Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque with Presidential Task Force on Media Security Joel Egco

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


ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV:  Good afternoon, Malacañang Press Corps. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE:  Good morning, Philippines and good morning to the ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps. Let me begin with our Monday good news.

The Duterte administration is indeed doing its best to provide support and assistance to Filipino beneficiaries through proper and immediate implementation of land distribution under its continuing agrarian reform program. With this we are pleased to announce that the Department of Agrarian Reform has distributed 47 Certificates of Land Ownership Awards to 49 agrarian reform beneficiaries in 4 municipalities in the province of Rizal. These are the municipalities of Tanay, Morong, Baras and Antipolo.

This is to inform that 4 local government units have become recipients of the Department of Finance climate change adaptation projects. They are Lanuza, Surigao Del Sur with 39 million; Del Carmen, Surigao Del Norte with 80.7 million; San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu with 33,089,000; and Gerona, Tarlac with 38.1 million. The DOF if you will recall has set up the People’s Survival Fund to aid vulnerable communities to prepare for the adverse effects of climate change. The PSF has a programmed annual fund of one billion pesos in the National Treasury which is on top of the annual appropriations allocated to LGUs for programs and projects related to climate change. These four projects will have counterpart financing on the part of the LGUs to improve the scale of the projects and promote proper disbursement of provided funds.

Now, we also have good news in the fight against impunity particularly against media killings. This morning we are pleased to announce a breakthrough in the killing of broadcaster Christopher Lozada. A witness has personally identified the gun man who shot Chris Lozada and Presidential Task Force on Media Killings will initiate the filing of appropriate charges against the suspect who happens to work for the family of this Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro. Undersecretary Joel C. Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security spearheaded the investigation and follow up on the case. And he is here this morning to assist the witness. Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, Undersecretary Egco.

USEC. EGCO:  Thank you very much, Secretary Roque. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Alright. The photo here shows the victim Christopher Lozada. He was killed last October 24 while he was driving home along with his live in partner Honey Faith Toyco in his own barangay in the City of Bislig, Surigao Del Sur. Lozada died on the spot, while Toyco sustained gunshot and was rushed to Andres Soriano Hospital for treatment. Next slide please.

On October 25, 2017 the PTFoMS requested then Director Augusto Marquez of the DIDM and Task Force USIG Executive Director Superintendent Eder Collantes to take immediate action and conduct an investigation on the incident. Next slide please.

On October 27, we proceeded to Butuan City to conduct a case conference on the case of Mr. Lozada, the conference was presided by then Chief Superintendent Rolando Felix, the Regional Director of Region 13, it was also attended by the SITG Lozada, ito iyong special task force po ng PNP headed by Senior Superintendent Romualdo Bayting.

There was also the CIDG Chief Superintendent Cesar Paday-os and other PNP units working for the quick resolution of the case. Here are some of the photos during the visit. Next slide please.

Part of our visit was to attend the wake of Mr. Lozada and to personally see the site where the killing took place. Next slide please. Also during the same visit, I was able to get in touch with Honey Faith Toyco, who survived the attack. Next slide please.

On 6 November 2017, the PTFoMS wrote another letter to Director Augusto Marquez reiterating the request for the investigation to be conducted by the CIDG upon the request of Mr. Lozada’s family considering the alleged involvement of local officials in the area.

On 7 November 2017, the PTFoMS coordinated the implementation of two search warrants to the conduct of search and seizure operations by a team of PNP personnel led by Superintendent Cesar Paday-os of the CIDG at the residences of Felixberto Villosino Jr. and –  remember the name – ‘Rolly Mahilum’ who were named by sources as suspects in the shooting incident. I personally did the follow up and personally supervised the serving of the search warrant. After serving the search warrants, after one day curiously Superintendent Paday-os was relieved from his post and he was transferred since then to the Cordillera Administrative Region Police Office.

Next slide. So these are the subject vehicles, we have on the left and upper right the Toyota Vios used by the victim—victims actually. So ito iyong back portion, take note that rear bumper was missing… is missing dahil binangga po iyan allegedly noong van, so ito iyong front. And during Colonel Paday-os and PNP officers’ serving of the warrants, pinakunan po natin litrato iyong subject gray van. This was first suspected to be at the house of Rolly Mahilum who was supposedly a driver of the local government official there. But during the search warrant, the van went missing and they were able to trace the said van in the garage of the City Hall. Next slide please.

On 10 November upon the receipt of the letters sent by PTFoMS, the DIDM through Chief Superintendent Erick Reyes, Director of the CIDG, to take appropriate action and likewise directed the Regional Director of the PNP PRO 13 to submit a report on the latest updates on the matter.

