Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location Malacañang Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Good morning Malacañang Press Corps, welcome sa press briefing ni Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Magandang umaga Pilipinas, at magandang umaga po sa mga miyembro ng Malacañang Press Corps.

Simulahan po natin ang mga mabuting balita: Iyong Dutch financial giant ING Bank set the country’s economic growth at 6.9% for the first quarter of this year due to increase in government’s spending, while the country’s full year GDP growth was projected to improve at 6.8%.

We welcome another milestone, as international tourist arrivals for the first three months of 2013 had totaled to 2,049,094 – a 14.80% higher compared to 1,784,882 in the same period last year per Department of Tourism data. South Korea continues to be our top source market, with China coming in second.

Magandang balita po sa mga magsasaka sa probinsiya ng Nueva Ecija: Mapapahusay na ang produksiyon ng bigas sa kanilang lugar. The Department of Agriculture completed the Caridad Norte and Sur Solar Powered Irrigation System which is expected to benefit around 125 farmers in the barangays of Caridad Norte and Caridad Sur in Llanera, Nueva Ecija.

Bit of a briefer on the Cabinet meeting yesterday: Before the meeting there was a side meeting with the President attended by Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Alan Cayetano; there was Secretary of Labor, Bello; Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns and Muslim Concerns, Secretary Mamao; myself; as well as SAP Go.

Now Secretary Mamao had just returned from Kuwait. He came bearing good news for the President; the good news though, we will withhold releasing until we’ve had actual realization ‘no. But the President then said that Secretary Mamao would be appointed as… he will be appointed Special Envoy to Kuwait and he was tasked to return to Kuwait immediately to make sure that all Filipinos who should be sent back home, can return home. I do now know when Secretary Mamao can actually fly back to Kuwait, but the marching order of the President was as soon as possible.

I will not divulge yet the good news. Because the last time that I said that all—that ties with Kuwait were completely normal, you know what happened ‘no, the Philippine Ambassador was recalled. So let’s wait for actual results before announcing the positive news relayed by Secretary Mamao to the President.

Now on other matters: The President will be commemorating the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise by visiting the Philippine Rise itself; and this is on May 15 to 16. And it will also be to launch the start of scientific research to be conducted by around 50 scientists. So the event will be attended by the 50 scientists whom the President will be sending off ‘no, as they start their scientific researches in Philippine Rise.

Now on Dengvaxia: The President after much discussion said that he will create a three-man panel of experts; all Asians, no Westerners and he will be bound by the findings of this three-man experts on the issue of whether or not Dengvaxia actually caused deaths ‘no. Now the problem of the President is – although there is a finding of a PAO expert and there is the PGH panel of experts findings – as a lawyer and a former prosecutor, he knows that expert witnesses can cancel out each other’s testimonies. In effect he said that, with conflicting testimonies from the experts from PAO and the PGH, he is constrained to seek further advice from disinterested parties, and that’s why he requested that the panel of experts should be foreign, should have no links absolutely with the Philippine government.

Wala po dapat ties sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas iyong mga ekspertong mga dayuhan na nais na imbitahin ni Presidente para magbigay ng kanilang opinyon tungkol sa Dengvaxia, at siyempre po dapat wala po ng mga links ito sa Sanofi. At pakikinggan po niya ang report at opinyon ng mga ekspertong ito nang makausad na tayo dito sa issue ng Dengvaxia. So sa ngayon po, nag-aantay pa ng mas malinaw na scientific finding ang ating Presidente kaya nga po bubuuin niya itong three-man panel ng experts para po malaman talaga kung anong dapat gawin dito sa Dengvaxia. Pero samantala po ay suportado po ng Presidente iyong lahat noong initiatives ng DOH ngayon, kasama na iyong paghingi ng isang batas galing sa Kongreso para magastos po iyong halaga na ni-refund ng Sanofi sa atin – mga one billion plus – para matulungan iyong mga naging biktima ng Dengvaxia.

Now I can confirm that si Secretary Teo po ay nag-attend ng Cabinet meeting, hindi po napag-usapan ang DOT controversy sa Cabinet meeting mismo. Bagama’t matapos po ang pagpupulong, ay mga… siguro 10 to 15 minutes eh nakapag-one-on-one si Secretary Teo at ang Presidente. Seryoso po sila pareho doon sa nakita kong mga facial expression, pero hindi ko po alam ang totoong nangyari. So, I am constrained to clarify that I still have no information on whether or not Secretary Teo has in fact resigned ‘no. So until I get further information from the President I’m not able to confirm nor deny the report—or a report that was published by a major daily today.

Questions?

TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Sir, alam natin iyong malaking balita ngayon kay Secretary Teo. Pero sabi ninyo nga hindi ninyo pa ma-confirm as of this time. Magkakaroon po ba kayo ng chance na makausap si Presidente today para makuha iyong confirmation na ‘yan or Secretary Medialdea?

SEC. ROQUE: Opo. Sa totoo lang po pinabalik ako ni Presidente, noong natapos ako po’y umalis na ng Palasyo. Nasa Sta. Mesa po ako, bumalik ako pero hindi na rin po ako naantay ni Presidente. So mamaya pong alas tres ang unang pagkakataon na makikita ko si Presidente, at tatanungin ko po kung ano iyong naging one-on-one niya kay Secretary Teo.

TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: So by then sir, mga 4 o’clock puwede ka na naming makuhanan ng additional info on the matter?

SEC. ROQUE: Siguro po, at least malalaman ko kung ano iyong sasabihin sa akin ni Presidente na pinag-usapan nila ni Secretary Teo. Pero sayang po, hindi ko naabutan noong pinabalik ako dito sa Malacañang.

TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Hindi ba na-tackle sir iyong possible na kaso na puwedeng kaharapin ni Secretary Wanda Teo?

SEC. ROQUE: As I said po, hindi ko pa alam kung ano nangyari doon sa pag-uusap dahil hindi ako nakabalik on time.

TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Okay. Thank you, sir.

CHONA YU/RADIO INQUIRER: Sir, good morning. What will happen to the investigation being conducted by the Office of the President; will it still continue or… if and when nag-resign na nga si Secretary Teo, hanggang doon na lang ba?

SEC. ROQUE: Gaya ng aking sinasabi dati po ‘no, sa level po ng Presidente, sa mga presidential appointees, ang imbestigasyon ay para alamin kung mananatili o mapapaalis sa puwesto ang isang presidential appointee. Iyong pagsasampa po ng kaso, ‘yan po ay katungkulan na ng Ombudsman at hindi na po ng Office of the President.

CHONA YU/RADIO INQUIRER: So, tuloy pa rin po iyong investigation, sir, ng OP?

SEC. ROQUE: Sa pagkakaalam ko po ay tuloy, pero parang lahat po ng dokumento ay hawak na po ni Executive Secretary Medialdea.

DEO DE GUZMAN/RMN: Sir, tuloy po iyong investigation and hawak na po ni Secretary Medialdea iyong papers. So, is it safe to assume na dahil may action na si Presidente based on the reports na lumabas; may action na, so is it safe to say na tapos na iyong investigation?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, hindi ko po alam kung may aksiyon na – iyon nga po ang problema ‘no. You’re saying na may aksiyon na po based on a report by a newspaper which I’m neither confirming nor denying because I have no information ‘no. So, I cannot confirm or deny that po. As far as I know, all documents are in; I do not know if Secretary Medialdea has made a recommendation to the President. Pero, I will find out this afternoon po, at least kung ano iyong status.

DEO DE GUZMAN/RMN: Sir, sakali po na totoo nga o confirmed nga na lumabas iyong balita, na-confirm ninyo later today, ano po ang mangyayari doon sa Tulfo Brothers? Would you advice them na—would the Palace advice them na huwag nang umere doon sa PTV4 and Radyo Pilipinas?

SEC. ROQUE: That’s premature po, dahil hindi ko po alam kung anong mangyayari. Right now, hindi ko po alam kung anong mangyayari. So, hindi ko po alam kung anong sasabihin.

Now can I read also a statement ‘no, and the President wants to give this priority. This is from… well I just got information again which I will have to confirm.

President Duterte was briefed last night after the Cabinet meeting by Cabinet Secretaries Jesus Dureza and Silvestre Bello to inform him that the efforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF are underway with backchannel informal talks now taking place in Europe. Secretaries Dureza and Bello informed the President that his clear directives are being relayed across the table, and are now the subject of discussions in the ongoing meetings.

Our team is now in Europe, and we are informed that there are initial positive results so far – this, according to Secretary Dureza. The team will return home soon to personally brief the President of the outcome. Secretary Bello said, “We are doing our best to meet the deadlines set by the President about the resumption of talks within 60 days,” he added. Okay…

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, on the DOT. Iyon pong probe doesn’t just cover Secretary Teo right? Other government officials as announced before, so what will happen to the other officials?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko pa nga po alam kung ano nangyari kay Secretary Teo. So let’s wait for confirmation of reports that you and I read from a daily newspaper today before we answer the other questions about what will happen to other officials ‘no.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So ibig sabihin sir, halimbawa nag-resign nga si Secretary Teo ‘no, and then there are other officials who are under investigation for the same deal. What will happen to them? Will the investigation continue as far as their involvement is concerned?

