Press Briefing

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

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Bldg., Malacanang

USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good afternoon MPC, kasama na natin si Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, MPC. Anong pangalan ni Umali, iyong kasama natin kagabi? Si Mariz… na-tsismis na kaagad ako eh. Pinag-uusapan na kaninang umaga nila Arnold iyong… pati iyong sa apo na… iyong toys, pati iyong bisikleta, pati iyong… kung anu-anong ispekulasyon eh. Funny [laughs]… Mariz talaga… ‘Di ba GMA siya? O, sa kaniya nanggaling iyon. Anyway, thank you Dr. Mark Anthony Imperial, he attended to me, magaling.

Anyway, we would like to confirm… the President directed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin of the Foreign Affairs to send the notice of termination to the US government last night. And the Executive Secretary sent the message to Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin and the latter signed the notice of termination and then sent to the US government today.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Good afternoon, sir. Sir, can you please educate us when will the notification process start, iyong countdown?

SEC. PANELO: Hundred eighty days from the receipt of the notice of termination.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, iyong notice will be sent directly to Washington or what…?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t know exactly, basta US government.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Okay.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, yesterday there was this pronouncement of the President that the President of the United States is trying to save iyong termination of the VFA. Can you elaborate/expound on that, please?

SEC. PANELO: Perhaps there have been some emissaries sent to the President about the desire of the President of the US.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Iyong usapan ho hindi between the President of the United States and President Duterte?

SEC. PANELO: No, no. They haven’t talked. They haven’t talked yet.

HENRY URI/DZRH: So when you say ‘emissaries,’ that includes…?

SEC. PANELO: So most likely it is coming from the people from the US Embassy. I’m not—actually I’m not sure about that. I’m just taking a cue from the President’s remarks.

HENRY URI/DZRH: But ang sigurado po—

SEC. PANELO: I was calling Ambassador Babes Romualdez, he returned my call but I wasn’t able to get it. I was—I returned his calls pero mukhang tulog na.

HENRY URI/DZRH: So ang sigurado, hindi pa nag-uusap si President Trump at si President Duterte?

SEC. PANELO: Ah definitely. Hindi pa, hindi pa nag-uusap.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Thank you.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, just to clarify. Iyong after 180 days, as far as the Palace is concerned it’s terminated? Ganoon ba iyon, is that the completion of the process?

SEC. PANELO: No, the notice of termination has been sent and the effectivity of that would be 180 days from the receipt of the US government of such notice.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, I’m not sure but isn’t there a need for the US to also respond and maybe react first or is it a unilateral decision—

SEC. PANELO: No. From what I read from the agreement, there is no need for that. There is no response needed.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: So we can—the President can terminate it unilaterally by himself?

SEC. PANELO: Yes. But the effective date would be 180 days from receipt of the receiver – the US government.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Okay. Sir, nagkaroon po ng briefing si US Department of State Assistant Secretary Clarke Cooper. He said that there is a scheduled strategic dialogue next month, in March; supposedly tatalakayin din po doon iyong VFA. And a part of his quote from the interview said that, “There is no decision yet.” What do you say to that—about iyong termination?

SEC. PANELO: That has been overrun by the fact of sending of the notice of termination.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: So, will we still be sending a team or people doon sa sinasabing dialogue?

SEC. PANELO: That I do not know. We will have to ask the Secretary of Foreign Affairs about that.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Thank you, sir.

FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Sir, good afternoon po. Sir, pahayag lang po sa sinabi ni Senator Ralph Recto na paano ho paghahandaan ng Pilipinas in case na iyong mga ayuda na binibigay ng US—

SEC. PANELO: Paano, ano?

FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Paano ho paghahandaan ng Philippine government iyong—in case na iyong mga ayuda na binibigay sa Philippine military eh maglaho na iyon, ano ang magiging second option ng Pilipinas? Kasi katulad niyan, sa April, May nagkakaroon ho tayo ng mga… iyong mga Amerikano rito, nagkakaroon po ng training through Balikatan. Ano hong magiging next option ng government po?

SEC. PANELO: Well, from what I gather from the Secretary of National Defense, one of the countries—or one country has already has offered to enter into another agreement. So mayroon din namang mga ibang bansa na nag-o-offer; but as the President said, it’s about time we rely on our own resources. We have to strengthen our own capability as a country relative to the defense of our land. Iyon ang pinakaano ni Presidente, mahirap iyong we keep on relying, lalo tayong humihina.

FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Iyong mga previous statements sir ni DND Secretary Lorenzana, in case hindi po Amerika, we will be open more sa training with, tama ho ba China possibly or Russia po ba na—

SEC. PANELO: Ang narinig ko UK. Parang UK ang narinig ko.

FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Saan po magsesentro iyong training, sir? Counter terrorism?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam, basta iyon ang narinig ko.

FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Thank you, Sec.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: So, with this development, how do you see or how does the Palace see the bilateral relationship with the US? How will it—

SEC. PANELO: It remains warm, hopefully it could be warmer.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Why do you say that, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Why? Because I’ve been noticing that who have been critical of the US government policies have been given the preferential attention of the US government. ‘Pag nababanatan sila, sinusuyo nila; iyong mga kakampi nila eh, inaapi nila. Parang ganoon ang dating eh.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Pero, sir it seems—based on your statements that the President has already decided this on the issue of the sovereignty, invoking the sovereignty of the Philippines. Ano bang ways na puwedeng hintayin natin or signs from the US para maiba iyong environment?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Kasi palaging si Presidente sinasabi niya, ‘if we have to deal with other countries, we have to deal on the basis of equality and fairness.’ Hindi pa pala—hindi pupuwedeng one sided lang ang agreement. Iyon ang palaging sinasabi ni Presidente.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Clarification Secretary. Kasi iyong sinayt ninyong reasons for scrapping the VFA, kasama doon iyong demand to release Senator De Lima. But the demand came from senators, from lawmakers, eh separate po di ba ang Congress from the executive—

SEC. PANELO: Even then, still that’s the voice of US government speaking to us through an equal branch of the three branches of government in the US.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Kasi, di ba unusual kung kailan mas friendly iyong US President kay Philippine President, eh ngayon nagde-decide iyong Pangulo na—

SEC. PANELO: The friendship is more on the personal basis not on the relations between the two countries.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Pero may nagawa ba iyong US Executive branch that offended our President to merit such—

SEC. PANELO: I think so, banning by the immigration authorities Senator—or rather cancelling his US visa of Senator Bato is an executive function not the Senate of the US, immigration iyon eh, executive iyon.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Although I think in previous interview parang sinabi ni President Duterte, hindi siya naniniwala na President Trump was behind that, if I remember it right.

SEC. PANELO: He may not be behind it, but it’s the executive department – immigration authorities pa rin.

Q: Sir, paano po iyong pag-review ng Senado dito sa VFA, bale wala na rin po ba iyon, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Bale wala?

Q: Opo, iyong pag-review ng Senado?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman. Kasi mabuti nga iyong nire-review nila para we will know from their point of view if indeed we have been disadvantaged in entering into this agreement, so that future agreements will be based on fairness, mutual benefits to both agreeing nations.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: Sir, iyong ibang military agreements po natin with the US, will the Palace like a review of that as well, like the MDT, EDCA? Kasi sabi ninyo, sir, ‘to see if disadvantageous to the government.’

SEC.PANELO: That is what the Senate said, they will be reviewing all these agreements.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: How about the Palace, sir?

SEC.PANELO: Since nire-review nila iyan, we will just… siguro wait and listen to them, their recommendation.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: Okay, sir. And then sir you said na iyong UK, nag-offer?

SEC.PANELO: Hindi, parang narinig ko kay Secretary Delfin Lorenzana na may mga countries na nag-o-offer and one of them is UK.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: How about China and Russia, sir?

SEC.PANELO: He didn’t mention that.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: But sir at this point, is the government interested into entering into a VFA with other countries?

SEC.PANELO: Basta palaging pabor sa atin, basta kung mutual benefit to both countries, we are open. But the President—again, I will repeat, he said it’s about time we rely on ourselves. We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.

ARIANNE MEREZ/ABS-CBN.NEWS. COM: Okay, sir. Pero may na-mention na po ba, sir, si President Duterte na countries that he is looking into entering to an agreement?

SEC.PANELO: Wala, wala siyang binabanggit. Eh siya nga eh, sa kanya parang ayaw nga niyang mag-enter di ba. From the way he talks, parang tayo na lang muna, wag na tayong masyadong umasa diyan sa ibang bansa. But of course if the agreement would benefit us, I’m sure we will be open.

VANZ FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Sir, what happen to EDCA and Mutual Defense Treaty with the revocation of VFA?

SEC. PANELO: Iyon nga ang pag-aaralan ng Senado di ba, so they will study how the cancellation of VFA will affect the other agreements.

GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, last night the President said na he was unaware if there are nuclear arms brought in by the Americans in the country. Will the government now consider conducting an accounting of these arms and check if indeed there are nuclear weapons brought in by the Americans?

SEC. PANELO: I suppose that goes without saying.

GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Do we have the capacity to detect these arms inside the country?

