ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Good morning, MPC. Magandang umaga, Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Good morning to all.
Let me just brief you on the courtesy call of the Japanese Foreign Minister. He was received by the President in Davao City last February 9, where he conveyed personally the warm wishes of Prime Minister Abe as well as Japan’s commitment to further deepen and expand cooperation with the Philippines.
The Foreign Minister likewise conveyed to the President Prime Minister Abe’s concern on the twin explosions in Mindanao. And he expressed Japan’s condemnation of the terrorism and violent extremism and their commitment to assist the Philippines in combating the scourge of terrorism.
And during that hour long meeting, the Foreign Minister also reiterated Japans sustained support for the Philippine’s quest for just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao. He also extended felicitations for the success of the plebiscite and he expressed Japan’s commitment to rehabilitate and reconstruct Marawi and develop ARMM, including of course the funding of the road network development plan for ARMM.
And in the same occasion, Foreign Minister Kono recognized the Philippines’ contribution to the socio-economic development of Japan and conveyed Japan’s plan to open up its labor market for qualified Filipinos.
Meanwhile, the President thanked Foreign Minister Kono for the visit and lauded the inauguration of Japan’s Consulate General in Davao which he describes as “significantly expanding Japan’s presence and ties in the Southern Philippines.”
The President likewise lauded Japan, which he described as a true friend by the way and proven partner for its involvement in the Philippines build, build, build program and highlighted the quality of infrastructure projects as well as the transfer of technology and training embedded in the projects that would benefit Filipino practitioners and experts.
The President also thanked and emphasized the need to continuous strengthening the strategic partnership particularly addressing the trans-national crimes and conventional and emerging regional threats. The President also expressed his desire to meet Prime Minister Abe again to discuss developments in bilateral ties and assess ways of moving forward together on shared concerns.
That in effect happened in the courtesy call in Davao. I’m ready for any question—
Oh by the way before that. There is a commitment by the United States of 300 million dollars as intelligence support and we of course we welcome the United States’ commitment in this particular matter in fighting terrorism. It only shows that our military alliance with the United States remains very strong. As we all know by now and the world, terrorism knows no boundaries, politics, religion and creed. It is the new evil in the world that strikes at every country and every continent and all member nations of the United Nations really should help and cooperate with each other to combat and crush terrorism.
Of course, in Mindanao, as we all know, that terrorists apparently have gained a foothold in that region and they have unleashed in fact bombs that killed our soldiers, as well as our civilians. While they may have created fear and anxiety on the part of the inhabitants, nevertheless – if you also noticed – they were not intimidated nor cowed in exercising their right of suffrage during the last plebiscite. And we would like to assure the public that our Armed Forces are relentlessly pursuing these mass murderers, even as some of them as we all know by now have been criminally charged and presently detained.
So, we hope that the security measures provided by our Armed Forces of the Philippines will provide the appropriate and necessary protection for our people. And we call on the people of Mindanao specifically to be vigilant and to report to authorities any terroristic act or any suspicion that any act of terrorism will be committed so that this can be prevented.
Any suspicion at all that will endanger their lives, their limbs and their properties, the best way really to fight terrorism is for all of us to be vigilant and to help our authorities by providing information leading to the discovery of any plot or plan to execute acts of terrorism.
And as for Joma Sison by the way, he has again issued another statement and it appears to us that he is again in his usual daydreaming mode. Because instead of welcoming of offer of peace by the President, albeit conditional—and in fact, if you remember, this is not the first time that the President has made that offer, in fact, that’s a continuing offer ever since. He said, we are open to peaceful negotiations provided that, one, you stop assaulting our soldiers and the police officers while we are negotiating on the table and you stop extortion activities. Meaning to say, collecting revolutionary taxes.
Instead of welcoming this, Mr. Sison considers it as an insult to them. He said that they cannot stop their collection of revolutionary taxed because their government needs this for administration and other social programs. My reaction to that is, ‘oh, I didn’t know that they have a government.’
