MODERATOR: Good afternoon Malacañang Press Corps, kasama na po natin ngayon si Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson, Secretary Salvador Panelo. Any statement, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, MPC.
The Palace welcomes as it respects the decision rendered by Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City on the decade-long case where 58 individuals, 32 of whom were media workers were assassinated in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November 23, 2009.
The court has spoken and rendered its decision based on evidence presented by both the Prosecution and the Defense. There were verdicts of guilty and of acquittal. It behooves the parties to respect them. There are those who view the judgment as justice having prevailed; there are others who have contrary views. Those who disagree with the judgments of the Court have legal remedies under their disposal.
Ultimately, it will be the Supreme Court that will give the final judgment. For now, what is important is that the rule of law has prevailed. We reiterate that the participation of the Executive Branch, considering that the case was pending for adjudication before another independent branch of the government – the Judiciary, is defined by virtue of the principle of separation of powers with regard to this suit.
Despite the aforesaid, we wish to commend our executive officials who were either involved in the case as prosecutors or who were heavily interested in its outcome as protectors of press freedom and human rights for ensuring that the propriety and the integrity of the proceedings were upheld.
The Maguindanao Massacre marks a dark chapter in recent Philippine history that represents merciless disregard for the sacredness of human life as well as the violent suppression of press freedom. This savage affront to human rights should never have a duplication in this country’s history.
The incident is one of the factors the prompted the President to anchor his presidency on the preservation and maintenance of law and order in the entire country. With utmost regard to the right of press freedom, the President issued his first administrative order, Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2016, which sought the protection of members of the media from any act of violence, threat or intimidation by among others creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.
While the promulgation of judgment of the case is done, the narrative on the protection of media workers however is far from over. The President, the whole of government see this as a constant trial; it is therefore still hard at work in building a nation where wanton acts of violence can be prevented so that any intention to threaten our democracy will not prosper even at its inception. The Chief Executive assures us of his absolute obedience to the constitutional command to serve and to protect the Filipino people even at the sacrifice of his life, liberty and honor.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, what does it say about the government’s protection of the press freedom sir? Does it have any implication? What has this showed in terms of impunity and those kinds stuff?
SEC. PANELO: Well, it means that the government and for that matter any government will have to do its utmost to protect those who not only uphold press freedom but exercise the same.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, what was the President’s reaction to the decision of the QC RTC?
SEC. PANELO: I haven’t talked to him. I don’t know if he is already awake by that time because that is his sleeping time.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, hindi po inabangan ni Presidente iyong promulgation?
SEC. PANELO: Eh iyon ang sleeping time niya eh, how can he… Last night we were so late again. He was so tired. I’ve noticed him he was very tired because there were 3 events, past midnight na naman kami natapos.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero despite this sir, how do you think the President—or how does the President regard itong araw na ito? How historic this—
SEC. PANELO: Well, as we said in the statement, he welcomes that decision. You know, what is important to this President being a lawyer is that the rule of law will always prevail. We cannot be ruled by lynch mob.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, how will this contribute to the legacy of the President knowing that the decision was handed down during his term?
SEC. PANELO: How will it what?
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Contribute to the legacy that he will leave behind.
SEC. PANELO: Well you know, I don’t know about that. As I said earlier, there are—this is a different branch that acted on the case and as we are repeating that this President never interferes with any of the co-equal branch of government. What is important to him is whatever constitutional task is given to every branch – any of the three branches – will have to be obeyed. And as far as he is concerned, the command of the Constitution to him to serve and to protect the people, he will always follow not only to the letter but even at the risk and sacrifice of his life, liberty and honor as he repeatedly says in every opportunity he has to the Filipino people.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, when we discussed this Maguindanao Massacre promulgation I think last Tuesday, you said that you have not talked about the pending promulgation with the President at that time.
SEC. PANELO: No…
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: But then yesterday, were you able to discuss the scheduled promulgation today?
