ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Good morning MPC; magandang umaga, Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Good morning to all of you. Tina with the flaming red, do you have any question?
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Hi sir, good morning. Sir, paiimbestigahan po ba ng Palasyo iyong isiniwalat ni Congressman Andaya na sangkot si Budget Secretary Diokno doon sa 75 billion insertion sa 2019 Budget?
SEC. PANELO: I think the House is investigating it.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Pero ang—as Executive Branch po, ang Malacañang po ba ay mag-iimbestiga dahil sinabi dati ni Presidente eh kahit na whiff of corruption hindi siya papayag, hindi niya pahihintulutan eh?
SEC. PANELO: Oh yes of course, we will go to the bottom of this. Secretary Diokno has denied any involvement in the allegation made by Congressman Andaya.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Sir, how about iyong pag-corner po ng C.T. Leoncio Construction po doon sa mga kontratang binanggit po ni Secretary Andaya?
SEC. PANELO: We will look into that.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Okay, thank you.
CHONA YU/RADIO INQUIRER: Sir, who will conduct the investigation?
SEC. PANELO: We will wait for the President’s announcement.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Pero sir, mayroong investigation gagawin ang Palace into the allegation?
SEC. PANELO: Since there is allegation of corruption, it follows that we have to investigate.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Alright, sir. Do we see something wrong with the… selecting just maybe—iyong isang contractor getting maybe a lion’s share of the projects as alleged by Congressman Andaya?
SEC. PANELO: We have to investigate first… exactly. We don’t even know if it’s true or not, because there have been denials.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And the end goal of course is… the investigation?
SEC. PANELO: Of course, we have to know exactly whether the charges of… or allegations of corruption is true or not or… favoring certain particular persons or firms.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Pero sir, iyon ba may violation na agad by preselecting?
SEC. PANELO: I was listening to Senator Lacson’s explanation that the grant of projects to certain contractors prior to the enactment of the budget is made. Because according to him, the reason is that it might affect the projects. Because after the budget is approved, then you will have to go through process of bidding… so nagkakaroon ng delay, kaya pinababayaan na lang daw nila iyon. Iyon ang explain—iyon ang narinig ko kanina.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And Palace’ side is you see nothing wrong with it?
SEC. PANELO: Eh kung the reason is, because you want to prevent the delaying of projects that requires attention or implementation for the benefit of the people, eh walang masama doon. Ang ayaw natin kung may corruption, iyon ang bottom line.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But if it’s preselected, obviously it didn’t go through bidding?
SEC. PANELO: Ay… hindi ko alam iyong portion na iyon. Baka naman may bidding din.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, anong paliwanag na makaka-appease sa paniniwala ng publiko na posibleng alam ito at may approval ito ng Pangulo, itong pag-iikot ng budget nila sa Kongreso?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the position of the President ever since has been known to all of us – he will not interfere in any branch of the government nor even in the departments on the Executive. But he will make people in those departments accountable when there is corruption being done/undertaken by any of the departments – so that’s very clear. He has not interfered, and will not; he will only come in when there is corruption.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Sa tingin ninyo, kahit si Secretary Diokno kung saka-sakali at talagang—sapagkat iyong sinasabing contractor ay nakasaad mismo doon sa National Expenditure Program, ibig sabihin kung si Secretary Diokno ay may maling ginawa, hindi sasantuhin ito ng Pangulo?
SEC. PANELO: Secretary Diokno has already denied any involvement or any link. But let me repeat what we have said repeatedly: This President is no respecter of friendship, of alliances, of party affiliations, of friendship. His principle is you follow the law; you violate it – you will account for it. You engage in corruption, then you will be fired.
HENRY URI/DZRH: No sacred cows?
SEC. PANELO: No sacred cows in this government; as he has already shown repeatedly too many times over.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Thank you.
TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, good morning. Puwedeng paki-clarify kung—how will the Executive investigate the alleged allocation of multibillion pesos sa budget when we are in the process of approving the budget? And is this not interference, kasi papaimbestigahan ninyo iyong issue of the multibillion projects—
SEC. PANELO: No… Because on the part of the Executive, it wants to know whether or not there has been illegal insertions in the budget. On the part of the House, they will investigate whether or not these insertions made are really illegal. Because I’ve been told as explained by Congressman Maricar Zamora, that the pork barrel which is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, refers to lump sum that has been approved without any specific areas where this money will go.
