Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella

Event Press Briefing
Location Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace


PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. We’d like to update you first with a few — few positive reports.

An update on Philippine Performance in the Southeast Asian Games:

We wish to congratulate our athletes who won and brought honor to the country in yesterday’s events in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

The Philippines has now 23 gold, 30 silver and 57 bronze medals, as of August 28, 11 PM.

Also, on business optimism in — in the nation — on the nation:

Business optimism, contrary to the report of the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), continues to be high as the Philippines remains one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

Our 6.5 [percent] growth in the second quarter, higher than the first quarter expansion, means we are on track in our goal of sustaining growth momentum.

The growth has been backed by much stronger industry and manufacturing sectors that grew 7.3 percent and 7.9 percent respectively, which manifested a stronger economic backbone that will create more decent jobs in the years to come.

The agriculture sector likewise posted a turnaround of over 6 percent coming from negative figures of last year. Service sector continues to grow over 6 percent. Export growth also registered 14 percent for January to June 2017, coming also from a negative performance of last year.

Moreover, investments registered with the Board of Investments posted 40 percent growth for January to July of 2017, reflecting the continued confidence on the socio-economic reforms under President Dutere’s administration. This will certainly redound to more jobs, business opportunities and more money in the pocket for more people.

On the Duterte administration +64 SWS rating:

We are… We appreciate the people’s recognition of the efforts and hard work of the current government as public appreciation on the Duterte’s administration continues to remain “very good” at +64.

As a result, the Duterte administration posted the highest first four-quarter average net satisfaction rating ever recorded.

Also, regarding PRRD’s meetup with Kian’s parents:

We expect speedy and truthful investigations on the killing of Kian delos Santos as pledged by the President to his parents and the nation.

Let the NBI and the DOJ do their job with impartiality, integrity and dispatch. Other agencies are welcome to undertake their own probes as mandated by the law.

Regarding Espenido being assigned to Iloilo:

We call on our people to unite with the state in our campaign against drugs through both police action and drug prevention and rehab with full respect for law — for human rights and the rule of law, which is the pledge of the President.

Regarding infighting at COMELEC:

We cannot but be concerned about — about that. COMELEC work is affected by recent travails.

Without unduly interfering or influencing the Commission, we urge all parties to work together for the full performance of its duties.

Regarding PRRD as the most decisive official based on survey:

We are gratified that 90 percent of Filipinos considered the President as the most decisive and caring government official based on the nationwide survey by Publicus Asia.

The results affirm the very high trust approval and satisfaction ratings of the President in other surveys. The pulse also affirm the hard work and responsiveness of the government and its key officials in serving our people.

At the same time, while we welcome these positive ratings, we also redouble our efforts to serve the nation for high ratings will be harder to raise and have a greater tendency to fall. Hence, we work even harder for the advancement of the Filipino nation.

We are open to a few questions.


Prince Golez (Panay News): Sir, good — good morning. Sir, whe… When did the President decide to reassign Espenido to Iloilo and what is the President expecting Espenido to accomplish in his new assignment, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding the exact date, we don’t have it yet, we can have it — we can check it out. We’ll check. [Dennis, please. The exact date.]

On the other hand, we — Espenido is going to be part of a whole government approach, which is basically also have to do with prevention, also with rehab, and — and so it’s going to be a whole government approach.

He is expected to play — to — not to — to work with the rest of the whole government.

Mr. Golez: Sir, when is the reassignment going to be official?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We can also find out. We don’t have the exact date.

Mr. Golez: Sir, last one, sir.


Mr. Golez: Sir, critics say, sir, that President Duterte seems to be targeting Iloilo City and Mayor Jed Mabilog, whom he has singled out in his previous speeches. Mabilog was not the only local official he linked to illegal drugs in August of last year. But why is the President very particular with Mabilog in Iloilo City, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t think there’s any need to — to single out Mabilog in that sense, but it is simply part of the President’s overall campaign against illegal drugs.

Mr. Golez: Thank you, sir.


Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Sir, May… Hi, sir. Sir, Mayor Mabilog has asked for a meeting with President Duterte. Is the President inclined to meet with him?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have word if there’s any meeting — if any meeting has actually been set up.

But I’m sure if he goes to the usual — usual channels of appointments, then I’m sure the President will be — willing to seat with him if and when, yes.

Ms. Gutierrez: In an interview, sir, Mayor Mab — Mayor Mabilog has said that he has repeatedly tried to set a meeting with President Duterte. Bakit po hindi natutuloy, sir, ‘yung meeting? Hindi ba nakakaabot ‘yung mga requests ni Mayor sa kanya?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have any word regarding that matter. Thank you.

