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 Malacañang Press Corps. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO: Hello, good noon members of the Malacañang Press Corps and my countrymen.

I’d like to report to the nation and to you particularly what happened last night at the Cabinet meeting.

President Rodrigo Duterte presided over the 34th Cabinet Meeting last night at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of Malacañang Palace.

The first item discussed was the streamlining of land use conversion process, where one of the Department Secretaries for Legal Affairs talked about streamlining, internal processes of all agencies involved in the conversion, including the imposition of definite timelines for its processing such as the provision of government permits.

Programs for improving the lives of farmers and fisher folks were the second on the agenda item. The Secretary of Agriculture Manny Piñol reported the bucket list for implementation and these are: one, farm to market roads; irrigation including solar powered irrigation system to be financed by an Israeli company; then storage facilities; activation of regional food terminals; and strengthening of the Ro-Ro programs; easy access for farmers; institutionalization of a farmer-fisher folk credit union; and, the creation of a Cabinet cluster.

Related to the second agenda item is a program to allow small farmers greater access to loan facilities. Specifically, the President said that the Landbank should go to the farmers instead of the farmers going to the Landbank; and the Landbank presented a program where they can give the said loans among others. Also, Landbank mentioned about 361,000 farmers with existing individual Certificates of Land Ownership Awards who will be qualified for a bank loan. Specifically, Landbank said that the moment a CLOA is issued then that can be used as a collateral for a loan. He also directed—the President, directed inclusion of New People’s Army’s surrenderees in the next round of land distribution.

And then the third item that was discussed was the incorporation of drug education in the public school curriculum. Department Secretary Briones presented the curriculum for drug education and its efforts on the campaign against illegal drugs such as “Barkada Kontra Droga”; establishment of Barkada Centers; school-based activities such as poster-slogan making; counseling and coaching; and drug testing for teachers and high school students. Specifically, Secretary Briones said that, “kung hindi pa—with reference to the pregnant students, sabi niya: “Kung hindi ninyo pa nagagawa, huwag ninyo nang gawin. ‘Pag nagawa ninyo na, tigilan ninyo na.”

And also the next item was about the National ID System. The President was agreeable to the establishment of one and I think it will start in September of 2019 with a target of 6 million Filipinos for registration this year. The National Security Adviser mentioned that this is a very critical for our security and suggested that the cyber security of the Department of Information and Communications Technology take the lead and the security of data be taken cared by the Philippine Statistics Authority with the help of DICT. PRRD or the President ordered the best and safest system of the implementation of the National ID System.

It was also discussed in the Cabinet meeting the military and uniformed personnel pension reform bill – this was proposed by the Department of National Defense which the President said he will certify as an urgent piece of legislation.

And then, the Department of Health’s immunization program was likewise tackled by Secretary Duque of the Department of Health because the President ordered a vigorous campaign to promote the complete immunization for children. I think one of the reasons why we have an outbreak of measles is because the lack of immunization on the part of children. I think that the Secretary was saying that the—some of our people are reluctant to undergo immunization by reason of the Dengvaxia scandal – natakot in other words kaya hirap daw sila ngayon.

So after that, what was discussed is the Department of Tourism program where it said that despite the closure of Boracay, we surpassed the quota of tourists in the Philippines. There is I think about 7.1 million foreign tourists in the country – number one are the Koreans; and then we have the… I think the Chinese; and then the Americans.

Chinese—no, Koreans is number one in the list.

Q: [off mic] Russia…

SEC. PANELO: Russia… I think is number four. So it’s refreshing to know that despite the closure of Boracay which according to Secretary Berna Puyat, we lost about half a million to 1M tourists. So that’s what happened to the Cabinet last night that lasted until two hours in the morning.

So I’m ready for any questions.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, good morning. Sir on streamlining of land use conversion process, in what specific way will they streamline sir?

SEC. PANELO: Well you know, the problem—the President was so frustrated, he spent I think half an hour saying that he was so frustrated about the requirements. It took sometime—remember, he was dismayed that two years hindi pa gumagalaw iyong conversion. Iyon pala, eh ang dami palang papasukan na mga requirements – mayroong DENR, mayroong local government… ang dami eh, kaya iyon ang pinoproblema ng mga nasa departamento. So they are trying to streamline that, mayroong mga suggestions kung anong gagawin para mapabilis kasi nakatengga ang iba. Siyempre—ang sabi nga ni Presidente, maraming tulisan, kung walang pera o padulas hindi gumagalaw. So he’s looking on that.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: And one of those is the imposition of definite timeline, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, definitely.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So definitely, it wasn’t done before so that’s why it took so long for them to process applications?