SEC. ROQUE: The investigation will have to make recommendations too on what will happen to the other individuals.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Alright sir, iyon muna…

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, may nabanggit na ba ang Pangulo or reaksiyon kaugnay sa balak diumano ng Tulfo Brothers, iyong Bitag Productions na isauli iyong 60 million?

SEC. ROQUE: Well abogado naman po ang Presidente ‘no. So siguro po iyong 60 million is a good gesture, pero sa batas po it will not completely exonerate kung mayroon man nalabag ‘no. Pero siyempre po, mayroon pang imbestigasyon na nangyayari.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, was there any mention on the COA report that there is disallowance of that contract or the payment for a good reason to return the 60 million?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala pa naman pong disallowance ang COA report eh. So—kaya nga po ang PTV, ang alam ko po nagko-comply pa rin sila doon sa mga findings ng COA ‘no. So, wala pa pong notice of disallowance at wala pang demand na ibalik iyong 60 million na nanggagaling sa COA.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Thank you, sir.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Hi, sir. Sir, can you explain to us how the one-on-one meeting happened yesterday? Since you saw it, I mean, did Secretary Teo approach the President or was it the President who initiated it?

SEC. ROQUE: Well kakatapos lang po ng Cabinet meeting, and the one-on-one happened also in the Aguinaldo Dining Room, in the same table where we had our meeting. As is the usual process, may mga ibang mga Cabinet secretaries na nagwa-one-on-one with the President; si Secretary Teo was not the first. I think she was at the third or the fourth. But—Secretary Teo sat next to the President, at the center of the table and they were huddled closely together and their faces were very, very serious – so including the face of the President. So iyon po, so doon po nangyari iyong usapan na iyon at binigyan naman po ng privacy ng ibang mga Cabinet secretaries iyong ating Presidente at si Secretary Teo. Kaya nga po ako mismo, umuwi na lang ako because I thought that was a thing to do when I sensed na medyo matagal iyong one-on-one nila.

INA/CNN PHILS: Sir, in the past when there were calls for some appointed officials to resign, for example, on the cases Nick Faeldon and – even if I recall correctly – Secretary Tugade. The President would go out of his way and say that he trusts these people. Was there any mention of the President about… similar statement from the President pertaining to Secretary Teo?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po napag-usapan at all ang DOT kagabi. At hindi po nagsalita kagabi si Secretary Teo on any matter discussed by the Cabinet.

INA/CNN PHILS: Last from me on this topic. But is it true that the President again reiterated his statement during the Cabinet meeting about corrupt Cabinet members or government officials that if they are engaged in corrupt activities that they should resign? Was it reiterated by the President?

SEC. ROQUE: The campaign against—iyong kampanya po laban sa korapsyon ay hinaylight (highlighted) ni Presidente noong pinag-uusapan po iyong content ng State of the Nation Address. Kasi siyempre ang sabi ng—magkakaroon ng bagong format po ‘no, pero hindi po na muna uunahan iyan.

May bagong format at ang mangyayari iyong SONA really, malilimita siya doon sa mga gusto talagang sabihin ng Presidente sa taumbayan. So iyong mga achievement, siguro may mga ibang pagkakataon nang isa-isahin iyan.

Pero talagang iyong SONA will be the President talking to the people and reporting to the people on matters na malapit sa puso po ng ating Presidente. At doon po lumabas iyong kampanya niya sa korapsyon na wala pong tigil at wala pong kupas iyong kampanya.

INA/CNN PHILS: So no direct reminder to the Cabinet secretaries who may be involved in corruption?

SEC. ROQUE: Oo. Wala naman po, pero inulit niya. Parang sinabi nga po niya na dapat mag-resign iyong mga may mga pagkukulang, pero wala naman pong mention directly… you know, walang mention kung kanino it was specifically directed. It was as, you know, by way of discussing iyong bagong format ng SONA at kung ano ang iyong lalamanin ng SONA ng ating Presidente.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: Sir, what will come first, sir? Iyong recommendations of the Office of the President or the COA acting on whatever documents Executive Secretary Medialdea has.

SEC. ROQUE: Well obviously, iyong imbestigasyon po ng Executive Secretary is administrative in nature. So, mas mabilis po iyon. So, I could definitely say that the investigation of the ES will be concluded before compliance with the COA recommendations.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: You also said na parang returning the money is not enough… is not good enough for—to exonerate if ever those involved from criminal liability. You mentioned kanina.

