Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Bldg., Malacanang

ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Good afternoon, Malacañang Press Corps; magandang tanghali, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO: Good noon! First, I would like to confirm the announcement that the President will not be calling for a special session on the request of the Senate. Senate members told the President through, I think Secretary Diokno, that it’s physically impossible for them to hold a session because it ended yesterday; and I suppose there’s so many activities that will involve the attention, the presence of all members of Congress. So in deference to that, the President is not calling [for a] special session.

Number two, I would like to read the joint statement of the members of the Cabinet on the House Resolution asking the President to reconsider the appointment of Secretary Diokno, as well as in the matter of his appearance and the manner by which the members of the House conducted the Question Hour.

This is the joint statement of the members of the Cabinet; actually, they submitted separate letters but this is the gist of all those statements:

“It is incumbent upon Congress to accord utmost respect, show sobriety and observe the demands of ethical refinements when inviting officials from the other branches of government in their committee hearings. Officials are invited as the resource persons to shed light on issues of national concern that our lawmakers hope to hear and understand akin to when the Palace calls on the honorable leaders and members of Congress. The Executive Branch must show them courtesy befitting their positions at it has religiously observed before. The Palace accordingly hopes that there would be no repeat of the recent incidence at the House of Representatives involving our Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno. This unparliamentary behavior has no place in the hallowed grounds of Congress where members are referred to as ‘Honorable’ as they represent their districts or sectors. There is no honor in browbeating a fellow worker and officer in government. We will not allow a similar incident from taking place.”

If you want specific/certain, pertinent portions of the statement—I will read to you certain salient points. From Secretary Carlos Dominguez: “To use a congressional process to bombard Secretary Diokno with preconceived questions and answers in aid not of legislation but of persecution and excoriating him with baseless allegations is a mockery of standard democratic procedures. The fact that the resolution was swiftly approved and submitted the day after indicates that these series of acts was politically motivated and reeks of power play and ill purposes.”

From Secretary Ernesto Pernia: “We have carefully examined the records and conclude that Secretary Diokno’s actions have all been legitimate and in interest of the nation, and we believe in and vouch for Secretary Diokno’s honestly, integrity and competence, and we stand by him and trust the wisdom of the President.”

From Secretary Tugade: “We have witnessed the disrespect and utter lack of courtesy displayed by members of the House of Representatives toward the Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno. The congressional resolution urging a reconsideration of the DBM Secretary’s appointment is a sheer violation of the separation of powers on the basis of seemingly biased and hastily called Question Hour.”

From Secretary Bernadette Puyat, has the same message – she stands by Secretary Diokno as she vouch for his integrity and competence.

Likewise, coming from Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña—Secretary Dela Peña is also outraged by the manner by which Secretary Diokno underwent a grueling that is not deserving of a member of the Cabinet and also that of the members of Congress.

Also with respect to Secretary Ramon Lopez – the same message is addressed to the President; he also vouch for the competence and integrity and honesty of Secretary Diokno.

As we have repeatedly said: while we respect the independence of each branch, it is elementary that these branches must accord respect to each other. And the golden rule always apply – ‘What you do not want others to do to you, do not do unto them.’

Everytime members of Congress are invited by the President or when they make courtesy calls, they are accorded due respect. And so, we of course demand the same respect when they invite members of the Cabinet – and for that matter, any worker in the government.

Thank you.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Good afternoon, sir. Sir, you have mentioned that the Palace would not allow similar incident from taking place again. How?

SEC. PANELO: How? Well, we have many options—or let’s say two options: one, we will decline any invitation if we feel that they will be repeating the same kind of treatment that a member of Congress [Cabinet] would suffer in the process; number two, we will go there if invited but the moment any sign of disrespect is given a member of the Cabinet, we will excuse ourselves and beg leave from that committee hearing.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, apparently it was House Majority Leader Andaya who became disrespectful to the Budget Secretary. Do you think there’s a need to like somewhat come up with a disciplinary action against him by the House?

SEC. PANELO: Well, that’s the judgment of the members of Congress; that’s not our domain – that will be the function of the Ethics Committee.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, regarding the budget. During the past two years the… Congress was able to pass the GAA on time under the previous leadership of both Houses of Congress. Under this new leadership, do you think it has somehow an effect—it has an effect on that failure to pass on time the budget, the one for 2019?

