Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo

Event Press Briefing
Location Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg., Malacanang

USEC. IGNACIO:  Magandang umaga sa ating masisipag na MPC members. Kasama na natin si Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Good morning, sir.

SEC. PANELO:  Good morning MPC, game… of thrones.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Sir, good morning on a holiday and a Holy Monday. Sir, balikan ko lang iyong previously parang nabanggit ni Pangulong Duterte to tax iyong Simbahan. Kasi merong report kaugnay sa iyong property ng Catholic Church sa Sorsogon, specifically iyong our Lady of Peñafrancia Seminary ay ipinahiram daw, ipinagamit, pinaupa doon sa campaign sortie ni gubernatorial candidate Chiz Escudero at nagbayad sila. So, iyong ganitong mga pagpapahiram o pagkakitaan ng Simbahan hindi ba sila dapat required magbayad na rin sila ng buwis?

SEC. PANELO:   Well, under the Constitution, hindi. Pero siguro kung iyong mga framers will consider that eh nasa kanila iyon. Sa ngayon, tax exempt sila.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Hindi lang sa real property tax, kung hindi lahat, even iyong income generating programs or activities ng Simbahan hindi—kasi baka bilyun-bilyon iyong supposedly ang nakokolekta doon sa income generating activities ng Church.

SEC. PANELO:  Eh basta ang doktrina diyan tax exempt sila eh.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, any updates on the budget?

SEC. PANELO:  Wala pa, pinag-aaralan pa.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  So, could the President sign it today, no, malabo?

SEC. PANELO:  Walang feed eh, walang info.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Walang feedback okay. Sir, can we go to China. Former Secretary Albert Del Rosario said that’s it’s time to unshelve?

SEC. PANELO:  O, hindi ba I issued already a statement.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Yeah, but we need for soundbyte purposes, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Wala pa bang soundbyte?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  TV, sir. I will rephrase the question. This strong statements coming from Malacañang, does this have the imprimatur of the President, sir?

SEC. PANELO:  Hindi ba sinabi na ni Presidente na don’t touch our properties there.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, by invoking the arbitral tribunal, what do we hope to do?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, according to Mr. Del Rosario we have to unshelve – his word – the arbitral ruling. In the first place, we never shelved it. As we said repeatedly before, since no foreign force seem or appear not to be persuaded to assist us in the enforcement of the arbitral ruling and neither can we on our own by force enforce the same. So, while we are trading, we have trading relations with China, we opted not to make any armed action to enforce the arbitral ruling because it may trigger an unwanted armed conflict that will cause thousand of lives of our countrymen as well as destruction to our properties.

But even assuming that this was shelved per perception of Mr. Del Rosario – the fact alone that we invoked the arbitral ruling and asserted our sovereignty and right to the exclusive economic zone, that effectively removes it from the shelf; assuming that there was indeed shelving.

Moreover as I said in my statement, Mr. Del Rosario would be the least person to make such statement. He acts as if he did not vastly contribute to the present situation we are in, because – if we will believe and they have not reputed the article of Bobby Tiglao – he was responsible by naively ordering the withdrawal without even the consent and permission of his President Noynoy Aquino withdrawing the armed vessel in that area. And that made the present situation we are in now. So, we hope that his pretended patriotism and faint righteousness should not get the better of him.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, what changed for the Palace?

SEC. PANELO:  There was no change. Let me—we have been saying that our statements in the past, where studied responses or calibrated responses.  We could not immediately make any statement on any report vis-à-vis the presence of vessels or any act of harassment until we validate them. It is only one we validate them that we make our diplomatic protest. And if they insist then we make strong statements against it.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Just one last point, sir. Si Secretary Lorenzana said that it is the Chinese that are creating trouble in the West Philippine Sea – this was in response to the statement of the Chinese government that the US and other countries are stirring up trouble. From your perspective who is stirring the pot?

SEC. PANELO:  That is why I said in my statement that we urged China to avoid any acts that will be considered as harassing our fishermen in that area or that might provoke hostility and it can even affect the bilateral relations between two countries.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, pero di ba parang China and Mr. Xi Jinping in particular, parang they are not honoring what they have promised or committed to the President to de-escalate the tension at the South China Sea. So, di ba parang—would you urge Mr. Xi Jinping and China to honor their words sa mga bilateral talks they had with the President?

