Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno

OPENING STATEMENTS:

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. As part of the series of briefings on federalism, we are pleased to have today, retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

He finished his Bachelor of Science in Jurisprudence and Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines in 1962. He did his Masters of Comparative Laws at the Southern Methodist University in ’67 and Master of Laws at the University of California, Berkeley in 1968.

He has been conferred numerous honorary doctorate degrees in Laws, Humanities, Philosophy and Public Administration by foreign and local universities.

He was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on December 6, 2006 and retired on May 17, 2010.

He will share with us salient points of federalism and why it is significant — and why it is significant to shift from a unitary form of government to a federal form.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, please welcome, Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

MR. PUNO: Good morning. Well, let me apologize for my harsh voice and also for the scribbled notes that I did a few days ago on federalism. I hope I can read them with clarity.

Well, since our 1935 Constitution, we have established a unitary government. To be sure, this 82-year-old unitary government has suited us for some time.

But today, there is a strong call for its re-examination. It’s a change in favor of a federal form of government.

The reasons for the call are, to my mind, compelling. First, I respectfully submit that the allocation of powers in our unitary government between and among the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary has resulted in a lot of conflicts.

Indeed, this outdated, if not erroneous, allocation of powers has earned us a lot of democratic deficits. And this has resulted in the continuing categorization of the Philippines as a failing democracy.

And so we need to strike a more appropriate balance — balance of power — among the three branches of government.

In this connection, let me stress the need for a more effective and efficient judiciary in a federal form of government. Arguably, the need is more acute in a federal government. For in this form of government, there will be more constitutional disputes to settle.

Disputes involving overlaps of power among the agencies of the federal government itself, disputes between the federal government and the constituent state, and disputes among the constituent states themselves.

There are many areas in our present judiciary that can stand improvement. We cannot exhaustively discuss them, but let me just advert to one, and that is its failure to immediately decide disputes, often described as disputes of transcendental importance.

Today, even if a dispute is of transcendental importance, our Supreme Court cannot just come in and decide the dispute before it gets worse.

Given our present Constitution and our existing jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has to wait for a proper case to be filed before it. Before it can exercise its jurisdiction and decide the case.

This requirement of a proper case has prevented our Supreme Court from deciding disputes that should be settled immediately in view of the case significance to our people.

In layman’s language, the requirement of a proper case means that there must first be a violation of a right. Then there must be a case filed before the Supreme Court. And the case must be filed by the proper party. If there is no complaint, if there is no case, the Supreme Court cannot act. And when there will be a case is anybody’s guess.

In a lot of instances, no case is filed or filed after only a long lapse of time. And in the meanwhile, the unconstitutional law, or the unconstitutional act continues to be enforced.

When a case, however, is filed only after the passage of a long time, you can imagine the damage already done by the unconstitutional law or the unconstitutional act. Damage which can no longer be undone by a late decision of the Supreme Court.

This unhappy situation has been avoided in other countries, notably in Germany. One of the more successful federal countries in the world. In Germany, they have a Constitutional Court that decides disputes involving violations of the Constitution or what they call their basic law.

In Germany, the Constitutional Court does not have that problem which I just adverted to a while ago.

That is the inability to decide a dispute of transcendental importance until the Constitution is actually violated, until a case is filed and until a proper party brings the case to the court.

In Germany, the constitutionality of a law before its enforcement, or before its violation, can already be brought to the Constitutional Court for opinion, whether it is unconstitutional or not.

But not every Tom, Dick, or Harry is given that right or privilege. That right or privilege is given only to the federal or to the state government or to one-third of the Bundestag or their Parliament.

The reason for this limitation is to prevent the exercise of that extraordinary right from being abused by a citizen. I would commend that we adopt this system and depart from the American model, where there is too much emphasis on the independence of the three branches of government, instead of interdependence on certain areas of governance.

Let me cite perhaps a more specific instance. Consider the Bangsamoro Law or the Bangsamoro Bill. As a — or if you will remember, during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the government concluded this Memorandum of Agreement — that’s ancestral domain with the MILF.

Well, that agreement was challenged for its unconstitutionality in the High Court. Several parties went to the court, they raised several grounds, and they prevailed. The Supreme Court struck down the agreement as unconstitutional.

