USEC. IGNACIO: Good morning MPC; happy Monday. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo. Good morning, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps. Today is my birthday, nobody is greeting me?
MPC: (chorus) Happy birthday…
SEC. PANELO: Thank you. But got you there, its April Fool’s Day.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Kumanta talaga kami sir di ba. Sir… okay. First, sa China. You are meeting with—he is going here for a courtesy call.
SEC. PANELO: April Fool’s Day?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No, seriously.
SEC. PANELO: (laughs) Yes, he will be coming, 2:30 p.m.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Agenda?
SEC. PANELO: He didn’t tell me.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Aah, so nagpasabi lang.
SEC. PANELO: He didn’t tell me, basta sabi niya he will visit me.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Are they taking over… the Chinese?
SEC. PANELO: (laughs)
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But, sir, any matters that you wanna raise with him?
SEC. PANELO: Well… hindi ba, there were issues raised in the South China Sea. Siguro, I’ll raise that.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Like what sir? Specifically, there are a lot of issues with the…
SEC. PANELO: Iyong sa fishermen di ba, kung totoo iyon; iyong sa mga vessels, diumano circling. Hindi naman pala totoo iyong circling, talagang ang ABS-CBN, mahilig mag—nasaan ba iyong…
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So what do we know, sir, as far as that is concerned?
SEC. PANELO: Can I have my ano… because I want to call the attention. I’ll call the attention of that reporter ng ABS-CBN.
Q: She was just quoting a—
SEC. PANELO: No, hindi. Ito… I’ll read to you, sinabi sa akin. Importante iyon, kasi nagiging… it unnecessarily raises some serious alarm, hindi naman pala umiikot, nandoon naka-standby lang. Nandoon lang naka-standby, nagmo-monitor siguro – monitoring.
The reporter – referring to the ABS-CBN reporter – sino ba iyon, si Sembrano? The reporter made an exaggerated report by distorting the total number of Chinese fishing vessels monitored in Pagasa Island. She also used alarming statement as Chinese vessels, quote ha, “have been circling Pagasa Island” which was never mentioned in the briefing presentation.
Like iyong total daw ng 617, hindi naman pala totoo iyon. Kasi ang basis ng monitoring ng Western Command, iyong bow iyon, yung part ng ship eh—‘B-o-w’, kasi iyon ang binibilang nila kung ilang araw nandoon. Ang total pala 275 lang, hindi 617.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: All right, sir. Who you are quoting again when you said exaggerating the number and then used alarming language, what are you reading from?
SEC. PANELO: It’s from the Western Command.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Who specifically, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Vice admiral Rene Medina of the Western Command. This was forwarded to me by Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana. It was their exchange and it was—because I was asking nga, ano ba ang istorya nito.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, can we get a copy later of the text also ha.
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, iyong portion na iyon. I can—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. So right now, what do we know so far, we can only acknowledge 275 Chinese fishermen boats?
SEC. PANELO: 200…?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: 275, sir.
SEC. PANELO: Yes. These are—they described it as Chinese Maritime— ano ba ang tawag nila doon?
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: These are not the PLA?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi fisherman eh. Parang—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: People’s Liberation Army?
SEC. PANELO: No.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: What do you call that – militia?
SEC. PANELO: Yan, militia. Ang tawag nila—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Oh, they’re saying it’s a militia—
SEC. PANELO: Parang militia ang description nila—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: No, we have to be definite sir, are they calling it militia—
SEC. PANELO: Hindi eh, hindi army, hindi rin navy.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So militia, is it?
SEC. PANELO: Parang ganoon ang—ewan ko, I’m not sure. Basta, they are just stationary there.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, number two fact—
SEC. PANELO: Mga… kung minsan daw, one day; kung minsan one week. Wala naman daw ginagawa, naka-standby lang doon.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Or number one, the 275; number 2, you are contesting circling, but they are there right?
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, but they were not circling the Pagasa, the reporter of ABS-CBN said—
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, what’s the difference between circling and—
SEC. PANELO: Aba eh, di ibig sabihin pagnagsi-circle eh meron kang binabalak; pero kung stationary ka lang, baka nanunuod ka lang o nakatingin ka lang.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Why are they there, sir?