But this particular budget being referred to, are line budgets – meaning to say, that the line agencies were the ones who pinpointed the projects. And so when it is approved, we know exactly where it will go – that is the explanation. And I understand also that, it’s not only limited to Speaker Arroyo nor to Congressman Andaya, from the record it appears now that there are so many of them.
But what is important to me is that, these allocations to particular areas should be viewed as necessities on those particular projects. In other words, the President will not allow any favored district. He wants that all districts will have equal opportunities to growth, to progress and to services – that is what he wants pursuant to his advocacy that Filipinos should have a comfortable life. In other words, kailangan pantay-pantay; walang maaapi.
TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, we understand your explanation. I think the question also is: why are these big ticket items going to just one contractor?
SEC. PANELO: Precisely, that’s why I said we will look into that if that is true or not, because that is just an allegation.
TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Nonetheless sir, today is the last session day of Senate and the House of Representatives, parang hanggang mamayang gabi tatapusin nila iyong approval of the budget. Is there a need for the President to call for a special session to avoid the reenactment of the 2019 Budget?
SEC. PANELO: I will ask the President when I see him today.
TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Also, are there truth to reports that the Executive is recommending the inclusion of a provision in the budget to impose a parang exemption doon sa election ban on the disbursements of certain funds?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know that. I just learned from you. I will inquire.
TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir as a lawyer, ano po ba ang ano noong election ban and the use of funds? Kasi by—I think by—before third quarter start na ng campaign season.
SEC. PANELO: There are specific provisions of prohibition of using government money within that particular period of time. Certainly, we will observe that. Anybody who violates that will have to be prosecuted.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Sir, can a prohibition under a national budget such as the 2019 budget, supersede what is in the Omnibus Election Code regarding election ban?
SEC. PANELO: It cannot violate that law.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Sir, as you pointed out today. You said the President wanted an equitable allocation of funds in the budget. And in your statement yesterday, you also said you’re leaving it up, the Palace is leaving it up to Congress to make the necessary amendments and–
SEC. PANELO: Revisions.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Yes. Does the Palace want an overhaul of the budget right now? Because as it stands, based on majority leader Andaya’s report yesterday, he said na parang ‘di ba, he pointed out the districts that got iyong mga bigger allocation, infrastructure funding. So, does it mean that we have to overhaul the budget as it stands right now?
SEC. PANELO: I will review what I said earlier. It is the duty of Congress to scrutinize the budget – that it follows the law on budget. So, it’s their call, they can do whatever they want to with the budget provided it’s within the constitutional restrictions.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Pero as it stands right now, parang hindi equitable sir, iyong allocation eh.
SEC. PANELO: That’s the claim. Actually we really don’t know that. You know allegations have been thrown left and right. But is it true? Because sometimes a particular district needs that kind of budget. Perhaps that particular area has been asking for funds and never was given, while others are favored during the past administrations. We don’t know exactly, we have to probe deeper.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Yeah, but Andaya wrote the President yesterday, stating that it was the camp of former Speaker Alvarez who got the big share of that allocations sa funding. So hindi ba that’s already, I mean, proof enough because you said he still have to investigate it.
SEC. PANELO: Again, that’s an allegation.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Sir, he wrote the President, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Yes, we responded to that. I already issued a statement now. We have thanked him for that and we said that the position of the President is ‘we will not allow any violation on the law on budget.’
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: So, do we want the budget to be changed sir, right now?
SEC. PANELO: If it violates the Constitution or the laws covering it then certainly, we will not allow it. So, that’s precisely why I’m telling you, its House call – they will have to deliberate. They will have to decide whether or not this is in violation of the Constitution.
NESTOR CORALES/INQ. NET: Sir related to that, you mentioned this morning that you wanted a creation of a department that would look into the needs of each district, amidst allegations of budget insertions and questionable allocations?
SEC. PANELO: I was floating a suggestion. From my point of view as a lawyer and as a citizen of this land, ‘that perhaps it’s better that we have a department created by the executive, whose function would be just go over the country and look what exactly are the requirements of every district and then recommend, so that the accountability will be only one. Unlike now, we don’t know where it’s coming from. You know, finger pointing is all over. While if you have only one entity that will decide, so the accountability will be falling on that particular office,’ that’s only a suggestion.
NESTOR CORALES/INQ. NET: Just to be clear, this is your position and not the position of Malacañang?
SEC. PANELO: No, no. I was just floating the idea during the interview.
ELLEN CRUZ/TOKYO SHIMBUN: Sir, yesterday—last night we learned that Maria Ressa of Rappler is one of the so-called ‘The guardians on press freedom.’ What is Malacañang’s reaction on that and the other question is, how do you define now the state of press freedom in the Philippines?
