Press Briefing

Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location New Executive Building, Malacañan Palace

OPENING REMARKS:
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Good morning. I’m sure the first information that you want to know is about General Santiago.

MPC: Yes.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I have not received any information on this regard. No confirmation.

Although I’ve heard that he has resigned, I have no formal information and official information in this regard. We’re verifying it.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Ian Cruz (GMA-7): Good morning po, Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Hi, Ian. Yes, good morning.

Mr. Cruz: Sir, nababanggit ni RJ Nieto na tila nagkamali daw yata ang Pangulo sa pagpili sa inyo, ano po ang sagot ninyo dun?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, it’s a matter that he should address to the President because the President appointed me.

[Happy birthday!]

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Actually, sir, in relation to that, Mr. Nieto in his post, in one of his posts said nga po na he believes your appointment was a mistake and he called on his followers to share that post para daw po makarating sa Pangulo. What do you think about this, well, apparent effort to have their concern reach the President, of course, the concern being that you’d be removed?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: We serve at the pleasure of the President. All Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President.

What I will do is I will facilitate receipt of this information by the President. I will tell the President that Mr. Nieto has said that I should be removed. I will relay that to the President.

Ms. Andolong: Sir, but how do you feel about the reaction that your statement on media freedom received or was received by staunch supporters of the President online, obviously, I’m sure it has already reached you?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: The President gave me two marching orders: Do what is right and stay to the truth.

I stated what I think is right, and I stated what I think is true. I am a spokesperson, I deal with the Malacañang Press Corps and I have long been an advocate of freedom of expression. I leave it at that.

That’s the nature of this freedom. I do not deprive the social bloggers of their freedoms as well, and I take all the criticisms as valid inputs in the free marketplace of ideas.

I’ve always taken all criticisms as valid input in this free marketplace of ideas.

Ms. Andolong: Do you still intend, sir, to have a meeting or talk maybe to Asec. Mocha Uson as you mentioned yesterday?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I’m always in contact with Asec. Mocha Uson because I really consider her as a friend and I really want Asec. Uson to — kumbaga, to get — to optimize ‘no the role of Asec. Mocha Uson in the free marketplace of ideas.

She has so much potentials because she has so much followers, so much influence and I would want that kind of influence be used towards nation building.

Ms. Andolong: Thank you, sir.

Pia Ranada (Rappler): Sir, there are some observations that you defending the media, rights of free speech of everyone, could — is actually creating or making more apparent the differences even within the Duterte supporters, because, for example, looking at comments on these posts by the staunch supporters, there are actually some who believe that you could be the voice of the Duterte supporters who still want to support the President but don’t necessarily want to speak in such a manner. Do you think that this is going to be your role?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: My role is spokesperson. I communicate Palace messaging to the people in general that includes the social media.

But I think the controversy really is why the spokesperson appears to be addressing the needs of media?

So I guess the answer is very simple, every Tuesday, Thursday and sometimes on Mondays, I face the Malacañang Press Corps. I deal officially with the Malacañang Press Corps.

Asec. Uson is in charge of social blogging. And, of course, the President really does not need a spokesperson to speak to his own followers, die hard followers ‘no.

So I speak as a spokesperson of the President to all Filipinos especially to those who, I believe, should have a better understanding of what the President is doing and what the President is saying.

Leila Salaverria (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, another topic na.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes?

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, what does the Palace make of China’s launch of its “island-maker”, this giant dredger? Are we concerned that it may use it to create artificial islands in the South China Sea?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE:  Well, the President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations.

China has told the President, they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that.

We need to rely on good faith because otherwise there would be no predictability in international relations.

Ms. Salaverria: So he’s not going to raise any questions about this?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As I said, he has relied completely on the principle of good faith. Which is, in fact, a fundamental and cardinal principle of international law.

Ms. Salaverria: Sir, at this point, is trusting China the best we can do to secure our maritime—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: We’re not just trusting. We have a decision, the last time I checked. And that decision remains unchanged.

 

It has said that the artificial islands are form part or built in our [EEZ?] and under the UNCLOS, only coastal states can build them.

But what the President has done is, that’s self-executory, what else must be done?

Meanwhile, the President has opted to maintain very close and cordial relationship with China.

I think, we are seeing new heights in terms of Philippine-Chinese relations and it has resulted in very tangible results particularly economic investments.

Ms. Salaverria: Okay. Thank you.

Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, the Kabayan party-list is claiming in a statement that you are supposedly threatening to use — or you supposedly threatened the party-list that you will use your power as the new presidential spokesperson to stop the proclamation of Ciriaco Calalang as your replacement in Congress. What’s your reaction on that, sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: This will be my last take on it because as you know, I formally took my oath as spokesperson yesterday.

And everything I say now must be for and in behalf of the President. The President is not involved in the Kabayan row.

But as — by way of a final statement on the Kabayan, that matter will soon be addressed in the COMELEC.

The COMELEC is the proper forum to determine who will be the third nominee, who would be replacing me. And we will or the party, the Kabayan party-list will subject itself to the jurisdiction of the COMELEC in this regard.

