Press Briefing

Press Briefing by PCOO Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag with Philippine Competition Commission Chairperson Arsenio M. Balisacan

Event Press Briefing
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace

OPENING STATEMENTS:

 ASEC. BANAAG: Magandang umaga. Sa ating mga kababayan sa Northern Luzon, naimbag nga agsapa kadakayo amin.

Today, we have Philippine Competition Commission or the PCC Chairperson Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan to boost awareness about the Philippine Competition Act or the PCA two years after its passage.

The transitory period of the PCA will end on August 8. At the end of this period, businesses which do not comply with the provisions of the PCA shall be subject to investigation and prosecution.

Dr. Balisacan will also share with us the impact of the full implementation of the competition law to businesses and consumers and the commission’s accomplishments.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to our distinguished guest, Chairperson Arsenio Balisacan.

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Thank you, Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag for another opportunity to address our friends in the media as we mark this very significant milestone in the country’s competition landscape.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of introducing the Philippine Competition Commission or PCC to the public — what it is, what is does and what it aims for.

Today, we will make an important reminder about the Philippine Competition Act or the PCA.

The reminder has something to do with the imposition of fines and penalties under the PCA.

As you may recall, violations of the Philippine Competition Act lead to substantial fines and penalties.

Note that, after due notice and hearing, the PCC may impose administrative fines of up to 100 million on the first offense and up to 250 million on the second offense.

Aside from the fines, the penalty of imprisonment of up to seven years may be imposed by the courts upon directors and officials of any corporation involved in an anti-competitive agreement.

By next week, these fines and penalties with imprisonment will be in full force and effect.

The PCA provides a two-year transitory period to allow affected parties time to renegotiate agreements or restructure their businesses to comply with the PCA.

Upon expiration of the transitory period on 8 August 2017, or 8-8, otso-otso for easy recall, an existing business structure, conduct, practice or any act which violates the PCA shall be subject to the administrative civil and criminal penalties that I earlier described.

What does the Philippine Competition Act provide? In all the prohibited acts, we just need to remember one concept: fairness. Dapat patas ang laban ng mga negosyo sa merkado.

To refresh your memory, let’s quickly review the illegal acts under the PCA. There are three main prohibitions: anti-competitive agreements; abuse of dominance; and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

Cartel agreements are examples of anti-competitive agreements, when firms agree to fix prices of a good that they sell, competition is eliminated. This is by itself a violation of the PCA.

Bid rigging by deliberately taking turns with competitors doing bids is another type of anti-competitive agreement.

In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Duterte underscored the seriousness of this crime. Abuse of dominance could come in the form of market foreclosure where big firms might prevent entry into the market by smaller firms.

For example, by preventing access to essential inputs. An instance of anti-competitive merger is a 2:1 merger where a market would currently have two large firms, its existing competitive pressure on the other because the product of these firms are substitutable.

Hence, there would be a built-in check and raising prices. One will not easily raise prices considering that its customers can shift to the other firm.

Now, if these two firms decide to merge and form a monopoly, then this would raise serious competition concerns. Such a merger could substantially eliminate the incentive to keep prices low.

In order to assess whether mergers or acquisitions could be anti-competitive, transactions whose values exceed one billion pesos require prior notification to the PCC. Proceeding without prior notification could result in the voiding of the transaction.

Since its creation in February 2016, the Commission has received 111 merger notifications with a total value of about 1.9 trillion pesos.

Majority of these came from the financial, manufacturing and electricity sectors. These three sectors account for about 55 percent of the total number of notifications.

Of the 111, 52 were notified and reviewed under the implementing rules and regulations issued in June 2016. Full rather than expedited reviews applied.

To date, we have approved 92 notifications. With all the hard work we put in place, I am proud to report zero backlog in all our merger reviews in keeping with the PCA’s mandate of completing reviews within 90 days from the notification of parties.

So you asked, what happens if anti-competitive acts persist after 8 August of 2017? You can and will probably be sued for violating the act of the PCA.

A fact-finding or preliminary inquiry into a possible violation of the PCA can be initiated in three ways:

First, PCC may take in cases motu proprio or in its own initiative.

Another is upon the receipt of a verified complaint from an interested party. Finally, or upon referral by another regulatory agency.