SEC. PANELO: Well, they have their own reasons why there was a delay in the approval of the budget. What is important to us is that, we did our duty and the failure is not on our part but on them.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Is the Palace disappointed with this failure to pass the budget on time?

SEC. PANELO: Well certainly, because we thought… since we submitted the budget on the first day when we are supposed to have 30 days within which to submit, we are of course disappointed that it did not pass as expected.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Do you hope that this would not happen again in the coming years?

SEC. PANELO: Well I hope so, because a lot of services will be affected.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sir, did the Senate or Congress for that matter give a commitment as to when they could pass iyong national budget for next year?

SEC. PANELO: No, they did not. But I suppose they will… when they convene in the first week of January, they will be tackling that.

VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sir, on Secretary Diokno ulit. Does the Palace share the opinion of the other Cabinet secretaries that the resolution calling on Duterte to fire Mr. Diokno was swiftly approved and submitted the day after indicates that the series of acts was politically motivated and reeks of power play and ill purpose?

SEC. PANELO: Oh, yes. In fact, I already made a statement prior to the statement of the members of the Cabinet and we are—let us say, we are dismayed by the House resolution.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: So sir, is it safe to say that the stand of—that the President also echoes the stand of the Cabinet. What’s the official stand of the President regarding this issue?

SEC. PANELO: Yes. It’s the same stand of the President. The President—if you recall, the President has already made statements on that. That he will not allow any member of the Cabinet or any member of the military, our policemen, officials who were invited in a committee hearing to be treated with disrespect. After all, we are all workers of the government and under the payroll of the people of the Philippines.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Sir, what are the expectations of Malacañang now from the members of the House of Representatives regarding this?

SEC. PANELO: Well, I suppose having said our stand, they would know it is time that we will not allow any further disrespect to a fellow worker of government.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Does that mean they should toe the line of the executive?

SEC. PANELO: No. They should exercise the demands of ethical refinements. Meaning to say, we should be exercising courtesy and civility with each other in the manner by which we perform our Constitutional duty.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, just so we don’t assume—

SEC. PANELO: But in fairness to the members of Congress – as pointed by one of you – it was only one or two that made the behavior of disrespect and I suppose not all of them agree by the way Secretary Diokno was treated.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Having said that, sir, just so we don’t assume who the Palace is referring to. Can you describe and cite instances where a specific congressman may have been disrespectful in his manner or her manner of asking the Budget Secretary?

SEC. PANELO: The way the questions propounded by members of Congress—Andaya. We saw the video in the news and we saw how arrogantly he threw questions at Secretary Diokno and how he mocked him.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Are you interested in looking into the original allegation that Congressman Andaya inserted certain projects that did not go through the DPWH channel in the preparation of the budget. Meaning, the DPWH is saying this is not part of the program and it’s just Congressman Andaya’s proposal. There are projects like that. Are you interested in looking into that?

SEC. PANELO: What do you mean?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: In the budget process, the DPWH comes up with the programs, yes?

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And then that is what you submit in Congress.

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Now, when it reached Congress, some congressmen for lack of development maybe, inserted certain projects that may not had been included on the DPWH level. For example specifically, 1.9 billion from Congressman Andaya, I think, sabi ng DPWH it wasn’t part of our proposal. Meaning, it is on the initiative of Congressman Andaya. Are you interested in looking into that insertion?

SEC. PANELO: I think the members of Congress should be the one interested in looking at that, because that is precisely their function – to scrutinize and to review the budget. That is their job. If they have any complaints on the way the budget was submitted and they feel that there were some misalignment, then it’s their job. As the President says, ‘do your job.’

Because Congressman Andaya was saying that he showed it to the President. The President said, do your job. When the President says that do your job as member of Congress not—in the process of doing your job, you’re going to disrespect a fellow worker of the government.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, how do you describe now the relationship between the Palace and Congress specifically the House?

