Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Commissioner Prospero de Vera III Commission on Higher Education

Event Press Briefing
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Today, we have Commissioner Prospero “Popoy” De Vera of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to discuss the landmark law, which will provide free tertiary education in state universities and colleges or SUCs.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let’s welcome CHED Commissioner, Dr. Popoy De Vera.

Please, sir?

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Thank you. Thank you, sir — Spox. And, good morning to the Malacañang Press Corps.

Yesterday, we had the first meeting to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Free Tuition Law.

I think, what has to be made clear is that there is an existing free tuition funding in the 2017 General Appropriations Act. This is an 8 billion fund that is put in the Commission on Higher Education.

So right now, the students in 112 state universities and colleges nationwide are not paying tuition anymore. For those who — for the SUCs that opened in June, there is no tuition payment. And this will also be the same for the SUCs that will open this August, for those that moved their academic calendar.

There has been no problem so far in the 8 billion allocation except as you probably heard in the case of UP, they had some problems recently. But they have solved it. The UP President has already issued a — a notice that the students will not be paying tuition this — this semester.

What the new law provides is to expand the benefits to students by including standard miscellaneous fees that are enumerated in the law, starting Academic Year 2018-2019.

Second, it expands the coverage of free tuition and miscellaneous to the 111 local government created universities and colleges nationwide.

Third, it provides the same for technical and vocational education under — under TESDA.

Fourth, it provides additional subsidy for very poor students. Those are students in the low — two lowest income deciles.

And fifth, it provides for a student loan fund that will be created and administered through government financial institutions.

So the estimates that we have for the first year of — of implementation of the law is about 16.8 billion pesos for the state universities and colleges — for the 112 SUCs — and the 16 local government created universities, which have been evaluated by the Commission on Higher Education.

And add to that, between 3 to 4 billion pesos for technical and vocational education under TESDA.

So the amount that we’re working on for the — for the 2018 budget is a little around 20 — a little over 20 billion pesos.

There is — we have… Where will this money be sourced from?

We’re looking at current scholarship and financial assistance money already existing in the budget of several government agencies. And this includes CHED, DOST, Department of Agriculture — there are existing scholarship programs.

So we’re looking at the utilization of money in the current scholarship programs and see how much of these can be put into the allocation for 2018. And then together with the House of Representatives and the Senate, we will look for other funding sources from the 2018 National Expenditure Program.

So there are other components of the law that we’re looking at including ensuring that state universities and colleges and LUCs tighten their admission and retention policies so that only students, for example, who enroll on a full load and finish their course on time will be able to access the funding assistance of government.

We will also exclude students who are doing their second degree, for example, and make sure that the enrollment of state universities, colleges and LUCs will be controlled. So we will be telling the state universities — to the SUCs and the LUCs — to make sure that their admission and retention policies do not adopt an open admission.

This is to allay the fears of some including those from private schools that there will be a massive transfer of students from private universities to SUCs. We will control that by pegging the — the subsidy from government on a percentage of the actual or the regular increase in the enrollment of SUCs and LUCs using 2015 data as a basis.

So this is the enrollment pattern before Senior High was implemented ‘no.

So you can look over — you can track the enrollment pattern over the past five or 10 years before Senior High and peg the subsidy of government in terms of the normal increase in enrollment on a year-to-year basis.

So some SUCs in fact have already adopted a no-transfer policy. So there are several state universities that have adopted a no-transfer policy from their second, third, and fourth year.

So the… The possible shift of enrollees that intend to go to private universities but will go to SUCs will probably happen only for the entering freshmen batch. But for the second, third and fourth year, we are discouraging wholesale transfers from private universities to state universities and colleges ‘no.

The additional financial subsidy to poor students and the — and those who can borrow from the student loan program can come from both public and private universities. So this is where poor students who are — who are studying — or poorer households who are studying in private universities can access the additional financial assistance and also borrow from the student loan fund, of course, at a significantly lower interest.

So that’s the — we — we hope to finish the Implementing Rules and Regulations very fast so that we can implement this in June 2018.

So that’s the… The staff of CHED, of TESDA, of DBM, of DOST, started working last night. We gave them marching orders to finish it hopefully within the week, so that the — the Commission can go over it, the other agencies can go over it and hopefully sign it within 15 days, if possible.

So the other — the other statement that I would like to give is that the CHED has lifted the moratorium on off-campus activities of — of higher education institutions.

If you remember, in February, there was the Tanay tragedy that claimed the lives of about 15 students and injured 40 others from Bestlink College of the Philippines. And the Commission issued a moratorium on all field trips starting in February.

So over the past five months, we’ve worked with the Department of Tourism, the Department of Interior and Local Government, LTO, LTFRB, and the leagues of — of cities and municipalities of the Philippines to craft new guidelines that will cover all off-campus activities.

So we’ve expanded the coverage of the circular of the Commission not only for field trips but all other activities that involve students when they leave their schools.

And this includes not just — not just field trips but students who go on competitions outside their school, when they attend conferences and symposia, when they do immersion programs, when they go on sports activities.

So all the activities that will require students to go out of their school, we have tightened the regulations and we’ve issued the CHED Memorandum Order No. 63 to cover now all public and private higher education institutions.

I have issued — I have copies of the — of the circular here to be distributed and also the press statement from the Commission.

By this, we want to make sure that the student’s safety is protected. So now we’re requiring higher education institutions to make sure and be accountable that when they send their students outside the university, there are faculty or persons in charge that will monitor what the students are doing.


We will require them to have insurance for students, check the registration, insurance, franchise, and road-worthiness of vehicles used in the transportation of students, coordinate with local government units, because there have been incidents in the past, like in Bulacan State University, where students went on a field trip and the students drowned.

