Press Briefing

Mindanao Hour Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima, Deputy Administrator for Administration of the Office of Civil Defense

Event Mindanao Hour Briefing
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace

 

 

OPENING STATEMENTS:

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Before we go to the reports of Brigadier General Padilla and Spokesperson Toby.

We just like to make a summary report.

As of today, 14th of August, Day 84 of the rebellion in Marawi, as of 7 p.m. last night:

Enemies killed, 562, plus — that’s an increase of two

Civilians killed, no change

Firearms recovered, 619, including one

Civilians rescued, no change

Buildings cleared, 38. Yesterday, 10 were cleared

IEDs recovered, 11

Killed-in-action, 128

Up to this time, there had been no changes regarding the deposits made for the Marawi AFP casualties. So it remains at P98,866,334.23.

And for the Marawi IDPs, we have P934,195.21.

End of that part. So Mr. — General Padilla.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Thank you very much, sir.

I just like to provide you an update on Marawi initially. We have a lot of significant developments in Marawi that have been happening lately and very positive at that.

Right now, ongoing is a seminar in Iligan that pulls together all local executives and religious leaders as well as all stakeholders who have something to do with the rise of Marawi and its rebuilding.

We are looking forward to the formalization of the commitment of 41 local executives in denouncing and providing a resolution — a joint resolution against the extremism, radicalism — violent extremist and radicalism, which is actually targeted at potential efforts of the current rebel groups inside Marawi from building back again or rising again.

Coupled with that is the fatwa that will be issued by the religious leaders of Marawi and the entire Sultanate.

We are looking forward to seeing those within the week and we see this as a very positive step towards inoculating Marawi and building it back better against violent extremism and radicalism.

If we see this happening within the week, we can guarantee you that it will be part and parcel of the holistic approach we are looking at Marawi to rebuild it back much better than before.

In other incidents, elsewhere in Mindanao, with the imposition of martial law, I am also happy to relay to you that according to General Galvez all workers who were under the — who were kidnapped earlier and three were rescued, all four had been rescued already.

So the threat of any beheading is no longer existent for — in as far as these four workers are concerned against the group of ASG. With also the neutralization of Badong Muktadil the other day.

So we are continuing to address all threats coming from the ASG in all operations in other parts of Mindanao, other than those in Marawi.

So hand in hand, with all the members of the citizenry in all these areas who have been very helpful by providing us information regarding the whereabouts of all these terrorists, we see this getting stronger by the day. And if more citizens will commit themselves to help, we can guarantee that in no time at all, we will be able to bring a more sustainable peace in the entirety of Mindanao particular in areas that are frequented by these terrorists.

So with that, I will now turnover the floor to Secretary Abella for the other follow on updates.

ASEC. PURISIMA: Good morning to the Malacañang Press Corps.

Here are the updates on the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts for Marawi City and other affected areas from your Task Force Bangon Marawi.

On August 12, the National Response Cluster led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development officially turned over its responsibilities and authority to the Task Force through Task Force Executive Director Undersecretary Cesar Yano.

And a symbolic turnover attended by representatives from the response cluster agencies, Undersecretary Hope Hervilla and Director Felino Castro of DSWD handed pertinent documents to Undersecretary Yano symbolizing the transition from response to early recovery of Marawi City and other affected localities.

Undersecretary Yano presented on the Task Force including sub-committee updates, while representatives of various sectors involved shared their reports and updates in the efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people of Marawi City and other localities.

In the said transition, the Task Force shall realign the clusters to the different sub-committees of the Task Force under AO 3.

Undersecretary Yano ensured that various sectors will continue to work together towards rebuilding Marawi City and other affected areas.

On another topic, on mental health and psychosocial support, various levels of interventions are being provided for the IDPs as well as responders on the ground.

As of the latest report from the Department of Health, more than 149,000 evacuees and responders in regions 10 and ARMM have availed of MHPSS services offered in four levels.