SEC. PANELO: Well the explanation there is because nga… like iyong DENR, kailangan titingnan mo pa kung—eeksaminin mo pa iyong lupa kung pupuwede na ma-convert o hindi. And then ang problema pa daw sabi ni Presidente, ‘pag pumunta ka doon sa mga lugar na maraming NPAs, pagpunta roon ng mag-e-examine eh tatakutin, “Huwag ka nang bumalik rito kung hindi ibabaon ka namin,” eh wala, hindi na babalik. So, paano ka magbibigay ng permit kung hindi mo na-examine iyong lupa? Kaya maraming natengga.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir it was just a discussion, wala pang specific proposal sir?

SEC. PANELO: Hmm wala—pinag-aaralan nila. Mayroong isang proposal, pero parang hindi na nai-present dahil the President went to an outburst eh.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Alright. So pinag-aaralan pa lang, sir? Tama, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Mayroon nang proposal pero hindi nai-present kasi nga nagsasalita si Presidente, tinigil niya, sabi niya: “Ito ang problema kasi… ganito, ganiyan, ganiyan.” May narinig akong mga dalawang proposal pero hindi natuloy.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay, sir. Who proposed, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Sila. One DENR, saka LGU…

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: All right, sir. Sir, you mentioned a creation of a Cabinet cluster headed by the President – for what, sir? Cabinet cluster headed by the President?

SEC. PANELO: On a particular area, hindi ko nakuha iyong area kung saan iyong ano, kasi parang sandali lang iyon eh. Kasi merong nag-suggest and then one of them, I think is Usec. Quitain said, “oh huwag na nating isama si President diyan, ang dami na ngang trabaho, tayo-tayo na lang”. So hindi masyadong na-discuss, parang naging proposal lang.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: We don’t know kung ano iyong function nila, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi pa, kasi nga parang proposal na biglang nahinto.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: okay, medyo Malabo iyon, sir.

SEC. PANELO: Medyo hindi pa masyado iyon.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay, sir. Sir, the President ordered a vigorous campaign to promote complete immunization for kids. Of course, iyong Dengvaxia issue was tackled. Sir, sino daw iyong dapat sisihin sa takot ng mga tao na magpabakuna?

SEC. PANELO: Siguro dahil nga doon sa naging eskandalo, plus iyong diumanong may mga namamatay because of Dengvaxia, so natakot iyong mga parents na ipa-immunize iyong kanilang mga anak. So, kailangan ng information campaign, sinasabi ni Secretary Duque, para magkaroon ng massive immunization ng mga bata.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, we had 7 million foreign tourists last year, you mentioned. Does the DOT have specific target for this year, sir as to how many percent of increase they want to achieve?

SEC. PANELO: Wala siyang binanggit, she did not mentioned any target.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: And sir, the President also met with rice industries’ stake holders in Malacañang yesterday – any details, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Well, the long and short of it, is that those he met last night were against. But according to the President, the policy would be to the greater good, iyon ang ibibigay niya. So, kahit na kumontra sila, mukhang itutuloy niya.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So, when does he plan to sign the rice tariffication?

SEC. PANELO: He didn’t say so, but I think it’s forthcoming.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: But what was the President’s response to them?

SEC. PANELO: Sinabi niya, sinabi nga sa kanila na kailangan iyong greater good ang susundin natin dito.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, last night, did the President talked about exacting accountability or making accountable several personalities or government officials whom experts are pointing at—are directly responsible for eroding public trust on vaccines. I’m talking about PAO Chief Persida Acosta and PAO Forensic Chief. Dr. Erwin Erfe. May nabanggit po ba si Presidente?

SEC. PANELO: No, wala, hindi natin na-discuss iyong portion na iyon.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: How did the President take the measles outbreak sir, considering that we have enough government resources to prevent such—

SEC. PANELO: Well, he said, he directed Secretary Duque to do something about it and Secretary Duque said, we are already doing something about it. So, we’re conducting a massive immunization plus information campaign that it’s better to prevent than to cure.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Kasi sir, doon sa mga previous speeches ni President Duterte, he directly pointed at the Dengvaxia controversy as the reason kung bakit maraming mga magulang na natatakot na ipabakuna iyong kanilang mga anak. Wala po ba siyang anything na nasabi tungkol doon sa Dengvaxia controversy, did he talked about the people behind this issue?

SEC. PANELO: Wala na. Because if you remember the House, hindi ba recommended filing charges against certain people and we said that we will refer it to the findings of Congress and let the law takes its course. The DOJ will be conducting an investigation to determine probable cause.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero, sir. I think that’s different kasi, several doctor’s group are pointing directly at those individuals, kasi kung hindi daw po sila, kung hindi nila siguro ginamit iyong isyu, hindi sila nag-ingay tungkol doon sa isyu, marami pa ring mga magulang ang magtitiwala at papabakunahan pa rin iyong kanilang mga anak at hindi mangyayari itong measles outbreak na ito?