And the President of the Bulacan State University was dismissed by the Ombudsman because of this particular tragedy ‘no.

So we are requiring written consent of parents and if needed, medical clearance for students that go on — on field trips and other out-of-school activities and to make sure that universities provide alternative activities for students who cannot attend off-campus activities ‘no.

So we’re… We’re issuing these guidelines and the moratorium is lifted effective August 8 because of the 15-day publication.

So those are the new developments at the Commission. I am ready to answer questions.


Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, just a clarification. How about ‘yung mga students na magshi-shift ng courses, will they still be covered?

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: That will be covered by the admission and retention policies of each state university. Because remember, the admission and retention policies are — are university-specific. And these are decided by the Board of Regents of the university.

The fear, for example, that there will be significant transfers in reality will probably not happen because, for example, if you take the case of UP, while there are transfers from private universities to UP, it is — it is controlled by the number of slots that are available.

So, for example, per course, if there’s only five slots available for transfers, then the students have to compete and be ranked by their — by their grade. And therefore, there will be no massive transfer of 100 or 50 students per program.

So transfers, for example, shifting of courses will be governed by the internal — internal rules or the internal — internal regulations of the university.

What we’re going to do is to require them to be strict in implementing their admission and retention policies and that the subsidy of government will cover only normal increase in enrollment.

So those are the controlling mechanisms funding-wise for the — for the Free Tuition and Miscellaneous Program.

Ms. Halili: Sir, some of the concerns po ng ilang sector ‘yung assurance na only the least capable students ‘yung makaka— magiging cover ng free tuition. Ano po ‘yung mechanism na ginagawa dito…?

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: The law does not provide an income requirement. So we cannot impose an income requirement on admission because the law provides for all qualified students in good standing per admission and retention policy. So it will cover everyone.

For those who are poorer, that — that is where the additional subsidy comes in. There’s a PES that comes in and this will be for the poorer students and this will be in the form of additional cash that will be given to them for their other activities — for their books, for example, for their transportation, for their day-to-day activities. But that will be limited to the lowest two or lowest three income deciles.

We’re still computing the financial impact or the fiscal impact of how much it would cost. So at… As of now, we are anticipating that it will be limited only to the — the poorest 20 percent or 30 percent of the — of the income brackets.

So it will be limited there. There are already existing funding for that. For example, there is the “Tulong Dunong” program for the — for the children of conditional cash transfer or the 4Ps. The children of 4Ps, after they graduate from the program and they enroll in a state university or college, they are given a total financial assistance of up to 60,000 pesos a year.

So they use that both for tuition, for miscellaneous and for other needs ‘no.

So it’s not a new concept, this additional financial assistance. It is ongoing, about 40,000 students — poor students — are benefiting from it now.

What the new law will do is expand that coverage to get more poor students because additional funding will be made available.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Joseph Morong (GMA): Sir, doon sa law ‘no. ‘Yung mga… Those who can afford, meron doon na section na they are encouraged — the schools are encouraged to draw up mga policy na pwede mag-donate na lang and what. I mean, marami rin naman sa mga state universities galing sa mga well-off families, ‘yung mga galing sa — you know. But how do you make sure that this will be implemented uniformly? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Okay. We’re looking at several options for the opt-out provision ‘no.

The problem is that if there is no penalties, there will be no opt-out. Meaning, realistically, if — unlike for example in the health programs of UP Manila, you have Return Service Agreement after you finish. In Medicine, you have a three-year Return Service Agreement.

So if you don’t want to stay in the country and you don’t want Return Service Agreement, then you opt out of the subsidy and you pay the full cost ‘no.

So we’re looking at several models. The University of the Philippines has proposed that that they will do a Return Service Agreement for students who will benefit from the program.

So they will probably or they may adopt that as part of their admission policies. So that if you don’t want to do return service, then you pay for it ‘no.

There are also mechanisms that we’re looking at where students coming from richer households can pay for their tuition or at least pay for some portion of the subsidy ‘no.
We’re looking at how that can be incorporated in the Implementing Rules and Regulations.

But again, I think there is a word of caution. We should not use the UP model to look at the state university sector because the profile of UP students is very, very unique compared to the state university sector ‘no.

So whatever reservations people might have because in UP, students are fighting over parking space ‘no, that’s not the condition in the more than a hundred other state universities and colleges.

We’ve looked at the profile of students in state universities and colleges and up to 70 percent of their students belong to income deciles 1 until 6 or 7.

So these are students coming from households that have informal workers, fisherfolks, farmers up to minimum wage earners.

That’s the profile of a lot of state universities and colleges. Students really need the assistance.

You can see that when you go there, you look at the way they dress, the way they eat, the way they go to school.

In most SUCs, walang parking problem na pinag-aawayan kasi they don’t go to school in cars ‘no.

So ‘yun lang. Word of caution that when you talk of the law, the intention of the law is really to cover the bigger majority of students in the more than a hundred SUCs. And UP is more of the exception, is the exception rather than the rule when you look at the profile of students.

Ang profile kasi ng students sa UP at I think about 50 percent already belong to bracket A and this is the highest income bracket ‘no. So ‘yan, iba talaga ‘yung — iba talaga ‘yung profile niya ‘no. 

Mr. Morong: Do you think it’s impossible to implement that opt-out provision? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We’re looking at different models. We will put a mechanism for opt-out.

How it will look like will depend on the technical working group that is working on it now ‘no.

So at this point, I wouldn’t know how the language would exactly look like ‘no. But yesterday, we looked at several options that can be done for this.

Mr. Morong: And once the IRR is finalized, it will be included there? 


Mr. Morong: Okay. 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We will make sure there’s an opt-out provision in the IRR. 