Also, during the time of President Noynoy Aquino, the government crafted another Bangsamoro Bill, submitted it to Congress, and it did not pass muster, again because of several objections on its alleged unconstitutionality.

In certain jurisdictions, that will not happen. For instance, in France, the legislature there, while in the course of passing a law, can already go to their Constitutional Council.

In France, it’s called a council, not a Supreme Court or not a Constitutional Court. They can already go to the Council, and seek an opinion on whether the bill about — the bill being considered suffers from constitutional infirmities.

In Germany, the practice is different. The parliament enacts a law but before its enforcement, one-third of the members the parliament can already solicit the opinion of the constitutional court on its constitutionality or unconstitutionality.

That is very different from our practice. Very different from our practice that was taken from the United States.

In our case, that will never happen because the Supreme Court cannot issue what is known as advisory opinions.

That is why the Supreme Court is sometimes assailed for its laid-back posture in this kind of cases. The court has to wait what is known as the proper case.

So let’s think about that practice in France, practice in Germany and maybe that should be adopted in our own jurisdiction.

Well, there are so many aspects of this shift to federalism. I understand that these other dimensions have been discussed by the other speakers.

But, let me come to what to my mind is the most urgent reason why the Philippines should federalize.

And this is to enable the country to deal with the demands of our Muslim brothers to have their own homeland, which they can govern according to their culture, religion, language and history.

This aspiration of our Muslim brothers cannot be substantially granted unless we change our unitary government.

This frustration of our Muslim brothers to establish a state of their own has threatened to wreck our Republic.

Their cry for separation and independence has resulted in open rebellion and worse, they are now assisted by some foreign elements.

And so to date, Marawi has yet to be fully recovered by our Armed Forces from the Mautes, a rebel group demanding outright secession from the Philippines, with the assistance of the ISIS.

The rebellion is now on its fourth month despite the declaration of martial law by our President to suppress it.

It will cost the government some P50 billion to rehabilitate Marawi and the estimate is still moving up. Of course, its psychic cost is beyond estimate.

You know, this demand of our Muslim brothers for self-determination, for self-rule is not of recent vintage. They have always tried to preserve their identity during the time of the Spaniards who colonized us for three centuries, and the time of the United States that colonized us for about half a century.

All the efforts to absorb them have failed. Neither the subtle efforts to assimilate them succeed.

There is only one way to deal with them and that is to respect their identity and to live with them under a cooperative form of a federal government.

A nonsymmetrical treatment of the asymmetrical can only be done successfully in a federal government.

This has been the experience of Spain, the experience of Belgium, the experience of Canada, and the experience of India.

In other words, it is a worldwide reality that has ceased to be a phenomenon. And finally a federal Philippines was originally espoused by Rizal in 1898.

It was endorsed by Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini. All of whom had a longitude vision that traverses the past, reaches the present, and promises a better future.

After more than a century, perhaps it is time to listen to the call of Rizal. And I join that call for federalism now.

Thank you very much.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, based on your proposal, what do you think is the best power to be given to the judiciary under a federal government? Should it have the power to motu proprio review laws or have the power to automatically review whatever Congress passes?

MR. PUNO: It will depend on how you cut the powers between the federal government and the constituent states.

But overall and generally, the federal government can promulgate laws which will govern the whole country.

Ms. Salaverria: No, sir. I mean the judiciary. Should it have the power to on its own motu proprio without a case review laws?

MR. PUNO: No. There is no jurisdiction with that kind of motu proprio power on the part of a Supreme Court or a constitutional court or a constitutional council.

Still the power of review has to be triggered. And in the case of Germany, that is triggered in extraordinary circumstances. But by a certain number of members of the parliament by the federal government or by the states themselves.

Ms. Salaverria: So, sir, do you think —

MR. PUNO: But they can trigger that even if there is still no case filed before the Supreme Court.

Ms. Salaverria: So, sir, do you see that scenario working for the Philippines when we shift to a federal government?

MR. PUNO: Well, personally, I would recommend that. As I said look at this Bangsamoro bill now that is with the Congress.

You can assume that it will be submitted to microscopic examination on its alleged unconstitutionality.