SEC. PANELO: No. What was discussed was the water issue.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Sir, can we have like a gauge of how interested the President is—
SEC. PANELO: I’ll ask him. I’ll ask him when we meet to today.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: But before, noong mayor pa siya ng Davao when it happened, are you aware kung ano iyong level of interest niya sa Maguindanao massacre noong mayor pa lang siya?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t remember we’re talking about it.
Q: Secretary, just curious, as a former counsel of the Ampatuans, what are your thoughts? Just curious about that – what are your thoughts about the—?
SEC. PANELO: As I said in the previous hearing, whatever I say might be misinterpreted so I’d rather not. I’ll just let … as I said, the court has decided and we have to respect.
Q: I think there are statements from the other side saying they are planning to appeal – iyong ruling?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the remedies, as I’ve said in my statement, are all available to all of them. In all cases, those who disagree will have to raise that before higher courts. And ultimately, it’s the Supreme Court that will have to render final judgment.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, you mentioned something about you guys discussing the water concessionaire agreements last night?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Any updates, any announcements?
SEC. PANELO: Still the same position he made earlier.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Will there be a meeting or talagang wala na iyon, sir – with the executives?
SEC. PANELO: Last night, I think he repeated that he still wants to talk with those who are involved – the lawyers of the government, the private lawyers. He said, ‘I still want to hear why they allowed this kind of treason against the interest of the Filipino people.’
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And these are the government lawyers, the senators who—
SEC. PANELO: Private lawyers – whoever, who were involved during those times.
Q: [OFF MIC]
SEC. PANELO: At that time.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Were there’s company officials, sir?
SEC. PANELO: With the people involved, all the people involved.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So he wants to meet with the executives of Maynilad and Manila Water?
SEC. PANELO: Wala siyang sinabing he wants. Basta sinabi niya, ‘I want to know the reason why they allowed this kind of provision.’
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. You said he will be going to announce something.
SEC. PANELO: Sabi niya, he will either rise or fall with this issue – inulit niya iyon eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Anong ia-announce sa January 6?
SEC. PANELO: Aba eh, sabi niya hindi siya papayag na walang mangyari sa kaso na ito.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: When he says that what does he mean?
SEC. PANELO: Let’s wait. He said he will make an important announcement of January 6.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But that announcement is ready already ‘no, you’re just waiting for the January 6?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t know kung ano. Siguro idi-discuss pa sa Cabinet.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Announcement regarding with the?
SEC. PANELO: Whatever – whatever, regarding the water issue.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Sec., when the President said he will rise or fall with regard to the water issue, what did he exactly mean by that?
SEC. PANELO: Actually, those are my words – will rise or fall.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Okay, okay.
SEC. PANELO: Parang ang pagkasabi niya, ‘I do not whether I will survive this. But I will not allow this to happen’ – parang iyon ang sabi niya. I think what he meant is, he will not step out of the presidency without resolving this issue – iyon ang ibig niyang sabihin.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Will the meeting with the company officials and state lawyers involved in the water concession deals happen before January 6?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. That I do not know.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Kasi he plans to make an announcement on January 6, so hindi ba parang mas logical iyong usapan bago iyong …
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. Hindi ko alam. I’m not sure of that.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: But can you give us a general picture of what he will say? At least iyong … is it about contracts? Is it about …
SEC. PANELO: I think you can be assured that the stand of the President remains unchanged – kung ano ang mga sinabi niya noon, iyon pa rin.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Will it be a major policy shift or rescinding contracts or what?
SEC. PANELO: I will not preempt the President, because I asked permission to issue, sabi niya, “Huwag muna.”
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Okay. Salamat, Sec.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, during the President’s speech sa AFP Anniversary noong Tuesday, the President lumped the New People’s Army with the Abu Sayyaf Group and other terrorists. He also ordered the soldiers to crush the NPA para matapos na ang problema ng mga Pilipino. So does that mean that the government will no longer pursue peace talks with the communist group?
