USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good afternoon MPC, kasama na natin si Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, MPC.
We wish to announce in connection with the alleged bribery scheme in the Bureau of Immigration. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has relieved all officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration who are allegedly involved in the latest bribery scheme where they purportedly facilitated the entry into or exit from Philippine territory of foreigners working for POGO or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators for an unauthorized fee. The President considers this as an anomaly which is defined – by either by media or from whatever – as ‘pastillas’ scheme, as a grave form of corruption which cannot and will never be countenanced by this government.
As we have repeatedly stressed, there are no sacred cows in this administration. Any official or employee who commits any wrongdoing, any transgression of the law in the performance of their respective duties will be meted with punishment that they deserve in accordance with our penal laws. The present situation in the Bureau of Immigration, as well as how the present Immigration Commissioner run it will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting. End of the announcement.
FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Sir, good afternoon po. What prompted the President na sibakin po iyong mga officials kasi during the previous—?
SEC. PANELO: He received reports and he found prima facie or probable cause.
FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Kasi iyong previous press conference sir kailangan may magrereklamo, may ebidensiya…
SEC. PANELO: Yes, may nagreklamo na nga sa kaniya eh. May nag-report sa kaniya, nagreklamo and apparently the proof constitutes probable cause that’s why they were sacked.
FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: So ano pong mangyayari doon sa mga officials, sir?
SEC. PANELO: They have been relieved of their post.
FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Ilan iyong total po, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Ah hindi ko alam, he didn’t mention to me last night how many basta those involved.
FRANCIS WAKEFIELD/DAILY TRIBUNE: Thank you, Sec.
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, you have mentioned that there was this probable cause. So who investigated and when will be the filing of formal complaints, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam, basta iyon ang pina-announce sa akin ni Presidente.
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So, pa-file-an sila ng kaso?
SEC. PANELO: Eh most likely.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, if they were relieved from their post, so floating lang sila, not necessarily dismissed?
SEC. PANELO: Eh relieved lang from the post ang sabi ni Presidente.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: So, may we know the ranks of these officials?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam, wala siyang binanggit. Basta sinabi niya na sabihin ko na they have been relieved… all those involved.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Okay, thank you sir.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, what will happen to Immigration Chief Morente? Kasama ba siya doon, sir?
SEC. PANELO: As I said, the present situation at the Bureau of Immigration, as well as how he ran the office, will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, does he still have the trust and confidence of the President?
SEC. PANELO: Until such time as the President makes any announcement.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Thank you, sir.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, what were the circumstances that led to the President’s decision on this? Was he dismayed/appalled at the corruption in the BI?
SEC. PANELO: As he said, he received reports and found probable cause that’s why he asked me to announce it.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: What was the extent of his anger sir, kasi he’s always been—?
SEC. PANELO: I didn’t say he’s angry. He just told me to announce that, “I’m relieving all officials and employees involved.”
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Pero did he say anything about this situation affecting his impression of Commissioner Morente?
SEC. PANELO: No, iyon lang ang aming usapan.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Okay, thank you sir.
TINA PANGANIBAN-PEREZ/GMA7: Sir, other issue po. Sir, Senator Lacson revealed that 80 billion pesos of congressional realignments have been held by the DBM for later release subject to conditions. Were there instructions from Malacañang to do this and can you give us more information on this, sir, the 80 billion pesos?
SEC. PANELO: I talked with the Budget Secretary we were both… I don’t know if he was representing someone in the wedding, I was also there. And he told me about it, he said that the 84 billion will not be released immediately but depending on the need for the release thereof. In other words, there will be a process.
TINA PANGANIBAN-PEREZ/GMA7: Opo. Sir, there were no instructions from Malacañang to do this?
GENALYN KABILING/MLA BULLETIN: Sir, Senator Drilon has filed resolution seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN. Is this a lawful sir, or should the company shut down if it loses its franchise?
SEC. PANELO: I already made a statement on that. I said, I can’t even understand why they cannot. If they are so minded to extend the franchise of any holder, all they can do is to pass a law, because if the expiration period comes, then it is expired. According to them, there has been a practice of extending the franchise. But the legality of that would be questionable. If somebody questions that before the Supreme Court, may problema sila diyan. But what is important is, the President said, they should do something about it. Meaning to say do their job. If there is a pending application before Congress, then members of Congress should deliberate on it and decide whether or not to grant or to deny the extension.
GENALYN KABILING/MLA BULLETIN: So, sir the President wants lawmakers to tackle the franchise bill?