But assumed that it passes muster in a Congress, you know if you have the German system, the members of Congress, a certain percentage can already go to the high court and ask whether the bill has finalized is constitutional or not.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Cedric Castillo (GMA): Sir, good morning, sir. Sir, given the President’s strong advocacy, face-to-face with our country’s not so good track record on acting on as you may call it issues of transcendental importance. How likely is it that we get to federalize under this administration, sir? What are the hurdles that you see along the way, sir?

MR. PUNO: Well, the political branches of our government seem to be in favor of this shift to federalism.

In fact, in Congress, you already have a resolution or you already have a rough draft of the new constitution where federalism is embedded.

This morning I read that the party of Senate President Koko Pimentel submitted its own version of a federal form of government.

On the other hand, you have a President who has made this issue a campaign issue. If you remember, federalism was an issue in the last presidential elections.

There were five candidates. Four were against federalism and only one, President Duterte was for federalism. So it’s time to really put federalism on the table for discussion.

Mr. Castillo: Yes, sir. How about the judiciary, sir? I mean if someone files against the constitutionality of the move to federalize, sir? Can we compel the judiciary to act on it? Considering it’s a transcend — an issue of transcendental importance?

MR. PUNO: Well, as I said under the present Constitution, not only under the present Constitution but ’35 Constitution, the ’72 Constitution, the Supreme Court cannot do that. It has to wait for the proper case to be filed by the proper party.

And it’s not easy for the court sometimes to determine whether the party is the proper party.

Mr. Castillo: Thank you, sir.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Good morning, Justice. One of the concerns regarding federalism is it might strengthen the grip of some political dynasties in their respective areas. What do you think are the possible safety nets that can be adopted so as to prevent such scenario considering that the Constitution is against the proliferation of political dynasties?

MR. PUNO: The solution is quite simple. You just define what is a political dynasty.

In the proposed new constitution, this particular problem has become complicated because the ’87 Constitution did not define what is a political dynasty.

The present Constitution left it to Congress to make the definition. It’s 19 — It was 1987 then, it’s now 2017 and yet there is no definition.

So the ’87 Constitution on political dynasty is not self-executive. So the solution is make it self-executive.

Mr. Romero: So you see the need to come up with an anti-dynasty law before a federal government can be established?

MR. PUNO: To me that is a sine qua non condition because you will be giving sovereign powers to the states. And the states should not be run by a monopoly, whether it’s a political monopoly or an economic monopoly.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Justice.

Llanesca Panti (Manila Times): Good morning, sir. About your proposed constitutional commission po, would — does this mean that you are for dropping the existing doctrine that the Supreme Court cannot be — cannot decide on cases involving political — a political question? Is that what you’re saying?

MR. PUNO: No… The suggestion will lift the bar. In other words, the Supreme Court can step in earlier.

There’s no diminution of power. It’s just allowing the Supreme Court to step in in this kind of disputes much early.

Ms. Panti: So, sir, the doctrine of political question should remain under a federal government?

MR. PUNO: The question is of political question is a different problem area.

Ms. Panti: So it should stay po? Would you say?

MR. PUNO: Well again, there should be a re-examination of the different areas involved in a political question.

Perhaps after a re-examination, the Congress may widen the area or may diminish the area. It’s all up to their perception, their wisdom.

Ms. Panti: Sir, follow up. So are you saying that the Bangsamoro Basic Law cannot be implemented if we are not going to shift to a federal government?

MR. PUNO: I’m saying that it will be very difficult for this bill to overcome a constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court because precisely, we have a unitary government that is not empowered to grant these identity-based demands of our Muslim brothers.

These identity-based demands can be granted only in a federal form of government.

Ms. Panti: So charter change should come first before we proceed to passing a Bangsamoro Basic Law?

MR. PUNO: That is the safer course.

Ms. Panti: Thank you, sir.

Philip Tubeza (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, ‘yung — good morning, sir. You mentioned the identity-based demands. What could you, sir, specify what these demands would be and — that would be unconstitutional under the present system?

MR. PUNO: Well, these will be demands — for instance, that would be distinct, peculiar because of their religion, because of their culture, and because of their history.

For instance the — their judicial system. There is a need to accommodate their demands to have the Sharia law be the law that will govern the state that will be given to them. That is an example.

