USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Good noon Malacañang Press Corps. Good Friday… Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Good morning, members of the MPC. I’m ready if you are… Joseph!
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, okay… Si Maria is out on bail ‘no, but she said that, you know ‘the tendency now is to weaponize laws against all critical reporting of the press’ daw.
SEC. PANELO: Alright. Let me discuss point-by-point her allegations: Number one, first it’s a private citizen suing Maria Ressa. The President does not know the complainant nor is he acquainted with him; the complaint, from what I gathered begun in 2012. The article was published on ’12 and then republished on ’14. Hence it’s covered by cyber law. Of course they claim that it’s not, but that’s a legal issue that the court should resolve. But the fact alone that there is a warrant of arrest, means that the court has effectively issued that it’s within its jurisdiction – meaning to say, that the crime charge is correct;
Now she says that there has been irregularity in the filing of a case as well as her arrest. Let me tell you Maria that the case filed against you was in accordance with law. This is not a case of freedom of expression as you claim. It is a case of one man in the person of the complainant, asserting his right under the law for a perceived violation of his right – that is why he filed a case against you.
Now you say a rule of law… precisely the rule of law has been observed. A case was filed against you; a preliminary investigation was accorded to you – that is in accordance with law, that is a rule of law; and the prosecutor found probable cause. Hence, the case was filed before the court. Under the Constitution, before a judge can issue a warrant for an arrest of a person, he has to personally go through the evidence presented before the court and determines whether there is probable cause. And obviously the judge saw—found probable cause, hence there is an issuance of warrant for her arrest – that is an observance of the rule of law;
Now, she was granted bail. Again, that is rule of law because she is entitled to that. Now let us go to the specific complaint. She says that she was arrested after 5 P.M. What does the warrant says? The warrant is directed to a peace officer to arrest her or any person for that matter facing a criminal charge as soon as possible – or in other words, immediately. There is no specific time frame. The direction is to bring that person before the court in accordance with law.
Now she says, “No, but I should have been arrested the morning after.” Oh Maria, you want to be treated differently from a class of persons subject to a warrant of arrest just because you are a high profile journalist? Excuse me Maria, the law is no respecter of social status – everyone is equal under the law. Just because you are a high profile journalist, you want to be treated differently.
Number two, she says… because we had a debate last night in one television station, station of Ina Andolong – CNN. She was saying—because I was asking and she was saying that there were irregularities; one of them she said that there is no information attached to the complaint. Cannot even understand what—information isn’t a complaint; information is the one filed in court. Complaint is filed by a private individual.
Anyway she says, ‘because since there is no information or if there is an information, there is no stated recommended bail.’ I said that is not a requirement, it’s the court that sets the bail – even a prosecutor recommends bail for so less or so much… it’s the court that will determine how much you will have to post bail.
Number two, she says… because I asked her: “What’s the reason for the court not granting you bail last night?” “Oh there are so many reasons Secretary, that person…” “No, no…” I said, “I want it now. I want to hear it from you na…” She said, “Well the court said there is no information sheet, there is no stated bail…” My response was this. I am going to tell her again: Maria, you cannot blame the court nor the government nor this administration nor the President on the incompetence of your lawyer. Your lawyer should have argued before the court that that’s your case, your case grants you entitlement as a matter of right of bail. The absence of an information sheet is not an excuse not to grant you bail. Moreover, I cannot even understand Maria, why your lawyers do not have a copy of the information filed against you.
Now you complained about the arrest. I understand the case was filed one week earlier, but your lawyer was saying that, “I just saw her… I saw him this morning on a TV program.” He said, “But Maria could not know that the case was filed a week earlier because she was not sent a copy.” My goodness… lawyers should always be on their toes. You know that your client is facing a charge and anytime the information could be filed.
When I was practicing lawyer, my client never entered jail or most of them because I knew that the warrant would be there and I had to, you know, stay in the court or my staff to wait in the court so that we can post bail immediately. So stop blaming anyone for the unpreparedness of your lawyers. There is absolutely nothing to do with the freedom of expression.
Now you say ‘there is an abuse of power.’ Excuse me Maria, abuse of power? You are the one abusing your power as a journalist. You’re marshaling your colleagues to support you on the basis of a misplaced and baseless cause. What is the cause? The cause is you’re saying that the government is instilling fear because of the case filed against you. There is no connection whatsoever, so you are the one using your power as a journalist… We all know media is the fourth estate in attacking the government as well as this administration.