Ms. Gutierrez: Thank you, sir.


Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning, sir. Sir, earlier reports quoted the President as saying that Iloilo was no longer the most — to use his words — “shabulized”. Why did he still assign Espenido to that province?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I cannot answer that, in that we cannot give any specific reason. He has his own reasons, he has his own sources of intelligence and he also has his own plan of action.

So there is no specific spelled out reason why Espenido is being assigned there.

Ms. Salaverria: Is Espenido’s assignment there — is that a sign that the province has a very serious drug problem?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, I suppose the best we can say at this stage is that it is a sign that his work in Ozamiz is done. Thank you.

Llanesca Panti (Manila Times): Sir, about the President’s claim on DSWD funding going to NPA. Has this information been validated po? And how — how did the NPA spend the fund?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As of this stage, we don’t — the validation has not reached my desk. The President, however, mentioned that the allegations were — he was — that he appreciated Judy Taguiwalo’s time of service at DSWD.

However, it is also not for him to pass any judgment regarding the matter.

Ms. Panti: Sir, follow up.


Ms. Panti: Who — who gave the information to the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure he has his own sources.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, given the seriousness of the allegation and the fact that Judy Taguiwalo is the President’s own appointee, did the President conduct his own investigation, ask his own sources, just to make sure that the reports are either true or false?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure — I don’t know the process that he went through. But it’s an — but from his words, this intelligence report came to him.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, we also heard from Secre — former Secretary Taguiwalo that he — she tried to schedule a meeting with the President the night before the CA hearing during which she was rejected. May we know why the President declined to meet with her?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have the exact reason why. Thank you.

Sweden Velasco (PTV-4): Next issue, sir, on the reaction on North Korea’s move to fire missile over Japan? How will Pyongyang’s move affect the security situation in the region? This is from JP Bencito of Manila Standard.


Ms. Velasco: Yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: DPRK… Firing a missile towards Japan. First and foremost, the direction really is towards Japan and it’s not necessarily targeted towards us.

However, the matter of calling — however, the nation or the security officials of the nation are in touch with the security officials of other nations — friendly nations in the region — and are closely coordinating regarding the matter.

However, it will be the task of the Office of Civil Defense to warn the people if need be. However, at this stage, there is no need for undue alarm.

Ms. Velasco: Sir, on the much awaited issuance of the proclamation for the holiday on September 1. Sir, Bella Cariaso of Bandera is asking bakit daw po medyo natatagalan ‘yung pag-issue ng proclamation?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Hindi po natin alam kung bakit natatagalan ang much awaited [laughs] holiday na ‘yan. Every — I’m sure everybody’s looking forward to that.

But we… We assure you, we’ll give it to you at the soonest possible date.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): Sir, kay Kian case. In the meeting yesterday, can you give us more details? The Palace said that it was the parents who initiated the meeting ‘no? Can you tell us something more about what happened yesterday, how was the — what desire communicated to the Palace? Why did they want to meet with the President again?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Regarding the — the intentions, we don’t know. But at what — apparently, that is what transpired.

However, what it — what is truly important is that they were able to talk, to meet, and they were able to — and they were assured, actually, by the President, that justice will be fully served.

Mr. Morong: Sir, any — during the meeting, what was the President’s [ano ba] pledge, aside from an impartial investigation and speedy trial, whatever?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We don’t have any word regarding — any — any promises given.

Mr. Morong: Sir, will this have any effect on the attempts of the DOJ to — or the NBI — to get the witnesses from Senate custody?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as we — the PAO attorney said, I don’t think that… According to her — media reports — that she has all the witnesses that they need, according to her statements on media yesterday.

Mr. Morong: But there were I think two or — two witnesses that Senator Hontiveros had initially gotten into custody with her and then transferred to Senate. Kukunin ba ‘yun, sir, ng NBI?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That depends on the — that depends on the — on the proper agency.

Mr. Morong: But do you think the NBI should hold — get custody of the witnesses?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That is going to be their choice. That is going to be their call.

Mr. Morong: Sir, what do you think is the effect of this meeting with the President to those who are anti-EJK and using this as a rallying call?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I don’t know about the story about the — about the implications with anti-EJK.

But, so far as we can see, the — the narrative tells us that the President is actually a very caring person and is — and approaches things rather objectively. I mean, in spite of all that has been said.

Mr. Morong: Do you think it takes away the — it takes the wind out of the sails of these persons, these groups, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I do not know if it necessarily takes away the wind from anybody’s sails. But it certainly puts wind behind the President’s position that — that he is actually quite a caring leader.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good morning, sir. Sir, can you — I apologize for my voice.