29 November, PTFoMS received a report from Senior Superintendent Francisco Dungo Jr. OIC of the PNP-PPO, Surigao Del Sur. Ito po iyong mga sinabi sa atin that first, the initial investigation revealed that Lozada has a libel case filed by Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro pending before Branch 29 of the RTC of Bislig City. Lozada had also been receiving threats through text messages from an unidentified sender. And number two on their findings, on 7 November also, a certain Felixberto Villosino Jr., a.k.a Jun-Jun, was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition following a search conducted at his place which yielded a fragmentation grenade, a .38 caliber revolver and 4 live ammunition. He was subsequently charged with a criminal complaint for violation of RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and RA 9516 – Illegal Possession of Explosives. Villosino is an alleged cohort of the gun man in the shooting of Lozada and Toyco and he remains under custody of the PNP CIDG 13 as of this report.

On 6 December, the PTFoMS wrote a letter to Chief Superintendent Noli Romana, the Regional Director of PRO 13 requesting for updates and copies of pertinent documents on cases involving media worker killings under his jurisdiction which includes the case of Christopher Lozada. So on 7 of December, we received a new report from Senior Superintendent Francisco Dungo Jr., the OIC of the Philippine National Police Provincial Police Office of Surigao Del Sur. Ito po iyong mga sinabi, number one that a suspected getaway vehicle used by the gun man was identified by the police, a Toyota Hi-Ace Van with plate number SFJ 951 with engine number 2KD 5159024 so and so.

The said vehicle is allegedly owned by the City Government of Bislig and was requested to be made available to the PNP for check and verification through the Mayor. The request was made on 7 November 2017. As of the report, Mayor Navarro has not responded to the request.

Number two item. Another suspected cohort of the gunmen had been identified again, a certain Rolly Mahilum, remember the name. He was also charged with violation of R.A 10591 and R.A 9516. So, pareho iyong kinaso sa kanila. Mahilum remains at-large.

20, December, again, Senior Superintendent Francisco Dungo Jr. submitted a report to us, reporting that number 0ne, that Honey Faith Toyco, the survivor, the live-in partner had already executed a sworn statement and that it was subscribed before the city prosecutor’s office.

And number two, on November 20, two witnesses executed sworn statement on the gray Toyota Hi-Ace van used in the killing of Lozada, which were subscribed again before the city prosecutor.

Okay. On February 25, 2018 while browsing through the pictures of Mr. Lozada on the laptop computer of one of the victim’s staff, the witness who is now in our custody, the principal—eye-witness in the case came across a photo of this man, who the witness identified without doubt as the man who shot Lozada.

That’s the photo of the man and this is Christoper Lozada, the victim. So, the man was later identified by family and friends, by local sources there and other officials in Bislig City as Rolly Mahilum. So the same Rolly Mahilum was been the subject—who has been facing charges of illegal possession since last year. But remember that last year, they have a name, but they don’t have a photo. But when our witness saw this photo, sinabi niya, siya talaga, pero hindi niya mapangalanan.

It turned out, that the photo is that of Rolly Mahilum. So our next step is that, we are going to file appropriate charges against Rolly Mahilum. We cannot give you the other details about out next steps, because we don’t want to telegraph our punches to the other side. And rest assured that we are doing this, because we are sincere, the government is sincere in running after anybody or anyone who maims, who threatens and who even kills journalist, especially during the time of President Rodrigo Duterte.

So, that’s all ladies and gentlemen. If you have questions.

Who is Rolly Mahilum? Rolly Mahilum is according to them, according to our witnesses, our sources is Bislig, is still the driver, the close aide of the family of the city Mayor of Bislig. So, we do not claim that any of the family member is directly linked to the crime. But iyon na nga, it depends after depende doon siguro sa sasabihin nitong si Rolly Mahilum, once we get him.

ROCKY/PTV4:  Usec. Egco, nafile na ba iyong case against Rolly Mahilum?

USEC. EGCO:  We are going to file it immediately.

SEC. ROQUE:  Thank you, Usec. Egco. Again, the position of the Duterte administration is that, we value freedom of the press, we value the right of life and that is why the office of the Usec. Egco was created precisely to deal with the issue of impunity, to prevent and to safeguard the lives of media personnel.

I’d like to welcome our guests, Madame Ambassador of Australia. Thank you for joining us, Ma’am. Questions please? Be nice, because Australian Ambassador is around. So please. For once, be nice.

LIELA SALAVERRIA/PDI:  Good morning, sir. Sir, we objected to the statements of the Human Commissioner—High Commissioner for Human Rights that the President should undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Is this going to affect our willingness or our openness to a Rapporteur to conduct a fact-finding inquiry in the country?

