USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good afternoon MPC; kasama na natin si Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, MPC.
The Office of the President wishes to announce that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not extending martial law; it will expire on December 31st, 2019. His decision is based on the assessment of the security forces as well as the defense advisers that the terrorists and extremist rebellion have been weakened as a result of the capture or neutralization of their leaders; as well as there has been a decrease in the index crime. The people of Mindanao rest assured that any insipient major threat in Mindanao will be nipped in the bud even without martial law.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: When did the President come up with the decision? Was it last night during the command conference?
SEC. PANELO: I was not there but I was given a text message to announce it.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, was it a unanimous recommendation among all those who were sought—
SEC. PANELO: Yes – DILG, PNP as well as the National Security and National Defense advisers.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, you have a statement already, pero for soundbyte purposes lang, iyong asylum seekers in San Francisco I think, iyong Flores couple.
SEC. PANELO: Ah! We highly doubt the reason given by the lawyer of the couple. News reports say that the couple went there in year 2000 to visit relatives and to do some sightseeing. But due to the political turmoil relative to the ouster of the former President Erap Estrada, the relatives advised them to stay and subsequently thereafter, they overstayed.
And my take is that the lawyer of the couple must have advised them to use this strategy of attending political rallies, issuing statements as a predicate to shield them from being deported. In other words, they are trying to circumvent immigration laws of the United States.
For one, their names are unknown as political activists. For another, this government has not charged any person, whether journalist or critic who have criticized the government or the President. Those who did and facing criminal prosecution are those found to be violating criminal laws and the administrative and judicial officers found probable cause thereof.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, I’m sure the Palace is aware of the recent kidnapping incident in Makati. Mayroon po bang utos si President Duterte to look into the situation?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know if the President has seen the video, but even if he has not, the PNP would be investigating the same and will pursue the people behind the kidnapping.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Has the PNP given updates to the Palace on what really happened; who are involved—
SEC. PANELO: I have not received any info yet on that.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, following the incident, kasi nag-viral iyong video on social media. Marami na ang natatakot. What is the Palace’ message to the people who are scared to go out on the streets?
SEC. PANELO: Well, they should always be alert whenever they are out and be conscious around them. If they see any suspicious men or women lurking around, they should report it immediately to the police authorities.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Okay, sir. Sir, considering that the people are afraid to go out into the streets, what does it says about the security situation in the country as well as the administration’s promise to the people that the government will be keeping the streets safe for everyone?
SEC. PANELO: I think that particular incident is isolated. I have not heard of any kidnapping cases reported whether by the media or by word of mouth – except for that video that went viral.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So as far as the government is concerned, it is still very safe to go out?
SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely. You must remember that the index on crimes has decreased considerably. In fact, that’s why in Mindanao there is no need for the extension of martial law.
Oh incidentally, we would like to express our condolences to the family of Leo Obligar who is known to be one of the staunchest defenders of the President. His son, also a broadcaster, Jimmy Obligar, very young at the age of 50 passed away last night because of the cancer of the bone. Actually they are personal friends of mine way, way back. I just received word from the father.
RIA FERNANDEZ/TV 5: Sir, just a comment from the Palace about the Ombudsman’s motu propio investigation on the SEA Games issues. Sabi po ni Ombudsman [Samuel Reyes] Martires the investigation will include PHISGOC even if it’s a private foundation and even its Chairman Speaker Alan Cayetano?
SEC. PANELO: I think the Ombudsman is responding to the reports of certain irregularities and that is the task of the Ombudsman, it can initiate on its own or motu propio to investigate any complaint of irregularities even without a complainant complaining before it. And I think Speaker Alan Cayetano welcomes it, he issued a statement to that effect.
RIA FERNANDEZ/TV 5: Sir, just a follow up. May statement din ba si Presidente Rodrigo Duterte about this? He earlier said that—the Palace earlier said that Speaker Cayetano still enjoys the full trust and confidence of the President.