SEC. PANELO: Not that he want. What he is saying is, because if you noticed commentaries tend to blame him for the impasse and he said, I don’t have anything to do with it. They should know my character by this time. I do not interfere with their work. Any utterance that I made before the public in relation to ABS-CBN is in connection with what I experienced with them during the elections. They cannot deny me of that.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Yesterday Senator Bong Go said in an interview, “mas lalo nating pinapatagal, mas lalong umiinit ang isyu, pag-usapan ninyo, ito naman ang proseso, pag-usapan ninyo then ipapadala dito sa Senado.” Is it also the sentiment of President Duterte that he wants Congress to tackle the franchise bills and then forward it immediately to senate?
SEC. PANELO: I just said earlier that as far as he is concerned, that issue is in the hands of Congress and he has nothing to do with it; do their work!
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, you have mentioned na if i-extend without nga iyong franchise, somebody could question the legality of that extension. So, would the government file any petition before the court to question if in case that happens?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for the SolGen to decide.
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So, it’s the discretion of the Solicitor General, so pupuwede.
SEC. PANELO: Yes, because that is his job. If he feels that there is any violation on any law, then he should do his job.
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: So most likely the tendency is to file, kasi you have mentioned that there seems to be a violation of the law?
SEC. PANELO: I didn’t say there seems to be a violation, there is doubt of whether that is legal or not. Now, whether or not, SolGen will initiate an action, you will have to ask him. That is his territory.
CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: But definitely not any, parang walang support from the Palace or Palace would push SolGen to do it.
SEC. PANELO: Again, I will repeat the policy of this President, he does not interfere with the heads of offices or agencies, they know their duties and he always say just do what the law tells you to do.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: So, Sec para lang malinaw, when you say do your job sa congress, what do you mean?
SEC. PANELO: What is the job of Congress? The job of Congress is to pass laws. The job of Congress is to investigate in aid of legislation any matter that affects the national interest and general welfare, that’s their job. One of their jobs is precisely to deliberate on whether or not to grant franchises or renew franchises.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: So, you are saying, you have to deliberate on whether to…?
SEC. PANELO: That’s their job. The President has nothing to do with it.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Yeah, pero you agree with Senator Go.
SEC. PANELO: That?
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: …Na pag-usapan na iyong prangkisa ng ABS-CBN.
SEC. PANELO: That is coming from the senate member himself. How can we even oppose any sentiment of any member of the Senate? In the first place, we do not have the authority to oppose, in the sense that it is not our territory, it’s their area of responsibility.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Okay, so it’s accurate to say, when you say do your job, you tackle the franchise bill.
SEC. PANELO: I don’t know what kind of bills they will tackle, what we are saying is, you know your duties; you don’t have to be prodded on to do your duties.
TRICIA: You mentioned that the President doesn’t interfere with the heads of the office, but didn’t his previous statements against ABS-CBN somehow have a chilling effect on the lawmakers or didn’t it somehow impact how they will act on the plea of ABS-CBN?
SEC. PANELO: No, if that is true, then these members of Congress would have not said, a lot of them, the remarks that we are for the grant. If your perception is correct, then nobody would have said we want ABS-CBN to continue. It means, there was no effect at all. They know that the President was making utterances in reference to his being a victim of fraud by the entity.
SAM MEDENILLA/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sir, balik lang po ako doon sa 80 billion na nabanggit.
SEC. PANELO: Eighty four.
SAM MEDENILLA/BUSINESS MIRROR: Eighty four billion. May nakita po ba iyong DBM na parang irregularities kaya nag-decide iyong DBM na to withhold muna po iyong release ng nasabing budget?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Kung may nakita silang irregularity eh di hindi na niya pinapasok iyon sa budget. Kaya lang, ang sinasabi niya, kung kailangan iyon, there is a need for that, then we have to include that in the budget but they have to pass certain processes.
SAM MEDENILLA/BUSINESS MIRROR: May nabanggit po kung kailan po planong i-release ng DBM—
SEC. PANELO: Depende nga, may process. I don’t know what processes they have to go through but there is a protocol for that. They have to pass through that.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: Sir, going back to ABS-CBN franchise. Sir, iyong franchise nila will expire on March 30.
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: Tapos Congress will—
SEC. PANELO: Pass a resolution.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: No, the Congress will adjourn by March 14. So they are running against time sa pagpasa ng batas. If walang maipasang resolution extending, hindi naaksiyunan iyong pending franchise ngayon, in your legal view, ano ba ang mangyayari? ABS-CBN should stop operations because they don’t have franchise?