The preliminary inquiry shall be completed by the Competition Enforcement Office of the Commission within 90 days from the submission of the complaint, referral, or the date when the Commission initiated the inquiry.

Upon the recommendation of the Competition Enforcement Office, the Commission shall decide whether there are reasonable grounds to proceed to a full administrative investigation.

The Commission can thereafter impose administrative fines based on the results of such full administrative investigation.

The Commission, after due notice and hearing, may also order an entity to cease and desist from certain anti-competitive activities.

For criminal offenses, those which have imprisonment as penalty, the Commission may file a complaint with the Department of Justice. The DoJ may thereafter prosecute the case before the courts.

So far, the PCC has received a total of 26 queries and complaints for possible anti-competitive conduct in various industries.

Three of which have advanced to preliminary inquiry and subsequently progressed to full administrative investigation.

To preserve the integrity of the investigation, we cannot mention more specific details.

The amount of work may seem challenging, especially for a new government entity or agency. But we at PCC say: “Challenge accepted.”

We have hired the best lawyers, economists and public servants and we are ready. To guide our operations, we have intensified or identified the following priorities:

First, an enforcement. In line with Chapter 16 of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 which elaborates, among other things, the promotion of market competition to achieve consumer welfare and market efficiencies.

PCC is analyzing competition issues in priority sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and public services particularly electricity, telecommunication and transportation, and logistics.

Second in transparency and predictability. In the interest of maintaining the transparency and predictability of our processes, we made it our top priority to finalize PCC’s rules of procedure for administrative investigations and pleadings and practice before the Commission.

We’ve posted the draft rules last month on our website and conducted a national roadshow to gather the public’s comments.

The final rules are expected to be posted on our website within this month.

Third, linkages. Let me reiterate that we do not want PCC to be just another bureaucratic lair or an additional burden to businesses. So we have reached out or are reaching out to different agencies, government agencies to address issues concerning duplication and overlaps in our review and approval processes.

Rest assured that the Commission is mindful of cost implications and business transactions. Thus, we have entered into MOAs or memorandum of agreements with other sector regulators to streamline procedures if there are overlaps.

Because of our MOA with the Securities and Exchange Commission, PCC approval is now mainstream into the SEC or SEC merger approval, allowing for parallel instead of sequential procedures.

We are also in the final stages or ironing out similar MOAs with the BSP or Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Insurance Commission geared towards rationalizing the approval process, strengthening our collaboration and ensuring policy coherence.

Moreover, we have an ongoing discussion with the Office of the Ombudsman to build a solid campaign against bid rigging, price fixing and cartels in government procurements and projects.

Our agreements with these agencies range from information sharing, verification and in the conduct of review and probe of transactions if needed.

We are also actively building links with our anti-trust counterparts here and abroad.

This will allow us to tap into their rich insights and valuable experiences and be kept updated with recent investigations and developments in competition law and economics.

Fourth, developing a culture of competition both in public and private sectors.

We realized that the successful implementation of the Philippine Competition Act rest on the support of its stakeholders.

Magtulong-tulong po tayo na baguhin ang sistema.

We need to develop a culture that understands the benefits of and encourages fair competition.

How our dear friends in media can you help create in this culture of competition?

I pose three challenges to you: One, help us empower the Filipino consumer. Spread the word that dating gawi or nakasanayan na unfair business practices will no longer be tolerated and will now be subject to hefty fines and penalties.

Two, expose anti-competitive practices. As journalists, you will uncover many of these. Please report them to the Commission.

Three, but not the least, grow with us in appreciating competition law and policy.

For the rest of the year, the PCC will be holding workshops for the different stakeholder groups including the media.

We would be extremely honored to have you and your colleagues in such workshops.

Thank you again, Assistant Secretary Banaag and to everybody for sharing your time with the PCC this morning.