SEC. PANELO: Obviously, since there are still critics attacking the administration, criticizing the administration, the freedom of expression in this country is robust one. Nobody has been prosecuted for criticizing the administration. Those who have been charged are in connection not with their freedom of expression, but for commission of crimes, which the court had found probable cause that is precisely they are now being tried. Now, with respect to the awardee Ressa, that’s the call of the awarding organization. It has its basis of awarding certain people. Certainly, we cannot intrude into that. It’s not our turf.
ELLEN CRUZ/TOKYO SHIMBUN: Sir, but do you agree with the award?
SEC. PANELO: Whether we agree or not, it doesn’t matter, that’s the award of a particular organization.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: Good afternoon sir. Going back lang po doon sa budget. I want to rephrase iyong question regarding the special session. Kasi this morning, Secretary Diokno mentioned that they will recommend to the President, for the President to call a special session, because of this budget problem nga. And he also mentioned that if they will have a reenacted budget, our disbursements could be reduced by around 220 billion by 2019 and it could affect the country’s target of 7% GDP? It would be slashed to around 4.7% to 5.9%. So, how important is it for the President to call for special session?
SEC. PANELO: Well, if that is the recommendation of the economic managers, if it will affect the government’s expenses and services, then the President will be persuaded to grant the recommendation of the economic managers.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: Do you think there would still be time, kasi considering na, it’s like half a month na lang?
SEC. PANELO: If there’s a will to do it, it will pass.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: Sir, you have also mentioned about equal allocation of budget sa different districts. So, do you think there is a need to slash the budget allocated, for instance, sa district ni Speaker Arroyo and Mr. Andaya?
SEC. PANELO: That will depend on the House, it will be the one who will revise it or who will scrutinize it. It’s not the Executive.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, will the President now consider to travel to US after the American government has returned the Balangiga Bells?
SEC. PANELO: I haven’t asked him that. I will ask him when we go to Samar to turn over the Balangiga Bells.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: But sir, as a personal friend of the President, do you think he will consider that now?
SEC. PANELO: I really don’t know. I cannot read his mind as of this time with respect to that. What I know is, he really doesn’t want to go to the US – apart from whatever reasons he has in mind – he cannot stand the temperature, the coldness. Talagang ayaw niya kapag sobrang lamig.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Puwede namang summer. But, sir, what will convince the President to visit the said country?
SEC. PANELO: I’ll ask him. I will relay it to you immediately.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, yesterday, I understand, the President had a meeting with the US Ambassador. What was discussed during the meeting, may we know?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know the result of the meeting because I was out the whole day yesterday, attending to other events.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: May we know the details later?
SEC. PANELO: We will. We will. I will issue a statement.
ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Thank you, Maricel. Sir, tanong lang po ni Rosalie Coz: Reaksiyon ng Malacañang sa sinabi ni Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc na hadlang daw ang martial law sa BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law).
SEC. PANELO: I do not see any relation. What’s the relation? In fact, martial law is even acceptable to the people of Mindanao, precisely because the security is kept. If there will be a plebiscite, then people who would want to do something to derail the plebiscite will think twice because there is martial law. It’s even helpful.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Sir, just a bit of clarification on your previous responses. You’ve been saying that you want an equitable allocation in the budget, and yet when asked if you want the budget changed amid iyong allegations of significantly bigger budgets given to some provinces you say that it’s up to Congress. So how will you make sure that the budget is equally allocated to the different provinces?
SEC. PANELO: I think the members of Congress will know which particular district has the necessity, the requirement of that particular budget. During deliberations, that will come out.
Because when you say ‘equitable distribution’ it doesn’t mean equal. It means only that there is a necessity to allocate certain budget to a particular province. Like for instance, one province is asking for a project on the roads. And another one is asking for building of a bridge that has been damaged which is giving access to all. Between the two, you will be giving the allocation to the one who needs the bridge, construction of a bridge rather than the road. Kasi puwede pa namang daanan iyong road, pero iyong bridge, papaano mo maililipat ang lahat ng mga tao pati mga commodities. So depende. So when you say equitable, kasama na roon iyong necessity.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Okay. So this will not cover your … this will not be resolved doon sa investigation na gagawin ninyo na sinasabi mo—
SEC. PANELO: No, the investigation will only cover kung totoo iyong allegation na mayroong isang contractor lang na naka-bag ng 30 projects. Iyong mga allegations of corruption. Kasi puro allegation lang iyon; hindi pa natin alam exactly kung totoo o hindi.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyong proposal ninyo sounds like the function of the DBM already.