SEC. ROQUE: Well, wala pa naman po kasing ano eh…wala pa namang final notice ang COA din. Basta ang sinasabi ko lang po ay alam naman po natin na kapag meron ng krimen na nagawa, eh pag walang private offended party at ito po ay estado ang complainant, eh parang iyong civil aspect ng kaso eh nababale-wala. Kaya nga po sa Sandiganbayan ay walang private prosecutors. Kasi walang private offended party ‘no. So—pero sa akin po, tingnan muna natin kung ano ang mangyayari.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: Sir, pa-clarify na lang. Kapag wala iyong final notice iyong COA and then the money is returned, puwedeng wala ng case?

SEC. ROQUE: Ay hindi ko po pupuwedeng sabihin iyan as a lawyer. It’s a case to case basis. Ang sa akin lang po ay all crimes involving public officers where the state is offended, kinakailangan po talaga na all the elements are proven and iyong… the fact na wala po kasing civil aspect ang isang criminal case involving public officers, walang aspeto na iyong civil aspect ay pupuwedeng aregluhin, iyon po iyong problema doon.

So sa ordinary criminal cases, normally po ang civil aspects na aareglo. Pero sa mga crimes involving public officers specifically crimes under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, eh wala pong civil aspect dahil wala pong pribadong indibidwal na na-danyos kung hindi ang estado lamang.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, on the sideline of the Cabinet meeting. You mentioned si Secretary Cayetano talked to the President and I think sila DND also, and NSA, iyong sa picture na pinadala ni SAP. What was the—with regard to China, what does specifically discussed if you can divulge?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, you know the President reiterated his policy on China which really is not new. He says that he will not be involved in any armed confrontation between China and the United States. It is not to our national interest to get involved in any armed conflict although any such armed conflict is a reason for us to be concerned, because it is in our Exclusive Economic Zone, it is in our backyard. And that is why he reiterated that to him, an independent foreign policy, iyong independiyenteng panlabas na relasyon, ang pinakamabuti pa ring posisyon, dahil kung magkakaroon nang komprontasyon sa parte ng America at ng Tsina, eh ayaw naman niya isugal ang buhay ng mga Pilipino, dahil wala naman tayong interest sa ganiyang komprontasyon kung mangyayari man.

Pero ang inaasahan nga natin ay gagamitin ang diplomasya ang lahat ng panig dito sa mga bansa na nag-iiringan ngayon sa South China Sea at mananaig pa rin ang kapayapaan.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But, doesn’t putting up a missile defense system in the South China Sea upping the ante for a possible, not naman confrontation, but tension between China and whoever it wants to—

SEC. ROQUE: As I said, iyon nga po, hindi naman natin binabale-wala iyong mga hakbang na gagawin, hindi lang puwedeng i-a-anunsiyo, hindi lang pupuwede na araw-araw pag-usapan. Pero at the same time, mas minabuti ni Presidente na wag kumampi sa kahit kaninong partido dito sa nangyayari dito sa West Philippine Sea dahil ang interes ng mga Pilipino ay magkaroon ng kapayapaan.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Does he find it objectionable that China would erect a defense system, missile defense system in our EEZ?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, sinasabi naman po niya na talagang pag nagkaroon ng mga ganiyang mga missiles, eh siyempre mas malakas iyong posibilidad na magkakaroon ng hindi lang girian, baka magkaroon ng engkuwentro ‘no. Pero ang sinasabi nga niya, nadatnan na natin iyan, nadatnan na niya iyan bago pa siya maging Presidente. Kasi iyong mga isla na iyan, completely built na noong siya ay pumasok diyan.

Okay, inilagay ang missile ngayon. Pero in the first place kung wala iyong mga isla diyan, hindi na nailagay iyan ano. So ang punto niya, eh parang too late the hero na siya pa ngayon ang sinisisi noong ilang mga tao ng nakalipas na administrasyon.

Pero ang tanong nga, bakit kasi noong ginagawa iyang mga islang iyan, bukod doon sa arbitration na isinampa, wala silang ginawa. Bakit ang Amerika, hindi gumawa, bakit hindi hinarangan iyong mga dredging na iyan. Eh bakit ngayon sa kanya ngayon ang binabaling ang sisi, eh samantalang nandiyan na iyang mga islang iyan noong siya ay naging Presidente ng Hunyo of 2016. Katotohanan naman po iyan.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Well, I don’t know. Is asking China to remove the defense… missile system in the realm of possibility?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, alam mo po, I guess anything is possible. But in the realm of possibilities, do you think China will comply?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Correct. So we won’t even ask ‘no?

