Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Assistant Secretay Jonas George Soriano, Office of the Cabinet Secretary

Event Press Briefing
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Our guest for today is from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

Mr. Jonas George Soriano is the Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary for the Project Performance Management Office.

He will discuss the plans, programs, and accomplishments of the Cab Sec.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let’s all give a warm welcome to Asec. George Soriano.

ASEC. SORIANO: Good morning po. Just wanted to report to everybody what we’ve been doing for the last — almost more than a year.

And we are guided by four basic documents, Executive Order No. 99, Executive Order No. 1, Executive Order No. 6, and Executive Order No. 9 and our approved organizational structure.

What we’ve been doing for the last few months, we’ve been in charge really of making sure that the executive part of the organization of the President, through the Cabinet and its various aggrupations are regularly meeting. And at the same time providing the necessary mechanism for participatory governance and feedback.

For the last almost — more than a year, what we’ve managed to do is really work together with the various organizations in setting up the presidential agenda.

We are now gearing towards moving that agenda beyond just making it a promise, but moving towards delivery.

Part of our delivery mechanisms are first the Cabinet clusters and the most active ones led by the HDPR, Human Development Poverty Reduction, the economic cluster.

We hope to meet with the infra cluster. We’re trying to set it up before the end of this month. And then meet also with the participatory governance cluster.

The other clusters that are continually meeting are the clusters for security, justice, and peace; and the cluster for climate change and disaster risk reduction.

We believe that part of governance is making sure the mechanisms that run up to the Cabinet level are always and in constant flux of meetings to make sure, not only that there are just discussion points, but make sure that the agendas are really made and put in place and actions are made.

On the other hand, we’d also like to mention to you that we are still undergoing a lot of processes when it comes to participatory governance and feedback of the people.

And we hope that in the next few months, especially for the feedback, we can give you a better update in the next few weeks.

Significant parts that we’d like to mention is in the next few months, a lot of the implementation by the other clusters will rely a lot on the discussions that will be made during these cluster meetings.

The President loves Cabinet meetings and right now what we’re trying to do with the help of the other Cabinet secretaries is to make sure that as we bring it more to giving higher premium already to actionable points that have to be made.

Aside from these aggrupations, the Cab Sec is also in charge of the sub-committee on housing for Task Force Bangon Marawi. And we’re looking at putting in place together with Secretary Del Rosario and NHA the transitional housing within the next two months.

Hopefully, this will also put in place in a way that we’re not only building houses or homes. But we’re also building communities.

The other one that we’re also working on is the group where the President has released an order recalling the formation again of the Task Force Yolanda.

We’ve decided to do a lot of the meetings of Yolanda already in the area instead of doing it here. So that we can have direct engagement with the stakeholders in Leyte and in Region 8.

All of these and the other mechanisms, you will see more and more of these because these are also the arenas where the different Cabinet secretaries and our President brings about policies. And at the same time, make sure the programs are implemented.

So for now, this is all. Thank you very much.


Joseph Morong (GMA): Sir, ‘yung update na lang sa Yolanda rehab. May mga reports of the shelters being substandard. What steps have we taken to investigate or do something about it?

ASEC. SORIANO: There was a committee hearing in Congress kahapon and the NHA Administrator was really… He began his speech by saying a lot of what has happened before minana niya.

So what is happening now is there’s a cleansing of course of sino ba talaga ang dapat maggawa ng bahay?

Kasi there have been reports nga na umabot sa ami, there was a way of ano — before, there were a lot of initiatives na instead of when you get a contractor, they were subcontracted, subcontracted, subcontracted.

But these are all still being worked out by our administrator. And hopefully, when you meet with him, he will also detail to you what he’s done so far.

A lot of it also has something to do with streamlining a lot of the processes. The HUDCC Chair is working together with our Secretary so that we can bring down the number of years just to put up one house from two to three years to hopefully six months. And in fact, kung kaya mas lower.

A lot of the problems deal really with so many processes na dadaanan na walang — kailangan mong isa-isahin ‘yung opisina minsan pabalik-balik.

And then a lot of it also is… We were also… We’d like to also one way or another commend the agencies that are working together with Yolanda. They have been trying.