Mr. Morong: Sir, you mentioned “tightened admission.” What do you exactly mean by this? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: They should not have open admission. All state universities now have entrance exams, okay.

There might be a temptation on the part of some state universities because there’s government subsidy to increase the number of students because they will be receiving additional funding from government.

So we are telling the state universities and colleges that the new free tuition and miscellaneous law should not be used as an excuse to open — to do open admissions.

They must retain their existing admission and retention policies and tighten it further by limiting the subsidy, for example, to students who are only in their first undergraduate degree — meaning second degrees will not be covered; make sure that students enroll full load.

So students who will be enrolling in less than the full load should not be getting subsidy from government ensuring that they are strict in the number of units that every student must pass on a semester by semester basis.

Because there are existing rules in SUCs that, for example, if your regular load is 21 units, you have to finish at least 18 or 15, for example.

So students who fail to complete the required number of units will lose their subsidy for that semester or maybe that year and once they go back and retain their being a student of good standing, then they receive subsidy from government again.

So those are some of the things that we will put in the IRR to make sure that the schools adopt and implement strict admission and retention policies.

Mr. Morong: Just one last, sir. ‘Yung 16.8, well, definitely, we will be implementing this 2018 June?


Mr. Morong: So ‘yung sinasabi ng Congress that they may try to approve a supplemental budget for this, that’s out of the question? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Well, you really don’t need new money now because there’s still money from the P8 billion allocation eh.

So next sem, students will not be paying tuition anyway. Because the 8 billion allocation in the 2017 GAA is good until the end of the year. It’s good until the 2nd semester of most SUCs.

So why would you need additional money if there is money in the 2017 General Appropriations Act for free tuition?

If you are going to do additional appropriation, maybe that will be only for the miscellaneous fees. Also because some of the components of the law really cannot be implemented immediately.

For example, the student loan program, you need to design that well. You cannot implement that two, three months from now.

You have to talk with government financial institutions because the ones who will be providing the loan facility will not be the CHED, it will not be DBM, we are not financial, you know, institutions.

It has to be the government financial institutions and interested private banks. You’ve got to touch base with them, talk to them, design it.

So the earliest that you could put a student loan program realistically, probably will be in a year, a year and a half or maybe two years.

That’s why the decision of the President when he signed the law is to stagger the implementation of the different components of the law over the next 3 or 4, or even 5 years.

So student loan program will come maybe two years from now. The 111 local government created universities and colleges or LUCs, only 16 have been certified by CHED as compliant with CHED standards.

So only the 16 will initially be part of the program, the others will still have to be evaluated and they come in as soon as they are certified by CHED that their programs are of quality.

Because looking at the LUCs is not a very easy process. You have to look at the facilities, look at the quality of instruction, look at their faculty profile and they are all over the country.

So you’ve got to send CHED people to look at all these facilities and only 16 out of 111 have passed and has been certified by CHED as of now.

So the other ones, definitely, implementation as far as the other LUCs are concerned, will come in the succeeding months and years. They cannot be done next semester.

Mr. Morong: Do they know that they will not be funded? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Ah yes, they know, they know. Because… No most of… At least 60 out of the 111 have submitted themselves for evaluation. So they are being evaluated. So they know that they are being evaluated.

The problem is about half of the LUCs have not even applied for evaluation. So maybe, because now they will get government subsidy, maybe they will apply because we cannot force them to be part of it, they have got to apply.

So once they apply, then the process of the evaluation kicks in and they will come in and enjoy the government subsidy as soon as they are determined to be providing quality education from CHED.

Mr. Morong: Okay sir, thank you.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, clarification lang on your statement that only students taking up full load will be subsidized. Sir, won’t this discriminate against working students who might not be able to enroll full time because of other responsibilities? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Well, we’re looking into that. But I think the basic premise is if you’re enjoying full subsidy from government, then you really have to decide whether you will study full time or you will study part time. Do you get what I mean ‘no?

Because before, you work because you need to subsidize your education. Now that government is subsidizing your education, I wouldn’t know why you would not want to be a full time student, okay.

Because if you lack the means or you become or you belong to the poorer households, then you can avail of the additional financial subsidy of government for poorer households. So you can actually study full time.

So that’s what we’re looking at ’no. Also, we have to determine, we have to see across the SUCs how much of a percentage are working students?

My own sense is as I go through the state universities and colleges particularly in the provinces, majority — the big majority of students are full time students.

Konti lang. Siguro in urban areas ‘yung madaming part time students but they represent a smaller percentage.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Good morning, sir. Sir, pwede po ba nating i-require ‘yung return service sa lahat ng mag-a-avail ng scholarship?

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: We’re looking into that. The problem is the word “Return Service Agreement” does not appear in the law.

So how to put that in, we have to look at it. But there are universities that already have Return Service Agreement as part of their admission and retention policies.

And the law provides that what will guide the access to the subsidy is the policies of the university on admission and retention.

So kung meron na sa mga state universities — and some of them have it already by the way ‘no — then it is legal within the existing policies that they have ‘no.

So we’ll have to look at it. We’ll have to look at how it can be incorporated. But there is that intention of putting it in. 

Ms. Coz: Sir, sabi niyo po sir, ‘yung mga LUCs na gustong mag-apply, pwede bang gawing isa sa mga requirement ‘yung pagkakaroon ng return service?  

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yes. They can put it as part of their admission policies.

Ms. Coz: No sir, I mean, ‘yung mismong LUCs  na hindi pa po under, pupwede po bang isa sa mga requirement din na kung mag-a-apply sila? 

COMMISSIONER DE VERA: Yeah. ‘Yung evaluation kasi ng CHED, we really look at the quality of education being provided ‘no.

We look at the facilities, are they adequate? Do the faculty members have the necessary degrees to teach the courses? Are there… Do they have a library? ‘Yun ang tinitingnan.