SEC. ROQUE: Let us deal with realities.

Q: Pinag-iisipan daw po Congressman Alejano na magsampa ng impeachment complaint versus the President regarding po sa issue ng West Philippine Sea. Any comment, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Eh nagawa na naman niyang magsampa dati ng impeachment complaint laban kay Presidente, karapatan po niya iyan at kung meron naman siyang numero, eh siguro po magiging successful siya ano.

Pero sa akin po, walang suportang makukuha iyan. Kasi wala pong legal na basehan iyang impeachment na isasampa niya. Ang dapat niya po sigurong habulin, eh iyong mga tao na pinayagang magawa iyang mga artificial na island na iyan noong panahon ng administrasyon na siya po ay isang kakampi.

CHONA YU/RADYO INQ.: Sir, i-clarify ko lang. Iyong 50 researchers, ano iyon mga Pilipino?

SEC. ROQUE: All Filipinos.

CHONA YU/RADYO INQ.: Okay. And how long will they conduct their research?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam kung matagal ang research nila, pero ise-send off lang sila ni Presidente.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Sir, iyong investigation doon sa 60 million sa DOT ads. Kasama rin po ba doon na i-imbestigahan kung bakit hindi naibibigay ng PTV iyong mga benepisyo ng manggagawa, katulad noong sa Collective Negotiation Agreement? Kasi po iyong 60 million, malaki na po iyong pupuntahan noon kung para po sa kapakanan ng mga manggagawa, hindi po ba? Iyong back wages ng mga sinibak nung nakaraang administrasyon na nakabalik?

SEC. ROQUE: Ang imbestigasyon po nakatutok doon sa sinabi ng COA na may kulang-kulang na dokumento at may mga depekto doon sa pag-award ng 60 million worth of ad contract sa BITAG. So baka hindi po makasama iyan sa imbestigasyon.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Pero may sulat po iyong PTV employees association kay Presidente tungkol po doon sa mga problema nila, bago po pumutok iyong COA report?

SEC. ROQUE: Ipapaalala ko po kay Executive Secretary na may ganiyang usapin din pagdating naman doon sa mga suweldo nila Rocky ‘no. Pag nakarating naman kay Presidente na pati si Rocky kasama doon, eh baka magkaroon ng aksyon.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: Sir, what’s your definition of whiff of corruption? Because that’s the word, the phrase the President used early on, when he said he’s gonna fire people.

SEC. ROQUE: Give it its common meaning.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: Which is nga, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: It doesn’t have to be proven in court.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: But does it have to undergo iyong, you know, the Office of the President undertaking an investigation?

SEC. ROQUE: There has to be. Kasi hindi naman puwedeng tsismis lang.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/INQ: So iyong whiff of corruption may process din, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Meron din. That is why there’s always an investigation. Otherwise masisisante ka on the basis of tsismis, na baka mamaya walang basehan.

KOMFIE MANALO/DAILY TRIBUNE: Sir, iyong missile defense system that China has erected in those islands. The surface to air missile has a range of 300 kilometers that can shoot down aircrafts, drones or anything that flies. While the anti-cruise missile—the anti-ship missile can shoot down boats, ships or anything that floats. And don’t you think that is enough threat to Philippine aircrafts or ships that sail or flies within the range of those missiles?

SEC. ROQUE: Kung meron po tayong hidwaan; eh wala naman tayong hidwaan. That is why we are—we treasure our friendly ties with China now, among others, because it would reduce tension given existing realities already in the West Philippine Sea.

KOMFIE MANALO/DAILY TRIBUNE: Follow up, sir. So you insist wala naman tayong hidwaan with China and since you are confident that those missiles were not targeting Philippine targets. Then why don’t we send any of our air assets or drones, aircrafts to fly near those islands so we can—fly low, so we can eyeball to confirm if those defense missile were really put up in those islands?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, as far as I know, hanggang ngayon, patuloy iyong paglilipad ng ating mga eroplano papunta sa Pag-asa.

KOMFIE MANALO/DAILY TRIBUNE: And we have not seen any confirmation na those missiles were already… really put up there?

SEC. ROQUE: Walang confirmation, pero at the same time, hindi naman sila tina-target noong China ‘no. So, there are daily flights or weekly flights because we have to ferry supplies to Pag-asa.

KOMFIE MANALO/DAILY TRIBUNE: And they go near those islands, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Napakalapit noon. Let me—parang hindi mo alam kung nasaan iyong mga iyon, malapit iyan sa Pag-asa. So, ang punto nga is, nandiyan ang mga missiles, hindi naman pinagbabagsak so far iyong ating mga eroplano ‘no, so hindi nga tayo tina-target. So what is the question ba?