You must remember that for 52 years, they have tried to overthrow the political order but they failed. I recall I was still a student of the UP when Joma Sison initiated a noble cause that moved hundreds of bright students marching to the beat of his drums and in fact, lives were snuffed and presently some of them have survived and like Sison at the twilight of their years hoping still that they can overthrow this government, and for that matter succeed in governance. But it’s a pipe dream.
I think it’s about time that Joma Sison realizes this and he should join the ranks of heroic men and women who fought for their country from enslavement and accept at that time that he can no longer actualize or realize that dream. There is no dishonor in accepting defeat. There is another mode for change. Gandhi has shown that through peace; Martin Luther King has also made an example of how peaceful change can effect changes.
So, we call on Joma Sison that it’s about time that he contributes his talent and expertise for the betterment of our people and the country he loves so dearly. Because if he loses this opportunity – as I said in my statement – he might just be dumped into the dust bin of history and will remain a footnote in history.
I’m ready for questions.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, you mentioned the President is interested to meet with Prime Minister Abe.
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Will he visit Japan soon?
SEC. PANELO: No, he just expressed his willingness to meet with the Prime Minister. We will be awaiting of course for the response of the Prime Minister.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, also can you provide details about Japan’s policy to open its labor market to the Filipinos. How many Filipinos will benefit from this program?
SEC. PANELO: I think that question should be directed to Secretary Bello, because he is very familiar with that. That’s his turf.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, last doon sa military support to fight terrorism. How will Japan assist the Philippines, will this be through military exercises or acquisition of defense equipment?
SEC. PANELO: Maybe both. They have not particularized in detail exactly how they will help us, but we welcome all kinds of help. As I said, all nations of the world must unite to combat terrorism.
NESTOR CORRALES/ INQ. NET: It’s now a day before the 90-day campaign period starts tomorrow. When will the President release his official senatorial slate?
SEC. PANELO: He has not made any statement on that. Hopefully he will. But until such time, we cannot speculate on whom he will support; except for the names he have already mentioned.
NESTOR CORRALES/ INQ. NET: But you are confirming that the President will have his own senatorial slate?
SEC. PANELO: What he said was I’m going to campaign for my preferred candidates. That is what he said.
NESTOR CORRALES/ INQ. NET: Okay sir. Kasi ngayon, sir, the President is officially endorsing three slates, the PDP-Laban, his supposed senatorial slate and his daughter’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago. How do you think this will affect the chances of administration candidates in making it to the magic 12?
SEC. PANELO: Well, you know—in the ultimate analysis, it will be electorate who would decide.
NESTOR CORRALES/ INQ. NET: Follow up lang, sir. The President is the Chairman of the PDP-Laban. Why is there a need for him to make his own senatorial slate and hindi na lang kumpletuhin iyong top 12 candidates ng PDP-Laban since member naman siya noon and Chairman naman siya ng PDP-Laban.
SEC. PANELO: Well, that is personal preference, so I don’t think we can stop him from so doing.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: A follow up to Nestor. Sir, can you explain to us, first, how it will work – the three slates that will be supposedly carried by the President. Iba-iba kasi po iyong—I mean, they are not campaigning for the same candidates. How will it work?
SEC. PANELO: I think, what he is doing is he is presenting certain candidates that to his mind would be good material for the Senate. So, anybody from those line up would be good for him.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: Let say the candidates, the total number of candidates endorsed by these three slates go beyond 20, he will campaign for all those more than 20—for example, if mag-exceed ganoon po ba iyon?
SEC. PANELO: But the President has already said that he will have his own preferred candidates.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: So we are sticking to his own preferred candidates—
SEC. PANELO: I think so.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: And I am assuming you are pertaining to the personal slate that he talked about before?
SEC. PANELO: Yes. Unless of course, he made an official statement that these are the people he will campaign for. But even assuming that he does that, the situation where there are so many candidates being supported by the administration can only mean that we have a large number of highly qualified candidates that anyone of them winning will make the President pleased and confident that it will support any measure that will redound to the benefit of the Filipino people.