Mabuhay po kayong lahat.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, sir. Sir, may we just know what the impact of this — the end of the transitory period will have on cartels in the agricultural sector? Can we, for example, expect food prices to go down or the prices of agricultural commodities to go down because of this? What’s the impact in terms of — for the consumer?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: To the extent that we have anti-competitive practices in the sector, the implementation of the Philippine Competition Act in that sector should lead to lower prices and more choices of — insofar as agricultural goods and services are concerned — and more variety and better quality of products.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, can we just get more information on what kinds of agricultural products are affected by cartel agreements?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: They… The Philippine Development Plan Chapter 16 that I mentioned earlier, talked about certain anti-competitive practices in agriculture that has to do with credit, that has to do with access to inputs, that has to do with the way the market works for final products.

We don’t have yet specific cases on board but we assure you that we will be taking those cases as they come in.

As I mentioned earlier, there are three ways by which we can take cases to the Commission:

One is a verified complaint coming from any stakeholder; second, motu propio by us; and third, is a referral by a government agency.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Sec, good morning. Sir, I remember the last time na nag-guest kayo sa MPC, you’re saying na merong motu propio na ginagawa imbestigasyon ang PCC doon sa mga gasoline or oil companies pagdating sa kanilang pricing. Ano na ang resulta po ngayon, sir?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: The motu propio that… Okay. We have — not the gasoline. It’s… One is the energy, you mentioned about energy? The electricity sector? I think you are referring to that right?

Mr. Ganibe: And the ano, sir, mga oil companies, sir. Somewhere in Mindanao binabanggit niyo before…?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Yes, yes, there was. So far, we… Yeah, there was news about that earlier and you brought that to our attention.

So far we haven’t received any complaint on that, a verified complaint. And the Commission, as I mentioned earlier, it is currently entertaining those that come in from — for example, from other government agencies and sector regulators as well as building our capacities so that we can attend to more of those cases.

So far we are quite constrained. There are many of those cases, especially after August 8. But we assure you, we are building fast our capacities so that we can attend to all these issues.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, after August 8, you said you will start imposing penalties for anti-competitive practices. May we know… The companies that will face these penalties, may we know which industries they come from? Even without specifying the companies.

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Well, those… There are… There is manufacturing and there’s the public services sector.

Ms. Salaverria: Manufacturing and public services? Sir, could… Do you have an estimate on how—

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Agriculture too, we have a referral from another government agency.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, do you have an estimate on how much fines you are set to impose?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: No, we haven’t reached that part yet. These are under investigation, various stages of investigation.

And as you know, as I just mentioned earlier, our power to institute fines, penalties come after the transitory period because as of now, the law says — I mean, transitory period says that you have two years from the effectivity of the Act, that’s July 15 or August 8 of 2015 to August 8 this year ‘no, to undo or change your anti-competitive business practices or agreements or conduct.

In that way, you could get out of the coverage. Otherwise, if you continue, then the Commission will be after you.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

 Joseph Morong (GMA): Sir, in an operational sense, how is this going to affect, say for example, prices of oil products?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Well, as I recall, whenever there are anti-competitive practices, prices are higher than what they would have been the case if you have a competitive environment ‘no.

So if indeed there are anti-competitive practices in the oil industry and we run after them and we succeed, that should lead into lower prices.

Ian Cigaral (Business World): Good morning po, sir.

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Good morning.

Mr. Cigaral: Sir, the Department of Finance last month said that the settlement of Mighty Corp, accompanied by a takeover of company JT International, may require approval from the PCC. Sir, may review na po ba tayo sa settlement na ‘yun and which — saang stage na po tayo nung review?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: We have confirmed in a previous meeting with the media — encounter with the media — that we do — we have received the notification of the parties. We are evaluating their compliance to the requirements at the moment. And as you know, we have — if there are no problems with the submission, approval can be as early as, you know, within the first 30 days upon completion of all the requirements.

Otherwise, if there are issues, there are additional concerns of data that are needed from them, there are — the total number of days required is — or given to us to evaluate the submission is 90 days ‘no.

Otherwise, if the Competition Commission, we would not render its decision within that period, the transaction is deemed approved.

Mr. Cigaral: Thank you po, sir.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Hi, sir. I’m right in front of you. Sir, just a clarification on Leila’s question earlier. So after August 8, uumpisahan niyo pa lang po ba ang pag-iinvestigate or will you be announcing any — will you kick off with the fines already on August 9?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: What particular…?