Not so much the details of their curriculum. Of course, their curriculum is evaluated whether they are up to standards of CHED.

But we really don’t, in a sense, interfere in their admission policies. That’s internal to the universities.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. I’d like to open with a few comments.

The first, we have already graduated 2,553 of the 5,600 enrollees in the 13 treatment and rehabilitation centers nationwide.

Last week, the first batch of drug dependents graduated after six months rehabilitation program in our Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. That’s about 53 graduates.

Also, about joblessness — has a continuous drop from 25.1 percent estimated 11.2 million in December 2016 to 22.2 percent, an estimated 10.5 million in June 2017.

It affirms the gains of the Duterte administration towards a more robust, inclusive and sustainable economy that translates into more jobs and more money in the pockets of more Filipinos leading towards a comfortable life for all.

We’re open to a few questions.

Ms. Halili: Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, ang sinasabi ng NDF na meron daw silang report na may balak daw ‘yung Central Intelligence Agency of US to oust the President. Did you receive the same report, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: ‘Yun pong mga rumors of attempts to overthrow the President has been around from day one, okay.

However, this latest twist where they include themselves is an insertion of themselves into the plot. It’s rather pathetic, okay. 

Ms. Halili: Sir, you said rumors. So no basis for the report?


Ms. Halili: So this is not a cause of concern on your part, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The talk has always been there. Talk has always been there.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, yesterday the President said he would file charges against any of his children if there is so much as a whiff of corruption that they were involved in any corrupt acts—


Ms. Ranada: He would file charges with the official and his children if they were found to have been conniving with each other.


Ms. Ranada: So sir, what steps has the President taken to investigate claims that his son Paolo Duterte has been involved in smuggling and other crimes in the past?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I know, as far as I know he’s general sentiment has been that should these things be proven, that he would resign, he would step down from the presidency.

So the choice is commitment to corruption-free government. That includes also his children.

Thank you.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, he’s taken… He hasn’t taken any action himself to investigate these claims?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as… As to that matter, I don’t know. But it’s not his purview to do that. Whoever is accusing should be the one.

Ms. Ranada: Not his purview? His own child?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In other words, it’s not his purview to be filing charges against his own children. Okay.

Ms. Ranada: Also, the President said yesterday that he was frank with certain ambassadors whose countries were — are critical of his drug and he even said that he would never visit these countries to make a statement. May we just know which ambassadors are these?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: He did not make specific comment and mention of which ambassadors.

Ms. Salaverria: Good morning, sir. Sir, how are we addressing reports that North Korea is threatening to bomb Guam? Considering its proximity to the country and the presence of Filipinos there.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, as far as I know, especially regarding Filipinos in Guam, the embassies and consulates in general have including the one in Agana, Guam have contingency plans which are regularly updated to enable them to respond to emergencies.

So in other words, it’s pretty automatic that if there are any threats, especially for those who are in affected areas, they have contingency plans for those things.

Ms. Salaverria: Does the Palace see a need to convene the National Security Council, as suggested by other — some lawmakers?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I was checking that out. I have not received word, official word, that the security council has been convened.

Rocky Ignacio (PTV-4): Sir, reaction daw ng Palace doon sa call ng other lawmakers for the President to convene the National Security Council regarding the Korea?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, I was trying to confirm it earlier before the press briefing. My line was cut.

So anyway, I will confirm. We can inform you today, within today if there are any plans to call.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Sir, the Commission on Elections has started the printing of ballots for barangay and SK elections. May directive na po ba coming from the President whether he wants the barangay elections or if he’s going what the Congress is — the steps that Congress is taking towards having the barangay elections postponed to next year.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m assuming that he will comply with whatever Congress says.

Ms. Gutierrez: No directives pa, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: None from him. As far as we know, as far as we know.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Sir, there is a report po na may bihag na apat muli ‘yung Abu Sayyaf and according to the report, meron daw hong planong pugutan ng ulo this afternoon. Nakarating na ho ba ito sa Pangulo at ano po ang kanyang reaction?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi ko pa masisigurado but we can find out about that. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir, yesterday our boys, our basketball team won against China. Any message from the Palace?


Mr. Morong: That’s it?


Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung medyo one minute.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well… Hey, it’s a great victory, right? It’s a very dramatic victory.

Mr. Morong: Okay, sir. Segue. [laughter] Congratulations, parang tinext na lang sana. [laughter]

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Full naman, hindi abbreviated.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ‘yung PNA. Philippine News Agency.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding the PNA, I like to refer to Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan.

Mr. Morong: Sir, before we have Asec. Kris. Sir, ‘yun pong mga statement ni Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano seem to be echoing more of China’s position than maybe consensus of ASEAN countries. Have we become… And in the context also of the PNA post, have we become China’s spokesperson in the ASEAN?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that’s overly interpreting things. You know as — especially as a head of the, as being chair, our main task was to produce a joint communiqué that all ASEAN members would sign regardless of differences in position, okay.

And we did that and we do hope that in all our future ASEAN building efforts reach full fruition especially for the November summit.

Tuesday Niu (DZBB): Hi, sir. Kagabi po nabanggit ni Presidente sa speech niya sa Shangri-La na sinilip si Senator Leila de Lima sa kulungan. Papaano po ‘yung circumstances? Pumunta ba siya sa loob mismo ng kulungan o naidaan lang siya doon sa facility?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think that’s being over li — being over literal about making silip.

No, he simply means to say that he’s attending, he’s also paying attention to Senator De Lima.

Ms. Niu: So walang ano, sir… Wala silang personal na actual na nagkita? Walang ganon?