You know, you must remember that even if a President—and this was during the previous years, even if a President endorses an entire slate, there never was – in the history – that an entire slate wins or won. There is always somebody outside of the slate that gets the approbation of the people. So I don’t think there is any danger or harm with respect to the other candidates that the President will endorse.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: No, sir, it’s not that ano… about harming the candidates. It’s more of who will the President be endorsing, it’s still unclear, sorry, sir. Is it his personal slate, is it also the Hugpong, is it also PDP? Because I understand he will be attending the launching on February 14 of PDP-Laban and yet he will also come up with his own personal slate.
SEC. PANELO: Again, as I said, if he for instance supports the three slates, then it only means that he has a deep bench of senatorial hopefuls. So, regardless of who among the wins, eh okay pa rin sa kanya iyon. Sinasabi niya lang sa mga tao na “oh ito, okay na lahat ito, bahala kayo kung sino ang gusto ninyo, kahit sino sa kanila puwede sa akin.” I don’t think merong ano doon—and I think even the candidates would want that.
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: Sir, can we expect doon sa Feb. 14 na iyong mga preferred candidates ng Pangulo doon na rin magsama-sama?
SEC. PANELO: Which one?
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: Sa Feb. 14 kung saan iyong… yung launch, si,r na a-attendan ng Pangulong Duterte, doon sa mga susuportahan niyang kandidato. Ibig sabihin, halo-halo iyon, may PDP, may hindi. Basta iyon yung mga preferred candidates niya?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam iyong—iyong Feb. 14, saan ba siya supposed to be a-attend?
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: Ah, sorry, PDP pala iyon.
SEC. PANELO: Kung PDP, di PDP-Laban lang ang nandoon.
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: So, hindi kasama iyong iba pang preferred?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so. If it’s being launched by PDP, I don’t think they will allow other candidates—
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: Unless in-invite din ng PDP.
SEC. PANELO: I don’t think—kung kumpleto sila, I don’t think they will invite.
HANNAH SANCHO/DZAR/SONSHINE RADIO: Hindi pa sila kumpleto, sir.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, good morning. Ang Pangulo po ay nag-endorso na nung basically tatlo – Secretary Bong Go, Secretary Tolentino and General Bato Dela Rosa and last week si JV Ejercito na kandidato niya. Ano ang pagkakaiba nung pag-eendorso sa pagkakampanya? Is he campaigning already for those four candidates?
SEC. PANELO: Well you can say, by endorsing it, he is telling the people this is my personal choice. You must remember na hindi naman illegal gawin iyon. Wala pa eh, hindi pa naman campaign period. Expressing one’s preference is—
HENRY URI/DZRH: So, it’s one way of interpreting na, this is my candidates, vote for them.
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, in a way, yes kung gusto ninyo. Kasi hindi mo naman mapipilit ang tao kahit pa sabihin niyang kung ayaw naman ng tao din eh.
HENRY URI/DZRH: And meron po siyang pagbabawal sa inyo, sa mga Cabinet.
SEC. PANELO: In fact, sina—narinig ninyo iyong sinabi niya, kung ayaw n’yo naman, di wag.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Eh, may pagbabawal siya sa inyong mga Cabinet officials na huwag makikialam, wag mangangampanya for—
SEC. PANELO: Hindi. Ang sinasabi niya, kasi prohibited na nga for any government employee to campaign for or against during the election campaign – inuulit niya lang iyong batas.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Sabi ni dating CHR Commissioner Etta Rosales, kung ayaw ni Pangulo na pagkampayahin kayo, bakit siya naman ang nangungunang magkampanya para sa mga kandidatong ito?
SEC. PANELO: Eh wala pa ngang prohibition eh. Wala pang prohibition, iyong pangangampanya niya ngayon. Iyong sinasabi niyang prohibition refers to the election campaign and that applies to all employees of the government. It’s under the law it’s prohibited to campaign for or against or use any resource of the government in support or against any candidate.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Kelan ho magte-take effect itong—tomorrow is the official start of—
SEC. PANELO: Tomorrow na? Yeah, tomorrow.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So, will we expect the President na wala na siyang magiging endorsement, pronouncement starting tomorrow?