It’s been very difficult in what’s, what’s… What they’re saying to us is the initiatives that they’ve done so far are based on what they can do in terms of what their actual situation is, because some had contracts before. So you have to take out the contracts.

But the others are based on the budgets that were given to us for 2017. So we are working very closely with the stakeholders to make sure that we get exact feedback from them about the actual implementation.

The number of houses — I don’t have the exact number of data that is ano. I hope I’ll get back to you about it. What has been completed so far to date.


Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning, sir. Sir, in the Senate yesterday, the PLLO was scolded by senators because there seem to be a disconnect between their job of linking the Executive with the Legislative. Since the Cabinet Secretary also handles polices for the President, do you… did you… Were you surprise by this issue, this concern? And what could be the steps taken to sort of improve the PLLO in the way they, you know, coordinate with the Palace on the laws that the Congress is trying to pass?

ASEC. SORIANO: Well, I’m not privy to how PLLO does it. Our office kasi has a liaison officer also to the Congress, this is Asec. Eve. Cruzada.

So what we try to do on our part is to make sure that the agreed upon agendas and the priority listing of bills are also monitored by us in partnership with them.

And we work very closely with PLLO because we feel that the office that’s supposed to coordinate with the Senate and the House is really the PLLO.

So we do that in partnership with them. I’m not sure how…

So far, with us, we have no problems. But I’m not sure kasi what happened yesterday. So maybe it would be better that PLLO will discuss that.

Genalyn Kabiling (Manila Bulletin): Sir, we’re just curious. Are you monitoring Cabinet performance? And how do you gauge their performance? Meron ba silang targets? End of the year and ‘yun — ‘yung performance nila.

ASEC. SORIANO: We’re supposed to monitor the performance of the top 26 agencies. And what we’ve noticed so far is from the slow utilization of budget since the first quarter medyo naghahabol na. I think there are agencies more than 50 percent na ‘yung nagamit na budget.

What we need to put in place is really — Ang dami kasing activities eh. I think what we need to… We want to work together with the Cabinet secretaries and work out a more outcome-based monitoring.

What we have in partnership with NEDA and National Security Council and DBM, together with PMS, is more of the output-based.

We tried actually through — PMS tried to also shift them towards that. And that’s were you received this SONA report, if you noticed. I hope you all got a copy.

But what we’d like to do is to shift them more towards. Ano talaga ang impact on the ground?

So hopefully our first report, which is straight to the President — his initial… we’re waiting for his initial comments so that we can retrofit it.

But one of the things that he has always said in the Cabinet meetings, “Ang gusto ko makita ay hindi niyo — may natapos. Ang gusto kong makita ‘yung nakikita ng tao.”

He, in most of his press conference, he has always said that, “Paano niyo natitiyak na ‘yung proyekto ng tao, dumarating sa tao at nakakatulong sa tao?”

We’ve also tried to monitor with the help of agencies like Civil Service what are the process problems naman. How long does it take for one paper to go from one office to another.

There are improvements based doon sa report ng Civil Service but we need to again work harder. And then there was a directive that was issued to us to try and again reengineer the bureaucracy so that it can make the processes faster.

So we’re asking all the departments to submit their projects so that they can work hand-in-hand with us.

The other one maybe that you’d like to look at is there’s also special projects also being done by — the Open Governance Project, where Secretary of DBM, Secretary Diokno and Secretary Evasco are part.

They are around seven — 13 — 12 to 13 projects that hope to aim for real changes also in government processes in participation.

So, ma’am, in summary, we’re… We have something but we feel, like any agency, we have to retrofit what we have to what the President wants. And how we can use this as a tool for the Secretaries to improve their performance.

We don’t see any — for now, we don’t see any lack. In fact, we have some things that we really have to settle like what if an initiative is not dependent on your office?

Let’s say, if we talk about OPAPP, they have peace talks. But because there is a policy on “no peace talks until ceasefire,” then the agency again is stalled.

But if you look at their performance, marami silang nagawang activities. But in the end, anong habol mo ‘di ba? Ang habol mo is the end of the problem. Or the other one that we’d really like to work on because it’s under our office is really how do we aim for bringing 6 million out of poverty.