Mr. Tubeza: And on the judiciary, sir, you discussed earlier. Would this not result in a more activist court if your proposal is approved, especially given that the President has spoken about the SC issuing TROs or the lower courts issuing TROs?

MR. PUNO: I don’t know whether we understand each other when we talk of an activist court.

But in the sense that it will allow the court to exercise its jurisdiction earlier, then I would say that it’s a more active court.

But again, the reason for that is precisely, in those kind of cases, you should not have an inactive court, a laid-back court because the case is of that much importance to the country and to the people. And so the sooner the court is able to rule on the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of a law or an act, the better.

Mr. Tubeza: Okay, thank you, sir.

Ms. Salaverria: Good morning. Sir, I’d just like to get your opinion because the PDP-Laban has proposed a federal parliamentary government with the President and abolishes the Office of the Vice President. Do you see any merit in doing away with the Vice President under a federal government?

MR. PUNO: Talaga ‘yan there are pros and cons to that proposition. If you take the American model, you have a President and a Vice President. But the difference is that they belong to the same party. And so you obviate the kind of problems that we have in the Philippines.

Ms. Salaverria: So you’re saying, sir, that that may be a better option for us to have a President and the Vice President that comes from the same political party?

MR. PUNO: Well, you see the problems that result from a system where you have a President coming from one party and the Vice President coming from another party.

Ms. Salaverria: Thank you.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Hi sir, good morning po. Sir, nabanggit niyo po na safer po ang Charter change muna bago ang BBL.

MR. PUNO: Yeah.

Ms. Coz: Sa assessment niyo po ngayon, one year has passed na po sa Duterte administration. On track po ba ang pamahalaan sa pagsusulong ng federalism? I mean, during term po ni Pangulong Duterte, hindi ho ba tayo gagahulin ng oras?

MR. PUNO: Yeah, I’d like to think that the sooner there is a shift to federalism, the better, because this shift would require a transition period.

I’m not sure how long the transition period is. But the transition period is very significant because you have to make all the adjustments during this period.

And it has got to be a period that is reasonable, attuned to the needs of our time and the problems that we will encounter by the shift to federalism.

Ms. Coz: Sir, isa po kayo sa inalok na maging member po ng consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution. Formally accepted niyo na po?

MR. PUNO: There is no offer yet.

Ms. Coz: Until today? So ibig sabihin sir, wala pa rin po — hindi pa rin po nabubuo or wala pong formal offer kayong natatanggap pa until now?

MR. PUNO: I do not know whether the commission been constituted, fully constituted. But as far as I know, I have yet no appointment and so there is nothing to accept.

Ms. Coz: Pero sir, if binigyan kayo ng offer, ano po ang inyong magiging tugon?

MR. PUNO: I have been advocating for federalism even before it became a political issue. That has been my advocacy for a long, long time.

Ms. Coz: Okay. Thank you, sir.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, sorry. I already asked this earlier pero just to follow up on the last question, sir. Ano pong hurdles ‘yung nakikita niyo, sir, doon sa pagfe-federalize ng government po, if any?

MR. PUNO: It will depend on a lot of factors. But if the changes in the new Constitution — if the changes that will be wrought by this shift to federalism would be radical, then well, the factors that could prove to be impediments would be…

For instance, if there would be a prohibition on political dynasties, then you have to contend with that because that is given. We have a lot of political dynasties in our Congress.

And then if the form of federal government would be federal parliamentary, then you would need to build up the political party system. You have to re-examine the powers of whatever body — COMELEC or whatever commission —- that will run and administer our system of election.

And then, again, another factor would be, you know, mapping out the landscape of the whole country.

You look at the regions. You look at its political, social and economic developments and see whether they can really be given the status of full states.

In other words, whether they can be viable and sustainable. Thank you.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you, sir. A bit of — a few statements.

Common Station to break ground today:

Tomorrow, September 29, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will finally mark the construction of the Common Station, an infrastructure project that will connect four major railways —LRT-1, MRT-3, MRT-7, and the Metro Manila Subway.

The Common Station aims to provide seamless transfer of passengers from one railway line to another and a convenient walk for platform transfers.

The Common Station project started in 2009 but went through a few legal entanglements on the issue of location.

And it was only during the Duterte administration when we got all stakeholders to agree on a location for the Common Station.