SEC. PANELO: We didn’t discuss that particular point or nobody raised that issue.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: You talked about President Duterte ordering a vigorous campaign for vaccination, ano po iyong direct niyang—ano iyong mga directives niya on that kay Secretary Duque, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Well, he said that the Department of Health should do something about the outbreak and Secretary Duque said, we are already doing something about it.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Hindi po ba siya, sir nagalit or nadismaya doon sa nangyari na nagkaroon ng measles outbreak?

SEC. PANELO: Dati na siyang galit kahapon dahil nga sa frustration niya sa mga requirements na kung anu-ano.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Doon sa measles, sir?

SEC. PANELO: In fact he excused himself. He excused himself, because parang… siguro to ano, pahinga muna ng kaunti doon sa holding room.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero on public health, sir wala siyang—

SEC. PANELO: Basta he directed the Department of Health to do something about it, kailangan masolusyunan natin iyong outbreak.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Will that also include President Duterte campaigning himself for vaccination to convince parents to vaccinate their children. Kasi may nabanggit po siya doon sa dati niyang speech sa Malabon na directly ini-encourage niya, kinausap niya iyong mga magulang na pabakunahan iyong kanilang mga anak. Will he also include himself?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ba iyong mga adults nabakunahan na ng measles. Kami nabakunahan na kami lahat, iyong mga bata na lang ang hindi pa.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: We are talking about iyong kampanya ng gobyerno para sa pagpabakuna. Will he also be including himself, tutulong din po ba din siya doon?

SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely. In fact, siya nga ang nag-order na gawan ng paraan iyong problema ng—

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Is the Palace blaming PAO Chief Acosta for the scare?

SEC. PANELO: Wala namang nabanggit doon. Nobody blamed anybody there. But, Secretary Duque was complaining about how the PAO had impleaded him in several cases and that is one of the reasons why daw, people are hesitant, kasi parang nawala ng tiwala eh, because of the Dengvaxia. Eh wala naman siyang kinalaman noon, pero dinemanda daw siya. Sabi naman ni Presidente, baka type ka lang ni PAO. Siguro, you keep on running away from, eh lumayo na ang distansya nung dalawa, kailangan bagalan mo ang takbo mo para magkalapit kayo.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: That was the President’s–?

SEC. PANELO: Nagpatawa lang si Presidente. But, sabi niya don’t worry those cases. I’m telling you as a lawyer, wala iyon, hindi ka maano doon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No order for PAO Chief to, maybe refrain from making the connection between you know, certain things that should not be connected?

SEC. PANELO: You know, the PAO Chief is responsible enough to know if her action would result into discouraging people or children or parents to have themselves immunized, so we’ll leave it to her.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, I’m going back to the point. Secretary Duque is complaining na it’s the PAO that kind of like precipitated this fear of vaccinations not just related to Dengvaxia.

SEC. PANELO: According to Secretary Duque, one reason is the delay in the resolution of the cases filed against him. But Secretary Meynard Guevarra said, a resolution is forthcoming on the cases field against him. So, it will maybe, come next week or the week after.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Resolution versus him, no?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah, with respect to him. Because he felt that he has been unnecessarily and baseless charged because he had nothing to do with the implementation of Dengvaxia in the first place, he came in too late in the day.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Does the Palace agree with the assertion of Secretary Duque that it was the Dengvaxia—it was the Dengvaxia scandal to use your word, that brought about this fear of vaccination. Does the Palace agree with Secretary Duque’s statement?

SEC. PANELO: I think it’s not the matter of agreeing or not. I think it’s a matter of whether ‘is that the reality’. Was the scandal really discouraged? From the looks of it, it would seem so.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So, yes. Is that a yes or is that a no?

SEC. PANELO: No, hindi nga. In other words, it doesn’t matter who or what the Palace thinks about it. The question is, is that the fact? Because according to Secretary Duque, that’s the reality, kaya nagkaroon ng—nahirapan sila because naapektuhan doon sa—

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And you share that opinion?

SEC. PANELO: I believe him.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay po. Sorry sir, just one last point. May charges po versus former President Noy and Abad and former DOH Secretary Garin for the Dengvaxia mess – what is the President’s opinion first?

SEC. PANELO: Well, our position is we will not interfere with the findings of the House being a separate independent branch. We will defer it to it. But I understand the charge is more on technical malversation. In other words, they used specific funds designed for another purpose and using it for another not on whether Dengvaxia is the cause of death or what.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Hi sir. Sir, I know the campaign for the vaccination involves iyong for measles and others. I’m wondering if the Dengvaxia issue will also be covered by the campaign, considering that a few weeks ago the DOH said that there are no deaths directly cause by Dengvaxia. Kumabaga… will there be also an effort to allay the public’s fears about Dengvaxia?