SEC. PANELO: Well, I think, it’s still cordial. Hopefully these incidents are isolated and it will not be repeated. And I think, it will not be repeated.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, nag-a-agree po ba ang Palace doon sa version ng House sa pinasa nilang third and final reading ng charter change. Sabi po ni Consultative Committee Chair, former Justice Reynato Puno, it was a disaster. The version of the House of Representatives is a disaster to our democracy; kasi may mga tinanggal daw po doon at hindi iyon yung version na sinubmit ng ConCom. Do you agree with what the House passed?

SEC. PANELO: As far as I am concerned, there is a need to submit drafts in Congress with respect to revisions or amendments to the Constitution. And these drafts must be reviewed, must be consolidated and get the best of the provisions in each draft and then they should make a common draft. Otherwise, those who submitted one draft will be complaining—

I understand there are many drafts submitted to Congress, because there are groups—they disregarded all? They should not disregard all. I think one does not have a monopoly of ideas or amendments to the Constitution. In fact, I have a suggestion, if it’s feasible all the drafts – there are three or four – should be submitted to the people and let the people decide which draft is good for them.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, an example lang po doon sa hindi pinag-agree-han ng ConCom. May mga tinanggal daw po na anti-dynasty provision doon sa House version. Do you agree with that?

SEC. PANELO: Let me just repeat what the President said in one of the Cabinet meetings – Should Congress introduce amendments to the Constitution – when they meet as a constituent assembly – and it is against the interest of the people, he will campaign against the ratification of that proposed draft of the Constitution.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: So, sir, sa process pa lang na ito na… well may aantayin pa namang version sa Senate. Are you still positive, sir, na at least iyong version, salient provision doon sa version ng ConCom ay mai-include pa rin sa final version?

SEC. PANELO: I think so. At this time, it may be premature to judge members of Congress on the draft. It’s not yet final. They can always reconsider, they can always review. Mahaba pa naman ang panahon eh.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, given this… itong version ng House, ano iyong expectation ninyo sa version naman ng Senate para at least mabalanse iyong differences?

SEC. PANELO: I do not know—I have not seen the draft of the Senate. Hopefully—the assumption is, all of them will be working for the benefit of the people. After all that’s the very reason why they are there.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Pero sir, sige categorical ano na lang. Do you agree or not doon sa version ng House ng Cha-Cha?

SEC. PANELO: The problem is I haven’t seen the draft. I have to see the draft and then I’ll tell you. Do you have a copy of the draft? I don’t have a copy. Have you read it, Joseph?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Sir, regarding the Charter. Alright. The President in his campaign wants a federal form of government ‘no and that is why we have the Consultative Committee, that is why you have to campaign.

Now we come to the House that has devoted – out of the maybe 47 pages – only 2 ½ pages on the federalism shift. It didn’t say what kind of federal states we are going to create and how we are going—it says how—by petition we are going to create federal states. But the point is si Chief Justice Puno is saying, this is not federalism, this is falsified federalism.

The question now is because we have that kind of House bill that was passed in Congress that goes against the intention of the President, what are we going to do about that version? That is a falsified federalism as claimed by the chairman of the Consultative Committee.

SEC. PANELO: Has the draft of the House been approved on third reading?

Q: Yes, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Well, I hope Congress should listen to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and open themselves for amendments, they should reconsider. Otherwise, they might be the danger of people rejecting the proposed amendments to the Constitution, and then that would be a waste of people’s money.

ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Secretary, balikan lang natin sandali iyong question kay Secretary Diokno. Viber question from Pia Rañada: How does Palace define disrespectful behavior; is merely making allegations already an act of disrespect?

SEC. PANELO: It’s not making the allegation. It’s how you deliver your allegation or question. I think, this reporter knows what we’re referring too. And by the way, Ressa in one of … or I saw her interview this morning, she was complaining about Pia Rañada being barred here and she says that it’s unconstitutional. First, we said that coming here in the Palace is a privilege. And there are, certainly, rules that should be followed by members of the Malacañang Press Corps.

And number two, even if Pia was disallowed from coming here, the fact is, you just saw, she can still ask questions and we’re still responding. She can still cover; nothing has changed except her physical presence.

And on the matter of the theory of Ressa that it is unconstitutional, if that is true, I’m wondering why she has not challenged this stand by the Palace before the courts since the incident involving a Rappler reporter has occurred several months ago.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, is the Palace aware of the recent arrest of the son of BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon because of drug charges?

