USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good afternoon, Malacañang Press Corps; let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Good afternoon, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Before I entertain questions for the umpteenth time, there is another attempt to use my name… in other words fraudulent, using this time my messenger. The wife of one convict was approached by this fraud, giving my name she wanted to facilitate the release of the husband; in other words, humihingi ng pera. Pero since sabi niya—nagta-Tagalog sa akin, nahalata ko na hindi ikaw; medyo hawig mo boses… siguro nakahalata rin, hindi niya tinuloy pero ang transaksiyon daw sa Cebu. So I think this is the same person, sa Cebu naka—he almost succeeded sa isang mayor eh, de-deposit noong pera.
Siguro iyong aking messenger tatanggalin ko na rin; pinatanggal ko na lahat ng FB accounts ko eh. Magaling sila, hindi ko nga malaman how they can do it. How can they do it? I mean, they pretend that I’m the one—yeah. Kasi mayroon akong messenger, paano nila nagagawa iyon? How is that possible?
So I’m warning again the public, please… everytime they use my name, it’s not true – it’s fraud.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, doon po sa Road Board ‘no. So apparently si Congressman Andaya—well, context of course you’d know what happened to Secretary Diokno ‘no – he said that there were congressmen who asked for the release—who followed up on the release of the Road Board fund including Congressman Andaya and Congressman Suarez. Now both are denying it, and yesterday si Congressman Andaya came up with the lists of allegedly congressmen who did ask the Road Board to release the funds. And some of them according to him are allies of the President. Your comment, please…
SEC. PANELO: I doubt if that is true, in the same way that when he said that Secretary Diokno and I were out of touch with the President regarding the position of the President. I think he was referring to himself. Either he was referring to himself, but he is out of touch with the President or he was mentioning that there was a dinner between the President, the Speaker and him; and on that dinner in September, the President – according to him – wanted the release of the funds. But either he was not listening to the President closely or he misunderstood what the President said.
I talked with the President last night – in connection with the courtesy call – and I asked him specifically what is his position because you people have been asking me exactly what is the position of the President. I will quote him exact words, he said: “Day one I was already against this Road Users Tax, because ginagamit lang yan, ginagawa lang gatasan ng mga corrupt na mga politiko.” So I said, “Okay, then I’ll make a statement on that.” So that’s the position of the President – he doesn’t like it, he wants it abolished.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. Clarification sir, Road Users Tax and the Road Board are different ‘no? So both, he wants to abolish the Road Board that collect that Road Users Taxes, yes?
SEC. PANELO: I think so, that’s—logically that would be the consequence.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. Sir when you say doubt the list of Congressman Andaya, what do you mean? Did we do a countercheck with the Road Board to verify if these are indeed the congressman who asked for the release of the Road Board?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t have to ask them. Knowing Secretary Sonny Dominguez, because he was mentioned to be going there – that is not the style of Secretary Dominguez. He is ‘suplado,’ he will not even go there and—he mentioned Secretary Dominguez eh and others daw, members of the Cabinet pumunta roon sa… kay Speaker Arroyo o doon sa Congress at sinasabing, “Huwag ninyong galawin ‘yang budget na ‘yan, kay Presidente ‘yan.” They will never do that, out of character iyon kay Secretary Dominguez… straight iyon.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, sir.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir did you ask him about Congressman Andaya’s allegation, na supposedly they met and that he agreed not to abolish the Road Board?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, siguro totoo iyon na nag-meeting. But as I said earlier, he misunderstood the President – iyon na lang ang puwede nating sabihin doon.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Where did you graduate from?
SEC. PANELO: UP…
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, good. Any comment on the bullying video or fighting video in Ateneo that concerned minor?