SEC. PANELO: That I will ask the Ambassador if that’s true.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Are we not worried that they are there?
SEC. PANELO: Anything that concerns the security of the Philippines will always be a concern.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: This concerns the security?
SEC. PANELO: And I understand—oh by the way, I understand we have already issued a diplomatic protest per the Western Command. The DFA has already made a diplomatic protest over it.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Over what incident, sir, kasi there’s a lot?
SEC. PANELO: That incident on the so-called vessels being stationed there.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Would you know the date of the filing?
SEC. PANELO: No, I don’t know, I will have to ask the DFA.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Sir, if nag-file na po pala tayo ng protest, then it would imply that we see something wrong with their presence there?
SEC. PANELO: Definitely. Kasi the mere fact that they are there and just staying there for a week, bakit, ano ang ginagawa ninyo doon.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Okay. Are you going to ask the Chinese Ambassador to perhaps get the vessels out of there, over the area?
SEC. PANELO: No, we will ask if this true as far as they are concerned; and number two, if it is true, what are they doing there.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: But wouldn’t we file a diplomatic protest without verifying if it’s true or not?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi on their part, kasi—these people may not be within the knowledge of the Chinese government di ba, hindi rin natin alam eh – kung iyon ay kasama nila o inutusan nila, part of their group.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Sir, there was a report that came out over the weekend, quoting BFAR official telling Filipino—
SEC. PANELO: What’s BFAR again?
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, telling our fishermen to avoid Panatag Shoal for the meantime para daw makaiwas ng… well medyo vague iyong statement – makaiwas ng some incident. What is that, bakit ganoong? Why are we telling our fisherman not to fish there?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam, we will ask BFAR. I have not received any report on that yet.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Okay, but what guidance does the Palace have for our fishermen who often go there?
SEC. PANELO: Well, first, if it’s true that there has been a diplomatic protest per the Western Command’s information, then we have already done our part and let’s see how they will respond to the diplomatic protest.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: Sir last, doon sa 275 po, was it mentioned in the text message to you, iyong period, kumbaga, is that 275 at that time—
SEC. PANELO: Quarter, the first quarter of 2019 – from January to March.
INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.: January to March that’s the peak number – 275.
SEC. PANELO: Basta iyong buong quarter, iyon ang total number.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Sec, so clarifications. So, ano po iyong prinotesta?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam, basta iyon ang pagkapalagay ‘We already informed DFA and we understand DFA has already issued a diplomatic protest over it.’
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Recent po ito. This week ba o kahit hindi exact?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam ang exact date. I do not know.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Pero very recent lang?
SEC. PANELO: We will ask the DFA exactly when and the contents of the protest.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Ito iyong quote nung BFAR regarding doon sa Panatag. Sabi niya, “refrain muna natin na pumunta doon for the meantime and concentrate on our municipal waters, kasi iyon nga ang pinangingisdaan natin. Just be careful at may mga dapat tayong pang-ilagan for the meantime.”
SEC. PANELO: Eh kung iyon ang feeling nila di—siguro wala namang mawawala kung hindi natin sundin.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Akala ba namin nakakapasok na freely iyong mga fishermen doon sa area?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi natin kasi alam exactly, malaki iyong lugar eh, baka isang portion lang ng lugar.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Panatag, Sec.
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, but malaki ang Panatag, hindi naman isang kapiranggot lang iyon, hindi ba. We have to exactly know where, how, when. But the point of the matter is we have already made a diplomatic protest over such an incident and I hope to take that up with the ambassador today.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, just to be clear about it. So, ano nga po iyong guidance ng Malacañang doon sa ating mga fishermen na nangingisda doon sa Panatag. Do you advise our fishermen to follow the advice of BFAR na iwasan muna iyong area?
SEC. PANELO: First, I will—we will ask BFAR kung ano iyong kanilang statement and why they issued the statement.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: But for now, while waiting for the clarification from BFAR, what should our fishermen do?