SEC. PANELO: Most likely, kasi iyon ang batas eh.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So doon sa mga kumukuwestyun sa Pangulo sa pag-eendorso niya, ano ang Palace statement diyan?
SEC. PANELO: Kumbaga, masyadong premature iyong mga criticism na iyan. Hindi pa nga labag sa batas ang mag-endorse o magkampanya at this time.
Q: Sir, pakibuo raw ng quote doon sa …
SEC. PANELO: Alin doon? Which one?
Q: Hindi, sir, sabi po ni Presidente na he will not tolerate even a small whiff of corruption. And he even kept on saying na he has fired several government officials because of corruption. So, sir, how are you going—or the President strike balance or reconcile doon sa anti-corruption campaign niya and endorsing candidates who have been tried, charged of graft and corruption. For example, sir, si Senator Jinggoy Estrada, he was tried doon sa graft and corruption sa pork barrel funds.
SEC. PANELO: Number one, Senator Estrada or former Senator Estrada is charged with corruption. And the Constitution says, unless you are convicted by final judgment, you are presumed to be innocent. So the presumption is Estrada is innocent.
Number two, he’s been granted bail. And the reason for the court’s grant of provisional liberty is anchored on the fact that the evidence of guilt is not strong. So you cannot begrudge the President for endorsing a man who is presumed to be innocent under the law; otherwise you are prejudging him.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Pero, sir, sabi po kasi ni Presidente na “small whiff of corruption.”
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, small whiff, pero ‘di ba sinabi ko na noon, kapag sinabi ni Presidente na small whiff of corruption, inimbistigahan na niya iyan. Kasi bago naman siya—before he fires people, mayroon nang dumarating sa kaniyang impormasyon at pinapapaimbestiga na niya kaagad. Hindi naman iyong sinabi, ‘Mr. President, corrupt iyan,’ ‘he’s fired.’ Hindi naman ganoon ang Presidente.
You must remember, he is a lawyer; he has been trained to evaluate evidence presented before him. Hindi ganoon si Presidente.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, what specific qualifications does the President look at when it comes to endorsing officials or candidates?
SEC. PANELO: Well, based on what I heard from him when he endorsed me, he said, “This man is honest,” oh honesty. “This one is masipag,” so efficient in work.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Therefore, Mr. Estrada is honest?
SEC. PANELO: The presumption, he is because he has not been convicted. If I ask you now, what if he would be acquitted? Oh di lahat tayong nagpi-prejudge sa kaniya, sinampal tayo sa mukha, iyon pala hindi naman pala siya guilty.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Mr. Estrada is facing several corruption cases.
SEC. PANELO: Yes, but the Constitution says every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent under the law.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: And to the Palace, that’s not a whiff of corruption?
SEC. PANELO: As I said, a whiff of corruption does not mean a reckless receipt of an allegation of corruption and a decision to fire the person subject of that information. The President as a lawyer investigates any allegation of corruption before he makes a move.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: So in that case, are you defending Mr. Estrada?
SEC. PANELO: I’m telling you what the Constitution says because your question assumes that he is already guilty. It’s very unfair for everybody. We’ve been saying that. In my practice of law, even before joining the government, you cannot be assuming and presuming and spreading the guilt of a person unless he’s been finally convicted. And you will only appreciate this when you yourself is charged, and people start saying that you’re guilty.
We have to respect the Constitution. We have to bow to the majesty of what the Constitution says. The presumption of innocence prevails regardless of who you are, whether you are an ally or a friend. Otherwise, mayroon tayong chaos, may anarchy tayo kapag hindi na tayo sumusunod.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: All right. Sir, I just need specific details on US government commitment of over 300 million—
SEC. PANELO: There’s no specific detail yet, Arjay, because ano pa lang iyon, general commitment.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Pero who communicated to the government that they are committing this amount?