Principal stakeholders signed an agreement to build the Common Station between SM North and Trinoma, with an area of 13,700 square meters and is expected to be completed by April 2019, ending an eight-year impasse over the project.

Other items. ADB positive on Philippines’ economic growth:

In its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2017 Update, the Asian Development Bank stated that the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to reach 6.5 percent in 2017, which can be attributed to the improved implementation of the government’s projects resulting in public investments in infrastructure and social services.

On the matter of PAL’s unpaid charges:

The matter of Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) unpaid charges has existed since past administrations.

At issue is that the then government-owned PAL enjoyed privileges, namely waiver of landing, take-off, and other fees.

However, such privileges no longer apply to the airline, as the franchise has now been sold to a private entity.

As per Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade, they have demanded full payment of all unpaid charges as early as August 2016.

PAL’s unpaid navigational fees and other charges due to government, as of 26 September 2017, is as follows:

Payable to CAAP:

Total Collectible [let me try] P6,965,146,149.63 as of 30 July 2017

Payable to MIAA:

Current – P322,112,385 as of 26 September 2017

Final demand for full payment of all unpaid charges has been sent to PAL by the DOTr preparatory to the filing of appropriate legal action in order to protect the interest of the government.

On House Resolution 1337:

We welcome House Resolution 1337 expressing support for the President’s appeal to the United States government to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

Today, September 28, the nation remembers the 116th anniversary of the heroism and gallantry of our forebears in the municipality of Balangiga in Eastern Samar. And we also reiterate our call for the rightful return of the bells to the country.

The Balangiga bells are integral to our national heritage and the return of these historical relics is crucial to our collective memory and sense of nationhood.

On the national budget’s transmittal to the Senate:

We hope that the Senate can swiftly approve its own version of the proposed bill on the national budget so that our lawmakers can start working to harmonize their versions of the bill when a bicameral conference committee is convened.

The submission of the proposed P3.767-trillion budget last July 24 marks the first time since the administration of former [President] Fidel V. Ramos that the budget proposal is submitted on the day of the President’s State of the Nation Address.

The rationale behind this is to give Congress ample time to review the budget and early time to approve it.

The proposed budget for 2018 is 12.4 percent higher than our 2017 budget. And through our 2018 National Budget, we hope to lay down the foundation for a Matatag, Maginhawa at Panatag na Buhay, as anchored on our Philippine Development Plan ‎2017-2022.

On the call to confer the late Miriam Defensor — Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago the Quezon Service Cross:

The Office of the President welcomes moves to confer the late Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago the Quezon Service Cross.

The late Senator’s contribution to the country is beyond question. The President highly respects the lady.

We look forward to receiving the resolution of the Senate.

On the CHED issue:

The Office of the Executive Secretary Senior — /Senior Deputy Executive Secretary has given guidance on the issue.

Per OES/SDES, the decision or order of the Ombudsman remains executory, notwithstanding any other decision of the Court of Appeals, which is not yet attained finality.

But the office will still defer to the judgment of the CHED regarding the matter.

We’re open to a few questions.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, just on the issue of SBMA. What is now the plan of President Duterte for Martin Diño, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As of — as of our last statement, he has not been offered any position in any part of the government.

As of — as of yesterday, okay? So, I cannot speculate on anything, except that he has not been offered any at this stage.

Ms. Halili: Because, sir, according to Mr. Diño, he already accepted the offer to be the Undersecretary of DILG, and it seems that maybe — he said you’re, you’re not just aware because you were not present during a meeting somewhere, I think?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as I am privy to, the offer was made earlier, much earlier. However, that was apparently before this situation occurred, where he was replaced.

On the other hand, as far as I — that’s just a — just a small portion of what I know. On the other hand, as I was informed, there has been no official appointment as of yesterday.

Ms. Halili: Sir, may we know lang po ‘yung the reason of the President why he chose Ms. Wilma Eisma to head SBMA over Martin Diño?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not — I don’t have the official statement. But I’m sure one of the reasons is because of the apparent competence of the new administrator.

Ms. Halili: Does it have something to do, sir, with the alleged complaints of some of the employees of SBMA with the style of leadership of Mr. Diño, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: It may have been. But it’s not part of the — it’s not part of the official statement.