SEC. PANELO: Hindi rin eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Why?
SEC. PANELO: Kasi ‘di ba sa DBM naghihintay lang sila ng mga pagpasok nung mga items. Like sinasabi nga ni Secretary Diokno, galing iyan sa line agencies. In other words, maraming agencies involved. Samantalang iyong iniisip kong departamento iisa lang, siya lang magde-decide. Isa lang eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Na mag-allocate and everything?
SEC. PANELO: Oo, kasi sila ang pupunta sa mga distrito. Aalamin nila ano ba ang mas kailangan dito; tatanungin nila iyong mga nandoon. They will see it personally kung ano, so they will be recommending, ‘Oh, ito ang kailangan dito. Mas kailangan ba nila o mas kailangan ng kabila? Maganda iyon, isa lang ang nagde-decide.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Hindi ba ginagawa ng DBM iyon, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Ang DBM naghihintay lang eh. Naghihintay sila—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Di ba iba-validate iyon, sa budget cycle, right?
SEC. PANELO: How will the—sige nga, tell me: How will Secretary Diokno validate kung kailangan ng distrito ito o hindi kailangan ng distrito? Ibig sabihin, he is going to all this—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: You want parang ano, mag-o-on the ground talaga iyong DBM?
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, kailangan may departamento na iyan. Now, tanungin ninyo: Eh sino ang magbabantay sa departamentong iyan? Eh at least one, isa na lang ang pinpointed mong may responsibilidad, ‘di ba. Number two, mayroon namang COA nag-o-oversee. Less ang opportunity for corruption, for graft, kasi isa lang ang kausap mo eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, does the Palace still trust si Secretary Diokno?
SEC. PANELO: Oh, definitely.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Despite all these allegations?
SEC. PANELO: Mr. Diokno is known to be the Mr. No. Meaning, he is a man of integrity. So when he says he’s not involved, I believe him. Unless you show me, as a lawyer, competent evidence to the contrary; the presumption he is a man of competence and integrity.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, please enlighten us. Ang mag-identify at magrekumenda ba ng proyekto ay nasa ilalim ng trabaho ng mga mambabatas?
SEC. PANELO: Ang pag-alin?
HENRY URI/DZRH: Pag-identify ng mga infrastructure projects, ang magrekumenda, ito ho ba ay nasa ilalim ng trabaho ng mga mambabatas?
SEC. PANELO: Eh suppose to be ang nagrerekumenda nga ay iyong mga line agencies. Now it’s for them to scrutinize kung tama o hindi.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So to scrutinize but not to recommend, especially iyong mga pet projects?
SEC. PANELO: Correct. Pero sila pa rin ang ultimate magde-decide. Kahit mo ni-recommend iyan, kahit sino ang nag-recommend, kapag nakita nilang mali, they can always revise.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Pero hindi po ba kaya mayroon nang municipal engineer, city engineer, provincial engineer, district engineer ang DPWH, that’s their responsibility to know, to identify infrastructure projects?
SEC. PANELO: Even if that is the responsibility of these people recommending, it’s still the House that will have the ultimate authority to decide whether or not your recommendations are okay or not. That’s their constitutional duty, and they cannot shirk from that duty.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So puwede nilang i-reject or talagang totally—
SEC. PANELO: Of course. As I said, they have the authority to revise, to amend, whatever. And the President also has the authority to veto whatever they approved. That’s the check and balance.
HENRY URI/DZRH: I’ll pick up your words. To veto the budget, puwede ba niyang i-veto na lang ito dahil dito sa mga anomalyang umano’y—
SEC. PANELO: If there is an anomaly and it’s validated, the President may use the veto power.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: Sir, will the Palace also investigate the allegation of Congressman Suarez that Secretary Diokno had something to do with the allocation of 2 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Sorsogon because his daughter is married to the Vice Mayor there—the Vice Governor ata?
SEC. PANELO: I will repeat what I said: the Palace believes in the competence and the integrity of Secretary Diokno. Unless those who allege can show us competent proof to the contrary, the presumption of competence and integrity on the part of Secretary Diokno prevails.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: So it’s up to Suarez to, you know—
SEC. PANELO: Of course. One who alleges must prove – that’s elementary in law.
ALVIN BALTAZAR: Maraming salamat, MPC. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, thank you so much.
SEC. PANELO: Thank you.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)