Q: [off mic]


Ms. Ignacio: Sir, from Rose Novenario. Reaction daw ng Palace sa pagiging allegedly close ng four senators sa consignee ng 6.4 billion na shabu mentioning allegedly Hontiveros, Pangilinan, Zubiri, Villanueva?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, we do not engage in speculation. It has to be proven, okay.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, the President mentioned in his speech yesterday sa Shangri-La that the drug problem could not be solved—


Ms. Gutierrez: The drug problem, sir. The problem on drugs could not be solved in one term or is this an admission that the President could not solve the drug problem during his administration?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It is not an admission of failure. It is an admission of the depth, the breadth and complexity of the problem especially considering the fact that he has also said that it was only after he became President that he realized the — how widespread narco-politics had become.

So it is… He simply just handling now the — taken the bull by the horns and saying, no it’s going to take a little bit more time especially in giving a whole of government approach.

Ms. Gutierrez: But, sir, is the drug problem… Will it be solved under his administration, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure we will have substantial gains regarding that.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. There was a comment regarding the NSA — the PNA. Would you like… The resource person is here.

All right. You’d like to ask him questions, Pia? Would you like?

Ms. Ranada: My questions have to do more with the interim policy on social media practitioners. Sir, there’s a part of the policy which says that accreditation can be revoked if there’s an abuse of rights and privileges extended by PCO and improper use of accreditation. Some people find this a bit vague. Can we just have more specific examples of when this… What kinds of violation are covered by these two phrases?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, we added the laws of accreditation as an important section in the policy because we saw that once we accredit social media practitioners in Malacañang and PCO activities, that they may pass on the pass — the accreditation pass to another person that we did not screen.

And so, if we find out that they do pass off the ID… For example, I’m a blogger and I’m an accredited blogger of PCCO and I pass it on to my friend who’s also a blogger to cover the President because he wants or she wants to have a selfie with the President, then that blogger will both be blacklisted. So that’s the reason for the — that section in interim policy.

We understand that it’s a bit generic. You can be assured that as we implement the policy, the PCOO will refine the accreditation and loss of accreditation process.

Ms. Ranada: How about, sir, the use of foul language or peddling fake news using the accreditation and access they were given?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, if you remember. This policy did not just happen overnight. We actually called for a social media town hall or all media PH town hall in Bahay ng Alumni back in February.

And we had a very comprehensive omnibus social media policy which covered the purpose, the policy statement, the legal basis, the creation of a social media office, the official websites of PCOO and Malacañang, as well as a social media accreditation section or chapter.

Through the months, we’ve continued our consultations with social media bloggers and social media practitioners. And we found out that we’re going… We needed to divide that omnibus policy into three parts.

The first part is the use of social media by public officers and public employees. We found out that the DICT already has a draft policy for social media use by government officers.

And we defer to the DICT because their jurisdiction or coverage is more wide than the PCOO. So that particular part will be addressed by the DICT.

The social media policy for use — the use of social media policy by government employees.

The next carve out is the creation of the social media office and that is Department Order No. 13 which designated Assistant Secretary for Social Media in this case Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson to lead the social media office.

And the last is the social media practitioner accreditation policy.

Now, there are several debates. And if you remember back in February, the requirements to become an accredited social media publisher would be, you have to have… You have to be in the daily dissemination of original news content.

You have to practice for at least 12 months. To balance that, we said, okay the reach or the following should just — could be as little as 1,000. As long as you generate original content daily.

Now, when we discuss this with the social media practitioners or bloggers, as well as with Assistant Secretary Uson, they found those proposals too much and opted for a more populist requirement which is a 5,000 minimum requirement and no longer using the term “daily” but regular dissemination of original content.

Now, as you can see, the cover page of the policy, it is an interim or a probationary social media policy for accreditation. And so you will see some more revisions as we implement the accreditations process.

As far as we know, there is no national government, at least the Office of the President in any country that has also a solid social media accreditation process for bloggers.

You know, exceptions are the international organizations like the United Nations. We tried to abide by the UN minimum standards but with discussion with Assistant Secretary Uson and her staff, they opted for a more populist, open accreditation process.

So we will revise it as we go along. So for example, we had to delete the requirement limitation regarding the use of profanity because it might encroach on their freedom of speech. And so we will revise it accordingly, later on as we implement the policy.

Ms. Ranada: So as of now, bloggers are allowed to use profane language, write fake news with the policy?

ASEC. ABLAN: No, no.

Ms. Ranada: So what are the standards? How exactly do we implement quality control over the people we give access to the President?

ASEC. ABLAN: All right. So there is a presumption that when you are given accreditation, that you will conduct yourself like, you know, an ordinary, law abiding Filipino citizen.

So what I mean to say is there is no need to express the state that you’re not supposed to use profanity in any of your articles.

What the policy is merely doing is lay down a particular standard on how to access the President.

I insisted with Assistant Secretary Uson and Secretary Andanar that we have to come out at least with an interim or probationary social media accreditation policy rather than without. Because without, then it’s done on a case-to-case basis.

And at least with an interim or probationary social media policy, at least there is a minimum standard that although imperfect, of course, we will improve on it as we go along.

So the presumption is those who will be accredited will, you know, are law abiding Filipino citizens who will not use profanity in their articles, who will not use fake news.

And then later on, once we observe that those we accredited do not abide, you know, by the regular courtesy expected from them, then we might have to add that particular requirement or limitation on the accreditation.

Ms. Halili: Hi, Asec, good morning. How about those bloggers who are critical of the Duterte administration? Will they also be accredited to cover the events of the President?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, thanks for that question. That’s precisely why we came out with an interim and probationary social media accreditation policy just to show that the Palace is open both to supporters of the President and those critical of him.

Because without a policy, then it’s on a case-to-case basis and then those who are critical might say, “Oh, you’re playing favorites.”