SEC. PANELO: I’m not sure either with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or Secretary of National Defense.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Who from the US government?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. Hindi ko pa alam iyon.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: But how did you get the information?
SEC. PANELO: From Secretary of National Defense.
NESTOR CORRALES/Inquirer.net: Secretary, because we are talking here about whiff of corruption. The President has fired several government officials who have not been convicted and tried for the alleged corruption. How is Jinggoy Estrada different from these cases?
SEC. PANELO: The difference is, the President – to my mind – has not received any evidence of corruption vis-à-vis Mr. Estrada. First, he is not a member of the Cabinet. He is a member of the legislature at that time. Second, he was not yet President at the time of the alleged commission of corruption.
NESTOR CORRALES/Inquirer.net: Will this not affect the President’s tough stance against corruption knowing that former Senator Estrada is facing several cases in court?
SEC. PANELO: No. The survey will tell you that the President has made many perceived to be unpopular decisions, and yet the survey remains very high. In other words, Filipino people trust this man. They’re confident and believe in his judgment. And ultimately, it’s the people who will decide anyway.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Sir, you mentioned that a whiff of corruption is not just a reckless allegation of corruption against former Senator Estrada. How does the Palace define the term “reckless allegation” where in fact, Senator Estrada is facing several charges for plunder before the Sandiganbayan? Is that reckless, sir?
SEC. PANELO: I think you were not listening to what I said earlier. I said, the corruption charges against the former Senator happened at the time when he has a member of Congress. It happened when the President was not yet the President. So there is no allegation of corruption given the President or has he received any information or evidence relative to whatever corruption as allegedly he committed.
Sa madaling sabi, wala, wala siyang alam doon. So as far as he is concerned, anong magiging basis ko. I know there is a corruption charged pero that is being tried in the court. And as a lawyer, he will tell you, I know that he is presumed innocent. Now, you want me to exercise my own judgment, give me evidence. Eh wala pa eh, papaano. You cannot blame the man.
JULIE AURELIO/PDI: Is the President not afraid of tarnishing public perception about his corruption drive given na he is endorsing someone who is being tried for corruption?
SEC. PANELO: Again, I will repeat what I said: He has done so many unpopular decisions, and yet his ratings remain very popular. This man couldn’t care less. For as long as he repeatedly says, I am mandated by the Constitution to serve and to protect, any action that I make will be on that basis alone.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: Sir, just to clarify. So since the President has a parang personal preferences when it comes to candidates—
SEC. PANELO: Hindi pa pala tayo tapos doon.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: I’d just want to clarify. So is it safe to say na walang administration slate but a Presidential slate instead?
SEC. PANELO: Eh ganoon siguro ang lalabas doon dahil ang Presidente ang mamimili—
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: I’m asking this—
SEC. PANELO: But, of course, the personal choices of everybody will be depending on his own choice.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: I’m asking this because the campaign needs ‘di ba funds. So when it comes to… iyong campaign time ‘di ba if you don’t have an administration slate but the Presidential slate, where will they get iyong resources if ever?
SEC. PANELO: Aba eh, they’re campaigning, they should know that it requires funds. But the President will never use any government resource in support or against any candidate, strikto siya noon.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: So it’s just like an endorsement lang and it ends there?
SEC. PANELO: He made the endorsement during the time na hindi pa naman prohibited.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: I mean, it will just be simply endorsement coming from the President?
SEC. PANELO: Basta sinabi niya na I will not allow any government fund to be used in support or against any particular candidate; eh itaga ninyo na sa bato iyan.
CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PDI: Last na lang. So won’t this if ever up the chances of the opposition?
SEC. PANELO: Alam mo iyang chances na iyan will depend on the people. As I said, marami ng binatong putik kay Presidente, lahat na yata pero ganoon pa rin ang rating niya eh. Sa madali’t sabi mas naniniwala ang tao kay Presidente kaysa doon sa mga kritiko niya or sa opposition.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary.