SEC. PANELO: Well, you know President Duterte is a lawyer; and we lawyers always give the presumption of innocence to everyone accused of any crime or irregularity. So until such time as evidence to the contrary is given us or given the President, the same presumption of innocence is accorded to him or to anyone.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: Sir, regarding the President’s statement yesterday. That he wants to talk first with the concessionaires and the former lawyers of the government regarding the concession agreements. Do we have any schedule already and if ever, puwede po ba iyon, iyong mga lawyers ng government before, that was 1997 and 2000 under President Gloria Arroyo iyong tungkol doon sa—
SEC. PANELO: I think they are still around, so I don’t think there is a problem.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: So meron na bang possible schedule kung kailan?
SEC. PANELO: Wala pa siyang sinasabi. And since he announced it only last night, eh di gagawan pa ng schedule iyon.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: Pero if ever, what would be the specific questions or ano iyong gustong malaman ng President regarding that—
SEC. PANELO: Siguro, obviously gusto niyang malaman bakit kayo pumayag ng ganitong provisions sa inyo.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: And then may possibility na makasuhan sila or what, paano, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Di ba sabi niya, he will file economic sabotage to those involved… against all of them.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: How about, sir, doon sa mga former Presidents na kung saan nalagdaan iyong agreement?
SEC. PANELO: Against all nga eh, di everybody that is involved in the drafting and approving of that concessionaire agreement.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: So, puwede si former President Ramos and former President Arroyo. They could be included?
SEC. PANELO: If they are.
CELERINA MONTE/MLA SHIMBUN: They are what?
SEC. PANELO: If they are part of the conspiracy. But if they are not, they cannot be included.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, can we confirm reports na cancelled na daw po iyong extension ng concession agreement with the water concessionaires. Is there a truth to those reports?
SEC. PANELO: I have not received any info on that.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero as far as the Palace is concerned, can the government nullify or cancel the extension agreement considering hindi naman na-satisfied ang government for the services of the water concessionaires?
SEC. PANELO: As we have said, there will be legal options to be availed of, depende. Pinag-aaralan nga di ba ng DOJ.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: And that is one of the options, sir?
SEC. PANELO: First, the plan is those onerous provisions should be removed; that’s one. Number two, with respect to the award, arbitration award in Singapore, we intend to file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Singapore or if they will enforce it in the Philippines by filing a petition, in our lower courts then we will oppose it.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero as far as the extension, sir, is concerned, extension to 2037 yata?
SEC. PANELO: Eh wala pa. Unang-una, we are against the extension because it has not even expired, mayroon na kaagad extension – we find that anomalous.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So can the government nullify considering na na-sign na siya, sir, during the middle—
SEC. PANELO: We have to file a case in court.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So the government will file a case in court?
SEC. PANELO: That’s one of the options being studied by the DOJ.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Last na lang, sir. Pero legally speaking, can the government do that?
SEC. PANELO: Of course. We can always file rescission if the agreement is contrary to public policy, public interest, public health, public safety.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir, sakaling mapatunayan po na onerous iyon pong mga provisions doon sa water concession agreements, sino po ang magti-takeover para lang hindi matigil iyong serbisyo? Will the government takeover or another private concessionaire, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko pa alam. But kung walang iba, eh di initially the government muna. And most likely after that, there will be biddings for a private company to takeover.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Do you think, sir, the threat of the President to file economic sabotage against these water distributors will affect future deals?
SEC. PANELO: In so far as the parties who will be substituting for the old ones, there will be put to notice that they cannot do anything that will be contrary to the interest of the Filipino people.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Sir, may utos ba ang Pangulo na mag-file, Department of Justice or any government agencies, sa Supreme Court para ma-review o mapag-usapan iyong concession agreement?
SEC. PANELO: Ganito iyon ‘no, the President wants the onerous provisions removed. If that can be done without going to the courts, then we have no problem. But if it cannot be done, then we have to go to the court.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Pero sa ngayon po ay wala pang inuutusan ang Pangulo na go to the Supreme Court and file a case against—
SEC. PANELO: Wala pa. Hindi ba sabi niya kagabi, I want to talk first to these people involved, the lawyers. ‘Di ba iyon ang sabi niya kagabi?