SEC. PANELO:   We already did. In my latest statement I said we urged China to respect the arbitral ruling. I already did that.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  So, what or how can you assess China now in the matter of trust and confidence considering what they are saying is in contrary or contrast to what they are doing actually at the South China Sea?

SEC. PANELO:  Well, you know my view on that is that since they have been claiming that it’s theirs, necessarily they would do some acts that will be consistent with their position. But as we said earlier, as far as we are concerned there has been an arbitral ruling issued by a tribunal based on the law on the seas and accepted by international law. So we feel that we have a judgment, a judgment which has a stamp of permanence, it cannot be taken away from us. And therefore they should respect it, although they do not believe in it.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO:  Sir, lastly, with this more aggressive acts by the Chinese government on the South China Sea and even into our exclusive economic zone in Pag-asa Island. Parang don’t you see the need of more US troops presence and more Balikatan exercises?

SEC. PANELO:   Right now, they are having these military exercises. They are there right now.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Sir, how can you say again that the arbitral ruling was never shelved when the President himself earlier on in his term would often say that he will raise the arbitral ruling in due time. In fact meron din pong statement before ang dating Presidential Spokesman saying that the President will deal with the arbitral ruling in due course and I quote “not right now, but in the right time.”

SEC. PANELO: It doesn’t mean it has been shelved. If you say ‘not right now,’ it’s still there. You can invoke at anytime, at our pleasure and convenience.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Does this mean that we can expect the President himself to finally raise itong arbitral ruling with China especially considering that he  will be visiting—

SEC. PANELO:  Effectively his previous statement, earlier, when he said ‘do not touch our property and if you do any harm to our soldiers, we will respond in kind.’ That effectively has already made a very strong assertion of sovereignty and statement relative to the arbitral ruling.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Exactly, that’s my question, sir. Are we also supposed to take it as the President invoking the arbitral ruling when he said that?

SEC. PANELO:  Exactly, yes.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  And lastly, sir. Last week you talked about giving China reasonable time to respond doon sa sinabi ni Pangulo about laying off Pag-Asa. Can you give us what’s the status of the Chinese vessels?

SEC. PANELO:  I think they already responded and in fact I responded to them in kind when they said that it’s ours by historical so and so.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  So clearly, hindi po positive iyong naging reaction ng China, their vessels are still there if that’s the case. So what are you gonna do about it now?

SEC. PANELO:  But they also said that we should resolve this in bilateral negotiations. So that’s the good news there. While they say historically that is ours, but let’s talk. The Spokesman said that too. And that is why we also—we welcome that.

CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER:  Sir, anong kinakailangang factor na dapat i-consider ni Presidente para igiit na iyong ruling? Despite kasi nung mga warning niya and iyong harassment cases doon sa area, parang hindi naman iyon pinapansin ng China.

SEC. PANELO:  Kasi dapat i-maintain natin iyong peace and equilibrium doon sa lugar na iyon.  Oh eh di wag nila munang pakialaman iyong hindi dapat nilang pakialaman sa ngayon. Eh nag-uusap tayo eh. Saka we are supposed to be friends. So, let’s be friendly first – pag-usapan natin.


SEC. PANELO: That will depend on how the talks will proceed. We have to forge a mutually satisfactory solution to the conflict in that area based on the directives of each constitution, as well as the aspirations of these two countries. So depende, tingnan natin. Since we will be meeting next week, hopefully that will be taken either by them or by us or by both.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, what do you mean by meeting them? Do you have a schedule already?

SEC. PANELO:  We’re supposed to be in Beijing, China, right?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Yeah, but for the Belt and Road Forum.

SEC. PANELO: There is always—every time the Philippine government visits a country, there is always a bilateral meeting between the heads of state – that is standard.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay, sir. When we do talk, when we do go to the bilateral mechanism, are we going to use the arbitral tribunal card in negotiating?

SEC. PANELO: That will be the President’s call. Usually, in a bilateral meeting, the host makes an opening statement. And in that opening statement, the host can raise whatever issue he wants. And then, the invited visiting head of state response. In that response, he can raise an issue he wants.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And as far as – for lack of a better term, sir – ‘demands.’ Will the Philippines in that bilateral meeting ask China to move away from our EEZ? Because otherwise, we will be just reverting back to the status quo where we can file but they will not listen.