Ms. Andolong: ‘Yung pag-iimpose ng fines for those who have not —

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Well, there are stages ‘no in the investigation, as I have mentioned earlier.

First, there is a preliminary inquiry ‘no and if there is a substantial evidence that are basis for the pursuit of the case, then we move to the full administrative investigation ano.

And if that investigation shows compellingly that a violation has been committed then the relevant fines will be imposed. But, of course, in coming to the fines, parties are given due process ‘no.

Ms. Andolong: How many companies, sir, are being investigated right now?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: There are … Not companies, they are —

Ms. Andolong: Industries?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Cases. We have three cases at the moment that are — that have advanced into the investigation case.

 Ms. Andolong: When you say, sir, three cases, ano po ang ibig sabihin nito? Involving a cartel? Ganon po ba ‘yun?

HAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Yes, involving cartel, abuse of dominance.

 Ms. Andolong: And how soon, sir, ‘yung — may timeline ba to complete the investigation? How soon can we expect decisions?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: We have 90 days to come up with the preliminary investigation ‘no.

And for the second phase, the full administrative investigation, there’s no timeframe there because the… It really depends on how quickly we can get the evidence because once you go into the full administrative investigation, we are looking for certain evidence that would stand the test of courts, you know.

Ms. Andolong: And just to be sure, sir, ito ‘yung sinasabi niyong galing sa manufacturing and public services sector? The ones you’re looking at or investigating now?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Well in those sectors, yes. But you know, these have been in the papers in earlier interviews ‘no and press briefing.

I recall in the first briefing, I mentioned a case filed in the — to the Commission in the cement industry ‘no, from the cement industry and also a case that emanated from the reque — referral of the Department of Energy Secretary and power ‘no, electricity. Those were mentioned during the previous press briefings.

 Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Hi, Chairman, magandang umaga po sa inyo. Meron na po ba kayong mga nakasuhan ng paglabag dito sa — medyo bata pa itong Republic Act na ito. Ito ho ‘yung Republic Act No. 10667, ‘yung tungkol po sa National Competition Policy prohibiting anti-competitive agreements. May nakasuhan na po ba kayo?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: As I mentioned earlier, we have already… We have three cases in various stages of investigation ‘no.

We have received 26 queries and complaints and those three cases that I’ve mentioned earlier are moved into the advanced stage.

The others were simply either referred to other sector regulators because the queries or the issue does not seem to fall into our jurisdiction or simply dismissed.

Please note that I also mentioned as other part of our work is the evaluation of potential anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions ha. That also takes a lot of our resources.

And as I said earlier, we have — there have been 111 notifications submitted to the Commission and we have decided on practically all of these notifications.

Mr. Uri: Aside po doon sa mga nakasuhan ninyo, meron na bang kumbaga nasa red flag na mga kumpanya?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Of course, we… As I said earlier, I cannot divulge here companies – names of companies – because that would compromise their competition.

But we haven’t come into a final decision in any of these cases yet. They are… We are gathering evidence on those three cases that I mentioned. So we are not there yet.

Mr. Uri: So may mga iniimbestigahan pa kayo in other words?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: I’m sure there will be many, yeah.

Because as I said earlier, by August 9, we’ll have now the full power to impose fines. And within the month also, we have all the basic rules already of procedures that we can use for undertaking investigations.

Elijah Rosales (Business Mirror): Good morning, Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Good morning.

Mr. Rosales: The government is planning to complete big-ticket public infrastructure under the “Build, Build, Build” campaign. Marami pong perang nakalaan dito and allocation for next year is around one trillion pesos. How does the PCC ensure biddings under the “Build, Build, Build” are not rigged, are competitive and are not corrupt — and are corrupt-free?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: As you know, in these government projects, there are always two actors, right? The government, as the — as the party buying the services and the private sectors supplying the services or goods ‘no.

And price fixing, bid rigging, these are the kind of things that you see in government procurements ‘no. And as I mentioned earlier, we are working on a memorandum of agreement with the — with the Ombudsman, so that we can share information and we could pursue cases collaboratively, cooperatively.

We are also in discussions with the Commission on Audit for similar arrangements so that we can also access their — their data, and they can also — we can also share with them what we have.