Please understand that as of yesterday, I formally entered the Office of the Spokesperson and anything relating to my personal circumstance has become irrelevant as far as my position is concerned.

So that would be the last time I will be commenting on personal affairs.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, last na lang, last. ‘Yung dun sa statement din nila, they also noted that you want — apparently, you want you’re chief-of-staff to be proclaimed as your replacement?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That’s not my decision. It was a decision of a party Congress head ‘no. So that’s a decision of Kabayan party-list, not mine.

Ms. Gutierrez: Thank you, sir.

Deo de Guzman (RMN-DZXL): Good morning, sir. Congratulations po sa…

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Thank you, Deo.

Mr. de Guzman: Sir, ngayon pong nararamdaman nanaman ng taongbayan ‘yung maraming aberya sa MRT, sunod-sunod nanaman po ito at nakasuhan naman po dun sa Ombudsman ‘yung mga dating opisyal ng DOTC before. Makakaasa po ba ang taongbayan na in this administration na meron po talagang makukulong o mapagmumulta man lang doon sa mga nakasuhan na mga dating opisyal ng DOTC with regards to the operations of MRT?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, we just rescinded our contract with Busan alleging non-performance of contract because of the many breakdowns of the MRT ‘no.

This indicates that ang Palasyo po ay hindi po manhid doon sa mga pangangailangan ng ating mga publiko na nag-e-MRT at nag-e-LRT araw-araw.

Patunay po ‘yan na hindi na papayag ang Presidente na patuloy ang palpak na serbisyo na binibigay ng mga kontratista ng ating MRT at LRT.

Hindi lang po kinansela ang kontrata, pero ang naintindihan ko po ang DOTC ay magsasampa rin ng kaso laban doon sa mga tao na naging dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon ng perwisyo ang ating mga mamamayan.

Mr. de Guzman: Pero aasa po ba kami talagang may makukulong within the administration?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Ang masasabi ko lang po ay talagang magsasampa ng mga kasong kriminal ang DOTr at ang detalye po niyan ay pwede nating tanungin sa DOTr mismo.

Mr. de Guzman: Thank you, sir.

Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Good morning, Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Hi, Ted.

Mr. Tuvera: Secretary, the President said before that he wants to review the relations between — of the Philippines and the United States, especially on the presence of US troops here in the country. Do we expect President Duterte to raise this concern to President Trump in his meetings with him at the APEC or here?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, we will be chairing ASEAN and US President Trump will be here in connection with the consultations between ASEAN and the United States.

I think what will be at center stage will be the relationship between ASEAN as a grouping and the United States.

Your answer is if I think — if I think the President will bring up the matter of — ?

Mr. Tuvera: The presence of… He said before that he wants to review the alliance between the Philippines and the United States and even review the presence of US troops here in the country. He even once said that he wants to minimize or at least eject US troops here in the country.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, the President said he’s in the process of evaluating and that process continues.

But in response to your question, I don’t think it will be raised in this particular instance.

Mr. Tuvera: Thank you, sir.

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star): Secretary, can we get an update on the joint command conference held last night in Malacañang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I’d like to give you but unfortunately this is what happened ‘no.

I was not there for the entire time. What I realized is that President discussed West Philippine Sea issue as well as the war against drug ‘no.

I only witnessed the President talking about the war against drug and part of West Philippine Sea issue ’no.

I have just discussed with you the position of the Philippine President on the West Philippine Sea. We have a decision. It remains, that’s completely executory.

And meanwhile, it has been beneficial to our national interest to pursue cordial and very friendly relations with China.

As far as the war on drugs is concerned, what I did notice is the ill effects of shabu because unlike other prohibited drugs, shabu really causes brain damage.

So that’s as far as I heard in the general command conference yesterday.

Mr. Romero: Did he issue instructions to the security forces during the command conference?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, I did not hear him at the time I was there. But I was only there for part of the time.

But I did witness the detailed — rather detailed discussion on the ill effects of shabu on the brains.

Mr. Romero: But with regard to the South China Sea, what can you share to us?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I missed it. I only saw the tail end.

The problem was I knew I had to attend the general command conference. I was willing but they instead referred me to the holding room where the Cabinet meeting was to be held.

So I was called by aides of the President to come down to the command conference. Unfortunately, I had already missed the President’s declarations on the West Philippine Sea.

Mr. Romero: Thank you, Secretary.

Dexter Ganibe (DZMM): Hi, Sec.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Hi, Dexter. 

Mr. Ganibe: Good morning. Sec, nabanggit niyo nandoon kayo doon sa unang part nung command conference. Nakita niyo po ‘yung paggawad nung Lapu-Lapu award doon sa isang pulis Caloocan?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Namiss ko rin po.

Mr. Ganibe: Namiss niyo. Pero —

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Kasi nga po ang sabi nila, mag-antay daw ako doon sa holding room. Alam mo naman ako first day ‘no. Who am I to say otherwise ‘no.

So by the time I went down, halos tapos na ‘yung general command conference.