SEC. PANELO: We have already done that. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs has already made a diplomatic protest respecting that.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And we expect China to move away?

SEC. PANELO: We expect them to respond, whatever response they want, and then act accordingly.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And if they don’t move away?

SEC. PANELO: Then, we will wait for the President’s decision. It’s his call.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Sir, ngayon sinasabi ninyo you are waiting for China to respond however way they want to respond. But last week, you said that the response ideally should be—the response that you want is for them to get their ships out. And now you’re saying, you welcome that they responded by saying that it should be settled through negotiation.


INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Parang nagbago po yata iyong posisyon.

SEC. PANELO: Hindi naman.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Because last week, you wanted them out clearly.

SEC. PANELO: Remember, the response of the spokesman was in answer to my statement. I had a statement eh, in fact iyong sinabi niya, this is the response to my statement. And then after that, nagsalita na naman si Secretary Locsin, and then nag-isyu na naman ako ng bagong statement.

But apart from that, mayroong mga diplomatic protests si Secretary Locsin. Iyon ang hinihintay natin. Kasi iyong response ng Spokesman would be different from official response ng counterpart – puwedeng pareho; puwedeng iba. Hindi kasi kapag nag-file ka ng note verbale o diplomatic protest, sasagutin ka officially, sa dokumento rin eh. Eh iyong Spokesman, parang ako rin iyon; pareho kaming Spokesman, nag-express siya ng kanyang statement.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Okay. But just doon sa basic idea, sir, that last week you said that the response you want is for them to take the ships away, and now you’re saying welcome na rin kahit iyong naging response is just to go back to negotiating—

SEC. PANELO: Hindi, ang welcome ay iyong negotiation. In other words, doon sa negotiation, you can repeat your demand na move away, di ba, kasi magiging official na iyon. Kasi initially puro lang tayo salita muna, wala pang formal eh.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: And that’s what we’re going to do, reiterate it, that they should go away?

SEC. PANELO: I think that was the statement or that was the core or the gist on the diplomatic protest of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: So, Sec, President Duterte will bring up this issue during the bilateral meeting?

SEC. PANELO: No, as I said, depende sa kaniya iyon. Kasi either/or, both puwede namang i-raise nila iyon eh. Considering na mainit, baka pag-usapan.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: During bilateral meeting next week?


ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Good afternoon, sir. Since last two weeks ago, the President has been mentioning of firing high-ranking government officials. And then, last Saturday night, he mentioned or he criticized MWSS officials about not preparing the El Niño. So would you know, sir, kung iyon pong threat niya has something to do with the MWSS officials?

SEC. PANELO: I have no info on that yet. He said he will be firing officials after the Holy Week. Iyon ang sabi niya.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: But [has] the Palace already received the report of the MWSS about the water crisis in Metro Manila po?

SEC. PANELO: I have no personal knowledge on that. I will ask the Executive Secretary. Nagmi-meeting kami ngayon, actually nag-excuse lang ako eh. All the Cabinet members are having their usual meeting.


SEC. PANELO: Yeah. Kanina pa kami—no, we are not with the President. Kami lang, Cabinet secretaries.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL STAR: Sec., may we know ano po iyong agenda ng …

SEC. PANELO: Wala, the usual performance, kung anong nakaraan, anong mga ginawa, anong response ng tao.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, the President said in his speech over the weekend that he is considering to create another peace panel.

SEC. PANELO: Alin, iyong Bisaya?


SEC. PANELO: Hirap na hirap akong umintindi.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Well, based on the transcript, parang he is considering to create another peace panel to talk with the communist rebels. What changed the mind of the President? Kasi ‘di ba from the start sinabi niya na no more peace talks.

SEC. PANELO: No, have you noticed the President has always made himself open to any talks on peace; ever since sinasabi niya iyon. ‘Di ba palagi niyang sinasabi, ‘bigyan natin nang konting window.’ Palagi iyon ang sinasabi niya eh.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So what will happen to the localized peace talks that was earlier announced?