Number two, you are saying there is a weaponization of the law. Oh Maria… you are the one using or weaponizing the law. What is the law? The Constitutional right to freedom of expression – you are using that now against the government. But the Constitution says, libel is not protected by the freedom of expression – that is precisely why you are charged, because as far as this complainant is concerned, his rights have been violated by you.
You have to be woman enough to face the complaint against you. Stop blaming the government, in the same way that the case filed against you relative to tax evasion – that has nothing to do with your work as a journalist. Otherwise, if we will follow your logic… then journalists, commentators, reporters can no longer be sued because there will always be the accusation, the allegation, the perception that the government is trying to curtail their freedom of expression – that cannot be done.
As you say, we have to abide by the rule of law – that is precisely this government is observing.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, just your comment on the spring of support that Maria Ressa is getting from world leaders such as Madeleine Albright and some journalists also – international journalists Christiane Amanpour, so your comment please?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the support obviously is coming from those who have been either ignorant of the facts or misinformed of the facts. They should have look at the complaint. Because the feeling is she was just arrested, pickup at the wrong time. But if you look at the facts, all were done in accordance with the law. What she wants is she wants to be treated differently – that cannot be done.
USEC. ROCKY IGNACIO: Sir, basahin ko lang iyong question ni Pia ng Rappler.
SEC. PANELO: Is that the same or..?
USEC. IGNACIO: No, sir. Does the Palace agree with the government efforts to ensure Maria Ressa spent a night in detention? These efforts includes serving arrest warrant after office hours and a Pasay night court refusing to allow her to post bail when it was within his authority to do so?
SEC. PANELO: I think that question has already been answered in my discussion.
USEC. IGNACIO: And second question ni Pia: Does Palace agree with DOJ interpretation that prescription period for cyber libel is 12 years and not one year as stated in revised Penal Code for libel, Cyber Crime Prevention Act does not indicate specific new prescription period for cyber libel?
SEC. PANELO: Again, that was already answered. I said that is a legal issue that be raised before the Court and the fact alone that the court has issued a warrant of arrest it appears to me now that the court has ruled on that. Meaning to say, as far as the court is concerned, correct complaint was filed under the cyber law. That answers your question.
In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the Palace agrees or not. We’re not concerned with that what we are concern about is you follow the law. If that is what the Court says then that is the law.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, with regard to the case ‘no. Do you agree that it will all boil down to what re-publication is, so in your perspective sir based on… is there a provision in the cyber law with regard to re-publication because you said different medium compare to maybe print that’s…
SEC. PANELO: The issue is whether or not: One, as they claim it’s not covered by cyber law. Number two, whether or not the publication – the words stated therein, are libelous. Those are the legal issues to be decided by the Court. So let’s wait. Maria Ressa is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I’ll be the first one to defend her on that. That’s why I told her last night, prepare for your defense, you’re entitle to that. Because had the Court denied her bail on the basis of… because initially I was told that wala daw jurisdiction. If that was the reason I would have punch you on the court and criticize the… But hindi naman iyan ang naging desisyon ng court. So let us just leave the case to the court, it’s there already.
And moreover, she was saying that it gives a chilling effect, intimidation – the case file against her. How can it even affect others when you are not even affected, you’re smiling from the time you were arrested up to the… either or at the NBI and you are also in fact using your right of expression to attack the government. So you say chilling effect, you don’t look it as if you’re affected and if you are not affected, how could the others be affected? And I will even credit you for smiling – tama iyan dapat ganiyan talaga, ganiyan talaga ang buhay.
But one thing I can tell you Maria, the government, this administration will never interfere nor intercede. If your perception on the decision of the DOJ’s law, there are always legal remedies available to you, your lawyers know that. Let your lawyers do the talking for you, Maria.
Incidentally, I was requesting by the way, who is from ABS-CBN here? I was requesting… Karen, I said, I think you should also give us the opportunity to guest in your program so we can point out and discuss the allegations made by your guest. And ang reply niya, ‘Sir, ito iyong ANC, we just cover your news briefing.’ Oh, ganiyan ka-fair ang ABS-CBN, ayaw bigyan ng pagkakataong mag-guest in the same program that a particular guest explains her case – dapat bibigyan ninyo rin kami, iba iyong venue ninyo, iba iyong venue dito.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Hi sir. Sir, this is a follow up to question asked with the President last night about the pending bills, rice tariffication and the expanded maternity leave, sabi po niya pag-aaralan niya iyong expanded maternity leave kagabi. Ano na po ang status?