Out of the 226 referrals, there are four… My apologies, there are six who were admitted at Mercy Community Hospital in Iligan City.

Four of those six were diagnosed with chronic psychosis; one with acute traumatic stress disorder; and one with depression.

DOH continuously provides free healthcare services for the IDPs in various hospitals in Marawi City and nearby areas.

Now, I would like to expound on this further.

Level 1, if you see there in your — in the presentation, Level 1 refers to the basic needs of our IDPs and responders such as basic health services, safety and shelter.

Level 2, includes psychological first aid, family tracking and support for individuals with special needs.

Level 3, interventions, cover play therapy, expressive art therapy, psychosocial processing and activities for stress management such as singing, magic shows, Zumba and other relaxation activities.

And finally, Level 4 defines the provision of mental health medications, referral to psychiatrists and clinical counseling.

On another topic, on the provision of business and livelihood for the IDPs, the Department of Trade and Industry continuously provides goods as well as gasoline to be used by traders in Marawi City.

Since most of Maranaos are traders, the sub-committee on business and livelihood is exploring the possibility of constructing a public market inside the transitional shelter site to cater for the needs of both the traders and IDPs.

All of this will be discussed in the sub-committee meeting that will be held tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Office of Civil Defense in coordination with the LGUs continues to provide assistance in various municipalities in Lanao provinces.

A mobile treatment — water treatment and purification system was delivered and installed at Balo-i. This equipment can provide around 75 cubic meters per hour of potable water to our IDPs.

On Friday, television sets were installed by OCD through its regional office in ARMM in four evacuation centers.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology assisted in the installation of TV sets. Aside from regular TV shows, educational videos on disaster awareness and preparedness called “Project DINA” videos shall be played in the evacuation centers.

The next slide shows the latest figures on the situation in Marawi City.

As of the latest NDRRM Operations Center report, a total of 104,832 families or 467,377 persons are displaced in regions VII, X, XI, XII, NIR, ARMM, and CARAGA.

More than 210 million worth of food and non-food items were provided by the DSWD to its response clusters and field offices responding to the conflict.

For the cost of assistance, more than 286 million pesos worth of assistance has been provided for the affected families by DSWD, OCD, DOH, LGU, and international and non-government organization.

That’s all I have for you. Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Before we go to the Q and A, we’d like to make a few statements:

On Representative Gloria Arroyo’s House Bill 6121 on BBL:

The Presidential Legislative Liaison Office will officially transmit the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress this week.

We leave it to Congress to act on the matter with dispatch including consolidating the Palace version with House Bill 6121 filed by Representative Gloria Arroyo.

Also, the Libreng Gamot Program has been implemented in five Metro Manila hospitals.

Five additional public hospitals in Metro Manila has started providing free medicine[s] to indigent patients and that was starting August 1.

The DSWD has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with five additional public hospitals which include Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Lung [Center] of the Philippines, Philippine Children’s Hospital and San Lazaro Hospital for the Libreng Gamot Para sa Masa Program or Lingap on July 13.

A total of P96,659,339.76 has already been given to 13,142 indigent patients by the initial six partner hospitals located in regions III, VI, VII, XI and NCR.

Also, on the use of hostages as suicide bombers:

We have been receiving accounts from hostages who were able to escape from the Maute rebels in Marawi that the enemies would be using — that the enemy would be using hostages as suicide bombers once they were cornered by government troops.

We strongly denounce these desperate actions which apparently are carefully calculated to create violent reaction from the general populace in order to create tension between ethnic groups, which the terrorist groups expect to work in favor of their cause.

We, however, assure our people that government forces will continue to abide by the rules of engagement to ensure the safety of hostages particularly women and children in our drive to clear Marawi of all armed elements.

No less than the Commander-in-Chief has given this primordial consideration and guidance to our troops.

Regarding the DA banning of fowl shipments from Luzon:

Our first concern is for the safety of our consumers and citizens. So far, there is no indication that this strain of avian flu is harmful to humans but we will continue to validate this and take all precaution needed.