SEC. PANELO: Not necessarily because the President, as we always hears him, he always leaves a space, the window ajar for any peace negotiation with them. But he will not allow the attacks, the assaults against our forces that is why if they attempt to that, the order is to crush them.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So tuloy pa rin, sir? What is the status po of our efforts to revive peace talks with the CPP-NPA?
SEC. PANELO: According to Joma Sison, if it’s here, he doesn’t want it. But as far as we are concerned, if you are sincere, venue is not important.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, the government has been questioning the sincerity of the CPP-NPA into going to peace talks with the government. Itong sinabi ni Presidente to crush the NPA, as well iyong iba pang mga kalaban ng gobyerno, what does it say about the sincerity of the government into negotiating with the communist groups?
SEC. PANELO: The President has always been sincere. He always opens talks. But the problem with the other side is they keep on attacking our forces. So you cannot be standing, sitting idly and watch them terrorize or kill our own people, kaya ayaw niya iyon. Pero despite that, ‘Ako ay open pa rin kung gusto ninyong makipag-usap, usap tayo.’
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Sir, follow up lang doon sa question ni … how about sa unilateral ceasefire with the Reds sir, nakapagbigay na ba ang AFP ng ano kay Pangulo kung may ceasefire?
SEC. PANELO: Well, as far as I know, ayaw nila. Hindi ba mayroon na silang statement na ayaw nila ng unilateral ceasefire.
Q: So that will be followed by the President, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ba usually he follows the recommendation of the people on the ground. He has not made any comment on that so I suppose …
Q: Will he be giving an official declaration, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. I’ll ask him.
MODERATOR: Other questions, MPC? Yes, Joyce.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, baka lang po may comment kayo. Isang documentary ng NatGeo ang na-shortlist sa Oscars and it tackles about the war on drugs. Sir, ‘yung excerpt nung synopsis it covers both sides of the conflict, “Nightcrawlers reveals a harrowing twist behind Duterte’s deadly crusade.”
SEC. PANELO: Uhm.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: It’s about what they tag as the deadly crusade of President Duterte. Shortlisted sa Oscars po.
SEC. PANELO: Sa Oscars?
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Yes, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Well, it’s an independent body of international experts on cinematic film. So, we’d rather not—it’s not our turf then let them judge on the basis of whatever standards or guidelines they have imposed on them.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Yes Julie, follow-up or other question?
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, the documentary is about the President’s drug war and it’s about photographers and journalists following the drug war at night; basically, ‘yung mga napapatay. Given that it’s been shortlisted for the Oscars, how does the Palace feel about this? Does it mean that credible ‘yung whatever claims are made in the documentary or are you okay with it being shortlisted in an international body?
SEC. PANELO: I think the judgment on a particular movie or film is based on certain criteria, not necessarily the truth. It’s how you depict how the producers do their films. Iba naman ang—hindi ba pareho rin niyan gaya ng mga fiction, may nananalo hindi naman totoo. So I don’t think it has something… it has any relevance.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: You’re not bothered at all?
SEC. PANELO: Eh, Oscar is movie ‘yun eh! Mayroon din tayong docu, ‘di ba? We have our own docu. For all we know baka makapasok din ‘yun ‘pag ‘yun inilabas.
MODERATOR: Other questions? Yes, Prince?
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: Sir, good morning! Sir, can I just get your reaction to the PCIJ article sir on the President’s SALN. The article read: “Cabinet officials interviewed by the PCIJ say that it would have been best if the President had agreed to release his 2018 SALN.” “The optics are really bad,” says one official, “the negative perception will be there that perhaps he is hiding something.” “The problem is napikon ‘ata.” Another official agrees that the President’s refusal to release his SALN could indeed be misconstrued as giving the lie to his own FOI edict.