KOMFIE MANALO/DAILY TRIBUNE: Iyong confirmation, sir. Have we confirmed na meron talaga doong ano… missile?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala pa. Kasi wala pa iyong equipment na kinakailangan natin. Pero alam ko na iyong equipment pero ang pakiusap ni National Security Adviser, it’s sensitive to acknowledge that we don’t have this equipment. Let’s not publicize the name of the equipment, I can tell you privately after.

May nag-break: There’s an announcement to be made by Atty. Topacio at 1 pm at the DOT office. That is what I got. Atty. Topacio will have an announcement at the DOT office at 1 p.m.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: Meron pong nag-break just now, saying that the Secretary has already resigned. Do you have an update on this?

SEC. ROQUE: No information. I’m here with you although I did get a text but I have not verified. I have not receive anything from Executive Secretary Medialdea; neither have I still receive anything from Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. But—

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS: But?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: But I just received the text.

SEC. ROQUE: Nothing. I got a text from another Cabinet member but I cannot actually announce it because there is no verification. So unless it’s verified, please.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, Kuwait lang. Sir, just to be clear, what is the specific mission of Secretary Mamao as special envoy sa Kuwait?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, alam naman natin iyong mga unsettled business natin. We have three diplomats. We have four drivers. We want to see our three diplomats home. We want the four drivers completely cleared because these are residents of Kuwait, hindi naman sila uuwi ‘no. They are residents already of Kuwait. And then there’s about 800 runaways that we want to bring home. So the mandate of Secretary Mamao is to bring everyone home and to possibly normalize ties with Kuwait, sign the MOA if possible.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Iyon, sir, the goal is still—

SEC. ROQUE: Complete normalcy of ties.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: How about the MOU?

SEC. ROQUE: Yes that’s still part of our—what we hope to achieve, because MOA will completely normalize our ties.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, iyong—si Secretary Bello, again, just to be clear. Hindi na siya matutuloy, iyong team niya sa Kuwait?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Hindi na?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: So does this—why? Does this mean that—

SEC. ROQUE: Because si Secretary Mamao na.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Okay, thank you sir.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: So sir, kung mayroon po tayong special envoy to Kuwait, how does the DFA Secretary Cayetano in particular factor in?

SEC. ROQUE: He’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Yeah, but is—will he be involved in—

SEC. ROQUE: Well I think the President noted that Secretary Mamao being a Muslim has been effective in dealing with Kuwaiti authorities. So parang he is allowing a Filipino-Muslim do the negotiations for the time being with the Kuwaiti authorities.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Sir, the four drivers were arrested ‘no? And there’s—

SEC. ROQUE: Four drivers were arrested.

JOSEPH/GMA7: The three diplomats are still—

SEC. ROQUE: In the embassy.

JOSEPH/GMA7: How would you describe that—

SEC. ROQUE: Restricted movement I think is what the term used by the DFA.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Alright and then we cancel the supposed trip on May 7 because—

SEC. ROQUE: Because of this development that it’s Secretary Mamao who is now the special envoy.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay.

SEC. ROQUE: To Kuwait.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So parang pinush back lang iyong schedule?

SEC. ROQUE: The President kasi ‘di ba prefers okay, ‘I’ll give you a chore, you do this chore, you do this task.’

JOSEPH/GMA7: So parang—

SEC. ROQUE: So he was specifically designated.

Q: Sir, related to China. A Washington-based think tank reported that our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region has overtaken us sa pag-develop noong reefs sa Spratlys specifically Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. What is the Philippine government inclined to take on this issue? Are we inclined to maintain the status quo na we will not aggressively develop our claims sa Spratlys? Thank you.

SEC. ROQUE: I’m sorry.

Q: I will repeat the question, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Yeah, repeat the question.

Q: Should I repeat the question, sir? Sir, a Washington-based think tank claimed… reported our neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand overtook us already in developing the reefs and outposts sa Spratlys. My question is, anong—what is the likely action of the Philippine government and are we inclined to just maintain the status quo or are we gonna be more—

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know about that. Because you see the advantage of the Philippines is that we’re the only claimant with 7 real islands in our possession. These are not just high watermarks. These are not artificial islands. Outside of Taiwan that claims of course the biggest island ‘no, Itu Aba. But ours are real islands.