Our long-term concern is to sustain and support our local poultry industry as it weathers this first time crisis.

We will work closely with them to eliminate this problem soonest and to restore our country’s chicken exports to their premium position in international markets.

Regarding the Korea-Guam crisis:

We commend our sole embassy and our Guam consulate for their contingency plan to secure Filipinos if and when military conflict erupts.

We ask all Filipinos in Guam and Korea and their families here to inform DFA or our consular officials of their whereabouts.

Also at the same time, we continue to enjoin all concerned parties to desist from threats and military action and we enjoin all sides to start talks, which should be greatly facilitated by an end to missile test and attack threats.

Regarding the BSP Chief statements to calm the market:

We stand foursquare behind and beside BSP Governor Espenilla in his continued prudent management of our currency and the country’s international payments position.

Short term volatility and the value of the peso are at this point simply market reactions to overseas developments to which currency traders and other players all over Asia are responding to day by day.

We expect that as international tensions ease and remittances, trade and tourism revenues pick up in latter months, those holding pesos will see their funds again.

Over the long-term, we share the Governor’s confidence that the peso gets stronger amid our solid fundamentals, massive currency reserves and increasing attractiveness to foreign investments as our infrastructure upgrades and expands.

Lastly, DPWH and DOTR extend truckers anti-overloading grace period:

DPWH and DOTR giving our truck and trailer operators more time to comply with the weight ceiling set by law in the interest of road safety.

We want our truckers not to fall into the usual complacency of waiting till the last minute to comply with rules and then pleading for more time.

Statement to them: Please get your vehicles up to standard now.

End of statement.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir. Good morning. General Padilla, sir, there are reports that reinforcements for the Maute group are coming in Marawi. Is this true?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yes, we did get that… We did get those information and the information actually made mention that at the height of a very heavy rain, there were elements that made their way inside.

Unfortunately, we have not confirmed that and we are still checking as of the moment.

But, be that as it may, the forces that have been laid out in the lake area are adequate to cover any kind of movement.

Now, we anticipate those kinds of initiatives from the enemy. One, of people wanting to escape and get out at the heat of the fighting. And second, for the possibility of reinforcements also making their way through that same corridor.

But, as I mentioned, we have laid down plans and forces to cover all of these avenues of approach and we’re confident that what we have is more than enough.

But we still do rely on many of our civilian kababayans in the areas of the lake to continue to provide information.

And that is why we are happy to note, as I mentioned a while ago, the signing of the manifesto of 41 Lanao del Sur mayors or local executives because this will reinforce our efforts to keep safe Marawi in the future as well as heighten our efforts to safeguard these avenues of approach that we have been mentioning such as the lake.

If our local executives are committed to assist the military and help us, the effort of guarding these areas becomes better.

Ms. Halili: Any update, sir, about the hostages in Marawi, like the case of Father Suganob? Kasi may mga reports na —

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Marami po tayong nakuhang bagong updates doon sa mga huling nakatakas. At batid ko na may ilan sa mga kasamahan niyo sa media ay nagkaroon din ng pagkakataon na ma-interview sila kamakailan bago sila nagsibalikan sa kanilang mga pamilya’t mahal sa buhay.

At itong mga ini-reveal nila ay nagpapahiwatig na buhay pa nga itong si Father Chito. So mainam na sa — na nalaman natin ito sa salaysay nila dahil isa ito sa mga proof na nagpapatibay na itong mga hostages na ating sinisikap ma-rescue ay nariyan pa rin. So kasama na diyan si Father Chito.

Ganun din ‘yun kanilang revelation na ang mga hostages ay ginagamit sa pag-iipon ng bala, paglalagay ng pulbura, pagpi-prepare sa giyera at ano pa mang bagay na ginugusto ng mga terorista diyan.

So hindi po nalalayo na magawa ‘yan dahil talaga pong under duress naman talaga sila at gagawin ng kalaban lahat ng maaari nilang gawin sa mga hostages para makatulong ito sa kanilang effort.