SEC. PANELO: My legal view at this stage is not relevant.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: As Chief Presidential Legal Adviser, we’d like to hear your wise advice.
SEC. PANELO: Even then because we’re not—It’s the SolGen, it is the SolGen’s territory that will have to pass or to give an opinion on that. I will not want to preempt. When it reaches my table on official matter, then I will give my opinion.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: So what happen sir, kung mag-expire ng March 3o and mag-operate ang ABS-CBN ng April 1?
SEC. PANELO: Eh di nag-expire.
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: So iyong April 01 operations from then, is it illegal?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyon. Basta ang alam ko kapag nag-expire, expired; pareho rin ng opinion ng mga senador. Kaya nga sinasabi ko, “Eh ano bang … kayo ang mga miyembro ng Kongreso eh di kayo ang gumawa ng kaparaanan – trabaho ninyo iyan eh!”
TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: Tapos, sir, kunwari tumuloy ang ABS-CBN to operate by April 1, can the NTC act on jamming their signal para hindi mag-operate?
SEC. PANELO: I suppose the NTC knows its job. We don’t have to tell them what to do, and I don’t know what are they’re going to do.
Q: Sir, going back to the 84 billion. Nabanggit po ba sa inyo ni DBM Secretary kung bakit po for later release, kung bakit po hinold?
SEC. PANELO: Depende nga daw sa ano, sa needs … kung kailangan na. Kasi kung hindi mo naman daw isama iyong 84 billion, eh kailangan pala, saan ka kukuha, wala sa budget. Mas lalong may problema.
Q: Sir, tama po ba iyong sabi ni Senator Lacson na galing iyon sa Build, Build, Build projects, iyong mga ni-realign?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyon. Hindi ko na alam iyong detalyeng iyon.
TRISHA: Sir, regarding COVID-19. We’ve been asking DOH about this but they keep on—
SEC. PANELO: You’ve been asking who?
TRISHA: DOH, the Health Department about this but they’ve been deferring to the IATF or to the higher government. Do we have any plans already, concrete plans about the repatriation of 500 Filipinos in the MV Diamond Princess Cruise ship because other countries have already moved towards repatriating their citizens inside that ship? How about us, sir?
SEC. PANELO: From what I gathered from Secretary Duque, there are protocols already in place for that.
TRISHA: How about specific details? Did DOH mention any specific details as to when—
SEC. PANELO: Wala silang binanggit. Basta, “We’re ready,” sabi nila. It’s going on … ongoing. Hindi ko alam kung anong ongoing nila.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, previously, you’ve said that Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. Now, he is insinuating or saying that his life is under threat. Any move by the President or this administration to secure his life or to protect him?
SEC. PANELO: As I said in my statement, I don’t know who asked that and I made a statement that if that is the fear of Col. Espenido, then we cannot stop him from entertaining such apprehension. But the President will not allow anyone to be hurt or to be harmed outside of what is allowed by law – outside of legal processes or methods sanction by law. If Col. Espenido would want to ask for any protective measure from the government, then he can so request just like any other citizen.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, parang yesterday, PNP Chief Gamboa ordered a gag order to those in the PNP officials in the drug list … kabilang na po si Espenido. So wala bang intervention to ask General Gamboa to, once and for all, i-release na iyong evidence nila kay Espenido, whether he is guilty or not to declare him clear to the drug list?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi pinapakialaman ni Presidente iyon basta trabaho nila. They should do their work. They cannot be relying on the President to instruct them what to do. Now, with respect to the gag order, according to General Gamboa, he will confront it. Meaning, he will investigate whether he violated the gag order or not.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So again, just for the record, after all this… what have been said and done by this Espenido secretary—
SEC. PANELO: He enjoys the trust of the President.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: And you still not have received any information that will make you believe otherwise?
SEC. PANELO: That will make the President [believe] otherwise. It’s not my opinion; it’s the President’s. I don’t think he has received, otherwise he would have told me last night.
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: Sir, additional na lang doon sir, sa question ni Bombo. Sir, just your two cents on Lt. Col. Espenido’s statement that politicians could be behind his inclusion in the narco list, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Then he must have some basis for that – it’s his life.
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: He said sir, that he was included in the list because he had previously linked some government officials and law enforcers to the narcotics trade, sir?
SEC. PANELO: That’s the drift of his statement.
USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you, Secretary Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Thank you.
Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)