SEC. PANELO: Aah the bullying?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Yeah…
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, I watched that. I was bothered by what I saw. I think they should investigate, first, why there was such a one-sided fight, given the fact that the one who mauled was much smaller… parang ang liit niya eh, nagulat nga ako iyon pala ano siya, magaling sa taekwondo. Pero sabi ko nga baka naman may nag-trigger, kasi parang sinasabi nila na… that bata should undergo psychiatric exams. Eh baka naman kako na-trigger iyong galit niya, and knowing na magaling siya at ang laki iyong kalaban niya. Pero dapat talaga imbestigahan, I think we should investigate this—the school should investigate the incident and do something about it. You cannot be allowing bullying inside the classroom and school – besides there is a law against that.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, on a different issue rin. I just like to get your thoughts on what happened doon sa hinostage na members of the military and the militiamen by NPA rebels in Agusan Del Sur. Sir, this happened when—at the time when martial law is still in effect and dapat naka—even naka-heightened alert pa because of the—
SEC. PANELO: Is that in Mindanao or in another area?
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Agusan.
SEC. PANELO: Agusan.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: And the Defense Secretary admitted na parang ni walang labanan na nangyari, so the soldiers seemed—
SEC. PANELO: Ang sinabi niya nasorpresa sila, nagulat.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Oo…
SEC. PANELO: Siguro—ang tingin ko doon, kasi hindi ba they have been—iyon nga ang problema, they have been declaring they will have this truce. So siguro naniwala naman iyong mga tao natin sa ground na may truce, so they did not anticipate those attacks. And now, it seems to me now that they are using the truce para to have our soldiers on the ground off guard. They’re taking advantage of that.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Was it prudent for our soldiers… I mean you mentioned hindi nila in-anticipate. But again martial law is in effect and they’re supposed to be on heightened alert because of the CPP’s anniversary; so supposedly expecting more possible attacks?
SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely it’s not prudent, nagkamali sila kaya look what happened to them. That should be a lesson for all of them – they should always be like Boy Scout, be prepared. It’s a thief in the night, the NPAs will come to you and assault you.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Thank you, sir.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, just your reaction to the statement of CPP Founding Chairman Joma Sison na he promised to release iyong mga hinostage na sundalo at CAFGU during Christmas time. What can you say to this gesture of the Communist leader?
SEC. PANELO: Mayroon bang mga captives sila? Hostages?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Mayroon, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Mga ilan?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Three lang, sir…
SEC. PANELO: Well, we welcome that. But it doesn’t mean that we will stop the assault on those forces that are going to ambush our troops.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Okay, thank you. Sir, what can you say also the gesture of House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. – naghahamon siya ng debate kaugnay sa… or particularly kay Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno kaugnay sa Road Users Tax? What can you say to that attitude?
SEC. PANELO: Knowing Secretary Diokno, he might… he might say ‘yes’ to that. Parang hindi nila naiintindihan iyong—I mean, Secretary Diokno has explained to you. He has nothing to do with the allocations. All he has to do is to prepare based on the recommendations of the line agencies.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, Senator Lacson is also asking the President to speak or to finally talk about this issue of the road insertions, Road Users Tax… kasi parang he says sina Andaya and Secretary Diokno—
SEC. PANELO: Well, he has spoken last night that’s why I’m speaking to all of you and to those who claim that that is not the position of the President – those were the exact words he said: “From day one, I’m against it kasi ginagawa lang gatasan ng mga corrupt politicians.”
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So as we speak, Secretary Diokno has the full backing and support—
SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely!
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: —of the President?
SEC. PANELO: He has a full backing of the President as well as all the members of the Cabinet.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Thank you, sir.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir just—ano po ba talaga iyong status noong bill? Is it with the President or is he now asking his allies to maybe fast track iyong pag-transmit sa kaniya and is he going to sign it as soon as it reaches his table?
SEC. PANELO: It was received I think by the Legislative Liaison Office. But you know there might be—I was discussing with ES yesterday, because it was submitted to us, alright?
Q: [off mic] When?
SEC. PANELO: The liaison office who received it…
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: PLLO you mean.