The only thing that we’re really seeking to do is to be able to rescue them safe and sound, alive, at the conclusion of this fighting and we’re doing that.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Good morning, General Padilla. Sir, last Friday may nahuli po sa Indonesia na allegedly recruiter, fund-raiser ng pro-ISIS para magpadala po daw ng reinforcement sa Marawi. Ano po ‘yung ginagawa ng government lalung-lalo na kung ‘yung reinforcement po galing po sa ibang bansa?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Sa atin, we found out and we heard about this news also. Magandang balita ito kasi nagiging matibay din ‘yung effort ng ibang bansa laban po sa mga grupo na nagpapadala o tumutulong dito sa mga nasa Marawi na mga rebelde.

So the picture or the narrative regarding the entry and the existence of foreign fighters inside Marawi is reinforced by this recent news.

So it will hopefully help in the documentation of the people that we had in the watchlist.

Kasi may watchlist po tayo eh. May mga binabantayan tayong mga tao, kasama na diyan karamihan mga Indonesian. At kung mali-link natin ito dun sa mga ginagawang recruitment nung recruiter na ‘yan, mabubuo natin ‘yung kabuuan ng kwento kung papano sila nakarating at kung papano nila nasu-sustain ‘yung kanilang presensiya.

So we see this as a positive development.  And our ASEAN partners are also helping provide information in whatever capacity that they can. So this is one of those.

Ms. Sancho: Pero, sir, so far, sir, wala pong napa-ulat na galing sa Indonesia or other countries po na pumapasok sa bansa as reinforcement po sa ISIS sa Marawi?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: So far, ngayon, wala tayong ganyang balitang… Ang alam lang natin is ‘yung naiwan — ‘yung nagsimula na nandoon na marami sa kanila ay namatay na — exact numbers we cannot yet determine, although we believe there are still some who have survived. So they’re still there continuing to fight.

So as soon as this conflict ends, and we have the opportunity to collect all the possible information — sources of information in the area na available na mga na-recover nating bagay, we will be able to piece that puzzle completely and hopefully provide the entirety of the information regarding the presence and the existence of foreign fighters.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, may information na ba tayo, sir, na kung ilan na lang po ‘yung natitirang buhay sa mga foreign fighters na kasama ng ISIS?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: ‘Yun nga, tulad nung sinabi ko kanina, hindi natin masabi kung ilan pa ‘yung natitira.

Sabi nung iba, may dalawa na lang. Sabi ng ilan, may walo pa, may sampu. So it’s not an exact number until such time that we find clear and sufficient proof to say with confidence how many there are.

Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Good morning, General.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yes?

Mr. Rosales: I would like to ask if the military is still concentrated… Our military operations are still concentrated on the two barangays you said two weeks ago?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yeah. Yes, we are. Those two barangays remain to be in the area that we have been mentioning all along. Name of those barangays, I cannot disclose.

‘Yan ‘yung dalawang barangay na nasa one square kilometer na grid na sinasabi natin. In fact, ngayon, less than one square kilometer na actually. And we continue to advance in our approaches to all these barangays.

That’s why we have included the number of buildings cleared. Kasi as we get into the battle area, we get into the commercial business district.

There are days that we are able to clear only a few facilities or installations or buildings because these are big buildings. Matataas, malalaki at maraming kinakailangang i-clear.

So habang pumapasok tayo sa loob ng commercial business district, ina-anticipate natin na ito ‘yung magiging rason kaya bumabagal. Bukod dun, nandiyan pa rin ‘yung mga kalaban, nakatago.

So again, the complexity of the battle environment is when you go into an insta — a building, and the building is such a huge area, you have to go from room to room, from floor to floor and you have to ensure that all of these are safe.

So it’s not that easy to move. Your enemy might just be behind the door, they might just be in the other corner or in another room. So we have to be prepared for all these kinds of surprises.

Mr. Rosales: So is there… I believe two weeks ago, 60 men na lang ‘yung Maute…

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yeah.