SEC. PANELO: I think that issue have been raised during the last press briefing and I have already responded to them. I will not repeat them.
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: Sir, is there a need for a loyalty check sir on the President’s Cabinet?
SEC. PANELO: I said, I will not repeat what I said. I have responded to those queries earlier.
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Other question? Other issue? Yes, Nestor.
NESTOR CORRALES/INQUIRER.NET: Secretary, may I just have your reaction? The US House of Representatives has formally impeached President Donald Trump on charges that he abused the power of his office for his political advantage.
SEC. PANELO: In the same way that we react on any intrusion into the processes of our government, we’d rather not make any comment on that. Other than saying that in the same way that impeachment in this country is decided on the basis of party affiliations, eh siguro ganun din sila.
NESTOR CORRALES/INQUIRER.NET: Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Follow-up? Other issue?
CATHERINE VALENTE/MANILA TIMES: Sir, can we get the Palace’s reaction on a pre-election survey showing that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and President Duterte emerged as the top bets for President and Vice President po for the Visayas and Mindanao voters in 2020? So, ano pong—
SEC. PANELO: I’m not surprised! That has been done before in the City of Davao when both of them ran as Mayor and Vice Mayor.
CATHERINE VALENTE/MANILA TIMES: But, sir is the President willing to run again for another national post?
SEC. PANELO: Whether he wants to run again, that’s his call; but that has been the emerging… idea.
MPC: [OFF MIC] (UNCLEAR)
SEC. PANELO: Amongst people that there should be a Duterte-Duterte tandem in the next Presidential Elections. The President is not prohibited from running as Vice President.
CATHERINE VALENTE/MANILA TIMES: Pero sir, is the President aware of this Duterte-Duterte tandem for 2020 Elections?
SEC. PANELO: I told him last night and he smiled.
CATHERINE VALENTE/MANILA TIMES: Sir, is there a possibility na pakinggan niya ang clamor of the people to run again?
SEC. PANELO: If you speak of possibilities then it’s limitless. Lahat puwede, puwede lahat ‘yan.
MODERATOR: Okay. Follow-up first.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, pero ‘di ba laging sinasabi ni Pangulo pagod na siya, gusto na niyang magpahinga. So—
SEC. PANELO: Eh ‘di ba noon ayaw din niyang tumakbong Presidente?
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: So, therefore sir, even if pagod na siya—
SEC. PANELO: So depende siguro. If circumstances require him to run, he might… he might.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: He might brush off his pagod?
SEC. PANELO: He might. He might. Eh, dati na nga siyang pagod ‘di ba? Nung tumabo siya ayaw na niya eh, ang dami na nga niyang reklamo eh.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, puwede lang pakibuo lang natin ‘yung statement?
SEC. PANELO: Na ano?
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Na even if he’s complaining that he is tired, he’s not gonna stay a minute longer—
SEC. PANELO: Let me put it this way.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Okay.
SEC. PANELO: Election is very far from his mind. Running for any office is farfetched at this time. He’s focus on his constitutional duty to serve and to protect the people, until the day of his term he will do it with passion, with dedication and no force on earth or organizations or persons can stop or impede him from doing such tasks assigned to him by the Constitution.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: But even if elections are from his mind at this point, what circumstances might push him to run for Vice President with his daughter?
SEC. PANELO: Those are speculations so we will not respond to speculative queries.
Q: Sec, ‘yung last time natanong ka namin about ‘yung plans ni Presidente for the holidays?
SEC. PANELO: Sabi niya, he will just be with his family, with his grandchildren as he usually do.
Q: He could be working sa 24, 25 or bahay lang po raw siya?
SEC. PANELO: Eh, siguro. ‘Di ba last time ganun din ang ginawa niya? May mga lumabas na pictures ‘yung nilalaro niya lang ‘yung mga apo niya. Siguro ganun din.
MODERATOR: Okay. No more questions, MPC? Thank you very much, Secretary Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Thank you.
Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)