Ms. Andolong: Can you tell us what concerns — if any — the parents relayed to the President why they sought a meeting with them?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I believe this is just — and I hardly ever offer my own opinion. But basically just to be assured, I believe, that justice will be served.

Ms. Andolong: Did the President, sir, offer any financial assistance to the parents?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That we do not know. Ms. Andolong: Thank you.

Ms. Gutierrez: Other topic, sir. Sir, hingi lang po ako ng reaction regarding the establishment of this new coalition — the Movement Against Tyranny. It’s calling for an end to killings and strong-armed tactics of the administration, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That’s quite ironic that something like that comes out on the trail — on the heels of this — the highly positive — highly positive impression that the President seems to have gained among the people — among the — among the mass of people.

So maybe there are certain niche objectors. However, however — the narrative on the ground remains strong.

Mr. Morong: Sir, the Palace said yesterday that the President assured no interference on the case. Interference from whom?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: From anybody whose — any interested party who wants to make hay out of the story.

Mr. Morong: Any in particular?


Tina Mendez (Philippine Star): Sir, on another note. There are reports that two Cabinet members will be on their way out. Do you have any information regarding this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Even if I did, I couldn’t tell you that. No, but honestly… [laughter]

Ms. Mendez: But you have any inkling, yes?


Ms. Mendez: You have an inkling of an incoming Cabinet revamp?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: No, I think it’s just a lot of ano — it’s just a lot of noise right now. And if it when it… If and when it happens, then we will certainly inform you.

Ms. Mendez: So far, how would you assess the performance of the Cabinet members?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In general, in general, based on survey, the Pres — the Cabinet Secretaries seem to be doing very well.

I’m sure that there are various highs — highs and lows of performance. On the other hand, I’m sure there are other things that need to be addressed. Continued… Continually many things that need to be addressed.

Ms. Mendez: Do you have particular areas or departments that need to be addressed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That depends on the President.

Ms. Mendez: Thank you, sir.

Ms. Panti: Sir, follow up lang dun kay Kian ‘yung meeting po. The mother… The mother of Kian earlier said that the witnesses are being threatened by the police po. Has this concerned… Was this concern raised during their meeting with the President? And how did the President took such concern considering that he has always been protective of the police force?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let us be very clear that the President has been both protect — very supportive of the nation’s interest and, of course, protective of — not protective — but also supportive of the military and the police.

On the other hand, as he has shown, he is pretty objective about his decisions and I think we should give heed to that. We’re not entirely sure the mother actually phrased it in that way, but I’m sure the President assured them that there would be fair, truthful and impartial investigation.

Ms. Panti: Thank you, sir.

Alexis Romero (Philippine Star): Okay. Usec., UN Rapporteur Agnes Callamard has reacted to President Duterte’s tirades against her and I quote, “Kian and others like him deserve dignity and justice. His family and families like his demand our respect and empathy. Not expletives. States must also provide redress and reparations and ensure that no person acts with impunity.” What is your take on the statement?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I think the President’s actions already answered that. The fact that he promised a fair and truthful and impartial action regarding the matter.

Mr. Romero: Okay. But how do you explain the expletives? Because many are criticizing the President with the way he responded to that statement by the rapporteur.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Expletives. First and foremost, I don’t think there were — you know, he did not phrase himself along that line.

What truly matters is that his intention is to make — is to get to the root of the issue.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Usec.

Maricel Halili (TV-5): Sir, just a follow up on Callamard. I understand yesterday the President was kind of pissed off with her statement. Well, he was pissed off on the statement of Callamard. And he reiterated his invitation or challenge to Callamard to come here to the Philippines.Does that mean that the President is also willing to waive his conditions to give way for the investigation? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m sure that the President will… The President is very clear about the conditionalities and that…

If she meets up, then it will have to be according to those conditionalities.

Ms. Halili: So walang pagwe-waive? Condition stays?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As far as we can tell, he has not said that conditions are waived.

Ms. Halili: Thank you, sir.

Hannah Sancho (Sonshine Radio): Sir, balik po ako sa issue ni Kian. Some groups po — students, student leaders, they are asking for Secretary Aguirre’s inhibition dun sa investigation. Is the Palace open dun sa idea na mag-inhibit po si Aguirre?


Ms. Halili: Sa investigation po sa pagkamatay ni Kian?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: At this stage, everything is I think undergoing through due process and I think everybody, even the Cabinet members — Cabinet Secretaries — understands that. We leave it to him.