SEC. PANELO: There is. In fact, Secretary Duque I think, requested PCOO to help in the information campaign.

INA/CNN PHILS.: Dengvaxia specifically, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, because accordingly to Secretary Duque, their findings show that it’s not Dengvaxia, it’s more on pneumonia, heart disease, TB – the cause of death of all this children. And the President said, ‘you know, that will be a long… it will be a tedious long case.’ Why, because it will be a battle of experts. One expert saying that is the cause, another expert saying, no it’s not.’ Kaya matagal na litigation iyan.

INA/CNN PHILS.: Sir, sorry. So how did the President receive itong information from the Health Secretary saying na indeed wala daw pong relation iyong Dengvaxia doon sa deaths? Do you agree?

SEC. PANELO: That was his response. Well, sabi niya, ‘First: Don’t worry about your case because I don’t think that will prosper against you; number two, iyang case na iyan will be a long one because it will be a battle of medical experts’ – iyon ang naging comment.

INA/CNN PHILS.: Sir, ano po update doon sa panel of experts earlier formed by the President to look into the Dengvaxia?

SEC. PANELO: I have no report on that, wala akong… I have not seen a report on the panel yet.

INA/CNN PHILS.: Okay, thank you sir.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, just quick clarification. You mentioned earlier that the President excused himself during the Cabinet meeting. Was this during the discussion on the measles outbreak?

SEC. PANELO: No, it was the discussion on the red tape. Iyong mga land conversion parang he was so exasperated. Excuse himself, nagpahinga lang siya sa kabilang kuwarto.

MARICEL/TV5: Just for a few minutes and then he went back to the Cabinet meeting? Sir, what was the reaction of the President when he learned about the measles outbreak? Was he disappointed?

SEC. PANELO: Na, siyempre he was saddened. You know the President is always affected by any negative outcome that relates to children – malungkot siya, kaya sabi niya gawan ng paraan kaagad.

MARICEL/TV5: Thank you sir.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, over here. Sir, do you think sir si PAO Chief should also take responsibility for that, iyong sa Dengvaxia because, si Duque also blamed her. So should she also be, like, held accountable for it?

SEC. PANELO: Well, you know the PAO Chief as a lawyer is depending or pursuing the theory that favors the clients. In other words she’s pursuing an advocacy, an impassioned one. So I cannot blame her for that. But even if we do that, as lawyers, we are confronted with realities that our position may affect and impact negatively on the general public. So it’s her call. We’ll leave it to her.

CHRISTINE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Her call?

SEC. PANELO: As far as she’s concerned, she’s just doing her job. Protecting the parents of those, what she perceived to be, dying by reason of Dengvaxia.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, just to clarify the blame game. So Secretary Duque is particularly blaming PAO Chief Acosta or the Dengvaxia controversy issue? Kasi, I understand, it’s not Persida Acosta who ignited or started about the issue of the Dengvaxia issue. Even the House conducted their own investigation?

SEC. PANELO: No, the point of Secretary Duque I think, is she has aggravated the situation by filing cases against him. Since he is Department of Health Chief, then it affects his credibility vis-à-vis the people.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, don’t you see also any failure on the part of the Department of Health? Kasi they had all the resources, they have all the mandate, they have all the capabilities to counter the fear of the parents? They should have done something more proactive to implement the immunization program?

SEC. PANELO: I think they are doing their job. But you know, when the people’s ‘consciousness’ are negative on a particular matter, mahihirapan ka ring sirain iyon. It takes time, ‘pag naunahan na naniwala sila na iyon pala ang dahilan eh talagang they will never give in.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, are you speaking on the reality from the ground in the provinces on what the DOJ are doing?

SEC. PANELO: That’s what the Secretary said, kaya sila hirap na hirap.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: So it’s the Secretary said?

SEC. PANELO: Yes, and I believed him because sila ang nasa baba eh, na sila ang nasa grounds, sila ang umiikot eh, sila ang tinatanggihan.

REYMUND/BOMBO RADYO: Because there are lot of places in the provinces, the public hospitals are just waiting for people to come for immunization and they do not dare go house to house or barangay to barangay to explain the immunization program. Thank you.

SEC. PANELO: Alam mo iyong mga parents you cannot blame them also kung napaniwala sila na iyon ang cause. Kahit na pumunta ka sa house to house, kapag ang paniwala nila ay baka mamatay pa iyang anak ko diyan, bakit naman ako pupunta diyan. They will never go there. Kaya tama si Secretary Duque, we need a massive information campaign to tell them na it’s not true.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, clarify ko lang sir. Sir, the Palace doesn’t think that Ms. Acosta did not… the Palace doesn’t think Ms. Acosta politicized Dengvaxia issue, as claimed by critics?