SEC. PANELO: Okay? And the problem is, according to the House, it was assigned by Speaker Arroyo. But ES was saying that, that’s ministerial. Still they can say, but we did not sign it. So, there may be a legal question on whether or not, that is from the point of view of the law is indeed an enrolled bill, ready for signing. So, siguro somebody will have to go to the courts.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: So, how do you intend to resolve that? I mean, it’s with you and then ES is saying that, that’s just a ministerial issue. But then again, what if i-insist nga hindi nga po pinirmahan ni Speaker.
SEC. PANELO: Siguro if the President really wants to end this. He will sign it and then they will go to the Court. Those from the House, they may question it.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: So, he will sign it even without the Speaker’s signature?
SEC. PANELO: Most likely he will, because if it’s only ministerial on the part of the Speaker. And Senator Sotto was explaining and I tend to agree that since the House has already submitted to us, they have lost jurisdiction over the same. So, they cannot be receiving what they have already submitted to us and we have already adopted their position.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: So, when can we expect the President to sign it, how soon?
SEC. PANELO: Let’s see, I’ll ask him again.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: Kailan dumating sa..?
SEC. PANELO: Kailan ba? Parang the day before yesterday, parang iyon ang statement sa diyaryo eh.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir are you, in one way or the other, dismayed during the Arroyo speakership, because it is during her term that we will be having a reenacted budget come next year? Considering this is a very important bill.
SEC. PANELO: What’s the question?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Are you dismayed to the House leadership of speaker Arroyo?
SEC. PANELO: No, naman, in fairness to them. They have the reasons why it was delayed. They are explaining that they have to evaluate, review and that’s their Constitutional duty. So we will give it to them.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Sir, can we just get the Palace’s take on Senator Lacson’s claim that there is around 583 billion worth of wasteful projects from last year’s 3.3 trillion budget and this is according to the COA and apparently, there are two agencies which had wasteful projects, well the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Energy?
SEC. PANELO: Well, again, as I said before as we have repeatedly said, it’s the job of Congress to scrutinize the budget. And so, if there is any regularity on that, they have to correct it. That’s their job. Ours is just to prepare a budget for their approval.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: But this is for the 2017, sir. Is Malacañang considering an investigation into this?
SEC. PANELO: The wasteful projects?
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Yeah, that is for 2017.
SEC. PANELO: First, I cannot answer, what does it mean by wasteful project?
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: apparently these are…
SEC. PANELO: Meaning to say, there is an appropriation for particular.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Government projects which were issued notices of suspensions, disallowances and charges by the COA?
SEC. PANELO: Which was what?
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: The COA issued notices of suspensions, disallowances and charges for these projects?
SEC. PANELO: Because what?
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Apparently these were discontinued or shelves projects.
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, ano ang reason ba ng COA? Why was it suspended?
Q: Sir, the COA is saying that some government projects were stopped or under litigation, because they were found to be irregular, unnecessary or extravagant from last year’s.
SEC. PANELO: In other words the projects were stopped, because there is a legal issue involved. Baka may nag-file, like iyong losing bidder baka nag-file, so ini-stop, kaya siguro ganoon. But it doesn’t mean na it was wasted, nahinto lang.
Q: But there were questions on irregular spending on the part of the government, sir. Like on the part of the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Public Works and Highways, so will Malacañang..?
SEC. PANELO: That is the duty of COA to recommend filing of charges and then the DOJ will have to take over.
Q: But on the part of Malacañang, will you initiate probe to look into this, knowing the government’s hard stand on corruption?
SEC. PANELO: It doesn’t have to do that. Because precisely COA if COA finds something irregular, then it’s their duty to recommend filing of charges and is also the duty of DOJ to do the same, file it. Kumbaga naimbestigahan na. So, what is there to investigate?
Q: But will the President talked to the heads of these agencies like the Bureau of Customs and the DPWH, sir?