We are hoping, through the Cabinet clusters, we can work on this. All of these, we will be doing two things: One is working together with the Cabinet Secretaries to come out with roadmaps for them for the next six years; and the Cabinet Cluster roadmaps, which will be facilitated also by our office.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, just a follow up on that. So sir, what was the result of the Civil Service study? How long does it take for a paper from a department tapos ibibigay sa Palace tapos i-sa-sign ni President? How long does it take?

ASEC. SORIANO: The… What in the report, it did not mention how long it takes. What happened was if it showed what are those problems.

And part of the problems that they stated, and if you look at even their press release statement ‘no, a lot of it have something to do with [one moment ha] slow processes and then unclear procedures and discourtesy. These are the top three.

But there are other issues — there’s even bribery, there’s even extortion, poor quality. They’re all here eh.

So what they’ve mentioned is normally there’s an ARTA Law. That ARTA is you’re supposed to, within 72 hours, to do something about any complaints registered.

So far, approximately 80 percent of the complaints were handled in a way that there was good feedback coming from the people.

But you know, the total feedback that we’re getting is still very low if you compare it to the total population. Then we’re trying to improve that and that’s the reason why, hopefully with the help of Spokesperson Abella, when we have everything online, we will get back to you and report what we are doing and what we’ve finished.

But with CSC, marami na rin ‘to eh. If I remember, during the last administrations, these kinds of complaints were not nationally televised.

Normally, they were just a function of one agency contacting the other. But this one, there’s a high priority at our level through the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and also through… The Presidential Complaints Center is also being monitored by PMS and Secretary Bong Go.

We will try to make sure that all these are worked out very quickly. So the number of days, wala pa.

Ang parang lumalabas lang is — some experiences — halimbawa there’s one — here a story here about a person who was getting the benefits of GSIS and that was, if I remember right, he mentioned almost five months.

And when they made a complaint immediately after, May 6, 2016, processing of a claim. Nainis, February 22 — 23 nag-complain, and then April 27, the claim was already settled by March 31, 2017, which is a very good response.

But again, siyempre it’s still one month. What we’d like to do is to make it even faster.

So we’re working very closely with these agencies. And the agencies are just requesting talaga lang na we make sure also that these types of claims, of reports, give more detail and veracity so that hindi doble ang complete staff work. Meron sa amin, meron din sa kanila.

Ms. Ranada: And, sir, lastly, could you tell us the — kasi you monitor the performance of the different departments, the Secretaries, which were the top performing agencies and which were the bottom — the lowest performing?

ASEC. SORIANO: Alam mo, our report for this second quarter, hopefully within the next two weeks matapos. The first quarter kasi ang problema is everything — if you look at their performance in terms of the activities, medyo — everybody’s doing their work.

If you look at the utilization, doon lang nagkaka-problema. And part of it really was there are work in financial plans that cannot release money on the first quarter.

So I cannot directly say, ”This department did not go well.” I’ll give you an example ‘no.

Let’s say ano, one agency said, “Our problem is one of our biggest budgets has to do with capital outlay.”

But capital outlay takes a negotiation process, that’s by law, required to do this. Ngayon, we could not release during this first quarter because we’re expecting — even though we started on January 1, lumalabas 2nd to 3rd quarter namin makukuha ‘yun.

So these kinds of issues are the ones that are boggling a lot of the agencies. It’s really how to make sure that they can make their activities well.

But if you look at each agency in terms of how many people have they served, how — everybody has it eh… In the end, I cannot totally say to you again, Pia, na “This top performing,” “This low performing.”

Kasi I think that would be best better said maybe at the end of the year. Kasi by the end of the year, okay, ito ‘yung nagamit mo, itong performance for the quarters paano?

Kasi pwedeng — we’ve been noticing… We did a little checking with the agencies. And then they showed us their work and financial plans.

Yeah, but this is our problem, ito ‘no. Kasi all of them, they don’t want to — a report to the President and says they’re not performing. And when we wanted to check, these are the — totoo naman, they are performing but there are certain things that were not released immediately or not done immediately or their part of the working [inaudible].