SEC. PANELO: Baka natulog pa siya at hindi pa napag-aaralan.
INA/CNN PHILS.: But will those bills lapse into a law because kahapon po dapat iyong last day for the… Ah both ba? Both po yata sir eh, so what’s the status?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi pa natin alam, he could have signed it prior to the effective date or he could have vetoed it. We don’t know yet. We will have to wait for an official announcement on the matter.
INA/CNN PHILS.: Just to be clear. Yesterday iyong expanded maternity leave and today po iyong rice tariffication, so we’d like an update on…
SEC. PANELO: Let’s just wait for the announcement of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
INA/CNN PHILS.: Thank you sir.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So we have to wait until 12 o’clock midnight tonight for the law to be considered lapsed?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, unang-una we are speculating. We don’t know—
JOSEPH/GMA7: Hindi sir, procedural. I mean sabi ni Presidente hangga’t mayroon siyang time, he still in control. So halimbawa sir, up to 12 midnight ba iyong kumbaga, window for the President to do any action before it lapses into law?
SEC. PANELO: Oo after that day eh ‘di batas na iyon kung hindi niya pinirmahan.
JOSEPH/GMA7: Ah okay.
SEC. PANELO: Bakit wala si Arjay?
JOSEPH/GMA7: Sir, iyong kay… Yesterday po, he… the President had a few choice of words for the former Senator Kit Tatad. Will you able to read the transcript? Did you monitor?
SEC. PANELO: No, anong sinabi niya?
JOSEPH/GMA7: I don’t want to repeat it because it’s a—
SEC. PANELO: It’s what? It’s libelous?
JOSEPH/GMA7: Few choice words [laughs]. No, okay.
SEC. PANELO: That Tatad claims that he had a kidney transplant ‘di ba? And it’s a false news – it’s false. He never had a kidney transplant and very funny because I look at the date when he said he had a transplant. You know what I discovered? That day he had a transplant, he was there at the Megamall watching Bato’s movie premiere. And that alone should already… Besides mukhang hindi ninyo nga pinatulan eh, mukhang wala, nobody carried the title.
JOSEPH/GMA7: Which one?
SEC. PANELO: Iyong claim niya na nag-kidney transplant. I didn’t read any major newspaper getting it, that means hindi pinatulan iyong claim niya kasi alam naman nilang hindi totoo.
JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay, sir. Can I read from the transcript? Wait lang ha, iba muna, ang haba kasi ng speech kahapon [laughs].
PRINCE GOLEZ/ABANTE: Sir, just your two sets. Sir, last night, President Duterte said that parang he was obliged to raise the hand of Jinggoy Estrada because the former Senator was present during the Barangay officials’ event in Albay, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Well, alam mo, from what I know from the President’s character, he does not embarrassed people – especially women, ayaw niya ng mapapahiya. Kaya siguro, as he explained it, baka courtesy lang sa kanya.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir iyon bang non-endorsement are exclusion, can you call it exclusion of former Senators Revilla and Estrada; had something to do with probably the cases, pork cases in the Sandiganbayan or corruption allegations?
SEC. PANELO: I think, I read a portion of the transcript. He said that too late na silang lumapit sa kanila. Moreover, baka feeling niya rin ay hindi na ninyo kailangan endorsement, baka manalo kayo dahil dati na kayong mga senador, may pangalan kayo, kilala kayo ng tao – o baka hindi na kailangan.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Do you want me to read the transcript, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: I just wanna make sure. So, siyempre the President was reacting in the article.
SEC. PANELO: Ikaw ba nagtanong noon sa kanya.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No sir, it was part of the speech. Ito, sir “Ikaw Tatad may diabetes ka eh, kami ni Congressman Tolentino, kapatid nitong si… mga ganoon, noon sa langit iyan, hindi, hindi kayo ang binabastos ko, si Tatad. Sinadya ko iyan para… kapag nakita kita, bantay kita, iyan ang violation talaga ng press freedom, pero hindi dahil galit ako, iyang kantiyaw mo parang bastos na”. And then this paragraph, sir. “Gusto mo ba talagang subukan kung meron pa kami o wala” You know what he is referring here, right – the virility, sexual virility? “May asawa ka, ipahiram mo sa akin. Ikaw Congressman, baka dito na lang, okay na iyan ten minutes lang iyan.” Your comment, please?