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Good afternoon po, Spox. Sir, question lang po, clarification. You said po na makikipag-usap po si Presidente sa mga water concessionaires dahil po gusto niya pong i-work out iyong onerous provisions with them? Iyon po ba iyong purpose ng—
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, hindi ko sinabi iyon. Unang-una, hindi ako ang nagsabi noon. Si Presidente ang nagsabi noon, kinu-quote ko lang siya.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Okay. So iyon po ang purpose ng meeting, sir, to work the—
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko rin alam ang purpose. I’m just saying that siguro he wants to know why they allowed these provisions to be agreed upon by their principal.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: But how do we reconcile iyong statements ni President na hindi siya open sa compromise? May initial statement po siya na parang ayaw niya ng compromise, sir, then later on—
SEC. PANELO: Ibig sabihin noon, iyong compromise, with respect to the onerous provision. Hindi siya papayag na nandoon pa rin iyon o isa o dalawa nandoon. Lahat ng onerous ayaw niya; kailangan matanggal iyon.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: So sa pakikipag-usap with the water concessionaires, sir, makikipag-compromise ba si President or not?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi nga, sinabi niya na nga ‘no compromise’ eh. Alam ninyo, I was—I think the concessionaires will have to agree: First, eh kumita na sila nang malaki. Several years na napakalaking…malaki na ang kinitang …matagal na eh. So many years na, so hindi na sila siguro lugi doon.
USEC. ROCKY: Mag-last question na tayo kay Joseph?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Just so, sir, it comes from you. What are these onerous provisions?
SEC. PANELO: One, during the lifetime of the contract. If for any reason that there are businesses losses then we will have to pay for their losses; number two, we cannot interfere in fixing the rates, the water rates; number three, we find it anomalous that the agreement is being extended even prior to the expiration of the same.
USEC. ROCKY: Joseph?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: If these are removed, then they stay?
SEC. PANELO: I think so.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: You mentioned that—assuming na the government will first takeover and then open it up to other private companies, hindi ba nagse-set lang si Presidente ng tone to allow another company to…
SEC. PANELO: Not necessarily, the original can always bid. It’s open to all. But if they already agree, eh bakit mo pa papalitan kung nag-agree na sila?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Alright, sir. Thank you.
USEC. ROCKY: Julie?
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, after say ma-review ‘yung contract at let’s say matanggal ‘yung onerous provisions and then makasuhan ng economic sabotage ‘yung dalawang water concessionaires, will the government be banning these two water concessionaires from ever entering into any agreement with the government regarding water distribution?
SEC. PANELO: ‘Yan ang hindi ko alam. I cannot answer that now, I will have to ask the President.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.
USEC. ROCKY: Mag-last question na tayo—I mean, follow-up ba?
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, if the water concessionaires agree to scrap the supposed onerous provisions, will the President not push through with his plans to sue them?
SEC. PANELO: You know, when the crime has been committed, even if you return, there is still a crime. And the President is mandated to enforce the law and the law said any transgression will have to be prosecuted.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Thank you.
USEC. ROCKY: Okay. Last question, Bernadette.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, on the three-day deadline that the President imposed on tax—‘yung mga hindi po nagbabayad ng tax liabilities na mga POGOs, sir? May update po ba dun, sir? May extension po ba ng deadline or ano na pong bagong statement ni President on three-day deadline sa POGO, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Wala pa akong info on that, I’ll have to ask him.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Okay, sir. Thank you.
USEC. ROCKY: Okay. Sorry, last question, Joseph.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, si Secretary Año and also si Defense Secretary Lorenzana have already said na they will not recommend a ceasefire with the Reds. Is that the Palace or is it also the President’s position – not to impose or declare a ceasefire?
SEC. PANELO: I do not—I will have to ask the President. What the President wants is open the peace talks but Mr. Sison appears to be not open to it because according to him, if it is done in Manila, they are open to arrest and surveillance. And my take on that is that if you’re really sincere, it doesn’t matter where the venue is when you hold the talks. Certainly, there will be no arrest.
USEC. ROCKY: Okay. Joseph? Okay. Thank you, MPC! Thank you, Secretary Panelo.
Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)