SEC. PANELO: Eh kung ano ang dati nilang ginagawa, iyon pa rin ang gagawin nila.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Meaning, go on with the fishing doon sa—
SEC. PANELO: Eh kung dati naman nilang ginagawa iyon at wala naman nag-i-istorbo sa kanila eh.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So, what if it is true na meron talagang humaharang sa kanila o tumataboy sa kanila doon sa area, ano po iyong payo ninyo?
SEC. PANELO: Then we will make the necessary protest.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: But your immediate response, ano po iyong guidance ng Malacañang, sino iyong puwede nilang lapitan, ano iyong—
SEC. PANELO: Well, if it is in—if endangers their safety then we should tell them not to in the meantime, in the meanwhile.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: There’s also a report from the Inquirer that said that there are foreign vessels—can I quote, sir. This is another official Marine Lieutenant Colonel Elpidio Factor, who is the AFP Western Command’s Assistant Chief for Unified Command Staff for Intelligence—anyway so he said, “Foreign vessels monitored in Pagasa Island are all fishing vessels deployed in the vicinity of the sandbar. The highest number of Chinese vessels recorded in a single day was 87, last February 10. But we are willing to acknowledge so far that there are Chinese vessels in that area,” yes. We are not contesting that fact?
SEC. PANELO: If that is what they said.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Are we going to raise this with Ambassador Zhao later?
SEC. PANELO: Yes, I will ask him.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Because that concerns—it concerns us, because again for soundbyte purposes.
SEC. PANELO: It concerns our fisherman’s safety as well as our security.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Anything that we would ask the Chinese government to do with regard to this?
SEC. PANELO: No, we will ask them first, why. First, if they acknowledge such fact as determined by us; number two, ask them why they are doing it; number three, we will politely ask them not to.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Not to what?
SEC. PANELO: Not to do what they are doing.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Sir, may Cabinet meeting later?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: What’s the agenda, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Wala, hindi ko pa nababasa iyong ano.
JOYCE BALANCIO/DZMM: Will the President be announcing sino iyong mga sisibakin daw po niya sa puwesto. Most probably?
SEC. PANELO: Wala pang sinabi.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Kasama ba sa pag-uusap ninyo, Sec, iyong Chinese workers?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko pa nakita iyong subject matter.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Sorry, I mean doon sa meeting ninyo mamaya with the Ambassador, will you raise that?
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, I will raise that.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Anong particular ang itatanong ninyo?
SEC. PANELO: First, iyong incident sa fisherman, kung totoong tinataboy. Number two, iyong mga vessels, kung ano ang ginagawa doon kung sa kanila ba iyon o ano.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Eh with regard to the workers, ano po iyong matters specific na…
SEC. PANELO: Anong workers?
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Chinese workers in the Philippines, will you also discuss that?
SEC. PANELO: Bakit ano ba ang problema sa workers nila?
ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: I mean, iyong isyu about the influx of Chinese workers, mapag-uusapan ba iyon?
SEC. PANELO: Di ba very clear naman ng posisyon natin doon: kung meron silang permit to do business or to work here, okay lang; pero yung illegally entering, eh ibang usapan iyon.
TINA MARALIT/TRIBUNE: Sir, on a separate issue po. President Duterte recently appointed former Colonel Allen Capuyan as Executive Director of the National Secretariat of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. Capuyan’s reputation po is somewhat questionable given the fact that he was linked to corruption at the Bureau of Customs in connection with the 6.4 billion shabu smuggling.
So him being given another post po, hindi po ba ito salungat doon sa policy ni Presidente against corruption and sa illegal drugs po?
SEC. PANELO: Since the President has appointed him to that post, then the President, I’m sure, knows what he’s doing.
TINA MARALIT/TRIBUNE: So, sir, you’re saying na Capuyan—
SEC. PANELO: Maybe he doesn’t believe in the corruption charges.
TINA MARALIT/TRIBUNE: Sir, kahit po nabanggit nang ilang beses iyong pangalan ni Capuyan sa Senate inquiry regarding the shabu smuggling?
SEC. PANELO: As I said, that is the call of the President.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, has the President started going over the 2019 budget?