So this is an inter-agency effort to address the problem to make sure that the prices of goods and services, particularly those supplied by government, whether these come in the form of tolls or — or fees from government services, will be fair ‘no for the public.

 Mr. Rosales: Follow up and last na, sir. Tawag dito? Sa… Nakabanggaan na ninyo ‘yung malalaking kumpanya like the Globe and PLDT on the purchase of telco assets from SMC. Halimbawa may makita kayong nagbi-bid rig under the public infrastructure procurement ng gobyerno, is the PCC ah — kaya na ba ng PCC banggain ‘yung mga matataas na government officials na mapapatunayang niri-rig ‘yung bidding ng mga materyales?

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: We are doing our job. And we are created — the PCA is mandated to — to do precisely that. And I don’t see any reason why we’d back out or we step back because there are big players.

And to begin with, as I said earlier, anti-competitive practices are very common among — among big players, especially when they are dominant in the market ’no.

But let me emphasize though that the law does not actually prohi — prohibit dominance per se ‘no or bigness per se ‘no.

What it prohibits is the abuse of that dominance when you become unfair by raising prices beyond competitive levels. That’s the one that we are guarding against.

So we will exercise the powers given to us by — by the Commission.

Mr. Rosales: Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON BALISACAN: Thank you very much.

ASEC. BANAAG: Salamat po. I’d like to welcome the civil registrars from the Cordillera Administrative Region, who are here for their Lakbay Aral, they went to Museum and they wanted to drop by.

We have good news for today.

We are pleased to report that the President signed three new laws yesterday.

They are Republic Act No. 10928, which extended the validity of regular passports from five years to 10 years, except of course for individuals under 18 year — or 18 years of age or minors.

The Department of Foreign Affairs or the DFA may limit the period of validity to less than 10 years whenever the national economic interest or political stability of the country would be put into question. And that — that would be the time that the DFA may — may exercise their prerogative whether to give a 10 years passport or not.

And, of course, second is RA 10930, which extended the validity of driver’s license to five years and may exemptions po tayo dito. If the driver commits no traffic violation within five years, he may be entitled to a renewal of 10 years.

And the third, RA 10929, which created the Free Public Internet Access Program. This would cover public places such as government offices, state universities and colleges, hospitals and health centers, parks, plazas, libraries, airports and seaports, transport terminals, among others — transport terminals, and of course, EDSA.

Under this program, connecting to public Internet access points will be free of charge. The free Internet service provided will be separate from — separate from the Internet service used for back-end computer and information systems in government offices, and technical solutions restricting access may be employed when a clear and present technical risk has occurred.

Of course, the signing of these laws proves that the Duterte administration is true to its promise in streamlining basic public services.

We go now to our update on the rebellion in Marawi. Today is August 3, day 73 of the rebellion in Marawi.

Terrorists killed is at 513, that is an additional of one.

Civilians killed at 45.

Firearms recovered at 596, that’s an additional of two firearms.

And civilian res — civilians rescued at 1,724.

Buildings cleared, 12 buildings.

And our soldiers killed — enforcers killed in action at 116.

As of 3 p.m. of August 2, 2017, here is the status of cash donations:

Of the… For the Marawi AFP casualties, at P100,066,804.23 cash on bank as of this date.

The AFP prepared the initial turnover of one million each to families of our enforcers killed in action from Marawi. And of the eight families who were able to receive initially, three families already received their cash — their checks yesterday, I mean — their checks yesterday.

The Chief of Staff of the AFP did the turnover of checks. And out of the eight, five families will receive their checks today in Camp Aguinaldo.

The one million for each family of our — our enforcers killed in action in Marawi is for the assistance provided by anonymous donors from the business sector.

And for internally displaced persons, the cash is at P873,512.21.

Mr. Morong: Ma’am, just on the passport ‘no. So it seems that this is not automatic that you’d be given a 10-year parang validity of your passport, correct? Because there’s a provision that you read that whenever in the national economic interest or political stability of the country, such restriction is necessary. Meaning, it can be less than 10, yes?

ASEC. BANAAG: Ah, well the general rule is 10 years.

Mr. Morong: Okay.

ASEC. BANAAG: And, however, the DFA may restrict such if and when there are two instances. When? That is when economic interest is at stake or political stability of the country is at stake.