SEC. PANELO: Tuloy pa rin naman iyon. Hindi naman mababago iyon.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So tuloy ang localized peace talks while there is a peace panel to talk—

SEC. PANELO: Wala pa naman eh. Sinabi niya pa lang iyon. Wala pa siyang kini-create. It’s still an idea.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. But I don’t think CPP founder Joma Sison likes the idea kasi sinabi niya baka raw—

SEC. PANELO: It doesn’t matter whether he likes or not.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Bakit? Eh siya iyon ang kakausapin eh, how come it doesn’t matter?

SEC. PANELO: Oh di iyong mga ano… iyong mga hindi nakikinig sa kaniya. Kasi ang feeling namin, hindi siya pinapakinggan eh.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So you believe, sir, that he doesn’t have any influence over the members of the CPP anymore?

SEC. PANELO: From the way the ground forces are doing their thing, it appears to me that way.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. And, sir, iyong sinasabi niya na war panel? Iyong sabi ni Joma Sison na it seems na war panel iyong bubuuin ni Presidente and not peace panel?

SEC. PANELO: Eh ‘di ba sinabi na natin, we will ignore him.

ROSALIE COZ/UNTV: Sir, sorry, ibalik ko lang po sa meeting ninyo, about Cabinet members. Does it have something to do with looming crisis sa energy, water and as well as food production since—

SEC. PANELO: Actually, that’s a regular thing for us. We meet every month.

MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, how does the government respond to this kasi po parang nagkakasabay-sabay na iyong nararanasan po ng publiko na mayroon pong … ngayong week na ito, mayroon pong water interruption and mayroon din pong energy interruption, sir, sa iba’t ibang lugar ng bansa?

SEC. PANELO:  I was just talking to Secretary Al. Sabi niya, ‘we’re on top of it.’ Iyon ang sabi niya sa akin kanina.

NESTOR CORRALES/INQUIRER.NET: Sir, on the peace panel. Ang sabi kasi ni President, he is mulling to create a new peace panel that has more military representatives—

SEC. PANELO: Two civilians and—


SEC. PANELO:  I will ask him, the rationale.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, can I ask you about the Palawan Law, the one that divided Palawan into three provinces. So what’s the rationale again?

SEC. PANELO: I think the rationale there kung ano ang nakalagay doon sa batas. Kasi ‘di ba when you—



JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: The reason why—

SEC. PANELO: I haven’t read the law. But every bill when it is introduced, there is a rationale behind. So I was listening to Governor Alvarez sabi nila, makakabuti sa kanila iyon. Napanood ko siya sa TV. Magkakaroon ng tatlong probinsiya at ibig sabihin bawat mga distrito will be ably represented, magkakaroon ng mga revenues ang tatlong districts. Iyon ang sinasabi niya.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Hindi ba siya, sir, fattening up the bureau? Kasi you’re going to establish another province, at least two more.

SEC. PANELO: Even assuming na fattening but—iyan ay kung we will always believe na every creation would be fattening the bureaucracy. Pero every creation nga precisely is to respond to the needs, to the delivery of basic services, iyong problema ng tao doon sa mga lugar na iyon.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And, sir, of course May 2022 pa ‘no magiging effective? So right now, status quo tayo until 2020—and plebiscite pa pala, sir?


JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: It’s up to the people of Palawan, yes?


VIRGIL LOPEZ/GMA NEWS ONLINE: In relation lang doon sa creation ng three new provinces sa Palawan. Senator Risa Hontiveros, she’s the lone opposition to the passage of the bill sa Senate. She expressed apprehension that a divided Palawan may strengthen China’s position on the West Philippine Sea. Iku-quote ko lang siya sir, “Instead of having to face a single strong provincial government which can mobilize the entire island in its own defense, China will now have the opportunity to infiltrate and influence smaller LGUs. What’s the Palace response to this?

SEC. PANELO: No connection eh. Kahit naman walang probinsiya kung gustong mag-infiltrate ng mga lokong iyan eh. Parang wala namang koneksyon naman iyon, ‘di ba?

Q: Divide and conquer.

SEC. PANELO: Hmm. Puwedeng come on lang sa pulitika lang iyon dito sa atin.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay, MPC, questions? Okay na tayo? Okay, thank you, Secretary Panelo.

Q: Bitin ka sir?

SEC. PANELO: Word of endearment iyon, iyong loko. [laughs]

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay, thank, you Secretary Panelo. Thank you, MPC.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)