SEC. PANELO: I suppose. I do not know, but I suppose because it has been submitted to him.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, I sent a copy of the statement of Rep. Andaya; but right now, he is accusing the Senate of cutting down the allocation for the Build, Build, Build Program and other priority projects of the administration. And apparently, the Senate realigned them to other items based on requests of individual proponents. Sir, could you react on this, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Well, again, that is an internal problem with respect to the two Houses. They should resolve that. They are accusing each other with certain irregularities or acts in conflict with the Constitution, they should resolve that.
Meanwhile, the President, I’m sure, will be factoring in all the statements made by both Houses in going over the budget and then decide for himself.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Secretary, reports are quoting Zambales Representative Montalla, saying that the President is expected to sign the budget any time this week. Is this true?
SEC. PANELO: I really don’t know.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Possible ba iyon—
SEC. PANELO: Hopefully. The President, of course, wants to have a new budget so I’m sure he is already doing his homework on that.
ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So for now, he’s scrutinizing the 2019—
SEC. PANELO: I think so, yes.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, would you agree that it is now… the ball is now in Malacañang?
SEC. PANELO: Yes, precisely that’s why he is going to evaluate and scrutinize the national budget.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So the intramural between the House and the Senate is irrelevant, correct?
SEC. PANELO: Not necessarily, because they are raising constitutional issues among themselves, and that will be factored in in the consideration of the President’s signing or vetoing certain provisions of the budget.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Do you think, sir, that the President is in a precarious situation in the sense that if he signs this, he’s going to sign an illegal document that contains potentially corrupt-laden provisions?
SEC. PANELO: You’re assuming that the document is illegal. I already said that anybody who says that it’s illegal – it’s an opinion. It’s only the Supreme Court who can finally say that it is illegal or not. It’s just an opinion.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And the President will make the determination—
SEC. PANELO: As I said, he is a lawyer and he will know whether a document or certain provisions of the document is illegal or not.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Will the Palace ask for the list of these realignments from the Congress, from the House?
SEC. PANELO: I think the Senate has already made such statement, and the House also made enumerations of alterations or amendments in the budget. So there’s no need for that. It’s published.
JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, iyon pong last na lang. So are you saying that if he signs this, this is going to be a culpable violation of the Constitution?
SEC. PANELO: How can you say, you don’t even know whether it’s illegal or not. Again, it’s an opinion. If it’s an opinion, so it’s not a final say on the matter. The Supreme Court will be the one to resolve that.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Hello, sir. Sir, will the government support an investigation into the killing of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental? Because some groups say this was a massacre and not a legitimate police operation.
SEC. PANELO: But we have already a report on that. It’s a legitimate police operation. The search warrants were issued by a competent court, and they were implementing that. And the 14 of them fought with the law enforcers, and they were killed in the process. Twelve of them were arrested and are now doing the process, legal process.
GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, some are say that the government is deliberately targeting farmers with supposed links with the communists? Is this true?
SEC. PANELO: You know, that is the usual statement issued by those who are linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines. But the fact remains is that the people subject of a search warrant have been identified as suspects in certain ambushes, assassinations, assassination attempts, so it’s police operation and backed up by documents. And the courts believed in them that’s why they issued these warrants.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, can we get the Palace’s reaction on the recent take down of Facebook of … Facebook pages and accounts organized by President Duterte’s social media manager Nic Gabunada?
SEC. PANELO: First, I don’t think the President has anything to do with those Facebook accounts which was initiated during the campaign or even during the assumption of his presidency. He doesn’t know anything about it.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Even if Nic Gabunada is his social media manager in the 2016 campaign?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know whether he is a social media manager.
Q: During the campaign.
SEC. PANELO: During the campaign? I do not know of that appointment. First time I’ve heard of that.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Pero, sir, can you say that social media played a big role in the election of President Duterte in 2016?
SEC. PANELO: Social media? But both sides were very active during the campaign. So it’s still the people who decided, and most of them are not with social media. The overwhelming majority that voted him into office, I don’t think they have Facebook accounts and whatever. These are the masses.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: But is the President aware that he benefitted from the social media accounts organized by Nic Gabunada?