So I don’t understand how any other claimant can claim a superior claim because all their islands are artificial. There’s not even any talk of sovereignty when you talk of artificial islands because it’s only sovereign rights. But in all the 7 islands that are in our possession, we can claim sovereignty over each of them because these are real islands. This is the distinction under UNCLOS between lands which are permanently above water and lands that are only visible during low tide ‘no – correct ‘no – and then they disappear during high tide ‘no.

So when you build an artificial island, you never have sovereignty over the island. So even if they build the mightiest island, the mightiest military base, it will never be the subject of sovereignty. Why? Because it’s an artificial island, it is only covered by sovereign rights.

Tayo we are the only claimant, 7 iyan real islands that can be the subject of sovereignty. So if your question is: they have overtaken us in asserting their rights and sovereignty? I dispute that because from the nature of the islands that we occupy, we are the only one of all the claimants except for Taiwan that occupies Itu Aba, that can claim sovereignty over the islands that we hold.

Q: So we still have the upper hand, that’s what you are saying?

SEC. ROQUE: I think so.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM: Sec., could you confirm. Bago daw mag-start iyong Cabinet meeting kahapon, nag-submit ng resignation kay ES si Wanda Teo?

SEC. ROQUE: Well si—I have to abide with the standards also of journalists. I have gotten reports but si Secretary—si ES himself has not confirmed to me that it has been received. But now I got a statement from the Spokesperson of the Department of Tourism that in fact Attorney Topacio has issued a statement. Okay? So I just got a text from Kat De Castro and the statement which I also have a copy said that Secretary Wanda, according to a statement allegedly coming from—

Q: Atty. Topacio.

SEC. ROQUE: Attorney Topacio ‘no. So—but if you want confirmation from me, the Executive Secretary has not confirmed until now—let me see if I have a text. Oo just a call. Call ano.

Okay. So other matters please while we confirm because ang hirap, I mean, can you imagine my predicament. But Kat De Castro has said that Attorney Topacio has issued a statement but I cannot, I cannot, you know. I have not seen the letter. I have not gotten confirmation from the Executive Secretary. So I still cannot confirm, I can only say that Kat De Castro, the Spokesperson of DOT, has confirmed that Attorney Topacio has issued a statement. That’s it.

CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, what prompted the President to create iyong three man panel of experts on the Dengvaxia?

SEC. ROQUE: Because as a former fiscal he knows that pagdating po sa mga expert witnesses—ang value kasi ng expert witnesses can be negated by the testimony of an equally recognized expert witness. So they can cancel out each other. So here comes an expert witness from the PGH saying that the deaths could not be attributed to Dengvaxia and here comes an expert witness from PAO saying it is in fact attributable to Dengvaxia. So ang epekto niyan they cancel out each other. So parang bale-wala. So walang basehan para sabihin either way. So ngayon ang gusto ng Presidente kumuha tayo ng disinterested, dayuhan, walang ties sa Pilipinas, walang ties sa Sanofi na mga pathologists at tingnan natin kung anong sasabihin nila at iyon na ang ating susundan.

CHRISTINE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: So iyong purpose rin is to prosecute if ever, sir? Whatever findings that panel of experts—

SEC. ROQUE: Ang sabi kasi diyan ang basis ng prosecution will be not really for homicide ‘no. So far ang mga isinampa lang is reckless imprudence resulting to homicide ‘no. So ang pagsampa ng kaso, yes.

Kahapon nga pala sinabihan din niya si Secretary Duque, bagama’t maraming kaso laban sa kaniya, huwag mag-alala. As a lawyer his profession opinion is wala namang pagkakakulong iyon dahil it will not prosper, that was a professional opinion of the President ‘no. But of course it will still be up to the investigating fiscals to determine probable cause and it will have to be before a regular Court ‘no, a regular Court that will determine proof beyond reasonable doubt.

CHRISTINE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Does the President have already parang names of the panel, the members?

SEC. ROQUE: There is a list already submitted to him. There was a mention of experts from Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia mostly ASEAN countries.

CHRISTINE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Recommended by the DOH sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Recommended by the DOH.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Sir, follow up lang ni Jo Montemayor. Saan daw pong Asia iyong Dengvaxia panel members at papaano daw po sila napili ni Presidente?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, may listahan po. May listahan at mahabang listahan naman po iyan. Oo, well ang sabi po ni Secretary Duque may listahan siya na mahabang ano—

ROCKY/PTV4: Saan daw pong country—

SEC. ROQUE: Ah wala pong Westerner, nag-express ng preference po si Presidente para sa mga dalubhasa na taga Asya, hindi po sa mga puti.

Okay, I have a confirmation: There was a resignation letter that was submitted to the Office of the Executive Secretary before the meeting with the President last night. And this is confirmation coming from the Office of the Executive Secretary. No confirmation whether or not it’s been accepted. But she tendered her resignation.