SEC. PANELO: I will have to ask the Secretary of National Defense.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: But what prompted the President to say that—iyong claims niya, what is the basis?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t know, I will ask him.

TINA MENDEZ: Sir, iyong minention ninyo nung Friday na possible phone call between President Trump and President Duterte matutuloy pa ba?

SEC. PANELO: Iyan ang hindi ko alam. Hindi natin alam. If there is initiative on the part of the US, baka kausapin ni Presidente; as of this time, hindi ko alam.

VANZ FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Is there an official memo on the study of travel ban to the US for Cabinet secretaries?

SEC. PANELO: What do you mean study? There is a prohibition given to the Cabinet members not to travel to the US by the President, and we support that.

VANZ FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: So there is no memo, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Wala.

VANZ FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Are you going to have a memo for the Cabinet secs?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi na, pumayag na nga kami ‘di ba. Hindi na kailangan iyon. Kapag sinabi ni Presidente, okay na iyon.

USEC. IGNACIO: Sir, mayroong tanong si Jocelyn Montemayor: May we ask for comment po on Taiwan’s call for the Philippines to lift travel ban on the Taiwanese amid coronavirus?

SEC. PANELO: The travel ban, I understand, that included China was the basis of the World Health Organization including Taiwan as part of China. And since there’s a ban on China, necessarily, Taiwan being part of China is included. And we always follow the recommendation of the World Health Organization.

So if the World Health Organization says there is a need for lifting of the ban in any part of those already announced who have travel ban, then we will… I suppose, do so.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So for now, the ban stays?

SEC. PANELO: For now, yes, of course. Until the World Health Organization makes any announcement, and the Department of Health recommend to the President.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So why are we retaining the ban? Because it’s a precautionary measure?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, always for the safety of our countrymen.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Iyong reaction daw po doon sa pag-drop ng sedition charges against Vice President Robredo, and parang na-indict din yata si former Senator Trillanes and ten others?

SEC. PANELO: Well, as a matter of policy: The President does not interfere in any proceeding involving the departments.

If that is the finding of the Department of Justice, as he keeps on saying, “Let the law take its course.”

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: There are notions na iyong pag-clear kay Vice President Robredo daw is a sign na politicking lang daw iyong charges. Do you agree with that?

SEC. PANELO: You know, the prosecutors, those investigating prosecutors know their task – to find probable cause. If the evidence presented to them does not show there is, then they have no other alternative but to dismiss the case.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So no politics involved?

SEC. PANELO: We never engage with politics.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: What about your statement to those facing iyong charges right now, like si former Senator Trillanes?

SEC. PANELO: They have the opportunity to defend themselves. Again, the President says, let the law takes its course. There are remedies available to them; they should avail of them.

VANZ FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Sir, sinabi po ni Vice President Leni Robredo na pang-aabuso daw po itong pag-file ng quo warranto. So any reaction on this? And nananatili po ba ang stand ng ating Pangulo regarding iyong sinabi niya na talagang babawiin po or … itong sa ABS-CBN?

SEC. PANELO: We will repeat our position on the matter: The filing of a petition for quo warranto is on the initiative of the Solicitor General pursuant to his constitutional duty to file any action in court in the event of any… from his point of view, transgression of any law – that’s why he filed the case.

The President has nothing to do with it. Whatever utterances the President made in relation to ABS-CBN came from his displeasure of being a victim of fraud relative to his paying for his campaign commercial that never was aired. Now, those utterances fall within the freedom of expression, and we cannot deprive him of that given that the Constitution grants that to all citizens of the country.

We will leave it to the Supreme Court vis-à-vis that petition.

And let me say that the grant of a franchise falls exclusively within Congress. And even in the—because some people are saying, “Oh but the President can veto,” in the event that the renewal is given by the Congress and the President vetoes it. Again, the Constitution says that can be by a three-fourths vote or two-thirds.

Q: [OFF MIC]

SEC. PANELO: It can be overruled. In other words, from whatever angle you look at it, it’s Congress; it’s not the President.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, ang IBON Foundation ay nag-file po ng complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against three ranking government officials including PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Southern Luzon Command Chief Major General Antonio Perlade Jr. for red tagging. What is the Palace’s reaction?

SEC. PANELO: Again, we will let the law takes it course. The Ombudsman is an independent body, a constitutional body at that and it will perform its task.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: But for the side of Palace, do we deny that these individuals are involved in red tagging? Kasama po kasi si National Security Adviser sa respondents.

SEC. PANELO: We will again invoke the constitutional presumption of innocence and the presumption of regularity of performance of duty.

USEC. IGNACIO: No more question, MPC. Okay, thank you, Sec.

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