‘Yung Cabinet meeting naman, I had to excuse myself because I had an interview with Christiane Amanpour. Watch it on Monday.

[MPC: Wow!]

 Mr. Ganibe: Sir, anong — tanong ko na lang. Ano po ang mensaheng gustong ipaabot ng Pangulo doon sa pagbibigay niya ng Lapu-Lapu award doon sa isang pulis Caloocan. Alam naman natin noong mga nakaraang buwan, eh siya pa ‘yung nag-utos na ipaaresto ‘yung ilang pulis ng Caloocan dahil doon sa killing kaugnay ng war on drugs?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, naniniwala ka naman po binigyan ng parangal ang isang pulis Caloocan na karapat-dapat na bigyan ng parangal.

Ang mensahe po ay kapag kayo’y gumawa ng tama, suportado ko kayo at kikilalanin ko ang inyong mabuting ginawa.

Pero siyempre kapag ilegal ang ginawa, ipakululong sila.

Mr. Ganibe: Sir, last on my part. Sir, ano ‘yung mga salient points doon sa cluster cabinet meeting kagabi? 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: As I said, I had to leave because of Christiane Amanpour.

‘Yun pala ang tagal-tagal akong pinaantay doon sa studio ‘no. So I still have to get the transcripts of the Cabinet meeting.

But what I did see, the first in the agenda is the rebuilding of Marawi. And the very first item on the agenda taken up was a report of Cabinet Secretary HUDCC Chair General Del Rosario ‘no.

And I did see the part of the issue that was discussing was that they’re not just building homes, they’re rebuilding communities ‘no.

So the rehabilitation will not just be all about houses, it’s about schools, it’s about places of worship, it’s about parks, it’s about civilians, the bakwits allowed to resume their daily lives under normal circumstances or under as normal as circumstances as can be.

Jopel Pelenio (DWIZ): Sir, good morning. Sir, regarding kay CJ Sereno, bale nag-comment siya, sir, na hindi daw siya magre-resign.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: That’s fine. That’s her answer and we let it be from now on.

The suggestion was made to resign so that the constitutional process of impeachment will not have to continue. But since she refused, we will now let the constitutional process of continue to proceed.

Henceforth, that’s the call of the House and that’s the call of the Senate.

Chona Yu (Radyo Inquirer): Sir, just a follow up on that. The President said before that he will personally file an impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. Ano po ang update? Mag-fa-file pa ba ang Pangulo considering that you said kahapon na there’s enough basis na doon sa impeachment na nasa House ngayon?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, he doesn’t really have to file an impeachment complaints against either because I think other individuals have done it for him ‘no. And there can only be one impeachment complaint per year ‘no.

So we know that the impeachment against the Chief Justice is now being deliberated upon by the Committee on Justice.

I expect the committee to resume its hearings on the existence of probable cause after they come back from their recess this 20th of November.

So henceforth, our position will be, let the process continue. Let the House take care of the impeachment complaint and after that, we’ll see if it could reach the Senate.

Mr. Pelenio: Regarding on the Ombudsman, sir. They are planning to make an inquiry regarding po doon sa P6.4-billion na drugs sa Bureau of Customs.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: I believe the PDEA has said that they have found probable cause ‘no to file charges for drug trafficking including against Customs officials.

So it’s not as if charges are not being filed. PDEA has concluded its investigation. They’re convinced of probable cause. They will file the necessary and corresponding criminal charges before the Department of Justice.

Lei Baguio (Brigada News): Lei Baguio, sir. From Brigada.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Yes, Lei.

Mr. Baguio: Sir, bukas po kasi ika-apat na anibersaryo ng Yolanda. So may aasahan po bang good news ‘yung mga biktima? May announcement po ba tayo bukas na gagawin? Sa pagkakaalam po natin, parang may task force na binuo si Pangulong Duterte. Baka may mga highlights na po na pwede nating ibahagi sa kanila.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Well, unfortunately, tomorrow po ay paalis ang Pangulo at kasama po ako for Vietnam at 12:30.

Pero I will suggest po siguro that we deliver also a statement in the departure ceremonies ‘no about Yolanda.

But the point I want to stress is that, number one, we join the victims of Yolanda in the crying the very slow rebuilding of Yolanda. And to address this, the President has asked General Del Rosario and Wendel Avisado ‘no to act as point persons in the rebuilding of the Yolanda-ravaged communities.

We remain committed in this regard and we have learned from the lessons of Yolanda as far as the rebuilding of Marawi is concerned.

Q: Good morning, sir. Gusto ko lang po sana malaman, sir, ‘yung kung may reaksyon po si Presidente regarding po doon sa drugs na nasabat dito malapit sa Malacañang?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: No stone will be left unturned in investigating this particular instance ‘no.

We recognize that this is alarming that drugs were seized from a house very near Malacañang. And I assure you it will be investigated fully and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Q: Salamat, sir.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ROQUE: Okay, kung wala na po, my question is: Do we really proceed with Monday briefings or do you want it Tuesday na lang ha?

Okay, anyway, if there are no further questions, thank you very much for attending this morning’s briefing.

— END —

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