Ms. Halili: What is now the instruction of the President, sir, given that Mr. Diño is saying that there is alleged corruption in some of the personnel in SBMA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I have no comments regarding that matter. Mr. Diño will — is allowed his own opinion.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, can you confirm? Sabi kasi ni Acting Secretary Catalino Cuy, may papers daw na sinubmit [submit] sa Office of the President para sa appointment ni Diño na maging Usec. po ng DILG.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I… We can clarify that. But as — as per the Office of the Executive Secretary, there was none.

Ms. Sancho: Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you.

Tuesday Niu (DZBB): Hi, sir. Sir, clarify lang. You said earlier na “previous.” Ibig sabihin, may offer sa kanya before, but then binawi? For what reason?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That I don’t know if it was — apparently there was an incident. As far as I know, apparently there was an incident where it was — it may have been offered.

However, this was prior to the replacement, okay? So, let’s just go by that. It was fin — the President finally decided that the administration — the two positions should be conflated into one office and under one person.

Mr. Tubeza: So, sir, the offer should be considered as withdrawn already?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know if it’s withdrawn, but it has been superseded, as far as we can see.

Mr. Tubeza: Superseded. Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay.

Ms. Panti: Sir, good morning po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about Martin Diño. VACC is claiming that Martin Diño was replaced because corrupt supporters of the President want Mr. Diño out of SBMA. So how do you respond to that?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That is the opinion of VACC.

Ms. Panti: So you don’t share the same opinion?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That is their opinion. Okay.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, good afternoon. Sir, on Bamboo Triad, Taiwan is requesting or urging the Philippine government to clarify and show proof dun sa statement ni President na Bamboo Triad na po ‘yung nag-take over ng shabu operations, sir. How does the Palace plan to address this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As per his interview I think yesterday with — he has a TV interview I think yesterday — he did say that he was not blaming any particular country, but that there was organized crime that was behind all this drug traffic. And he referred — he did refer to Bamboo Triad.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, ano po ang source ng intel ni Pangulong Duterte? May we know? Dun sa Bamboo Triad po na ‘yon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far — as… This is speculation as for my part, which I don’t normally do.

No, but — but as per his statements, he has — he has very credible sources and — credible international sources.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, just to clarify, sir. Is the President saying the Chinese — klinarify [clarify] naman niya hindi…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Nationalities — of Chinese nationalities.

Mr. Castillo: Opo, opo. Yes, sir. Hindi naman bansa ‘yung sinabi niya…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi niya sinabi ‘yung bansa…

Mr. Castillo: — are no longer into it when he said na taken over na by the — by the Bamboo Triad? Is he saying the Chinese national — people of Chinese descent are no longer into shabu transactions or operations? Is he saying that, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m assuming that the Bamboo Triad are of Chinese ethnicity. They’re not — they’re Chine — they may be Chinese nationals, but they’re not government-sponsored.

I think that’s what has to be cleared.

Mr. Castillo: Thank you, sir.

CNN Philippines: Hi, sir. Good afternoon. Sir, the Ombudsman will be investigating the wealth of the Duterte family, does the President have any thoughts about this, reaction on this already?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know, like he has said, the Ombudsman has been continually investigating him and it is for them really to…

In other words it’s anything new. He leaves it to their — You know, he respects their… He respects… As we said yesterday, he respects the internal processes and if at all, and if they really truly have substantial evidence then he… We trust their impartiality on the matter.

Mr. Romero: Is the Palace declaring a holiday?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: When?

Mr. Romero: For the ASEAN?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi pa official. But I’m sure the statement will be forthcoming.

Mr. Romero: So ‘yung mga kumakalat sa Internet hindi pa po official?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi po siya official. Hindi po siya official.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Usec.

Ms. Panti: Sir, about the SWS survey po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes?

Ms. Panti: On anti-drug operations of the police. Sir, more than half of Filipinos are — do not believe that suspects are resisting arrests and that even… Also, half of those surveyed also believed that there are people who are pinpointing their enemies as drug personalities or drug dependents so that the police or the vigilantes could kill them. So how do you address this prevailing sentiment again? Apparently, against the war on drugs?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. First and foremost, let me bring you back that as per the recent presentation of DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano, the international community of nations accepts the Philippine position regarding the way we handle — we’re handling the campaign against drugs.