Mr. Rosales: …according to military sources. Eh ngayon po, sir, nabawasan po ba o hindi?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Yes, dun sa nire-report nating mga namamatay sa hanay ng kalaban, ngayon sa paniniwala ng ating mga tropa diyan, sa ground commander’s estimate, less than 40 na lang sila. So between 20-40 na lang siguro ‘yan.

So the force is getting smaller. And their capacity to inflict harm, by the way, is still there because they still have arms, they still have adequate ammunition and they still — they still continue to hold hostages. So that’s the compounding factor.

Mr. Rosales: Last two questions, sir. ‘Yung una is two out of… I think, I believe, meron 96 or 97 barangays ang Marawi City, sir?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Ang kabuuan ng Marawi is 96 barangays, that is right.

Mr. Rosales: Ninety-six barangays, sir, two barangays na lang ang natitira. And this is more or less three or two percent of the whole Marawi. When do we… When are we gonna recommend the lifting of martial law, given na maliit na ‘yung percentage na kailangan especially whole of Mindanao ‘yung martial law?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Actually, don’t look at Marawi per se as the reason for keeping martial law. You know, this rebel group has a structure that is beyond Marawi.

They have un… They have groups in other portions of Lanao, in Maguindanao, in Sulu archipelago, et cetera.

So it does not mean to say that just because we have been able to address the security issue in Marawi, there is going to be a pre-emptive lifting of martial law.

No. We still have a lot of homework to do. We still have a lot of areas to address. And that is why we still need it.

Mr. Rosales: And what are the — last question, sir — what are the parang indicators na kailangan na nating — na pwede ng i-lift, sir, given na pa-three months na ‘yung martial law sa Mindanao?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Once all the security issues have been addressed. The proliferation of firearms borne by the — possessed by these armed groups.

The existence of all these other elements that are still out there. Pwede pa kasing mag-consolidate ‘yan, pwede pa uling magsanib-pwersa ‘yung mga natitirang mga pwersa nila.

So hangga’t hindi natin na-a-address ito, may pangangailangan na ipagpatuloy natin itong ginagawa nating security operations.

At upang mapawi ‘yung pangangamba ng ating mga kababayan, wala naman po dapat kayong ikatakot kung kayo ay law-abiding kasi hindi naman sa inyo nakatuon ang pagpapatupad ng martial law. Ito ay nakatuon sa mga masasamang-loob.

Mr. Rosales: Sir, wala namang change of target ng martial law kasi it was targeted toward the Islamist extremist? Wala namang change of target ngayon?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Actually, martial law is addressed not only at the rebellion occurring in Marawi but the overall security situation in Mindanao because it’s a big domino effect.

If one is having a violent activity, it may spill over to other parts if we don’t control it. So we need to address all the security issues in all other areas as well.

Mr. Rosales: Thank you, General.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: You’re welcome.

By the way, before the next question, I’d just like to add in relation to some of the questions earlier asked, there is a proliferation of disinformation going on from among terrorist groups and even some sympathetic elements around the Central Mindanao area in Marawi.

We have observed that this information are actually targeted at discrediting soldiers. News about or misinformation about looting, even murder, in some instances and killings which are unfounded. Hindi po totoo ‘yung mga kumakalat na ‘yun.

Isa pang nakakabahala diyan ‘yung kumalat kamakailan na nagdala ng pangangamba — apprehension — sa lahat ng ating mga residente sa Marawi na sinasabi kaya daw po naglunsad ng ganitong kaguluhan dahil binabawi daw ng militar ‘yung kabuuan ng Marawi dahil ito po ay isa daw napakalaking military reservation.

Although it’s true that these are military reservations, but sinasabi natin sa ating mga kababayan na hindi dapat sila mangamba dahil sa tagal na po na panahon na nadeklara itong military reservation, may araw po ba na may kumatok sa bahay niyo nung maayos pa at peaceful pa diyan sa lugar niyo na binabawi ‘yung lugar niyo, ang lupa niyo? Wala.