SEC. PANELO: You must remember that since both sides are active, you will never know whether you benefitted from that or you lost in the fight. These are between the two sides. To my mind, what is important is, overwhelming mass of our people voted him into office and majority of them are not into social media – these are the masses. And the campaign promises of the President as a candidate resonated with them that is why they elected him into office.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So mananalo pa rin siya, sir, even without social media? So the contribution of social media was—
SEC. PANELO: Definitely. His time was just right. The Filipino people needed somebody like him, and his entry was just the appropriate time.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So basically, sir, you’re saying that the contribution of social media, particularly itong mga accounts na ito, the pages, had very little to do with his election victory in 2016?
SEC. PANELO: As I was saying, both sides were very active. And, in fact, even now, they’re still active.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: But as far as si President Duterte po is concerned, not taking to account other side?
SEC. PANELO: The President is not… hindi siya iyong tipong interesado sa ano eh, sa mga Facebook accounts. Hindi siya iyon eh. Siya iyong tipong, he’ll just give you his policies and then, enforce them. Ganoon siya eh. It doesn’t matter to him whether you criticize him, you assassinate him; wala sa kaniya iyon eh. Hindi siya bothered, nor disturbed, nor distracted by anything that will be an obstacle to his goals as President of the Republic.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, there were several reports way back which claimed that President Duterte benefitted from these kinds of accounts, weaponizing the internet or social media. He benefitted because these accounts pushed fake news or attacked his political opponents. What do you say about that, sir?
SEC. PANELO: But you know, as I said, both sides were active. So both sides could have benefitted from those interchange.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So you’re saying more so President Duterte because actually won in 2016?
SEC. PANELO: It could have contributed; puwede rin namang hindi. More on the masses ang boto sa kaniya eh. Ilan ba ang ano… do we have a survey how much ang social media?
Q: 9o plus percent of Filipinos are on Facebook—
SEC. PANELO: Ninety percent? You must be kidding. [laughs]
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, ito na lang: Did the government money fund these network?
SEC. PANELO: No, I do not think so. No, I said, the President has nothing to do with that, and he will not allow that.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir, good afternoon po. Sa meeting ninyo po kay Chinese Ambassador later, mapag-uusapan ninyo po ba about kay Michael Yang?
SEC. PANELO: Maybe I will raise that as an issue, as a subject matter, unless he doesn’t want to talk about it.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Paano pong raise the issue, sir? Will the Palace give Michael Yang a chance to clear his name and talk to the public?
SEC. PANELO: Akala ko ba klinir [cleared] na ng PDEA at saka ng PNP Chief.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Yes, you mentioned that.
SEC. PANELO: Sinasabi nga nila, hindi nga nila alam kung the same person ang being referred to eh.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: So sa tingin ninyo po, there’s no need for Michael Yang to clear his name sa public?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. That’s for him to decide for himself. I’m not concerned.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: But na-meet na po ba ng Pangulo ulit si Michael Yang after the allegations?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know. I have no personal knowledge.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir, what can you say about those who are saying na Michael Yang can be another Peter Lim? Nakipag-meet kay President and then later on, may allegations ng drug links and now, fugitive na po.
SEC. PANELO: That’s an opinion… an opinion.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Yes, sir, pero is there a possibility na magkaroon din po ng… mag-release ng HDO or Immigration watch list against Michael Yang dahil po sa mga allegations?
SEC. PANELO: Eh wala namang ano … they have to prove their … whatever charges they have Michael Yang, if it’s true, then file the charges. We cannot be doing this in media or social media.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Another question, last, sir. Will you encourage Michael Yang to attend Senate investigations regarding the allegations against him?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for him. My encouragement or discouragement is irrelevant. He is the person involved, so he decides for himself. He looks for a lawyer, not me or anybody else in this government.
ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Bilang isang dating Economic Adviser ng Pangulo, will you encourage him?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for him to decide. Rosalie, that’s for him to decide.
DANIEL/PTV: Sir, good afternoon. Sir, possible din kayang ano, talakayin sa Cabinet meeting iyong pag-release ng narco celebrities?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko pa alam kung anong subject matter. I will know that an hour before the Cabinet meeting; we will be given the subject matter.
USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)