SEC. PANELO: Well, the President didn’t say anything but as I said earlier, PAO Chief maybe so impassioned with her advocacy with respect to her clients – the families of the victims – so, in that aspect you cannot also blame her.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: So it’s not in a way a form of politicizing the issue?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so. I mean she’s a lawyer. We lawyers are impassioned in our defense or prosecuting people we perceived to have violated the law. And since there is a court so let the courts decide.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Thank you sir.

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, you mentioned earlier that PAO Chief Persida Acosta is responsible enough to know if her statements may have affected the DOH’s vaccination campaign against vaccine-preventable diseases—

SEC. PANELO: Yeah, in other words it’s her call. She feels that her advocacy has affected the people into not believing on immunization including immunization from other illnesses, then she do something about it.

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Given sir that there is already a measles outbreak and the present situation as DOH Secretary Duque has laid in front of Cabinet meeting, does the Palace think that Persida Acosta may have gone too far with her statements on the Dengvaxia—

SEC. PANELO: Again I will repeat – it’s her call. We understand where she’s coming from and we will leave it to her.

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Also, just a second question. Should the DOJ come out with a resolution—

SEC. PANELO: DOJ?

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Yeah. Should the DOJ come up with a resolution indicting DOH Secretary Duque? And given that PAO Chief Persida Acosta and both Secretary Duque are under the Executive Branch, is the President willing to back either one of the two sides?

SEC. PANELO: No. The President, one, does not interfere or intrude into the department’s authority and responsibility. DOJ has the duty to determine whether or not there is probable cause for any case filed before it against anybody and its job regardless of who are involved.

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: So if Secretary Duque is indeed charged with the Dengvaxia controversy, the President will let him prepare his defense and will not interfere, correct?

SEC. PANELO: Of course.

JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Thank you, sir.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Hi sir, good afternoon. Sir, anong tingin ng Palasyo, makakatulong ba iyong pagsasampa ng kaso laban kila dating President Aquino, dating Health Secretary Garin and dating Budget Secretary Abad maibalik iyong tiwala ng ta—iyong kaso laban sa kanila sir sa Dengvaxia, puwede bang makatulong ito para magbalik iyong tiwala ng tao sa immunization program ng pamahalaan? Kasi accountability po iyong ibig sabihin noong ganoong hakbang eh.

SEC. PANELO: First, as I said, we will defer to the findings of the House – hindi nakikialam si Presidente roon. Pangalawa, the demanda eh technical malversation eh, hindi naman tungkol doon sa Dengvaxia whether ito ang cause o hindi. Parang ginamit nila iyong amount of money designed for one purpose sa iba – and under the law, that’s technical malversation. We will leave it to the DOJ whether there is probable cause to indict and if there is, then we will let the courts do its duty to decide.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Thank you.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, sa issue lang noong DAR. Did the President mention or reveal iyong name ng DAR officials na gusto niyang sibakin? He’s been vocal in a recent public appearance…

SEC. PANELO: No, he did not identify.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: But then, is there an ongoing investigation against these officials? If you know, sir.

SEC. PANELO: I think so, yes. Pero hindi ko alam kung sinong in charge doon sa investigation.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, on the issue of the National ID System. Did Secretary Esperon and Usec. Bersales explain the delay in the implementation since Congress initially allocated 2 billion funds under the 2018 budget? What were the causes of delay?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Ang cause yata ng delay is the ano eh, iyong problema sa security. They… one Usec. said that they even asked the ADB to give them technical assistance… maraming ano eh, marami pang—But according to her also, mukhang on time naman September eh. Baka mailabas nila by September. Because under the law, mukhang iyon ang target – September.

TINA MENDEZ/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sir, anong assurances that the National ID System will not be used against some left-leaning personalities or perceived enemies of the state?

SEC. PANELO: Iyong security agency natin ang in charge doon. And Secretary Esperon said we can be sure na hindi magkakaroon ng snafu doon sa security.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sec., any update on the status of the Rice Tariffication Bill?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, sabi ko nga kanina it could be forthcoming kasi nagbigay na siya ng posisyon niya doon sa mga farmers na kausap niya eh.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So, hindi pa napipirmahan?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi pa, dahil mineet [meet] niya pa nga eh.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Pero, ano ba iyong concerns noong farmers about that particular measure? Are they asking him to veto that measure?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah. They want it vetoed, but I don’t think the President will.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: The President won’t veto?

SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so. Kasi iyon ang posisyon niya kagabi, sinasabi niya: “For the greater interest and for the greater good.”

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So basically, the meeting with farmers was about explaining the bill? Can we assume that?