So ibig sabihin po, nirerespeto po ‘yung inyong pagiging traditional dwellers na diyan.  At siguro, sa pagkakataong ito, magkakaroon tayo ng tsansa na ayusin lahat ito sa hinaharap.

Kaya nga ang bigkas ng ating mahal na Pangulo is that Marawi will rise and that we will try to rebuild it better for a stronger and more resilient Marawi.

Kaya sa ating mga kababayan diyan na nakasubaybay po ngayon at doon sa mga hindi po nakasubaybay, ‘yung mga pwede pong magpaabot nitong balitang ito, pinapawi po namin ‘yung mga pangangamba niyo.

Wala pong katotohanan na nagsimula itong gulong ito dahil nais naming kunin ‘yung mga lupa niyo dahil ito’y military reservation. Mali po ‘yan.

So sa tagal po ng panahon niyo diyan, tandaan niyo, wala ni minsan na lumabas itong isyu na ‘to. Ngayon lang, dahil may mga naninira.Huwag po kayong maniwala sa mga ito.

Bukod din po dito, makinig po tayo sa mga local leaders niyo ngayon na nagpapaliwanag at nagbibigay ilaw sa lahat ng mga hindi po naiintindihan nang karamihan.

So once this… Once our religious leaders in the area following the signing of the manifesto of all this — our local executives, everything, I hope or we hope, will become clearer for everyone including the ordinary citizens of Marawi and our Maranao brothers and sisters who are being stirred up and agitated because of all this false news.

Kris Jose: Sir, follow-up lang. Sino… May idea po ba kayo kung sino po ‘yung nasa likod ng paninira sa — sa inyo po at pinalalabas ‘yung mga ganitong isyu?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Meron, pero hindi pa po ako… I’m not at liberty to disclose who they are. But they are being closely followed and monitored.

Ms. Jose: Thank you po.

Llanesca Panti (Manila Times): Good morning po. Kay General Padilla po. Follow-up lang po dun sa — about spilling of — the possibility of spilling over of the violence. Would you say that there’s an existing rebellion in other parts of Mindanao and if so, what are the manifestations of this rebellion?

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: Well, there are various violent activities that have happened recently that may indicate an attempt to distract current operations in Marawi.

Case in point are ASG activities to abduct ordinary citizens. ‘Yung mga karpintero, ‘yung mga walang kamuwang-muwang na mga ordinaryong mamamayan na pinipilit nilang kidnapin.

These are part and parcel of those violent activities that may comprise an attempt to distract current operations in Marawi.

Other than that, you have been following developments also in Maguindanao, from the group of the BIFF who may be sympathetic to this group.

So by all these activities, we are not putting this aside and we are seeing this as part of the whole picture of potential intent to distract our attention to re-deploy our forces which we are not biting into and cause the shifting of forces to other areas, which is not going to happen at all.

Ms. Panti: Sir, are these situations classified as rebellion? Or potential…

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA:  Anything in aid of rebellion is part of rebellion.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning. This is for Spox Abella. Sir, over the weekend, Secretary Martin Andanar issued a statement saying that he would punish the PNA editors if found to have been guilty of any errors, that he would send them to Basilan or Jolo. This kind of messaging has caused concern when it was raised before by the President and by PNP Chief Bato. Some are saying… Some prominent voices are saying that this could be taken as an insult to Mindanaoans because they don’t deserve subpar service from — from government personnel. How would the Palace explain this kind of messaging to the public especially to Mindanaoans?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Truth to tell, that should be referred to Secretary Andanar. Especially since it’s pertinent to him. It’s per… The comments come from him and the best person to explain that would be he himself.

On the other hand, we also would like to say that — that the Palace holds Mindanao and the whole of Mindanao in great and deep respect.

If there are any references regarding the difficulties it implies of being assigned there, then that needs to be explained by the person who actually made the statement.