On the other hand, we also… Of course, SWS, we regard them with respect. On the other hand, we do find some of their questions rather leading and leading to conclusions, which could, you know, in a sense sway the respondents to answer in such a manner.

We just find it a little bit… Some portions — we find some portions of those questions rather leading. So at this stage, we hold a rather distanced position on their opinion.

Ms. Panti: Sir, regardless of whether the questions were leading or not. There were significant number who agreed to that question. So is not those — the percentage is not alarming or suspect? How do you describe it?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Considering the fact that most people have approved and do continue to approve the President, his actions and his intentions, these “results” which you call alarming, I refer to as alarming, are seem to have been…

I don’t know, you… It’s kinda surprising. So we attribute it to — It’s surprising vis-à-vis the approval of the — of most people, 86 percent, 70 in the high percentiles.

So it’s a little bit surprising that there’s this sudden shift, seems to be a sudden shift in the approval, in the perception.

Ms. Panti: Sir, do you expect this survey to — on the war on drugs to improve or do you expect the public to still — to win back the support of the public for the war on drugs?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t need… I don’t think the President needs to win back anything.

The President needs just to continue doing what he’s doing because we believe — not believe — based on recent surveys also, the approval rating is very, very high and the acceptance of what he does is very, very high. So this is rather surprising that there’s this — seems to be this shift.

Ms. Coz: Sir, sundutin ko lang po sa consultative committee.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am?

Ms. Coz: Ano na po ‘yung update doon, sir? Kasi last time parang nag-send na po kayo ng parang invitation for nominees po sa 25-member consultative committee? Ilan na po ‘yung nag-confirm or nag-accept po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, we don’t have official report on that.

Ms. Coz: Bakit po, sir, ganun natatagalan po, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, there are processes that have to go through.

Ms. Coz: Like what po?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That, I’m not privy too.

Ms. Coz: In relation to that question po. Hindi po kasi ganun kadali para po… ‘yung pagdaanan na proseso para po magkaron tayo ng federal form of government. Naitanong ko po ‘yang bagay na ‘yan kasi hindi po ba ito ang dahilan kung bakit kahit may limang taon pa po ang Pangulo ay fino-float na niya na po ang idea ng preferred successor niya ‘yung kaniyang anak para i-push ‘yung federalism?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, I think ‘yung — How did you connect? That means… That’s a breathtaking jump, you know.

Ms. Coz: Yes, sir. Eh kasi hanggang ngayon po bagamat nung campaign period pa lang ay sinusulong na ng Pangulo ang federalism.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am.

Ms. Coz: Pero one year na po ang nakalipas…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes.

Ms. Coz: Until now wala pa pong nangyayari doon sa consultative committee?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think hindi naman siguro — I don’t think it’s fair to say na walang nangyayari. I think umuusad pero may kabagalan.

Ms. Coz: ‘Yun nga po.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: O ‘yun.

Ms. Coz: Bakit po mabagal at — Ano po ang nakakapigil para isulong?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Katulad nga ng inisplika sa atin kanina, ‘yung the way our government is structured, medyo may kabagalan dahil sa — because of the present structure nga.

Ms. Coz: Mahirap po ba maghanap ng tao doon po sa 25-member consultative committee? Walang naga-accept po kasi…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ma’am, I think that’s… Again, that’s another breathtaking conclusion na walang nag-a-accept. I think people are being vetted.

And I believe, as far as I’m concerned, people have already been tapped and I think they’re just waiting for the right time.

Mr. Castillo: Sir, sorry. Balikan ko lang ‘yung Bamboo Triad, sir. When you said that the President is not blaming any country in particular, are you saying there is no need for the government to show proof of such allegations, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: To show proof to whom?

Mr. Castillo: Taiwan is asking for proof daw doon sa allegations sa may Bamboo Triad, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, that needs to be brought to the attention of the President and if he finds it necessary, he will respond.

Mr. Castillo: Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yes, ma’am?

Ms. Halili: Sir, quick lang. Ano lang po ‘yung agenda ni Presidente with the meeting this afternoon with CITRA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have the ano yet. Okay. We can find out. We can tell you later.

— END —

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