SEC. PANELO: No, that was a courtesy call and asking the President na maaapektuhan sila—

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So, napag-usapan iyon?

SEC. PANELO: Sabi ni Presidente sa kanila, “Eh puwedeng maapektuhan kayo, but iyong kabuuan ng mga Pilipino ang inaalala ko.”

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Ah, so basically he defended the measure?

SEC. PANELO: Yeah.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Okay, thank you Sec.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir you said that President Duterte wants to certify iyong military and uniformed personnel pension reform bill. Why did the President think there is an urgent need to reform the pension system of the military and uniformed personnel?

SEC. PANELO: Eh siguro nga may nagrereklamo sa pension nila, considering na involved na involved ngayon ang Armed Forces sa… in our fight against communism, rebellion, terrorism. Maraming nalalagas sa atin eh, maraming nalalagas sa ating mga kasamahan.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So understandably, sir, there may be some opposition from military officers or uniformed personnel—

SEC. PANELO: May opposition? Wala…

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: There may be some oppositions sir or—

SEC. PANELO: Pabor nga sa kanila, I don’t think they will oppose.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Hindi. Kasi sir understand that retirees will only receive pension at the age of 60 even if you avail—for example, early retirement at 56, you have to wait until you’re 60 to receive your pension. So there may be some opposition, pagpalagay na lang po natin or complaints coming from military officers who have yet to retire. Hindi po ba natatakot si Presidente that it would costs him the support of the military?

SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t think so. Iyong sinasabi mong baka may kung ano 56 to 60, eh gusto nga nila iyon na hindi pa sila magre-retire eh. Kasi ‘pag 56 retire ka na, ‘di wala ka nang trabaho. Mabuting-mabuti kung na-appoint ka uli. Samantalang kung 60, puwede ka pang magtrabaho – you have additional 4 years. In fact I think that measure is designed for them, for their benefit.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: How, sir?

SEC. PANELO: How? Eh kung 56 retired ka na, ‘di tapos na ang trabaho mo. Samantalang kung up to 60 ang retirement mo, oh ‘di may extension kang 4 years na nagtatrabaho.

In fact I have one friend who told me – I won’t mention his name. Sabi niya, “You know I cannot retire.” Sabi ko, “Why?” Sabi niya, “I need a loan.” Kasi supposed to be gusto niya na mag-retire one year or two years earlier. Sabi niya, “I need to get a loan. ‘Pag ako’y nag-retire, wala na ako dito sa quarters na libre. I have to build my house, kaya hindi ako pupuwedeng mag-retire pa.”

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, does the President feel that there is a need to extend the military service of uniformed personnel? For example from 56 to 60, is there a need sir na nakikita si President Duterte considering that you have the problem with terrorism, communism, ganoon sir? Is it—o connected with that?

SEC. PANELO: Siguro apart from… iyong kailangan natin is iyon ngang galing nila. Ang nakikita ko kasi 56 is very early retirement. Sa panahon ngayon, ang 80 years old bata pa eh – lalo na ang 56 years old. Kaya parang nakapanghihinayang naman na pagkatapos mong pinag-aral – ng gobyerno – papa-retire-in mo na kaagad; tapos wala na silang ginagawa. And they… but they want to serve eh, they want to serve more… a longer time.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Is the President looking at extending the service din of other professions? Like example, teachers…

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyong portion na iyon, iyon lang sa military alam kong may pension.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Secretary, what is the President’s stand on the issue regarding the pension? Kasi ‘di ba alam naman natin na kapag lumaki iyong suweldo noong mga active, lalaki din iyong pension noong retired—

SEC. PANELO: Yes.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: And it could bloat the deficit, because it comes from the state funds eh, iyong national budget iyon; it can bloat the deficit kapag lumaki. Ano iyong stand niya doon? Is he amenable to amending that?

SEC. PANELO: I’ll ask him about that. I don’t know his—

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Kasi problema ng Budget Department ever since iyon eh, iyong lumalaki iyong pension requirements kasi lumalaki din iyong suweldo – so ngayon, hindi ninyo ma-increase iyong salary noong soldiers.

SEC. PANELO: Eh ang solusyon doon eh ang koleksiyon ng income tax and corporate tax.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Yeah, oo. Nabanggit iyon, pero with the number of retirees… iyon ang sabi ng economic managers, mahirap i-sustain iyong—

SEC. PANELO: If you achieve your goal in collection, wala kang problema sa pag-defray ng—

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Pero ang daming retirees Sec. eh.

SEC. PANELO: Eh, ilan lang ba naman iyon.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Madami, Sec—anyway, pero wala pang stand si Presidente Duterte roon?