Mr. Morong: That sounds — those two sounds — sound vague. I mean, how do we prevent the DFA to be — from being discriminatory towards certain groups of individuals or — ?

ASEC. BANAAG: Let’s wait for the guidelines, Joseph. Yes.

Mr. Morong: So there’s going to be an IRR?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes. There must be an IRR for this one for a — for them to be guided on how to be able to implement the law.

Mr. Morong: For example, when you say political stability of the country, paano ‘yun? If there’s like a martial law, then people from certain areas cannot be granted 10 years?

ASEC. BANAAG: Not necessarily. Not necessarily.

Mr. Morong: Okay. When do we expect the IRR?

ASEC. BANAAG: We’ll wait and, of course, we will — we will give you the — a copy of that IRR as soon as we have it.

Mr. Morong: Is the DFA going to draft these guidelines?

ASEC. BANAAG: Ah, we will see kung aling opisina ang magda-draft nun.

Mr. Morong: Okay.

Mr. Ganibe: Hi, Usec., ay Asec., good morning. Do we have the running number of buildings cleared in Marawi? Kasi, we noticed every brie — every update, ano lang, ‘yung kung ano lang ‘yung na-clear in the previous day or two days. Meron na bang ano, total ru — total running number ng ano, buildings na na-clear since nagsimula ‘yung clearing operations?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes. Ang naibigay sa atin ng AFP is 12 ang cleared na buildings. Kung ano ‘yung parameters ng cleared to them is of course up for the AFP to explain kung paano ang cleared sa kanila.

For now, we have… they were… We were given 12 cleared buildings.

Mr. Ganibe: Kasi previous po, we have — previous, we have 30, and then we have five, and then we have 10, and now we have 12.

ASEC. BANAAG: Perhaps they… Nire-revalidate siguro kung tamang clear ba talaga ‘yung mga buildings na ‘yan or may mga nakatago pang mga terorista.

Mr. Ganibe: Siguro we can ask siguro kung meron ‘yung total running na cleared na talaga, Asec?

ASEC. BANAAG: We’ll… Yes. Soon… Soon as we have it, we’ll provide you the running numbers of the cleared buildings in Marawi.

Mr. Ganibe: Thank you very much.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Hi, Asec. Ma’am, can we just ask what the President’s words yesterday on the peace talks will — what impact will that have on the peace negotiations? He asked already for a paper. He would… He said he could sign it anytime. So, can we expect the paper to be given to him for him to sign it within the next few days?

ASEC. BANAAG: We will wait for it, Pia. For now, we cannot comment on that further. But, insofar as the interview yesterday of the President, it was very clear na he will give it.

Ms. Ranada: Okay. Then, ma’am, also on the visiting foreign ministers for ASEAN, do we have any confirmed courtesy call or meeting between any of the foreign ministers and the President?

ASEC. BANAAG: We have schedules for the ASEAN, but then as to the confirmation, we would be providing that — the office would be providing that or the Office of the President would be providing that as soon as we have it final.

Ms. Ranada: Could we just know which countries requested, if that’s possible, for a meeting with the President?

ASEC. BANAAG: We will provide that as soon as we have it.

Ms. Ranada: Thank you.

Mr. Uri: Hi, ma’am. Binanggit ho kasi kahapon ulit ni President ‘yung — si General Loot, ano ho? Baka lang po may info na kayo. Kamusta na ba ‘yung kaso ng mga narco-generals na ‘yan?

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, so far, nasa DILG, nasa NAPOLCOM naman ‘yung mga kaso, so if and when there are — sa investigation ng NAPOLCOM or kung sinuman ahensya, ang DILG man, ay may resolusyon na or desisyon sa mga kaso na ‘yan, I’m sure the President will be provided with such.

Mr. Uri: Salamat po.

Ms. Salaverria: Good morning, ma’am. Ma’am, may we know if the President supports the attempt to impeach the Chief Justice? Because in the case of the Vice President, he wasn’t very supportive of it because he mentioned that she was elected and we should just focus on work. The Chief Justice isn’t similarly situ — situated, since she’s not elected. So, does he support this attempt?