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
HENRY/DZRH: To be brutally frank about it sabi nga. Anong mayroon kay Senator Jinggoy, why the President is endorsing him considering the fact na marami namang mga iba pang kandidato na walang kaso, walang nabalita na involved sa corruption. Senator Koko for one is an example, he is the inaanak and member siya ng PDP pero marami ng mga endorsement ang Pangulo na hindi na sasama si Senator Koko Pimentel?
SEC. PANELO: Para maging eksakto tayo, I’ll ask him why he is endorsing or he endorsed Mr. Estrada.
HENRY/DZRH: [laughs] Sabi ni Chona Yu may away ba ang Pangulo at si Koko Pimentel?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so, wala. Ngayon ko lang narinig iyon ha. [laughs]
HENRY/DZRH: Pero will we expect the President to endorse Koko in the near… in the coming days?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam eh, ‘pagdating diyan eh personal, kaniya-kaniyang personal choices iyan. Let’s wait.
HENRY/DZRH: Alright, thank you sir.
SEC. PANELO: The favorite of Joseph who is absent.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Sir, kanina sinasabi ninyo si Senator… innocent until proven guilty. How about in the case of Imee Marcos, sir, who the President also said he is endorsing? Her family accumulated ill-gotten wealth which the government continues to recover.
SEC. PANELO: According to the President she’s helping Imee because he is indebted to her because she is only one of two governors who helped him in the campaign. Utang na loob yata iyong kaniyang reason.
INA/CNN PHILS.: So in Imee Marcos’s case the President is willing to overlook iyong isyu of corruption—
SEC. PANELO: In the first place, Imee is not charged. So… kung iyon nga ang nakademanda presumed lalo na itong hindi naman nakademanda. Wala naman siyang charge ng crime eh, wala.
INA/CNN PHILS.: Thank you sir.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Hi sir, good morning sir.
SEC. PANELO: Maricel.
MARICEL/TV5: Sir, with regards doon sa Chinese who threw taho to the police officer. Vice President Leni Robredo says that this is in a way an insult or disrespect not just to the police officer but for the whole Filipino nation. Do you share the same view sir?
SEC. PANELO: I think I will follow the line of Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin on that matter. He issued a twitter on that. Si Secretary Locsin, he said that let us not blowup this issue. That particular incident happens almost anywhere, kumbaga huwag na nating palakihin. But moreover she has been charged, one. Number two, I think they are considering her deportation.
MARICEL/TV5: Sir, also Vice President Leni Robredo says that maybe this should be a wakeup call on the part of the administration that we should stop giving special treatment to the Chinese nationals.
SEC. PANELO: Maybe it’s a wakeup call to her to stop… stop speculating and stop giving statements that may inflame incidents that need not be so.
MARICEL/TV5: So this one you considering it as an isolated case, sir?
SEC. PANELO: I think so. I have not heard of any other incidents, I mean publicly. But there have been rudeness on certain nationalities. It’s not limited to Chinese; Koreans do that also, Japanese, siguro depende. Kasi kung minsan rude din iyong tao, Pilipino so ang nagti-trigger ng conflict between the two. But foreign nationals who sojourn in this country should always behave otherwise they are subject to laws and deportation. We will not allow them to disrespect authorities or violate any law or ordinance in this country.
MARICEL/TV5: Thank you, sir.
Q: Sir, good afternoon sir. Sir, there’s the statement from Cotabato City Mayor—
SEC. PANELO: Sino iyan?
Q: Sayadi ang apelyido, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Si Mayor Cynthia.
Q: Yes, Cynthia Sayadi, that government officials, military and even election officials allegedly conspired with MILF daw po ahead of the elections – January 21 plebiscite. She also claimed that voters were not able to vote because they were being harassed and intimidated by members of the MILF. So what’s the Palace comment on this and will the government investigate it?
SEC. PANELO: Well, our comment would be, if she has evidence to back up her claim then file then file the appropriate charges against who so ever she felt has violated election laws.