SEC. ROQUE:  I think we have made our position clear on the matter of Special Rapporteurs. We welcome Special Rapporteurs, provided that be impartial, neutral and willing to investigate rather than those already having conclusions and wanting to justify them through one investigation.

I think the matter of the statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is being treated very seriously, it’s being treated as a diplomatic affront, it’s wholly and  acceptable. And until now, I am restraining myself from using similar language. I can assure the the good High Commissioner, I’m better at using names.

LIELA/PDI:  So, sir to be clear, we won’t be using his comments as an excuse or a reason to stop a Rapporteur from coming to the country?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, the comments are wholly unacceptable. And I would say that for now, there are already communications ongoing between no less than the UN Secretary General and the Secretary of foreign Affairs. Let’s just say that that kind of a comment is not conducive to having further investigations in the Philippines by any Special Rapporteur.

But as I said, the communications are ongoing. Let’s see what happens.

LIELA/PDI:  So are you saying there’s a possibility that we might stop any investigation because of the comments?

SEC. ROQUE:  No. I am just saying that it did not come at an appropriate time.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN:  Sir, of the Palace’s objection to the remarks of the UN official. Why is language suddenly important for an administration that tolerates the remarks of President Duterte—basically iyong language or remarks of Presidente Duterte is kung tutuusin natin is more controversial like his remarks on shooting NPA fighters in the genitals…

SEC. ROQUE:  Because in the UN system sovereignty is important and sovereign heads are still respected.

PIA/ABS-CBN:  But President Duterte has called former US President Barack Obama as a son of a bitch.

SEC. ROQUE:  That’s the former President, not a sitting President.

PIA/ABS-CBN:  But his remarks, sir, was made when President Obama was still sitting as US President.

SEC. ROQUE:  That’s correct, but he was not UN Secretary General. He is serving as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is still an international organization, composed of states and heads of states are not accorded that kind of a language.

PIA/ABS-CBN:  So sir, what is the difference between a UN official and President of a country, sir?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, because the UN officials should, as a matter of course, respect sitting heads of state, because after all the UN is composed is an international organization is composed of sovereign state. And the sovereign states of course are represented by their respective leaders.

And of course, I have said already over the weekend that we specially take offense because President is a democratically-elected leader of this nation.

PIA/ABS-CBN:  So, basically, sir, you are saying that we excuse a language of the President, but not a UN official.

SEC. ROQUE:  No, there’s a world of difference between a UN official using crude language against a sitting head of state and the President using any kind of language that he wants on a private individual. Especially in this instance, when the person using the crude language is himself without a democratic mandate.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR:  Secretary, how the President’s remarks over the weekend that we would throw the human rights experts to crocodiles. Is it serious or it’s just one of those controversial statements?

SEC. ROQUE:  It’s an appropriate response to a remark that as I said, should not have been made a sitting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Appropriate remark?

SEC. ROQUE: It’s an appropriate response.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: But will he do it, I mean—

SEC. ROQUE: I don’t think he is in a position to do it. Come on. They are not even being allowed in to investigate; there would be no occasion to push them to the crocodiles.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Hi, sir. Good noon. Sir, just your reaction to the position of Chief Justice Sereno early this morning not to resign and not to bow down to the calls of her resignation.

SEC. ROQUE: I guess it’s up to her. We left the decision to her. No one can force her to resign if she doesn’t want. However, I think the sentiment even of the lower court judges have been made known, and we can only hope that the Chief Justice will take all these sentiments into consideration. But the decision to remain is hers to be made.

REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, but precisely. Aren’t you concerned that there will be an effect to the delivery of justice now that the Philippine Judges Association aired their grievance or their position calling her to resign?

SEC. ROQUE: That’s for her to consider. The Supreme Court is collegial body, and there are 14 other justices.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, this morning, the employees of the Supreme Court has asked CJ Sereno to resign. So what does the Palace think of that, sir? And what do you think her unpopularity among her peers, does it have anything to say about her capacity to lead the judiciary?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, as I’ve said earlier, the decision to resign is one to be made by the Chief Justice alone. And at most, what we are going to say is that we hope that she takes into consideration the sentiments of everyone – all the stakeholders.

So far, her colleagues have asked her to go on indefinite leave, and the lower court judges have asked her to resign. We can only ask her to consider all these calls from various stakeholders within the courts itself.