SEC. PANELO: Well, it’s just a hyperbole, just to dramatize it, he is still virile at this stage and he is pissed off, he is pissed off with the kind of false news. Iyon ang tinatawag na talagang, iyong ang libelous, kita mo, ni hindi man siya nagdedemanda – iyon ang libelous.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But the language perhaps, but the kind of language?
SEC. PANELO: Which one? But people have been used to this President: hyperbole; he uses certain situations and make fun of it; make fun of me, make fun of others, pakuwela lang naman, si Presidente sanay na sanay na ang tao, natatawa na nga lang eh. Ang message ko kay Tatad, “Noy, bago ka magpaluwas aning mga column mo, mag-verify ka muna kasi.” Verify. Can you imagine you are saying may kidney transplant, nanood pala doon sa Megamall, kay Bato. Your days are over as Spokesman of the former President Marcos. Igalang natin.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, kagabi rin, nag-apologize si Pangulong Duterte kay Speaker Alvarez and now doon sa medyo pagkagulo ng line up ng PDP-Laban, dahil sa sariling coalition.
SEC. PANELO: Bakit siya nag-apologize, hindi ko alam iyon.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes, he apologized.
SEC. PANELO: Bakit nga, why?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Dahil daw sa pagmani-obra ni Inday Sara Duterte kaya napatalsik, tapos eventually medyo nagkagulo iyong line up ng PDP, dahil sa Hugpong ng Pagbabago. So ganoon talaga nagsa-submit ang Pangulo or kumbaga hindi na kumokontra kay Mayor Sara even to the extent na parang medyo pasok na sa affairs of governance or affairs of the state?
SEC. PANELO: Iyong ginawa ni Mayor Sara?
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes, I mean removal of the Speaker, and now iyong sa lined up ng PDP-Laban?
SEC. PANELO: Let me correct you there. Mayor Sara did not remove Speaker Alvarez. It’s the members of Congress who removed Speaker. Kahit pa sino, kahit na Presidente kung gustong ipatanggal si Speaker Alvarez, kung iyong mga members eh, ayaw, I don’t think he would have been removed. They voted. That’s the fact.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Iyon nga, kaya nag-sorry nga si—minani-obra, inamin niya na, ang sabi ng Pangulo, hindi raw niya magawang kontrahin or diktahan si Mayor Sara, dahil away lamang. So just to clarify, hindi naman to the extent na pag nag-interfere sa affairs of the government?
SEC. PANELO: Eh, unang-una, Mayor Sara has the right to campaign for or against any particular person. She is a political person. Number two, the President is right, he opted not to interfere, in the first place, he didn’t even know, so how can he interfere. Hindi ba sabi niya, hindi ko nga alam, nangyari na, nung malaman ko tapos na. So, tama naman iyong ginagawa ni Presidente. It only shows to us that this President never interfered at all with the happenings/occurrences inside another branch of government.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, sa tingin ninyo, sino ang mas may maraming maipanalo, iyong lined up ng Pangulo – iyong PDP-Laban niya o iyong lined up ng Hugpong ng Pagbabago ng anak niya?
SEC. PANELO: The problem with that question is it might put me to risk and violating a provision of the law that we should not either campaign for or against. So I’d rather not respond to your question.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Ano lang naman eh, ‘fearless forecast is not campaigning.’
SEC. PANELO: It’s still is. If I were the Comelec, I would consider it.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Follow up lang, sir. Sir, hindi naman kinausap ni President Duterte si Inday Sara to help him campaign for those—Kung tinutulungan ba ni Mayor Sara si President Duterte to campaign for those he already endorsed. Kasi merong nasa line up ng Hugpong, although not everybody ay ine-endorse ni President Duterte?
SEC. PANELO: Well, as he said, he did not interfere with Mayor Sara and I don’t think he would interfere given his character. Si Presidente, hindi nakikialam eh. Tingnan ninyo ang style niya, kahit nag-aaway iyong mga officials, he never interferes. Tinanong ko minsan siya doon eh, “hayaan mo sila, matira matibay, para makita natin kung ano talaga ang nangyayari”. Pinapabayaan niya lang, iyon ang style niya eh.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, pinapatanong lang ng office, do you have any idea, saan po kinukuha ni Mayor Inday Sara iyong campaign funds for Hugpong?
SEC. PANELO: Uy, ang daming –kasi there are many admirers of Inday Sara – admirers and supporters. In fact there is even a movement launching her to be the next president. Maraming bilib sa kanya eh. They see in her, the character of the father: magaling, matalino, matapang – mas matapang pa nga kay Presidente daw eh. So, natural lamang sa mga kaibigan niya at sa kaibigan ng mga kaibigan niya na suportahan iyong mga causes niya, kasi hanga sila kay Mayor Inday Sara eh.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: So, wala sir government funds, republic funds being used?