Q: Hindi ba ito, sir, iimbestigahan?
SEC. PANELO: No—precisely, you have to file your case in the appropriate administrative bodies.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, update on the Rice Tariffication Bill, again. What’s holding up the signing?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t know if it’s already sign. I will ask the Executive Secretary but I mentioned ‘di ba iyong last time—
ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Yes, yes.
SEC. PANELO: Most likely it will be signed because when he met with the farmers he said, ‘I can understand where you are coming from but it’s the greater interest, the greater good.’ So ibig sabihin pipirmahan niya.
ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Aside from those reasons, sir, are there any other possible reasons that may hold up the signing of the…
SEC. PANELO: No I don’t think so.
ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Alright, thank you.
ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Sir, Viber question lang po. There is a new group involved in Ponzi scheme—
SEC. PANELO: In the what?
ALVIN/RADYO PILIPINAS: Ponzi.
SEC. PANELO: Which Ponzi? Ano iyon?
ALVIN/RADYO PILIPINAS: Operating in Mindanao just few years after the—sir, a futures scam was exposed. The group which call itself the Kapa Community Ministry International Incorporated is involved allegedly in recruiting members luring them to donate 5,000 to two million pesos for 30 percent monthly return of investment. Malakas daw ang loob sir nitong grupo kasi—the group is even name dropping the President kaya hindi makagalaw iyong mga authorities. Anong reaksiyon daw dito?
SEC. PANELO: My advice to them is if you feel there are violations against any law then you should file charges.
ALVIN/RADYO PILIPINAS: Thank you, sir.
NESTOR CORRALES/Inquirer.net: Representative Andaya has vowed to join Senators Lacson and Drilon in questioning before the Supreme Court the veto message of the President should it reflect the restoration of the 75 billion allegedly inserted by Budget Secretary Diokno, because yesterday, in a statement, Representative Andaya accused Cabinet Secretary Nograles and Diokno of orchestrating to restore the 75 billion. How does Malacañang view this possible questioning of the 2019 budget before the Supreme Court?
SEC. PANELO: It’s their right to question anything that they feel should be subject to a petition before the Supreme Court. That’s their right. And in fact, that’s their duty if they feel na tama sila. Let the Supreme Court decide.
NESTOR CORRALES/Inquirer.net: How about Malacañang’s reaction that Cabinet Secretary Nograles and Secretary Diokno are orchestrating to restore the 75 billion allegedly described as pork—
SEC. PANELO: I’m sure Mr. Diokno and Mr. Nograles have the competence and the expertise to respond to the allegation of Mr. Andaya.
NESTOR CORRALES/Inquirer.net: Will this not affect government programs if ever it will be questioned before the high court?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t think so. Eh kapag nag-file ka naman ng kaso—unless you are restrained by the Supreme Court.
ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Sir, tutal nasa budget tayo. Viber question from Rosalie Coz: Anong masasabi tungkol sa mga pork insertions na nananatili pa rin umano sa budget 2019 ayon kay Lacson. Kailan po lalagdaan ng Pangulo ang budget?
SEC. PANELO: Like I said before, iyong sinasabing insertion, dati nang nandoon iyon na ni-redistribute lang. Number two, kailan pipirmahan? Eh di malapit na siguro iyon kung—‘di ba gusto ni Presidente na ma-approve so it will be signed as a matter of course.
But, the President, as we said, will be scrutinizing every phase, every provision of the budget. He wants to be sure that it is in conformity with the Constitution. And he will veto anything that he feels is not correct or irregular.
Q: Sir, good morning. Sir, hindi po nakikitang unconstitutional iyong parang kinu-question ng mga lawmakers iyong veto power ni Presidente? Sa Palace po ba hindi ba natin nakikitang masama ito?
SEC. PANELO: How can you question a veto power that’s lodged in the Constitution? It’s there. It’s a power of the President to veto. What they can do under the Constitution is to override a veto. You don’t have to go to the Supreme Court. A President vetoes a measure, then Congress can override the veto by the required number of votes. May mechanism eh.