That’s why we have… You know, it’s imperfect but it’s — it’s something new. It’s new territory. We are pioneers in this and we will see how these social media bloggers will go.

Hopefully, once they get accredited, they’ll realize the importance of the accreditation that they received and they behave properly.

Ms. Halili: And ‘yung content ng mga blogs nila meron ba tayong requirement?

ASEC. ABLAN: In the… In the initial draft, Maricel, we put a limitation that… But when we did, it’s — including profanity, we were heatly — in a heated debate regarding freedom of speech.

So the content is free, ‘no. As long as it’s their own opinion, it’s free.

Ms. Halili: Okay.

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star): Asec, just a few clarificatory questions.


Mr. Romero: So categorical answer. The use of profanity, will it merit the loss of accreditation? Yes or no?

ASEC. ABLAN: All right. So as the use of profanity, the —  the policy is silent.

Mr. Romero: Silent?

ASEC. ABLAN: The policy is silent. We’ll leave it to SMO headed by Assistant Secretary Uson to decide on that.

Because on Section 6, accreditation may only be withdrawn, cancelled or suspended for any of the following: abuse of rights and privileges extended by PCOO and put his or her accreditation to improper use.

I have brought up with the office of Asec. Uson in the accreditation process that they will sign some kind of terms and conditions and maybe — although it’s not in the policy — it might be in the terms and conditions that they should not use profanity. But that’s still up to her.

Although I’m the Asec. for Policy and Legis Affairs, she is the Asec. for Social Media, the ultimate decision on how to handle the social media accreditation lies with her. I merely guide her with the legal and policy process.

Mr. Romero: Kasi sa media, bawal ang profanity. Anyway, second question, you said they are required to produce regular but not daily content. But when we say “regular,” ‘yung consistent. So ‘yung consistent can also be weekly, can also be monthly, can also be yearly.


Mr. Romero: So kahit po yearly basta regular, pwede ba ‘yun? Kasi regular eh. So when I post every year, that’s regular. So how do we define “regularly”?

ASEC. ABLAN: As long as the applicant can prove that he regularly publishes original news content, whether that’s on a daily basis or on a monthly basis, then he or she will get accreditation.

I think ‘yung once a year, sobrang stretch naman ‘yun. Hindi na ‘yun regular, periodic na ‘yun ‘no. So when… When the issue of daily was brought up during the first consultation with the social media practitioners, some objected to that because blogging is not their first job.

I mean, they have day jobs and then they do blogging regularly but they said, “We can’t do original content every day. But we do original content, Asec,” they mentioned. “What if we do content three times a week? With your very high standard, we won’t be able to be accredited.”

So the compromise is to have just to prove that he or she has regular production of original content.

Mr. Romero: Pero ‘di ba mas maganda kung mas defined ‘yung “regular” kasi sinabi niyo up to once a month pwede ‘yun eh. ‘Di ba parang mas maganda kung mas specific?

ASEC ABLAN: We’ll see how it goes ‘no. If you have people who are applying and they’re applying — and their blog is once a year, then there needs to be a clearer definition.

But right now, we’ll stick with regular dissemination of original content.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Asec.

Tina Mendez (The Philippine Star): Sir, good afternoon. Sir, since ‘yung accreditation of social media practitioners entails the coverage of the activities of President Duterte and the Office of the President, and how do you intend to implement this vis-à-vis the role of the Malacañang Press Corps and other members of the mainstream media who are also covering the President? Do you intend to…? That’s it. That’s the first question.

ASEC. ABLAN: They will be given access the same way any of Malacañang Press Corps or mainstream media will have when they cover the President

Ms. Mendez: As such, they will also be given access to regular press briefings such as this one?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, that’s the… That’s one of those that they will be able to cover the press briefing.

Ms. Mendez: So how also will you — will PCO implement ‘yung rules on objectivity and ethics in delivering news?

ASEC. ABLAN: I don’t think we impose any rules on ethics on the Malacañang Press Corps, the PCOO, you are self-governing.

So we expect the same from the bloggers who will be accredited.

Bella Cariaso (Bandera): Sir, good afternoon. Sir, hindi ba masyadong maliit ‘yung 5,000 followers to be accredited as member of Malacañang beat reporter?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, there’s a… There was a big debate. That’s the reason why there’s a delay in coming up with the full policy because one of the biggest debates and I’ll admit it frankly is the reach. How do we determine reach?

And some people say it should be as minimum as 1,000, there’s 5,000, there’s 10,000, one blogger even said that has to be — it has to be 100,000 to be accredited.

But then if you put it at 100,000, then you are then turning your back away from the bloggers in the provinces that have smaller followings, you know, that although are influential and people follow them not as big as let’s say bigger bloggers with 100,000 or a million following. So that’s a big debate.

And hopefully, as we implement the policy on accreditation, we will be able to find the correct reach requirement.

So right now, it’s still — it’s at 5,000. In implementing, we will see if we need to increase it.

Ms. Cariaso: Kasi, sir, ngayon pa lang ang dami ng comments sa Facebook na 5,000, napakadali pala nating maka — magkaroon ng accreditation sa Malacañang. Sir, hindi ba, sorry for the word, pero hindi ba binabalahura ‘yung institution na knowing presidential, ano ‘to, Palace, tapos kung sinu-sino na lang ang ano ‘yung i-a-accredit natin dito?

ASEC. ABLAN: Actually, hindi lang… One thing has to be cleared, it’s not as if — if you have 5,000 followers, because I have 5,000 followers, it’s easy to get naman 5,000 followers, that you will be automatically accredited or you can force yourself to be accredited by the Palace.

You have to still fall under the definition of social media practitioner which means you have to produce regular, original news content.