SHIELA FRIAS/IBC13: Hi, Sec. Good afternoon. Sir, the Consultative Committee, tasked to review the 1987 Constitution, has recommended to regulate the political dynasties instead of banning them. Does the Palace support this and why?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I think the sentiment of the President himself is he doesn’t consider political dynasties as bad per se. He has said that sometimes they can lead to good results. But we respect and defer to the wisdom of the Consultative Commission, and we hope that Congress will consider this particular recommendation.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHIL: Hi, sir. Sir, may update na po ba doon sa decision sa Boracay? Is it true that the option to close down the island is no longer being considered?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, there was supposed to be a meeting today, but I understand they had it earlier last Friday because Secretary Cimatu was not available today. And I understand there will be another meeting this week with Architect Jun Palafox. So no decision has been made by… at least the three secretaries of Justice because there is a second round of meeting to be held this week.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Good afternoon, sir. Sir, regarding the President’s statement before that he will declare a state of calamity in Boracay. Mayroon na bang any proclamation or whatever?

SEC. ROQUE: No proclamation yet.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: When can we expect that proclamation?

SEC. ROQUE: I can’t say, but I will inform you if one has been issued. I understand that no less than the Municipality of Malay is also considering the possibility of a similar declaration of the state of calamity because under the law, the local government unit or the national government can declare such declaration.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7: Secretary, good afternoon. Napirmahan po ni Presidente iyong isang law, granting subpoena powers to PNP. May mga other sectors na nagsasabi baka daw ma-abuse ito ng PNP?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, like all laws, it can be abused. But the objective of the law is to bolster the investigation capability of the PNP. And I highlight to add two points: 1.) Not all policemen can issue subpoenas; only the Chief PNP, the CIDG Chief and the deputy; 2.) breach of the subpoena will not give the police any authority to detain anyone; it will only be a cause of action for indirect contempt. They have to go to court, file a petition for indirect contempt before they can apprehend anyone for failure to comply with the subpoena.

So under this circumstance, I think the possibility of abuse will be minimized, if not remote.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7: Another topic, sir. Sir, na-reappoint iyong cousin ni Ma’am Honeylet sa HUDC. Does that mean, sir, na iyong ibang natanggal ay puwede ring maibalik and may policy na ba tayo tungkol doon?

SEC. ROQUE: Appointment, of course, is a purely executive prerogative. So no one can question inherent power of the President to appoint anyone.

IAN CRUZ/GMA7: Another topic, sir. MRT, sir, do you have an update regarding MRT, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: None yet. But I think I will release some documents this week as I promised.

JHOANNA BALLARAN/INQUIRER.NETSir, follow up ko lang po doon sa subpoena powers. Since there are thousands of cases under investigation ng PNP, how do you think these subpoena powers can affect this number po?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I suppose because of the fact that there are limited signatories to the subpoenas that it will be reserved for the extreme circumstance where individuals have absolutely refused to cooperate in an ongoing police investigation.

The fact that only three people can sign it, of course would mean that it would be resorted as often as people might expect. So it bolsters the power of the police to conduct investigations properly, but it’s not going to be a common thing.

JHOANNA BALLARAN/INQUIRER.NETOkay. So how do you define, sir, iyong extreme power po, iyong extreme instances?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, because it still has to go up to the chain of command if you want a subpoena. So you would have to make a request. So I’m sure the police will reserve the exercise of the subpoena powers when there’s really an absolute unwillingness to cooperate with an ongoing investigation.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, what does the President say about the efforts to encourage SAP Bong Go to run for senator?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I understand, the President has broached it to SAP Go. And it’s something that they are discussing between the two of them.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: Nabanggit kasi ni Secretary Go sa huling ambush interview, it will be up to the President. So the President will give him the go signal whether to run? May say si President—

SEC. ROQUE: I believe so. The position of SAP Go is he will heed whatever the President wishes him to do.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So it will be dependent on the President pa rin?

SEC. ROQUE: Yes, definitely.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL STAR: So kahit gusto niya, kung ayaw ni Presidente—

SEC. ROQUE: He has said that personally he would not run, but if the President asks him to, he will.

PRINCE GOLEZ/PANAY NEWS: Hi, sir. Good morning, sir. Sir, Senator Leila De Lima took offense that your remark against the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. She said that what you are boasting is just a shadow of what remains of the Philippine democracy.

SEC. ROQUE: I don’t know what she’s talking about. She won in the same election where the President won. So is she saying that she shouldn’t have sat as a senator? My point was, people who have a democratic mandate deserve respect especially from those without a mandate.

PRINCE GOLEZ/PANAY NEWS: She also likened you to a common house fly, sir. And even described you as a fake human rights lawyer, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Again, enjoy the rest of your life in jail.

MODERATOR: Okay, MPC, no more questions? Okay, thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you very much and good afternoon.


SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)