CEDRIC CASTILLO/GMA7: Sir, at the moment, sir, is it the realm of possibilities that the President may veto the whole budget itself?
SEC. PANELO: It’s in the realm of speculation.
CEDRIC CASTILLO/GMA7: Sir, balikan ko lang iyong ‘taho’ incident doon sa Chinese national, sir. Sir, napanood po ba ni Presidente iyong reports or iyong CCTV or iyong photos na nag-circulate po?
SEC. PANEL: Hindi ko alam kung napanood niya.
CEDRIC CASTILLO/GMA7: Okay. I’m asking this, sir, kasi ‘di ba the President has a soft spot for uniformed personnel – the police and ano. Baka po mayroong siyang reaksiyon doon sa incident.
SEC. PANELO: ‘Di ba sabi ko sa inyo, the President is always outraged by any kind of oppression. And as I said earlier, nademanda na, nabitbit na sa presinto, now she’s facing deportation charges. Ang ayaw ni Presidente ay iyong you commit an oppression or oppressive act from his point of view tapos walang nangyari, kumbaga pinabayaan lang. Pero given the situation, palagay ko he will just wait kung anong nangyari.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: Sec., would you know po the reason behind the issuance of the Memorandum Circular by the Palace reminding government units to ensure timely completion of infrastructure project po?
SEC. PANELO: It should be that way because there have been delays in the implementation of projects. And as we know, delays will hamper the services that are supposed to be provided by the government. Kapag na-delay iyong mga proyekto mo, eh di may problema ka.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: So is it safe to say that the President is frustrated about the pace of implementation of infra projects particularly those under Build, Build, Build, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ba, hindi ba I told you about his frustrations over the requirements, iyong tagal, iyong sa conversion. Siyempre naiinis siya kasi si Presidente, hindi siya mahilig sa mga protocol eh; gusto niya diretso kaagad eh. That is precisely why he was telling us, all of us, he was telling the nation, “You know why I am appointing these generals? Because sila, galaw kaagad.” Iyong mga sibilyan, nakikipag-argue pa sila, “Sir, hindi puwede iyan. Sir, ganito.” Sila, gawa kaagad. Kung nakita nilang may problema, ginagawan nila ng paraan para mawala iyong problema.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: But, sir, does the Palace know the reason behind these delays po of infrastructure projects po?
SEC. PANELO: The reason of the delay as we already said, mayroong mga restraints, legal restraints. Kung minsan naman, bureaucracy, bureaucratic red tape. ‘Di ba sinabi na niya? Kung minsan iyong mga papel diyan hindi gumagalaw kasi naghihintay ng lagay – corruption. Kaya he issued that memorandum, kumbaga he’s warning everyone, “Huwag ninyo nang gagawin iyan.” Iyan ang ibig niyang sabihin.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: But, sir, is the Memorandum Circular also in relation to the economic managers’ bid to request for an exemption of infra projects from election spending ban po which will take effect on March po?
SEC. PANELO: The economic managers know na hindi pupuwede ang mga constructions during the election campaign, unless mayroong exemption.
BERNADETTE NICOLAS/BUSINESS MIRROR: So related nga iyon, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Wala akong makitang koneksyon.
CEDRIC CASTILLO/GMA7: Sir, iyon po sa kaso ni 19-year old Ashley Abad, allegedly namatay daw due to ingesting drugs—
SEC. PANELO: Ah iyong Cebuana?
CEDRIC CASTILLO/GMA7: Yes, sir. Sinabi ng Regional Director po sa Region VII na tinawagan daw po siya ng Pangulo para ipaaresto iyong boyfriend, sir. Can we confirm, sir, na there was such phone call at saka kung ano po iyong instruction—
SEC. PANELO: I have to confirm that. Ngayon ko lang narinig iyan.
ALVIN BALTAZAR/RADYO PILIPINAS: Maraming salamat, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Thank you.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)