Kaya for now, I can’t state which ones. Give… Magkita tayo ng January, mas safe ako January kasi can already latag to you all of this.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’d like to begin with a few — some notations.

The Philippines is among the top financially inclusive countries:

In the 2017 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report, the Philippines ranked fourth among 15 countries which provide accessible financial services to the public, gaining an overall score of 76 percent.

Hence, the country remains as Asia’s top financially inclusive country.

The FDIP report evaluates four dimensions of financial inclusion including country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of selected traditional and digital financial services.

Also, on Moody’s latest assessment on the Philippines:

The latest assessment of Moody’s Investor Service affirming the country’s Baa2 rating and stable outlook signifies that our economic growth would continue its upward trajectory.

Our growth momentum is anchored on solid fundamentals coming from a robust industry and manufacturing growth of over 7 percent, a turnaround to growth for the agricultural sector and sustained growth in the service sector.

The demographic sweet spot with more young and employed Filipinos create an emerging larger middle class with higher spending power.

On the concern of a worsening Islamist insurgency in Mindanao, the opposite is happening.

The successful rescue of Father Chito Soganub and the government forces’ takeover of Bato Mosque, a previously Maute occupied position, signifies that the enemy’s final defensive stand continues to weaken and their area shrinking as we go for the final push against the Daesh-inspired terrorist group.

On the issue of the drug war, the reality in the drug war is victimization by any common crime is at 3.7 [percent] record-low and there is an 11 percent drop of drug addicts in Metro Manila because of the campaign against illegal drugs and criminality.

We do likewise acknowledge Moody’s fair and balanced analysis that political risks such as has been mentioned do not appear to have weighed in on the strong economic fundamentals nor have derailed the government’s economic reform agenda.

Something you might be interested in — on September 21:

It’s important to take note of two developments regarding September 21.

The President has announced September 21, 2017 as a National Day of Protest. A day set aside for people to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and to seek redress for their grievances against the government past or present.

Law enforcement authorities are directed to stay away from mass actions and to exercise maximum restraint, unless their intervention is necessary to maintain public order.

It is not a special non-working holiday, and we expect the proclamation to be signed shortly.

However, the Acting Executive Secretary will issue a memorandum circular suspending work in government offices, both national and local, as well as classes in all public schools, state colleges, and universities.

Certain government agencies shall be required to provide standby emergency assistance near sites of protest actions.

Regarding private companies. Suspension of work in private companies and classes in private schools in the affected areas is left to the discretion of their respective heads.

Regarding… Regarding legislative officials having immunity. Just a short comment.

The President himself continues to observe a modest lifestyle and he seeks no special treatment whether inside or outside the Palace.

We hope our colleagues in Congress, especially our allies, can bring themselves to do the same.

We’re a few… Open to a few questions.

There was no name mentioned.

Mr. Morong: Pero, sir, ano lang. Ulitin lang ‘yung sa last ‘no. ‘Yun pong ganon na request ni Majority Floor Leader Fariñas — appeal to LTO and LTFRB — na i-exempt sila sa minor traffic violations.

When the President had said before na ayaw nga niya ng mga wang-wang ‘di ba? Tapos ayaw niya na nagba-biyahe ng — kasi nakakasagabal sa kalye. That doesn’t seem to be in consonance with what the President espouse, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like we said — and let me repeat — we hope that our colleagues in Congress and allies can also bring themselves to his — to this — President’s standards. No special treatments.

Mr. Morong: No special treatments? You think that this is a special treatment?


Mr. Morong: That is a special treatment, as far as the Palace is concerned ‘no?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The… You know, anything… You know… [What do you call?] Law is law right? And it should be… It should be blind to all.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir, clarification lang. Sir, since the MMDA and the Department of Transportation are under the executive, is Malacañang going to — or direct them not to allow lawmakers to get this immunity?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There is no such action at this stage. Are you asking if Malacañang is taking… At this stage, there are no actions regarding that matter.

Ms. Salaverria: But do you think it’s necessary?