SEC. PANELO: The President’s—palaging style naman ni Presidente, bahala kayo diyan, kung may bulilyaso, you will be accountable to me. Ang alam ko, ang sabi sa akin ni Secretary Diokno noon, marami daw, may mga budget ang line agencies pero they are under spending. Under spending, hindi nila nagagamit iyong pera, kaya nga sinasabi nila, gamitin ninyo, hindi ninyo ginagamit eh.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir may exceed question; sir, puwedeng maki-tsismis.
SEC. PANELO: Catriona?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Iyong pinag-usapan ni Presidente at ni Catriona kahapon?
SEC. PANELO: Well, pagdating ni Presidente, nandoon nga pala si Bong Go, who is a candidate for Senate who apparently would be landing as the topnotcher of the Senate race. Given what I have been hearing around the country. Anyway, he was there and di ba selfie-king iyon eh. Selfie – selfie, lahat sila, lahat may selfie. Tapos nung dumating si Presidente nakaupo na kami doon sa room. Siyempre tayuan kami, sabi ni Presidente, ang taas, ang tangkad eh. And then, sabi niya Thank you for bringing the crown and everyone is is agog, elated, euphoric sa panalo.
How was the – parang ang dinig ko death-defying experience, sabi naman ni Catriona, sir it was not death-defying, kaya lang maraming problema, you know, may tension and all that. And then, the President was telling her, you know sabi niya, my wife – referring to Honeylet – wanted t0 come with me to greet you, because like you, she’s a beauty queen. She was first runner-up to Mutya ng Davao.
But Kitty still has a class kaya hindi siya nakapunta. And then there were exchanging pleasantries – iyong mga experiences niya. And then, I reminded the President and Catriona that I was one of the judges during the Miss World. At ang sabi naman ni Presidente, you voted for her kaya nanalo? No, Mr. President, we were all unanimous, pagkita pa lang namin, tinginan kaming lahat na 15 yata kami judges – wala, hats down siya, dahil talagang maganda siya.
NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: A report from the South East Asia Media Freedom showed that the Philippines is among the worst countries for journalist in South East Asia citing the threat of impunity, safety and censorship in the country. What’s the Palace’ take on this, sir?
SEC. PANELO: The worst?
NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: One of the worst countries for journalist in South East Asia, citing the threat of impunity, safety and censorship in the country?
SEC. PANELO: Well, for one, the deaths of journalist in this country, appears not to be connected with their job. From what I gather from those who have been killed, may kinalaman sa personal na pamumuhay nila, nothing to do with journalism. Meron din, one or two, pero hindi iyong, as a rule.
Iyon na nga ang sinasabi namin, like for instance sinasabi nila na ni Ressa nademanda, eh iyon namang mga iyon eh nothing to do with freedom of expression eh. You violate a law you cannot be immune from prosecution and, binibigyan naman siya ng due process at nakalabas nga siya eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyon lang pong United Nations Human Rights Council on working group on arbitrary to detention, ni-refer iyong case ni Senator De Lima for investigation with regard to alleged violation over right to freedom of expression, sir. The UN Working Group founds sufficient grounds that her rights as duly elected senator and human rights defender have been violated. So, they are investigating that kind of allegation.
SEC. PANELO: They have been saying that and we have been saying, the problem with you people is you are listening to the critics of this administration. You are not investigating on your own. There is a process in this country and we follow that process. They are there, because probable cause was found. That’s why information was filed against this accused; to my mind intrusion of our sovereignty iyong ginagawa nila eh.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir bilang Pasko naman, saan si Presidente magpapasko, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Si Presidente? Sa Davao, every Christmas naman ganoon siya eh, birthdays spends it with his family always. No frills.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Will he be visiting the kids?
SEC. PANELO: Iyon na nga palagi namang ganoon ang style ni Presidente – handicap. Doon siya, mababaw ang puso ni Presidente sa mga handicaps, special children, may mga sakit ng cancer. Doon mo makikita iyong kanyang compassion, he shed his tears everytime.
USEC. IGNACIO: Okay, thank you Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Thank you, Malacañang Press Corps, Merry Christmas.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)