ASEC. BANAAG: We respect the decision of whoever filed the cases — the case against the Chief Justice. And of course, we’ll stand by that.

The President respects separation of powers of each of our government agencies. If the House of Representatives would — would endorse, then, that is up to them.

Ms. Salaverria: But… So, he doesn’t oppose it? Is that what you’re saying?

ASEC. BANAAG: What we’re saying is that, we respect, if and when a civilian or any person for that matter would file a complaint against any official, an impeachable officer — would file a complaint against any impeachable officer, then that is up to them because that is within the bounds of the law.

What we’re saying here is that if a civilian would do that or any person would do that, then that is up for the House of Representatives to — to handle or tackle.

Ms. Salaverria: But ma’am… Ay, sorry. Clarification lang. When there was an attempt to impeach the Vice President, President Duterte went out to say — went out of his way to say na, “Ayoko ‘yan, itigil niyo ‘yan.” How… Can we expect a similar statement or wala?

ASEC. BANAAG: Ah, as of this time, we have not — we have not — we don’t have any statement from the President that… But then, we assure that he would respect the House of Representatives, he would respect the — the Supreme Court of the Philippines or any other co-equal branch of government.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Asec., so when we say respect, so does that mean he would not meddle?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes.

Mr. Romero: There will be no active endorsement or rejection on the part of the President?

ASEC. BANAAG: No. None — none at all.

Mr. Romero: So, no action? Unlike doon kay VP Leni? Walang action or statement regarding doon sa…

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, if the President would opt to in the coming days, then that would be up to him.

But of course, the President was always clear about saying na if and when the House of Representatives or any other co-equal branch would do so, then that is up to them.

Mr. Romero: So he neither supports nor rejects the complaint?

ASEC. BANAAG: He would respect any person or any individual who would file any case against any impeachable officer and would not really meddle with it.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Asec.

Mr. Morong: One of the complainants is the VACC ‘no. And medyo malapit si Pangulo doon sa VACC, as so they claim. Would you say that they do not have the imprimatur of the President when they drew up at least — because there is no endorser yet — the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice?

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, we are not saying that. Like I said kanina, hindi kontrolado ng Presidente kung may mga kaalyado man siya na may gustong mag-file ng complaint against any impeachable officer. Nasa sa kanila po ‘yun. And it’s not necessarily galing sa ating Pangulo po.

Mr. Morong: What can you say that — about the fact that no congressman as of now, is willing to endorse any of the two complaints?

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, that is really up to the House of the Representatives to consider and reconsider.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

Sweeden Velado (PTV 4): Asec, we just have two phone-in questions. Can we confirm po the suspension again for another four months of ERC Chief Salazar? And what details do we have so far?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes. As of this time the… On ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, “The Office of the Executive Secretary, in its decision dated August 2, 2017, finds Energy Regulatory Commissioner — Commission Chairman and CEO Jose Vicente B. Salazar, guilty of insubordination. Thus, Mr. Salazar is meted out the penalty of suspension for a period of four months without pay.”

So that is insofar as Commissioner Jose Vicente Salazar is concerned.

Mr. Ganibe: Hi, Asec., follow up lang. ‘Yung decision ba ‘yan ay iba doon sa naunang 90-day preventive suspension kay Salazar?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes, a preventive suspension is not a form of penalty. So the preventive suspension part is on — in order for the office to be able to investigate without any documents being hidden by anybody who is being investigated.

This is separate. So this is the penalty already for insubordination. But there are other issues surrounding the case of Chair Sala — Commissioner Salazar, which of course, different from the insubordination case.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, ma’am. Ano po ‘yung specific act ng insubordination na ginawa ni Chairman?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes, the act referred to here is — you remember — there was a time that the Office of the Executive Secretary endorsed or appointed the OIC, si Mr. Sta. Ana — Attorney Sta. Ana.

And then, after that nag — nag-appoint si — for his leave of absence, si Chair Sala — Commissioner Salazar, nag-appoint siya, in-appoint si Attorney Gomez, then?

So this is the insubordination part. This is the penalty, because the Office of the President has jurisdiction over Chair Salazar. And for his disobedience, for insubordination, for not obeying the appointment — the previous appointment released or given by the Office of the Executive Secretary to Mr. Sta. Ana, OIC Sta. Ana — for appointing another person as OIC, that is the case in the — insubordination that was decided upon by the Office of ES.