Ms. Salaverria: For a re… For a directive or a reminder to be issued? Because there’s a report that the MMDA seems to be open to the idea if the mayors will consent.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, let them, you know… Let them proceed as necessary. However, at this stage, the President — the Palace has not yet come out with any actions regarding that matter.

Otherwise, you can have…

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, may we have your reaction about the release of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada over the weekend?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that’s the matter best left to the Sandiganbayan.

Ms. Halili: But is the President considering — consider appointing Estrada in one of the Cabinet positions considering that Senator Estrada said that he is open to the idea?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if the — any offer has been made.

Ms. Halili: Pero, sir, how about the idea of making him as one of the witnesses on PDAF scam?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Neither on that ground. We don’t have any reports on that.

Ms. Halili: Okay, thank you, sir.


Catherine Valente (Manila Times): Good morn… Good morning, sir. Sir, regarding po sa meeting ni President with MNLF Founding Chair Nur Misuari last Saturday.


Ms. Valente: Pwede po bang makahingi ng detalye? Paano daw po nagkaroon ng meeting na wala naman po… Hindi pa raw po nakapag-post ng bail si Mr. Nur?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Fina-follow up po natin ‘yung patungkol dun. Wala pa po tayong reports. We don’t have enough… We don’t have sufficient information regarding the matter.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Sir, I just want to get a clarification from Malacañang about this post from the Presidential Security Group announcing suspension of…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, that’s not official. As far as I know. That’s the October thing?

Ms. Andolong: For November.


Ms. Andolong: For the ano daw work suspension because of the ASEAN?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We do not have any ano… We don’t have any official document regarding that. It hasn’t reached my desk.

So up to the… As far as we’re concerned, up to this stage, it is not official.

Ms. Andolong: Is it a fake?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say it’s fake, I wouldn’t say…

I don’t have any opinion regarding that, except that at this stage, we don’t have any official announcement.

Ms. Andolong: Is it now part of the PSG’s role, sir, to make such announcements for holidays? Why is it suddenly making such announcements that should be ideally coming from your office?


Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Morong: Sir, si Senator Trillanes is in Singapore and according to our reporters there, ‘yun daw pong account number that was published in social media ay nonexistent dun sa DBS Alexandra Road branch na sa Singapore. This was the account number that was referred to by certain government officials and also the President. So as far as Senator Trillanes is concerned, that’s nonexistent daw, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, that needs to be further verified.

Mr. Morong: What do you mean, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, if the statement… If the President made the statement, then he made a statement regarding that matter, then it’s something that we have to verify from our side.

Mr. Morong: If the President indeed said that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: If the President indeed said that.

Mr. Morong: Pero, sir, assuming, sir, that that account has been… Number one, the President did refer to that, and number two, that the account did not exist or does not exist. So papano, sir, ‘yung…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Then we’ll have to wait. We cross the bridge when we get there.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung kay Senator Jinggoy lang.


Mr. Morong: Senator Jinggoy.


Mr. Morong: Does… The President’s strong on his anti-corruption drive ‘no, and, in fact, that’s one of his three campaigns, right?


Mr. Morong: And do you think, sir, that the decision of the Sandiganbayan as far as Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s case is concerned, can I have a — effect on the other cases, as far as the other PDAF cases are concerned? Like, we’re hearing now Mrs. Napoles saying that, you know, he can do the same thing — she can do the same thing and even Senator Revilla saying…?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I suppose each situation has to be treated individually. So we cannot speculate and say that because of this, it will have to be that.

Mr. Morong: But does it not weaken the President’s stance against corruption?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The President is very strong regarding the matter. And I’m sure, you know…

Again, let me just go back, it is a matter of the Sandiganbayan and not for us to speculate on the possible effects. Thank you.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, just to be clear ha. ‘Yung September 21 suspension of work in government and in classes in all public schools and universities.


Ms. Andolong: All over the country, not just in NCR?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. Ulitin ko ‘yung statement ha. Ito’y galing sa me… Galing sa ano ‘to. I’m quoting this from SDES.

The Executive… The Acting Executive Secretary will issue a memorandum circular suspending work in government offices, both national and local, as well as classes in all public schools, state colleges, and universities. So all.

Ms. Andolong: All, okay. Thank you, sir.