bakbakan sa loob ng Marawi, ‘yun po ang pagtutuunan ng pansin.

Kaya kung napansin niyo, ‘yung mga ibang dumating doon na mga ibang heavy equipment medyo parang armorized, may harang ‘yung mga tabi-tabi. Baka sa pagki-clear meron pang mga hindi pumuputok na mga bomba pagka binu-bulldozer maaaring sumabog ito. Kaya dapat protektahan ‘yung mga engineers natin.

Ganun din po ‘yung patuloy na pagdating ng mga relief goods na hino-haul ng ating Philippine Navy through BRP-Davao Del Sur. So they’re all there and this will continue. And we’ll continue to provide the much needed assistance of our evacuees who are in need of our help.

The last item is on the aspect of the CPP-NPA.

We call on the public to please be vigilant and to work with our forces on the ground because in two instances in the past few days, there were, again, a series of burning of heavy equipment, which is very much anti-people and anti-development.

The people who are supposed to benefit from the infrastructure projects that are being put up by these companies will now be delayed.

So they will not benefit from it until it is finished. Kaya ang nangyayari, imbis na mabilis ‘yung mga pagtatapos ng mga proyekto na ginagawa ng gobyerno sa Build, Build, Build projects dito sa Mindanao, mga farm-to-market roads, et cetera, bumabagal lalo at hindi nakikinabang ang taumbayan.

Kaya ang amin pong pakiusap maging po tayong mapagmasid sa kapaligiran at makipag-ugnayan tayo sa pulis at tsaka sundalo para mabantayan ‘yung pagsalakay ng mga patuloy na nagiging bandidong mga grupong ito dahil sa kanilang pangingikil.

Maraming salamat po.

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