SEC. PANELO: Definitely, naku si Mayor Sara pa napaka-istrikto niyan. You know what the people there is Davao City said when she was Mayor until now, mas istrikto pa iyan kay Mayor Digong, iyang si Mayor Sara lalo na sa mga expenses. I will not be surprised if she becomes President of this country after her father.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Oh, that’s an endorsement, sir.
SEC. PANELO: No, that is not an election with regard to presidential election. Kaya ko lang sinabi iyon, kasi naalala ko, merong Macapagal, merong anak na naging Gloria Arroyo na Presidente; merong Cory Aquino na naging Presidente naman iyong anak na si PNoy, baka ‘kako meron namang Duterte at may Sara Duterte din, kaya ko lang nasabi iyon.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, is she planning to run for presidency?
SEC. PANELO: That should be addressed to her.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Do you have any idea, sir. Wala kayong naririnig na ganoon?
SEC. PANELO: Wala.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, on another issue, doon sa drugs. Kagabi kasi, inamin at ipinagmalaki pa ng Pangulo na napakalaking intelligence fund iyong kanyang ginagastos raw laban sa illegal na droga, kaya maraming bumubulagta, sinabi niya na bag-bag daw ng pera iyong binubuksan niya sa harapan ng mga police, sa intelligence para bilang suporta at gamitin sa intelligence. With this, sinabi niya na bulk ng mga pera, intelligence fund na ginagamit, kuntento ba kayo sa naging performance ng intelligence community ng PNP against illegal drugs?
SEC. PANELO: Well, definitely. You know, I am receiving briefings, everyday coming from the military sources, everyday merong buy bust operation. Maraming naaresto, may mga lumalaban din, so in the process nagkakaroon ng mga barilan. Marami akong nababasa na nabuwag iyong ganitong factory, na-discover iyong—I’m very satisfied with the performance.
USEC. IGNACIO: Question muna from Arjay, Secretary. How serious is the delay of the build, build, build program due to shortage in manpower; and what is the government doing to address it.
SEC. PANELO: The build, build?
USEC. IGNACIO: Yes, kasi sabi daw po ni Presidente sa speech niya, masyado nang atrasado, kulang na.
SEC. PANELO: Iyon na nga, kaya nga I explained to you one time that he directed the TESDA Chief to do something about it. Kasi, we are lacking in experts in… like in carpentry, in welding, iyong mga technical, kulang eh. Marami po tayong mga taong hindi empleyado, whether sa gobyerno o sa kumpanya, kasi hindi naman sila qualified. Lalo na iyong mga vocational, lalo na sa construction. Kaya sabi ni Presidente, sa TESDA, aba kailangan para magkaroon tayo ng malalim na bench ng mga karpentero, ng mga welders, mga electricians, kasi marami ang nagpuntahan sa iba’t-ibang bansa eh. In other words, we are doing something about it. That is the response.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyong kagabi, iyon pong sa concert, can you provide us details, iyong attendance ni Presidente doon sa Valentines concert ‘no?
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, he attended together with the members of the cabinet. But he arrived very late, I think he spent only parang 20 minutes, kasi halos matapos na rin iyong concert eh. But I think he enjoyed because I was looking at him, he was smiling. And apparently Sergio Mendes didn’t know that he was the President. Yes, because when he got in, Sergio Mendes was facing back, he was talking to the musicians, parang nagko-kumpas-kumpas kaya ng dumating ang Presidente na ang daming alalay, tapos iyong media, hindi niya nakita iyon eh. And he was just surprised nung tapos na kasi nagpaalam na siya eh, eh biglang nagsasabi ‘more, more’, eh tumayo na si Presidente kasi nagpaalam na siya, parang tingin siya ng ganoon, bakit itong mamang ito, lahat ng mga camera, tapos pinaliligiran ng tao, parang nagtaka lang siya, but nobody told him kasi.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Hindi niya binati or something?
SEC. PANELO: He didn’t know eh, ang may kasalanan doon iyong Solaire, dapat binulungan, oh may Presidente diyan na nandiyan. Siguro si Presidente rin ayaw rin namang din kasing nire-recognize siya eh. He was, by the way, with Miss Honeylet Avanceña.
USEC. IGNACIO: Okay thank you, MPC, thank you Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
SEC. PANELO: Thank you.
Source: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)