Thank you.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, but this comment of Secretary Andanar’s is sort of echoing already a messaging that the President himself has issued. So will Malacañang address that concern that it’s actually just an echo of the President’s speech?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the term “echoing” implies that this is a something that the President has — that implies a particular message thread.

Like I said, the, you know… In fact, the President is fully engaged in making sure that Mindanao is restored and rises up.

In other words, the President has deep and great respect for Mindanao and its citizens.

And so, if at all there seems to be any implication about hardship, then it’s not about Mindanao or Mindanaoans, it is simply about — it is simply about certain difficulties in the region at this stage.

Joseph Morong (GMA): Kay Secretary Abella. Good morning, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes?

Mr. Morong: Regarding the prediction of Atty. Panelo…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The what?

Mr. Morong: The prediction of — that Comelec Chairman Bautista daw po will resign. Does the Palace share this assessment?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’re not in the habit of prophecies. [laughter]

But I think this should be referred back to Atty. Panelo. He’ll be able to provide you the context. At this stage, we don’t have any comments regarding that matter.

Mr. Morong: Sa PNA, do you think there’s some housekeeping that has to be done?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding?

Mr. Morong: The PNA, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: PNA. As in any organization, housekeeping is always in order — a constant and continual thing.

Mr. Morong: And in this particular instance, do you think the PNA deserves that now?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that matter is best answered by Secretary Andanar.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about Joseph’s question on Commissioner… Comelec Commissioner Bautista.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.

Ms. Panti: Follow up lang po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Panti: Is the President supportive of the moves to impeach Comelec Chairman Bautista considering he — the President’s strong condemnation of corruption and Chairman Bautista is being alleged of keeping one billion worth of ill-gotten wealth? So is he supportive of moves to impeach Chair — the Comelec Chairman at this point?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Without making references to any particular individual, the President, of course, is highly supportive of all moves that will set the house, the Philippine government in order.

And he’s been very clear about that, that is one of his campaign promises.

And so, each and every act — each and every move that entails bringing about a correction in our — especially in our institutions is welcome and I’m sure he is supportive of. That is not in reference to any particular individual.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Doon lang po sa avian flu. Governor Lilia Pineda is asking the national government particularly the DA to lift the quarantine kasi pati daw po ‘yung mga duck raisers, apektado na. They’ve lost I think around 14 million po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I would suggest that it be referred to the proper agency, to Secretary Piñol. He would be the best person in charge of this. Thank you.

Mr. Tubeza: And another one, sir. Doon po sa North Korea. Did we also issue the same guidance to our embassy sa Tokyo? Considering that if hostilities break out in the peninsula, magiging apektado rin po ang Japan.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, there was no reference that they’ve been informed. I’m sure they are in the loop and are also on the — on the lookout regarding the matter considering that there are many — a number of Filipinos, a large number of Filipinos in Japan.

Mr. Tubeza: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Morong: Sir, just from the BBL, how will the separate proposal from Congressman Arroyo help in the crafting of the BBL?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure she has certain positions regarding the matter and it will be up to the Congress to consolidate that which is pertinent to the BBL.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

BRIG. GEN. PADILLA: I have a question for you. Since you didn’t want to raise your… [laughter]

I just want to convey that there are things positive that have also occurred here in Luzon in support of our Marawi efforts. And very much a part of that is the support we get from the civilian side of the House.

Just this weekend, in a breakfast ride to Baguio City, many bikers, among them members of the BM — no, the Harley- Davidson Club, mga riders, mga nagmo-motor, I’m happy to report to you that it turned out to be very successful. More than a thousand riders went to PMA from Manila, riding together and proceeding to PMA and they were honored by our cadets with a silent drill exhibition as a gesture of our gratitude for their effort.

Now, they have raised this and done this earlier in small groups and we really appreciate the show of support from among all these riders.

If we can, as one nation, unite like what the riders did last weekend, then there’s no problem that we can never overcome.

We will rise up stronger, we’ll rise up better and we’ll get over all these problems easier.

It was safely done ha, safely done. No injuries, by the way, no accidents.

— END —

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