SEC. PANELO: This is the first time I’ve heard of that.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, si Faeldon vow to resign should his son be proven to be involved in illegal drugs. How is the Palace taking that offer – offer for him to resign, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Oh, that’s a principled stand, and he should be commended for that.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, sir, itong si Nicanor Faeldon, Jr. he was arrested in a house in Naga City with another drug suspect. Can we get an assurance, sir, that charges against Faeldon Jr. will be pursued, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Oh, I’m sure if the evidence warrants, the enforcer – police enforcer will be filing appropriate charges. We don’t know yet what exactly happened.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: Sir, baka lang may information na kayo or details kung anong further instructions given by the President to the AFP and the PNP during the last command conference the other day.

SEC. PANELO: I have texted Secretary Lorenzana, but he has not responded. I was asking what I can give to you because I was not present during the command conference.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: How about from the side of the President, sir?

SEC. PANELO: We will issue a statement. We will be seeing the President soon, regarding that.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, sa speech ni President kahapon, sinabi niya na hindi siya a-attend ng mass sa Eastern Samar after the turnover of the Balangiga Bells – tuloy iyon, sir? And what would be the activities of the President tomorrow?

SEC. PANELO: He will not attend the mass I guess. I think he has never heard mass. As he says, he has heard all the masses in the world. So he won’t be attending but he will be there.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: So ano po iyong pinakamagiging participation na lang ni President during the event?

SEC. PANELO: The turnover. He will be turning over the Balangiga Bells. Remember he said that nobody should be credited?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Yeah. Are you revising your statement?

SEC. PANELO: Because I was—no. He was not crediting himself. When I made that statement, I was crediting him for that.

But anyway, with respect to that, let me issue this statement: The recent remarks of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte disowning credit for the successful return of the Balangiga Bells to the country after more than a century outside of Philippine soil highlights the style of the Chief Executive’s action-oriented and no frill public service marked by humility. The President’s statement shows his sincerity in upholding sovereignty through the use of diplomacy as a leverage to achieve what the country rightly and truly deserves. If there’s stressing that all of PRRD’s actions are based on the constitutional address to him to serve and to protect the people – nothing more, nothing less.

He gives credit to all Filipinos under this administration and it is our desire – as a community, which motivate him performs his best. While we act in accordance with the President’s actions, he acts pursuant to his and to, of course, the public’s always interest and welfare.

But the fact remains is that many have tried and it was the President’s call that triggered the series of meetings that finally resulted into the coming home of the Balangiga Bells. But this is not to say that the attempts were all futile. To us, it was just like a ladder – it was step that finally reached the pedestal.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: He’s going to the States now?

SEC. PANELO: Right now, he—I talked to him about it, and he said, “It’s so cold there. I really can’t stand the cold.”

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: [off mic] then he’s going when it’s not cold

SEC. PANELO: He has not said he is going. But he is considering. He is still studying.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Open na siya?

SEC. PANELO: Pag-aaralan siguro; tingnan natin.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Follow up lang. Sir, doon sa first statement ninyo noong Wednesday, you said that President Rodrigo Duterte has pressing matters of governance na kailangan niyang unahin that’s why he first decided to snub or at least not attend the Balangiga Bells turnover ceremony; ano iyong pressing matters of governance, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Ang dami: There are so many events to attend to; there are so many documents to read; there are so many places to fly to; there are so many documents to sign – ang dami eh, ang dami niyang trabaho eh. But because of the persistent request by all sectors there in the Eastern Samar, he finally reconsidered – punta na lang siya. Medyo ni-reschedule na lang niya iyong mga activities niya.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Wala naman, sir, parang one big event that he has to go to or a very pressing matter—

SEC. PANELO: Actually, very tight kasi iyong schedule eh, sunud-sunod, parang nabugbog masyado.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Okay. So noong nilabas po ng Palace iyong statement na iyon, papaano po nakarating kay President Duterte iyong demands for his presence?

SEC. PANELO: Immediately ang daming tawag to me and to many members of the Cabinet, so we had to tell the President.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Who called, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Marami, marami, kung sinu-sinong mga opisyal doon sa Eastern Samar.

All right, thank you…

ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Maraming salamat, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

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Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)

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