Mr. Tubeza: Follow up po, ma’am. Meron pa daw pong dalawang cases na he’s under investigation po?

ASEC. BANAAG: Yes…

Mr. Tubeza: Two more serious cases?

ASEC. BANAAG: If… For investigations, of course, we cannot divulge kung ano man ‘yung mga ‘yan so that — so as not to preempt kung anuman ang mangyayari. But then, for the insubordination part, ito po ‘yung issue that was decided upon na may penalty siya.

For other cases like, as what I mentioned a while ago, we will not be mentioning about that or tackling that since it would be another — a full blown investigation that would need a lot more time for them to be able to investigate.

Mr. Tubeza: Okay. Thank you, ma’am.

Mr. Morong: I have three more topics, ma’am, isa-isa lang. Sa SUCs ma’am, although the President yesterday said that he’s going to be deciding before the lapse of the deadline ‘no. What are the factors that you think the President will consider in signing or not signing the SUC Law — the free tuition?

ASEC. BANAAG: Joseph, the President would be asking from the economic managers if and when — how to go about with… You know, the President had always wanted na — to give a comfortable life.

Mr. Morong: Correct.

ASEC. BANAAG: And it has always been reflected dun sa mga — mga programa ng ating Pangulo. And of course, with this one, is of course sino bang may ayaw sana, ‘di ba?

But if and when may mga advice na mahihirapan ang ating pamahalaan to cope up with it, then that would — he would consider that.

We’ve got lots of problem especially with the rehabilitation in Marawi and lot more problems about ‘yung mga kababayan natin na OFWs who will brought homes — brought home.

Mr. Morong: Maraming gastos ‘yun?

ASEC. BANAAG: Maraming gastos kaya maraming nire-reconsider din ang ating Pangulo on that matter.

Mr. Morong: For example, Secretary Diokno, according to Senator Drilon, recommended that the President veto that because we don’t have the money. How much of a factor will that be — the input of Secretary Diokno in the President’s decision?

ASEC. BANAAG: Sorry, Joseph?

Mr. Morong: Secretary Diokno, according to Senator Drilon, said that he recommended to the President to veto the SUC because we don’t have the money for it. How much of a factor will that be — the input of Secretary Diokno be in the President’s decision whether to sign or not the Free Tuition Bill?

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, the President will reconsider, ‘yun naman ang sinabi niya kahapon. We don’t know yet, we cannot comment on that yet as early as now. But the President will take into consideration kung anuman ‘yung mga ‘yan.

Mr. Morong: Pardon me, next topic. Si General Año, ma’am, nasa ground zero pala yesterday I think or two days ago. Has he forwarded his recommendations to the President or assessments to the President on what he saw sa ground zero sa Marawi?

ASEC. BANAAG: We will wait kung anuman ‘yung mga evaluation ni General Año on Marawi, and of course, we are sure that the President will be updated on that from time to time.

Mr. Morong: Just one last, I’m sorry. Si — si Former Spox Lacierda responded to the statement of the President yesterday. And if I may quote he said, “To call PNoy g*** is not a reflection on PNoy’s argument, but a reflection of his uncouthness. Cursing never elevates public discourse.” Your comment on it?

ASEC. BANAAG: Well, opinion po ni former Spokesperson Lacierda ‘yan and anybody naman can always air their opinions anytime. So kung ‘yun po ang opinion niya, wala po tayong magagawa.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.

Ms. Velado: Asec, just one last phone-in question from Mr. Leo Palo. May alam daw po ba si Presidente kung sinong top official ‘yung nasa likod ng drugs na pwede pong isiwalat ni Customs Commissioner Faeldon kaya po siya ipinatawag sa Palasyo? Meron po bang involved daw in the executive department, ma’am?

ASEC. BANAAG: For now, we cannot comment on that yet. And these are serious matters.

And like what the President yester — said yesterday, kung anuman ‘yung ginagawa on the investigation sa House of Representatives, he has to wait for that.

And, of course, for that matter, the only — the President will only comment on that.

–END–

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