So even if you have 5,000 followers, 10,000 followers, 100,000 followers, but you cannot prove that you produce original content on a regular basis, then you will not be given accreditation.

So may qualifier pa rin ‘yun. Hindi siya automatic na porke’t may 5,000 ka, makakakuha ka ng accreditation.

Ms. Cariaso: So, sir, we were informed that you… Secretary Andanar signed the DO last Tuesday. Parang hindi ba minadali ‘yung signing kasi ‘di ba na-criticize ang mga blogger being accredited doon sa ASEAN, tapos biglang sinign (sign) ‘yung DO? Para bang nile-legitemize ba natin ‘yung coverage nila kaya natin sinign (sign) ‘yun?

ASEC. ABLAN: No, no. Like I mentioned, the social media policy has been up on the drawing board since January – February 2017, this year. So it’s already eight months, delayed na nga ang paglabas.

Ilang beses ko na pong tinawag ang pansin po ni Assistant Secretary Uson saka ni Secretary Andanar na sinabi ko sa kanila, “Sir, Asec, we need to come out kasi without a policy, then people might question that there might be favoritism.”

Now that there’s a policy, then at least it’s open to everyone regardless if you’re supporting the President or critical of him.

The fact that the DO came out during the time that there was an issue is just coincidence. Hindi po ‘yun planado o hindi po ‘yun knee-jerk reaction.

Ms. Cariaso: Sir, sorry ha, lulubusin ko na kasi being a beat report— sa Malacañang, sir, magsisimula ka muna, supposed to be ‘pag mainstream ka, magsisimula ka sa police, magsisimula ka sa mga mabababang beats. So talagang special talaga ‘yung pagkakaroon ng — mabi-beat ka sa Malacañang. Pero when you accredit the bloggers, parang ‘di ba? Kami nagsisimula kami sa mababa tapos kayo porke’t 5,000 lang ‘yung — na ‘yung followers, i-a-accredit niyo na? ‘Di ba parang napaka-ronic nun, sir? Kasi ‘di ba? Tapos ang mga journalists kumukuha ng four-year course, Mass Comm, Journalism, para lang makakuha ng trabaho na kagaya nitong magbi-beat. Pero sa inyo, sir, kinukuha niyo as blogger, pwede na mag-cover ng Malacañang?

ASEC ABLAN: Well, we empathize ‘no with journalists who went through a lot of study and rose from the ranks from being a beat reporter all the way up to being a senior editor or editor, and we know how difficult it is to get to Malacañang.

But we have to recognize new media and the influence and they’re able to share news from the — from Malacañang and from the President. And there has to be some way where we’re able to legitimately recognize the coverage of their President.

Ms. Cariasp: Sir, ito lulubusin ko na rin, sir, ha —

ASEC. ABLAN: Sige, ilabas mo na yung —

Ms. Cariaso: Sir, minsan lang kasi maka-attend eh. Sana nakikinig si Asec. Huwag mo kaming i-bash ha. Anyway, sir, yun nga sir, ‘di ba? Hindi ko alam kung bakit masyadong hina-haste niyo. Ano ba ‘yung masyadong frustration niyo kung bakit niyo kailangang i-implement ‘tong ano? And for the record kasi, sir, against ang mainstream media dito sa accreditation ng mga bloggers sa Malacañang. And for the record din sa ibang beat, ayaw din nila ito. Kayo lang… Si Secretary Andanar lang ang gustung-gustong mai-accredit ang mga bloggers sa Malacañang.

ASEC. ABLAN: Okay, thank you. Actually hindi lang naman si Secretary ang may gusto ‘no pati ‘yung Presidente because if you noticed that a lot of bloggers who supported him during the campaign, the President opened up Malacañang to them.

So it’s really administration decision to really recognize social media practitioners in this administration to cover activities of the President and PCOO. But we… Hopefully we’ll be able to get a balance between mainstream media and social media.

You know, not so long ago, before I was born, anchormen o TV, journalists in TV were also brandished the same by radio journalists. And before that, newspaper journalists also questioned the legitimacy of radio journalists.

So as journalism progresses ‘no, from print to radio, from radio to TV, we have to recognize the new media, and in this case, it’s social media.

And hopefully, we’ll be able to strike a balance between, you know, journalists from the traditional means and from new media.

Ms. Cariaso: Sir, isa na lang… Isa na lang, Rocky. Kasi sir, alam natin na hindi maganda ‘yung relasyon ni Secretary sa ibang beat. So why not — ‘di ba? Ayusin niya ‘yung relasyon niya sa mainstream media bago ‘yung… Ang kinikuha niya na ano, ‘yung mga blogger para may makuha siya na ano. Sorry ha, kay Asec ha, ‘wag niyo hong — I know na nanonood ka ngayon tapos iba-bash mo na naman kami na Malacañang Press Corps. Pero syempre ‘di ba? Wala — kung hindi… Walang magsasalita para sa mainstream media paano — kailan pa tayo magsasalita ‘di ba? Ito na ‘to eh.

ASEC. ABLAN: Okay. Makakarating po kay Asec. Uson.

Mr. Morong: I’m reading the guidelines for accreditation in conjunction with the DO 13 ‘no. Those accredited bloggers, in terms of content, what are your expectations?

ASEC. ABLAN: All right. So again, going back to the original draft, Joseph ‘no. So what I wanted before was — for those covering the President to write stories about the President because that’s the reason why we’re giving them accreditation.

When we held consultation they — the social media bloggers actually said that we should not control the content of whatever they write, so we deleted it.

So as the policy, we deleted that phrase wherein they have to write — meaning to say — they were saying that we can’t force them to write.

So they will cover the President but we can’t force them to write, again, is using the freedom of speech. And so there is no requirement for them to write but they will be able to cover the President and PCO activities.