Okay! Kinukumpirma ko na po natanggap ni Executive Secretary ang liham ng pagbibitiw ni Secretary Wanda Teo kagabi po bago makipagpulong si Secretary Teo kay Presidente Duterte.

DEXTER GANIBE/DZMM: Sec., follow up lang, just for the record. Ito ba ay tinanggap na ni Pangulo o ito iyong naging usapan nila kagabi noong nag-one on one sila ni Secretary Teo?

SEC. ROQUE: Iyon pong—hihintayin ko ang kumpirmasyon ngayon ‘no kasi iyan po ang wala pa akong kumpirmasyon.

TINA MENDEZ/PHIL. STAR: Sir, good afternoon. Sa statement po Attorney Topacio he said: Secretary Teo reiterated that she has done no wrong doing, that all dealings with the DOT went through all legal processes, done above board, done in good faith and with total absence of malice. Does her resignation means wala na rin siyang liability or accountability for the dealings happened during her term?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam dahil we don’t know what the facts are. I’m not privy to the investigation. So it is an investigation conducted by the Executive Secretary and a later investigation by the Office of Ombudsman that will determine if she has in fact criminal liability.

TINA/PHIL. STAR: Even judging from the audit report of the COA regarding that dealings?

SEC. ROQUE: Well even judging from that po kasi alam mo naman wala pa pong notice of disallowance pa rin eh. So it will have to be investigated by the Ombudsman to determine probable cause.

TINA/PHIL. STAR: Thank you sir.

Q: Sir, what’s the reason sir cited by Teo for her resignation sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Well you’ll have to based it now on the statement of Attorney Topacio ‘no.

Q: No I’m mean on the—in the letter—in her letter sir?

SEC. ROQUE: I have not seen the letter, unfortunately. The ES just confirmed receipt of a letter tendering her resignation.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir—okay so if it were—if she submitted the letter before the Cabinet meeting and before they had a one-on-one. Could we say that the President didn’t fire her but she resigned? She was not asked to resign?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know. Unfortunately I have no information. I would be concluding without the proper information. So I would rather not comment.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILIPPINES: Sir, sorry medyo natanong na ito kanina but since confirmed na nga ngayon. So now that she’s resigned, is she off the hook, will criminal charges be pursued?

SEC. ROQUE: Hinahayaan na po ng Palasyo sa Ombudsman na mag-imbestiga para malaman kung may pananagutang kriminal pa po si Secretary Teo. Iyan naman po ay katungkulan talaga ng Ombudsman.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: This applies to other officials tagged in the transaction or the deal?

SEC. ROQUE: Opo at iyong isyu po ng pananagutang kriminal, siyempre po lahat po iyan ay nasa poder na po iyan ng Ombudsman. Inaasahan po namin ang mabilis at transparent na imbestigasyon ng Ombudsman.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Does this mean sir that the OP’s investigation also found that there was something wrong which is why or which is led to the resignation of the Secretary?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko po alam kung anong naging resulta ng imbestigasyon, dahil hindi ko po nakikita pa kung mayroon na talagang rekomendasyon ang imbestigasyon ng Executive Secretary. Pero sabihin na lang po natin na parang naunahan na ng resignation ang pinal na rekomendasyon ng Executive Secretary. Pero ang pananagutan po siyempre po iyan ay isang isyu na tanging Ombudsman lang ang pupuwedeng magbigay ng kasagutan dahil iyan po ay constitutional duty ng Ombudsman.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Does Malacañang see the resignation as a sign of guilt?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi naman po. I think Secretary Teo being a close associate of the President did what she thought was the best course of action, and we thank her.

INA/CNN PHILIPPINES: Thank you.

CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Sir, may marching order po ba si Presidente sa Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission para imbestigahan nito si Secretary Teo?

SEC. ROQUE: Well sa tingin ko po the matter should properly be investigated by the Ombudsman, hindi na po ng PACC.

CHONA/RADYO INQUIRER: Why not sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Eh kasi isyu na po ito ng kriminal ‘no, dahil apparently po nagbitiw na sa puwesto si Secretary Teo.

GENALYN KABILING/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, irrevocable resignation po ba?

SEC. ROQUE: No information on whether or not it’s revocable or irrevocable.

GENALYN/MANILA BULLETIN: Sir, sana i-release ninyo mamaya iyong letter.

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4: Okay thank you. Thank you, Malacañang Press Corps. Thank you Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Back to our main studio sa Radyo Pilipinas and People’s Television Network.

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

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