Kris Jose (Remate): Sir, nag-plea po si Senator De Lima ka — last week. And ang sabi po niya, handa po niyang i-bargain ang kanyang kalayaan kapalit daw po ng pagtigil ng kaliwa’t kanang patayan.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: She’s entitled to her own proposals. Thank you.

Ms. Jose: Do you have a post-birthday wish for her, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Everybody deserves a happy birthday, okay. Any other question?

Oh yeah, final report. As of 28 August 2017:

Civilians killed by terrorists – 45

Civilians rescued – 1,728

Enemies killed – 614, I think there’s an additional 10. [that already includes addition]

Recovered firearms – 666

Recovered UXO – 1

Government casualties, killed-in-action – 133

Buildings cleared as of yesterday – 12

That’s it.

I think the financial contributions remain the same. Thank you very much, good morning.

Henry Uri (DZRH): Sir, there was an interview with Mayor Mabilog. Sabi niya, he is praying for the security of Colonel Espenido. How would you classify that statement? Is that a threat or what?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We need to find out in context. I wasn’t able to hear that. We can check it out.

Mr. Uri: Nababahala ho ba ang Palasyo sa seguridad ni Espenido?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: These are soldiers. And so, you know, this is part of the territory.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, given the CA rejection of former DSWD Secretary Taguiwalo and the reason given that it might have been her links to the left. What is the Palace’s expectations with regards to the CA hearing of DAR Secretary Paeng Mariano tomorrow?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I’m not sure that it was an official statement that she was rejected because of any links to the left.

And I don’t think that it’s necessarily anything to do with the CA confirmation of Secretary Mariano.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be linked.

Ms. Ranada: So, sir, what are your expectations for the CA hearing tomorrow? Are you confident that he will be… He will be confirmed by the CA?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We’ll just have to trust the decision of the CA.

Ms. Sancho: Sir, any infor… Details po sana dun sa 35 kids na from Marawi po that will — na makikipag-meet po kay President Duterte this afternoon?


Ms. Sancho: Today, sir.


Ms. Sancho: Yes, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Okay. No, there’s no news yet. But they’re supposed to meet up.

Ms. Sancho: Why daw, sir? Why?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Basically, just to… I think to give a face to the — to give a face to the victims. Those who are victimized, okay.

Ms. Sancho: May ibibigay po ba ‘yung Pangulo sa mga bata, sir? Assistance, or…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Usually, he is very generous about these things. I cannot tell you which.

Ms. Sancho: Thank you, sir.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, ‘yung September 1 proclamation. Did you mean kanina na it is forthcoming? Na-delay lang ‘yung pag-pirma? Ganun ba ‘yon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well… Basically… When I talked to… When I called the Office of… They simply said that they cannot make any statements because it is not yet official.

There is nothing there. They don’t have any word yet. Nothing has been signed.

Ms. Andolong: So we cannot say that it is forthcoming? Because it’s just two days or three days…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: The decision is forthcoming whether it will go through or not.

Ms. Andolong: Thank you.

Mr. Morong: Sir, ano lang — mga kailangan ng office. Sa BBL, sir, naibigay na ba sa House?


Mr. Morong: And does it seem like it’s a priority bill of this administration?


Mr. Morong: And then related to that. LEDAC meeting, sir. Any…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Yeah, the LEDAC meeting is this afternoon. And in the past… Before the SONA, there were 13 bills that were identified as urgent.

But I don’t know what will be taken up this afternoon.

Mr. Morong: So but the BBL, sir. Is it a priority of this administration?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Alam mo wala siya rito sa ano ha — ‘yung sa ibinigay na listahan. But I’m sure it is priority. I’m sure it is of high concern.

Mr. Morong: Nagka-meeting po ba kagabi sa senators? Or is it today?


Mr. Morong: Sir, just one more on Kian.


Mr. Morong: There is a growing — [what do you call this] — sentiment ‘no prior to the meeting of the President with the parents. Some who may not have an opinion about EJK kind of changed their mind about it. With the meeting, do you think that the Palace is trying to avoid a snowballing of this sentiment, sir, and probably be big enough for the administration not to stop? Is it an attempt to quell that — ?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: You know… Here is what I can say. The President is not wont to manage his message.

So it’s not a question of was this planned, was this meant to control any snowballing as you would say it.

It simply was an honest-to-goodness response to a particularly poignant situation that needed to be addressed in the most humane way possible.

So there you go. It’s nothing cynical. It’s not a cynical management of the brand or marketing.

It’s simply an honest-to-goodness response to a very humane — to a — humane response to a difficult situation.

Mr. Morong: Thank you.