Mr. Morong: What do you mean no requirement to write? Write what?

ASEC. ABLAN: Content.

Mr. Morong: What kind of content?

ASEC. ABLAN: Any content that they observe during attendance of any of these activities.

Mr. Morong: Whether favorable or not?


Trisha Macas (GMA News Online): Hi, Asec. Good morning.

ASEC. ABLAN: Hi, Trisha.

Ms. Macas: Sir, we’re gonna give access to social media users to the President. So did the Presidential Security Group agreed or approved your accreditation for — 18-years-old with 5,000 followers, that’s a lot. I mean, kahit na marami rin sa kanila na nagpo-post regularly. Can you give us a scenario, how many social media users are gonna accredit per activity? Because I understand that their accreditation is per activity basis, so can you give us a scenario, ilan bale? Kasi what if — I mean, you want access — you want to give access to a lot of social media users, then go ahead, pero inisip ko lang po like how will the PSG handle it and how will you handle it? Kung paano — like thousands of social media users would want to get accredited?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes. So that’s another issue ‘no. If we lower the reach to 5,000, then that means more people will be able to access.

If more people will be able to access, how are they going to fit in Kalayaan Hall, much more if we transfer back to New Executive Building?

We had the assurances of the office of the Asec. Mocha and Social Media Office of PCO that they would be able to provide more detailed guidelines on coverage of press briefing.

Not going into particulars but, for example, you won’t be expecting 50 bloggers in a press briefing. It will be just to accommodate maybe five. ‘Yung kaya lang.

So meaning to say, it’s going to be… The details are still with the office of Asec. Mocha, but I think that it’s going to be, for example, for one press briefing, this set of five will be able to cover, the next set ‘yung susunod.

Now, whether or not her office will be able to accommodate the volume, because I did raise that ‘no, there’s a possibility that there’s a volume concern. They will… We will cross that bridge when we get there.

All right. So first of all is you will get accreditation from PCOO. Once you get the accreditation from PCOO, that’s still subject to PSG clearance. So we have the… We have the assurance from the office of Asec. Mocha that they’ve already coordinated with PSG.

So first is PCOO, but it’s not automatic. Not because you get PCOO accreditation that you’ll be able to cover. Since you’ll be covering the President and since you’ll be in Malacañang grounds, you still need to seek PSG clearance, like all members of the Malacañang Press Corps.

So even if they got accreditation, they don’t have — PSG denies it, then they won’t be able to cover the President. So ano ‘yun, requirement ‘yun.

Ms. Macas: Sir, follow up. Since you need three days to approve the accreditation of the bloggers, of the social media users, will they… Will you give and ‘di ba it’s a per activity — ‘yung accreditation per activity? Will you give them the schedule of the President in advance? Since, they can’t… I mean, paano nila masasabi na, “I’m going to cover this,” if you don’t give them the schedule of the President for the week, for example. For us, the Malacañang Press Corps, we only get the schedule of the President, like minsan, less than 24 hours before the event. So paano po ‘yun?

ASEC. ABLAN: You can be assured that the information you receive will be at the same it’s received by them. They will not be getting a priority.

So when you get the information, that’s also the same time that the accredited bloggers will be getting their accreditation.

And, all right. The statement is stated in the negative, “…daily, unless specified.” So ang mangyayari is — ang back is [anong tawag doon?] — ang pinaka back is ‘yung daily — no, no, no, sorry, sorry.

The general rule is daily, sorry, I’m trying to reread the provision in my head… And because I argued na the accreditations should actually be for one whole year, but they changed it to daily and then I added, “Unless specified.”

Because I understand your… How will you know the very next day? So the general rule is, they will be given advance notice the same way you are given advance notice, but no earlier than you.

Ms. Macas: So, sir, ito na lang. So are you going to, like, kasi kami, we cannot — it’s for your internal reference, ‘di ba? So are you going to impose the same rule to them na you cannot broadcast the schedule of the President?

ASEC. ABLAN: Yes. For security reasons, they are not supposed to publish it. Otherwise, you put the life of the President in danger.

Ms. Macas. Okay. Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir. Can Ethel Booba or Juana Change apply for accreditation and be assured that they can be given access?

ASEC. ABLAN: All right. So if Ethel Booba and Juana Change have at least 5,000 followers, that they can prove that they publish regular content, original or news content, and they’re Filipino citizens, and they’re at least 18 years of age, and they passed PSG clearance, then yes, they can cover the President.

Mr. Morong: Okay. Sir, may question lang, sir, sa MPC. How about the accountability daw of the bloggers that you’re going to accredit? I mean, in the advent of the Internet meron namang citizen journalism ‘no? Citizen journalists?


Mr. Morong: In an ideal world, this may be akin to that concept, but well, things are different. Pero how do you exact accountability to those you are going to accredit? For example, you know, how are you so sure that this will be legit?

ASEC. ABLAN: All right. So if you look at Section 6, if — it’s determined by the SMO that there’s abuse of rights and privileges extended by the PCOO to the accredited blogger, then the accreditation may be withdrawn or suspended.

So that’s how — that’s our assurance that, you know, we’re able to, at least in a very minimum way, regulate whatever they produce.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Before we end, just an update on the Marawi — the rebellion in Marawi.

As of 7 p.m. last night, we just like to make mention of enemy’s — several deaths of the enemy, 548, or plus nine.

And firearms recovered, 610, or plus three.

And buildings cleared, 15. Yesterday, 38.

All right. So killed-in-action, 128.

As of 3 p.m. also on August 8, the status of cash donations remains P98,800,404.23 for casualties.

And for internally displaced persons, P874,615.21.

Thank you very much. Good morning.

— END —