SEC. PANELO: Wala.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Okay.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Isa lang, sir. Sir, whatever happened to President Duterte’s plan to form a pension fund for the military, kasi nabanggit niya na iyon beforehand?

SEC. PANELO: Ah, wala pa siyang binabanggit. I’ll ask him, magkikita kami mamaya sa Command Conference.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So wala pa sir initial na pagpaplano sir or…?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko pa na—wala akong naririnig sa Cabinet meeting.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, nabanggit ninyo hindi naman pinangalanan ni President Duterte sino sa DAR particular iyong gusto niyang tanggalin.

SEC. PANELO: Yes…

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Pero did he mentioned or did he order a revamp inside DAR?

SEC. PANELO: Wala, wala siyang binabanggit.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir last time, you also said that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno can bring that up sa Cabinet meeting, iyong problem with House of Representatives issuing show cause order. Did he bring that up, sir, sa Cabinet meeting?

SEC. PANELO: No, he didn’t. Kasi mukhang hindi ba umatras na naman si Congressman Andaya. Sabi niya, ‘I won’t insist on him appearing,’ sinabi niya iyon eh. So, naging moot and academic na.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: May subpoena, sir, ngayon na inilabas ang—

SEC. PANELO: Saka alam mo iyong sinasabing—that reminds me now, iyong sinasabi ni Congressman Andaya na he wants to know what happened doon sa hindi nagastos. Simple lang naman ang paliwanag – iyong hindi nagastos ibabalik sa National Treasury iyon, ganun lang iyon. So, there is no need for you to explain. Ano pang i-explain mo doon, eh siyempre nasa National Treasury.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Development lang, sir. Just 30-minutes ago, House issue subpoena for Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to appear before the House Committee Hearing tomorrow, February 8. So, anong balak ni Secretary Diokno, would you advise him to go?

SEC. PANELO: What I know is, his stand is, I’ve already testified, they have asked. I have already explained to them. There is nothing more to explain.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: So, hindi siya dapat um-attend?

SEC. PANELO: No. That’s his call. Iyon ang naririnig kong sinasabi niya. Wala siyang sinabing hindi siya a-attend, basta ang sinasabi niya, nagpaliwanag naman na ako.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Would you encourage him, sir, to attend… advise him to attend?

SEC. PANELO: I’m not his lawyer. I’m the lawyer of the President.

JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: But, sir, siyempre under the Executive. Do you think the President would advise him to attend?

SEC. PANELO: I will not preempt his lawyer, baka mamaya magalit pa sa akin iyong abogado niya; may sarili naman siyang lawyer.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL.STAR: Sir, subject lang ng command conference mamaya?

SEC. PANELO: Actually, hindi ko alam, naimbitahan lang akong pumunta. A-attend ako, silip.

NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: Sir, before my question. May blessing ba iyon ng President? Because the DBM issued a statement that they are welcoming the subpoena for Diokno to clarify the issue. So, mag-a-attend nga si Secretary Diokno or magre-respond siya doon sa subpoena ng House. May blessing ba iyong ng President, sir or?

SEC. PANELO: Kung a-attend? Walang sinasabi si Presidente. Basta ang alam ko lang na nagkita sila, “oh ano, oh ano.” Parang ganoon lang. “Sir, wala na naman eh.” Parang ganoon lang iyong usapan kagabi. Kasi nga hindi ba sabi ni Congressman Andaya, I will not insist on him appearing. Hindi, may subpoena, pero—in other words, kung may excuse si Secretary Diokno, he will not insist.

NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: Okay, sir. Sir, what is the position or the reaction of the President on the statement of Senator Lacson urging him to use his line item veto power to remove the alleged pork insertions made by lawmakers?

SEC. PANELO: He has no comment. But as we said earlier, let us not argue with Secretary Medialdea’s comment that we should not preempt the President. The President knows what he is going to do.

NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: So, what will the President do, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Then, let’s see. The basis for any action of the President is peoples’ interest.

NESTOR CORRALES/INQ. NET: Napag-usapan ba ito sa Cabinet meeting kagabi, sir?

SEC. PANELO: No, hindi napag-usapan. Iyon lang mga sinabi ko.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, follow up on the pork barrel. Concept and principle, does the Palace agree with the power of Congress – and they have done it in this budget – to allocate for themselves lump sum funds?

SEC. PANELO: What we recognize is the power of Congress to amend – to review and to amend to do whatever it feels is correct, necessary and right. We’ll leave it to them. Now, if the President feels that it’s wrong, then he can use his veto power to correct it.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So, sir, iyon pong—kasi the NEP already allocated 100 million for each Congressman ‘no. And then according to Senator Lacson, Speaker Arroyo added some maybe 50 or 60 million to each Congressman. What do you think of it, sir?

SEC. PANELO: ‘Di ba, ever since sinasabi ko, I cannot even understand why the fuzz of all these. Kasi when you allocate for a particular district, that means that district—the reasonable assumptions is they need it. So, ang importante kay Presidente, gagamitin mo ba iyan sa pangangailangan ng distrito mo o kukurakutin mo lang iyan. May problema tayo kapag ganyan.

So, sa akin walang… I think, wala rin akong makitang problema eh. Precisely districts need money to improve itself. Ano naman ang masama doon kung meron silang mga pondo, ang problema doon kung hindi mo gagamitin. Oh kaya nga nagkakaroon ng mga demandahan.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Yes, sir. But we have a Supreme Court ruling outlawing lump sum, discretionary allocations?

SEC. PANELO: Hindi ba iyong sabi ng Supreme Court iyong pag hindi pa nailagay sa budget. Eh kung nailagay na—di ba, parang ang sinasabi nandoon na, nire-reallocate lang nila; in other words, meron nang dati. So hindi papasok sa doktrina ng Korte Suprema

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So, ito pong 150 na sabi ni Ping, this is not pork from the Palace perspective as defined by the Supreme Court?

SEC. PANELO: As defined by the Supreme Court baka hindi papasok iyon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Na?

SEC. PANELO: Kasi sa—the Supreme Court said pork would refer doon sa allocation na wala sa budget, nilagay mo lang. But in this particular case, sinasabi ni Senator Lacson na dati nang meron pero nire-distribute lang. So, papaano papasok?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No, sir, in the decision there are four kinds. Iyon pong dini-discuss ninyo would be a function of when the budget was allocated pre and post. Maybe ‘pre,’ puwedeng lusot; but there’s also letter ‘C,’ I think, from the decision – ‘lump sum discretionary funds,’ meaning, 100 million.

Let’s apply it to the allegation of Senator Lacson, one hundred per, plus 50 from Speaker Arroyo and they themselves identified. That’s what’s prohibited in letter ‘C’ of the decision of the Court, sir?

SEC. PANELO: Again, I will repeat what I said earlier: The President is a lawyer, he knows his law. If he thinks that is in violation of the doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court then he will do what is right.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, na-discuss kahapon si Kenneth Dong?

SEC. PANELO: No. Nobody raised it, nobody discussed—

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Not even in maybe pulong-pulong ninyo?

SEC. PANELO: No, wala.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: The President has—does he have any reaction to the arrest?

SEC. PANELO: It was not mentioned. But if you will ask me, the President always welcomes any arrest involving any person alleged to be involved in drug trafficking or any crime.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Regardless of the arrest?

SEC. PANELO: Regardless of who ever he or she is. Again, I will repeat: this President is no respecter of friendship, alliances and relationship. Everyone to him is accountable before the law.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Everyone.

SEC. PANELO: Everyone. And this is the only President, mind you, who strictly enforces the law even against himself. When he was Mayor, he scolded a traffic enforcer for not arresting him because he violated traffic violation and he insisted that he should be given a traffic violation ticket. Ito lang ang alam kong Presidenteng ganoon. So, if he is even strict against himself, di lalo na sa iba.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Sir, on Diokno. Why is the Cabinet not rallying behind him like what it did before when—di ba, they said na it was a disrespect the last time he appeared at the House hearing, so—

SEC. PANELO: We have not removed our support for Secretary Ben Diokno.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: Is the Cabinet now saying that they are confident he will not be mistreated again in the—

SEC. PANELO: I don’t think he will be mistreated. I don’t think so. I think the members of Congress know or realized that it could have been… it could have been—or it could have created a slight on Diokno’s integrity when he was mistreated.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQUIRER: So, the President is still supporting him?

SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely, there is no doubt about it. We support him.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay. Thank you MPC—

SEC. PANELO: By the way, I’d like to acknowledge the presence of the next Congressman of the Second District of Rizal, Congressman Fidel Nograles, who used to be with the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. I understand from what I gather from the people there, he would be the next Congressman of the Second District; just like Senator Bong Go, a sure winner. I’m not, I’m just—sabi ng Comelec, wala naman daw violation even if you mention eh.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, may we have your statement about the decision of the lawmakers yesterday to withdraw iyong death penalty for the drug users na ginagamit daw doon sa mga parties, after passing doon sa second and third and final reading nung Monday, winithdraw nila yesterday.

SEC. PANELO: Ano ang reason nila? I don’t know the—

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: How will this impact the campaign?

SEC. PANELO: We need to know the reason behind of the withdrawal. And then I will make a statement.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So is the Palace going to reach out with the congressmen just to understand the reason behind their action?

SEC. PANELO: No. We want to hear first the reason behind and then we will make a statement.

USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you MPC; thank you Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

SEC. PANELO: Thank you, also.

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

 

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